For some, this post may apply to you at age 26. For others, maybe age 39. Still others, it may not apply at all. In which case, read away and enjoy being a totally well-adjusted, sociable person. You’re winning at life, and I salute you, my friend. Text me? No? Oh. Okay.
Friends. Buddies. Pals. Besties. Homegirls (or boys). BFFs. Whatever term you use, it seems that there’s a weird shift that happens after a certain age. It tends to happen post-quarterlife crisis (which may last different durations depending on the person and their situation), when finding all the settling-down trappings of life — a sweet spouse, a pet or two (or three), maybe even babies.
When you settle into living with your best friend (the one you want to grow old with; you know the one), your schedules intertwine, your to-dos rely upon the other’s availability (or willingness to watch the munchkin for you while you do your own thing), and you come to find more value in watching your favorite black-and-white movies together in PJs than you do hitting up a local bar.
Or maybe your local bars are overrun by college kids and an environment that simply doesn’t appeal. Or maybe it’s too loud to talk over the noise. Or maybe you gave up that scene long ago. All of the above, please.
So, anyhoo, life takes over. Not an excuse. It just does.
On top of this, socializing is equal parts emotion, sport, entertainment, and game, especially when you first know someone. Playing the game (“When are you free?” That’s half the battle), doing so skillfully while supporting your friend and still enjoying yourself simultaneously? It all needs to be balanced. And it becomes more of a challenge as you grow older and have less time to devote to properly maintaining a friendship, especially while maintaining a career, a happy, fulfilling marriage, a happy, well-adjusted child, and a relatively happy (if not disorderly) home. Toss in hopes and dreams and one’s cup runneth over…and not always in the best of ways.
For some of us, developing new friendships is tough in the first place. We’re not in college anymore, where you could bump into someone from one of your classes in the cafeteria and strike up a pleasant conversation about the tacos. We’re not in high school, where you most likely knew 90% of the people in highly intimate ways (“Remember Angela Farfigneugan who showed her purple polka dotted undies in 2nd grade?”) and felt like you were all kind of related in the first place. Or even the first day of kindergarten where the girl you shared the
yummy paste green crayon with would be your BFF for the next ten years.
Making. New. Friends. Sucks. (Generally.) And in the Mom World, first impressions are everything. What can I say? Lots of moms seem…um…judgy. So, yeah. If I’m out at the playground with a particularly hysterical 2-year-old and make eye contact with a possible future BFF, will my parenting/aka personality/aka whole being be questioned? Plus, I’m not great at connecting.
If you know me in “real life”, you’re probably aware that I’m pretty awkward. Okay, very awkward. I have a hard time not weirding people out during a conversation. I try to look into their eyes but end up doing it too long, then stare at the floor. I do listen well, but I probably give off the impression that I’m not. Or maybe that I’m psychotic. Either/or. I’ve also lost all ability to select appropriate conversational topics. Poop! Let’s talk about poop. Cat poop, baby poop, husband poop; it’s all the same. Aaaand I’ve gone too far.
Now that you know all of my social flaws (hug me), let’s just say that the friendships that I do have are pretty damn important to me.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t inadvertently, completely unintentionally neglect those highly cherished friends. Might months go by until I call or text? Absolutely. Do we rarely get together? Sure. But, when we do, a simple cup of coffee or meal together recharges me and fills me with such joy — and hopefully my friends feel the same.
So, naturally, I hope to find more connections like these. A little support sharing, back-and-forth, from a like-minded person with a few similarities. Befriending mamas is the easiest way for the other person to realize that, yes, schedule wrangling might be a little tough and, no, we won’t always be available to each other. But, guess what. We have other built-in support to get us through those times. Those husbands for venting and crying (and laughing) with. Those babies for distracting us with heightened levels of awesomeness. Those furbabies for the sincerest form of cuddling known to man. We make it work.
Non-mama friends sometimes get this — and those are truly some of my best friends. But, the older I get, the harder it seems to make those friends. Sometimes it’s even difficult to keep the old ones. I’m not a fan of it, but I can face the grim reality; it does happen. Here you get married and you never think you’ll be dealing with a break-up ever again, and…bam…you find out that there’s a whole other type of break-up that you forgot all about, and it hurts just as much.
I only wish I knew how to juggle it all – work, marriage, motherhood, responsibilities to all of that while also paying bills and maintaining a house. Somewhere in there I try to carve out a little bit of life and time for myself (like this blog). But, I’m not 16 anymore, or 21, or even 27. Those were completely different lifetimes. Now, everything (including friendships) takes more work, more time, and it doesn’t always go the way I’d like. A new person might care less about what I have to say and I never hear or see them again. I may lose touch with an old friend and before I know it, weeks become months become years. It can downright suck when I stop for a moment to come up for air and realize I’ve lost a person who’s been part of my cast since elementary school.
I know I’m not alone, not the first to go through this, but it doesn’t make it any easier to handle or plow through on those days when it hits me, when I reflect on the past, and I see how much has changed. There is no magic answer, no magic word that can make it so. I wish there was. But sometimes I just don’t know. However, the best part of growing older is learning the ability to cope. One can bitch for only so long before recognizing that it doesn’t help the situation and, really, it’s time to find perspective. The life that I have is the one that I chose, and I couldn’t be happier with the family we’ve built and the journey that we’re carving out.
All this said, I still long for friendships. To know a variety of people. To do fun things. To have people who can come over, understand the messiness of three cats and three people living in less than 1,000 square feet and not care. To have a Millie to my Laura (or vice versa, depending on whether I’m the “wacky friend” or not). To laugh with abandon and say things without fear of it being used against me in the future or to share feelings sans judgment. To be able to check in with funny texts from time to time to ensure that the other’s still alive, or to share a funny “doesn’t matter in the grand scheme” moment.
I’m not asking for a vast amount of friends, or for friends who can all get together and get along, or for those take-all-afternoon phone calls of junior high. I’m not necessary looking for a fellow mother, but I am looking for someone who understands that my first priority, above all else, is that role (followed closely by the happiness of my husband; I subscribe to “Happy husband, happy life.” Luckily, he’s an easy one to please). And I’m not greedy. Just one, two, three…a dozen BFFs. Too much to ask?
Really, I just want someone to wear my friendship bracelet. Their choice of color.
Is that too much to ask?
* I’d like to thank Dave for helping me find the words to write this post. As with all things in life, I couldn’t do it without you.