I spent yesterday catching up with a friend from high school. We spent the day sharing depression stories and generally bemoaning the troubles of being women in our thirties. It was nice, but so draining. I told D when I got home that I had spent too much time peopling. But I feel like maybe it’s that I’ve just gotten out of practice. I mean, let’s be honest, I don’t have friends. Not the kind that you see on a regular basis, hang out with beyond wherever you primarily see each other, that sort of thing. I haven’t in a long time. Probably not since high school. And even then, I didn’t have the same kind of relationships with my friends that they seemed to have with each other. Some of this was because I wasn’t really allowed to go out and do much. But I wasn’t really ever invited, either. There was–and honestly, still is–a part of me that thought that it was because they just didn’t want me there. But honestly, it was likely because they knew the drama that would be involved in inviting me.
There was a time when I was in the seventh grade that a friend invited me to a dance at her church. I asked my mom, and she said I could go. It would be chaperoned, it would be well lit, and it would be in a church, so we wouldn’t be able to get into much trouble…though that didn’t stop mom from insinuating that we would. However, we didn’t have a car, so I would need to be picked up by this friend’s mom (which probably was another factor in me not getting invited places). So it was getting time that my friend and her mom were about to show up to pick me up, and something happened. I don’t remember if I gave attitude or what, but mom was screaming at me and telling me I was no longer allowed to go to the dance. So I called up V, told her I couldn’t come, told her why (at mom’s urging), apologized (again at mom’s urging), and hung up. This was only the beginning. I ended up calling V at least four more times, switching from I can come to I can’t come and back again. At this point I was in wild tears; I absolutely did not want to call V a second time, to bring someone else into this drama, but mom kept making me. And it wasn’t that I was doing anything extra to warrant this mercurial decision, it was just mom being mom. Finally, it ended with V’s mom getting on the phone and demanding to talk to my mom. At which point I was allowed to go to the dance.
Given this drama, which happened fairly early in my teen social years, I could understand why people wouldn’t want to invite me places. Add to that that they all knew I was near constantly grounded, they likely doubted that I’d either be able to go or that, if I could, it’d be marred in drama.
Now, if this was the only time that it was difficult for me to maintain a “normal” social life, I could well blame it on my mom and be done with the worries for now. But it’s not.
My first semester at college, I actually started to have friends. I did the social thing. We’d leave our doors open and walk freely in and out of each other’s rooms. We had pizza and movie nights. We talked boys, wrote papers side-by-side in the computer lab, and even got drunk once. But this only lasted one semester. I was pulled out the following semester, and all those relationships that were budding life-long friendships were reduced to people I see and sometimes talk to on Facebook.
The following fall, I was at a new college, but I was dating M (who was still in high school), and didn’t think to question his wanting to pick me up every Friday as soon as he got out of class and drop me off Sunday pretty much as late as he could. Or that he wanted to talk on the phone for hours. Every night. It was…romantic. Right? This clinginess made it damn near impossible for me to make any friends on that campus. And then later, when we were living together, M’s jealousy kept me away from the high school friends who still wanted to hang out with me. And soon enough my depression was taking over that job. I seriously had no social interaction during my relationship with him that wasn’t with his friends or family. And even then I was often left alone (seemingly everyone in his social circle smokes, and I am allergic).
Shortly before we separated, a childhood friend got back in touch and asked me to be a bride’s maid. Because someone else had stepped down. I was so desperate for human contact that I didn’t care (at this point, M had essentially been moved out for months, even though we hadn’t separated and I still had on blinders). I ran right out to see J, happy that someone was willing to forgive my years of radio silence, and we soon became “best friends.”
My relationship with J was complicated. She was the stereotypical “bad girl,” right out of central casting, and because of this, I was ashamed to claim her as a friend. Sign one of an unhealthy relationship. Sign two? When I told her M and I were having marital troubles, she told me I should get pregnant to help fix them. Add to that the several times she would ask me to come to a bar with her so that I could be her DD, but then would sneak out without telling me, once even stealing her keys from my purse. One of these times she had called and woken me, and I had driven twenty miles to sit with her and then drive her home (the second part never happened). But we went on vacation (from hell) together, her kids called me “aunt,” I helped her plan two weddings that never happened, and she helped me fill out my divorce paperwork. But there were several times when I needed her–like when I was filing my divorce paperwork and couldn’t go alone–and she wasn’t there (even though we had made plans for her to go with me). Or the time when G was stalking me, culminating in him following me, all but chasing me down my street, and I was too afraid to be home alone. She did eventually show up, after almost three hours (she was awake when I called and lived ten minutes away) with her newest fling in tow, and they spent the whole thirty minutes they were there pawing each other and ignoring me. We started to drift apart after that. The friendship was unofficially ended when she told me that she told her new boyfriend that I was hooking up with a guy, and that he was the sixth guy I’d slept with, and the new boyfriend said I sounded like a slut. To which J agreed. Mind you, she’d been with at least ten times as many men, so she had no room to judge. But even so, as my friend, as my “best friend” as she claimed, she should have stood up for me. At least thrown in a “you just don’t understand her.” But no. The friendship pretty much ended there.
I had a few friends when I was finishing my degree. For a semester, at least. We’d hang out as much as I could, given that I was working full-time overnights in addition to school. I connected with one person in particular. B lived down the street, and we developed the kind of bond that young adult television shows are built on. Right down to the dramatic breakup. I was hooking up with a guy who had sexually assaulted her (the same guy that had J calling me a slut; he made all kinds of awful ripples through my life), so I can’t really blame her for getting angry at me. And yes, she told everyone in our group of friends from the previous semester, which froze me out from the group, but again, I can forgive that. I sort of feel like I deserved that. (This hookup deserves his own post. It was complicated and awful and all kinds of unhealthy.) She and I would still speak, but it was more of a frienemies situation (like I said, YA drama). We still speak from time to time, but with an undertone of bitter competition and mistrust.
Which leads to A. She and I started really hanging out when things soured between her and B. She wanted someone to bitch with who understood being on the receiving end of B’s barbs. And it was nice, feeling like all my friends from the year before hadn’t abandoned me. We talked honestly about the hookup, and all the messed up reasons I had been seeing him, and she seemed to understand. We talked about B and how unfair she was being. But she didn’t want B to know we were talking, afraid of the backlash. Which, okay, sucked balls, but I got it. It hurt, but I understood. I was the pariah. That summer we got together to go hiking, and she asked me (with no small bit of fear in her eyes) not to post about our trip on social media, I was hurt. I had become the friend equivalent of a mistress.
And that was the last sort of friendship I had. Summer of 2015. Yes, S, the friend I saw yesterday, would occasionally come into the store when I was working to chat. And yes, she and I hung out together…twice…with about a year between the two times. And I have people I see at knitting group and are friendly with. I’ve actually been invited to a sort of party this weekend (along with the rest of the knitting group). But, aside from D, I don’t have friends. And this sucks. Terribly. And, as an introvert, I’m not 100% sure how to go about fixing this.