Friday, September 13, 2013

Making Friends and Losing Them

There's an unspoken agreement among women and girls when it comes to friendship. It's kind of like "I give you one of my secrets and you give me one of yours and we'll see where this friendship can go." Females as a general are the more emotionally outspoken one. We barter with our feelings, trade secrets, place our emotional rants out on the table for everyone to examine. It can be freeing and it is very unguarded.

We're asking, "Can I trust you? Will you even out the playing field if I say or do this?" Before we know it, it becomes a therapy session over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Everyone has a story to share, a tidbit to add, advice to give. Each one is from a different background with varying experiences, but it all comes down to one thing: sharing them.

You get lucky and you find the right person, that one friend that you just click with and your risk to trust her has paid off. Other times, you walk away with a sour taste in your mouth and a gaping feeling of vulnerability. You've realized that instead of listening, she was just waiting for her turn to talk. Your risk let your secrets out and now there's a person walking around with them.

I read an article a while ago about how a break-up between two close friends can be more detrimental to one's emotional health than a romantic break-up. After you break up, there's someone out there who knows everything about you- your confessions, your quirks, your bad habits and good- and she is no longer obligated to keep them in for you. They aren't gifts of friendship anymore. They are collateral or the spoils of war. They can be used against you, whether directly or indirectly. And don't forget the loss of what a best friend brings to life: support, love, a sound-board, a shoulder to cry on, a cheering voice of happiness, the knowledge that there is always someone there for you.

When you lose all of that, you lose a part of yourself. It isn't the norm to mourn that loss. It's not like the death of a loved one or a break-up with your significant other. There are rituals in place to deal with those kind of losses. Sitting shiva or eating a pint of ice cream. Allowance to mope in bed for a few days. But no one ever came up with a way to deal with the loss of a close friend. We're supposed to hate them and move on. Start all over again. Find a new best friend.

I had a term for a handful of friends in my life. I called them my Life-Support. Usually I just had one at a time. That one girl who I would go to for everything- every thought in my head, every fight I had with my family, every idea I wanted to try, every happy instance, every sad moment. I would contact her every day, say random stuff that would make sense to only her, and have several simultaneous conversations about various topics. We never needed a "break," and if we did somehow go a while without talking, we'd pick things up right where we left off.

I was lucky enough to never be without a Life-Support for a long period of time, until one friend. For reasons I still can't quite seem to explain, we blew up and stopped speaking to each other. That loss was heart-breaking and I have yet to get over it. Fortunately, since then I've had the privilege to meet fantastic, amazing women who I can never imagine my life without.

But it doesn't make the whole process any easier. In fact, it becomes more taxing over time. Our stories grow heavier, our confessions more contrite, our trial-therapy sessions more demanding. In some small ways, our desperation grows depending on the day, time, and situation. We all want to be liked, and we all want to be loved. We're looking for that Life-Support and as life goes on, friends are less easy to come by. It's not the pure innocent game of playing on the jungle gym anymore. We have busy lives and our own problems to deal with and all we're looking for is that kind face to smile at us and tell us it'll be okay when we need it.

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