I have only 3 friends. I mean, 3 that I consider best friends. I try not to analyze what that word really means and how those 3 fair up to its meaning because if I do, I may actually have less.
The strangest thing is, I'm extremely social on the surface. Throw me at a cocktail party and I'll have everyone engaged, laughing with me, or at me, sharing various experiences, personal or business, talking easily about the past, the present, the future. But when that moment comes, that awful desperate moment of needing someone to talk to...well, I'm virtually friendless.
I've been thinking about friendship for several months now. One of the teachers I work with, who I love dearly, had the unfortunate experience of losing her best friend to cancer right before Christmas last year. That best friend was her mother. Of course, my upbringing prevents me from ever knowing what that remotely looks like, but what I should've been able to relate to was the army of other best friends who stood by her side at her most difficult moment. Friends from childhood. Friends from the neighborhood. Friends who knew her worst and best traits and loved her unconditionally. I remember being at the hospital, then at the wake, and eventually at that devastating funeral, and seeing the same group of girls rally around her. I was overcome with a deep sense of lack. In her sorrow, in her loss, she was shielded by a wall of true, faithful friends. I did not know what that was like. Not that level of devotion in such great number.
I always tell my husband that I will be surrounded by admirers at my funeral, but friends will be scarce.
"You've always had a wall," my husband once told me. "From the moment I met you. You can tell only very few are allowed in." And then, because my husband is into metaphors, he proceeded to tell me that that wall had a foyer and a handful were allowed to hang around there. But deep inside the wall? He hugged me and sighed, "I'm glad I'm in there." He named maybe two more people but he wasn't sure if anyone else was in.
There really is nothing mysterious about me. Like I said in my last blog, I'm really quite a bore so if anyone walked straight inside that wall...well, nothing exciting would await them.
"It has nothing to do with mystery, babe. It's your guard. It's never down."
And I argued to my husband that it has everything to do with my upbringing. Really. I was taught that friends are there to deceive you, to take, and to mistreat you. And that those that seek friends are lonely, shallow people lacking intelligence and self-worth. And if you know me a little, you would know of course that beauty is of little importance to me. But self-worth? Intelligence? Depth? They are descriptors that mean the world to me! So while in my youth normal girls were on a quest for true friends, I was on a quest to avoid them. (Also, I do believe my entry, "The Reason Why I Don't Cry", holds the answer to my isolation.)
But this month, as many of you may know, I attended a wedding at Martha's Vineyard. The event was lovely as could be expected, of course, and the groom was tall and handsome. But the bride...the bride who is in her early 30's was not just beautiful and charming, she is immensely smart. She is a graduate of an Ivy League school and she teaches at NYU while running her own clinic. And to my absolute surprise she was surrounded by an army of wonderful, devoted best friends. And they were all, likewise, smart and beautiful. I thought of the teacher I work with. She is by far one of the smartest girls I know and her best friends were all college graduates, from nurse practitioners to pharmacists.
Clearly, smarts have nothing to do with being friendless. Being unfriendly has everything to do with being friendless. I mean, even the Bible says so.
I told my husband that it's too late for me. I've tried, really, to recruit friends, only to find myself finding a myriad of reasons why the friendship can't work. How do you learn to become a trusting friend at 40? The idea of working on such a relationship exhausts me. I can't picture myself sewing random people into the fabric of my being without careful assessment. Hence, the reason for my solitude.
So, I've turned my attention on my innocent victims. My children.
I ask my son every now and then if he has called his friends, if they wanted to hang out, if he needed me to take them to the movies. And I'm always more excited than Alanna when her friend in the neighborhood knocks on our door looking for her. I went by her house recently and asked her mother if they would come over for dinner. I'm not looking to make friends with the mom. I'm looking to make our girls lifelong friends.
"If ever we should both die someday when they're older but without their own family, I want them to have true friends," I told my husband. "I mean really good, amazing friends who will love them unconditionally."
As for me, who knows. Like that wonderful, intelligent bride who found a couple of lifelong friends while walking down the street, I too might stumble on a friend. She would have to be incredibly patient at how guarded I am, how unwilling I am to share my deepest thoughts and my true feelings. She would have to understand that I cannot be on the phone on a daily basis and that hanging out constantly suffocates me. She would have to find my scattered thinking charming and find humor in the fact that I forget every birthday and every anniversary. She would have to realize that I'm psychosomatic and I think every 2 weeks I may be dying of something...and she would have to love me through it unconditionally.
I suppose I should be thankful I at least have 3 friends...I think.