I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on it. I’ve pondered it several times over the years. I’ve assigned it to this reason or that, never quite sure, never quite satisfied that I have found the correct causal grouping. And perhaps I never will. Sometimes I shrug my shoulders and decide it’s not very important, other times I feel rather alien and alone.
You see the fact is, I don’t really have any friends. Oh, I have had them, many times over the years. I’ve had them since I was five or six as I recall. Some have lasted for many years, others a few, but in the end, they have all disappeared. No, perhaps I am the one who disappeared. I cannot attribute this strange phenomenon to others. It resides with me. It’s pretty much the same with family as well. During some periods of my life, I’ve seen some cousins or second cousins a lot, but it fades over time, and finally contact is severed. No severed implies an abrupt break, this is more like a stretched band that eventually gives way.
I just can never assign a reason why this occurs. Kathy was my first friend. She was the girl who lived across the street with a house full of brothers and sisters. We were what you would call best friends. We played together every day, seven days a week. Often we played all day together, had lunch together. I went places shopping with her mother and her and she with me. That friendship “ended” naturally, or so I assumed. She was a whole year older than me, and while it meant nothing those first few years, by about 12 or so, it was starting to be important. It probably ended the year she moved on to 7th grade and a different school building.
Patty was my next friend, and pretty much the same pattern ensued. She lived a couple of doors away, and we went from kindergarten on through graduation together. We were probably not best friends, but we were long time friends. We added Barb to our group and then as I said earlier Judy. In between, in those grade school years there were others like another Patty, Linda, Janet, Betsy, another Linda, and well, the list was long. I had other friends while I was a cheerleader–other cheerleaders that is, but I never felt a very close attachment to any of them. I often felt like the outsider.
I learned as i approached 14 or so (just slightly before the group of Patty, Barb and Judy came to be) that I had to cultivate those other girls. I knew that if I were late to arrive, they would leave without me. They did that more than once. I sensed that there were girls that that would never happen to, but I was not one of them, and I never knew how they achieved this favored status. Ever.
When I graduated from high school, I was the only one of our group heading to college, albeit I was not moving away but attending the local junior college. Barb got married to Robin who returned from Vietnam injured. She was soon pregnant. Patty soon got a job. For a while we continued the nightly regime of driving around the “hot” spots, or going to Barb’s to visit a grown up married gal, but it seemed old, it seemed somehow now foreign. It just faded away.
I made friends in junior college. I played euchre all day long, departing only long enough to go to class. It was an ongoing game and you sat in as a seat became available. I was a desired partner, since I played well. I got to know a kid here and there. I had a nice friend who was a black girl. She ignored me as if she didn’t recognize me when she was withother black kids. I discarded that one quickly. In those two years, I had no friends that I can even remember the names of any more, yet I certainly remember going out with different people to one activity or another. But they were “friends” of convenience and never ones I confided in.
When I went to MSU, I had built-in friends in three room mates. After the first year, two were discarded and the 4thand I found two other girls and we rented an apartment with them. We got along well, and had a lot of fun that year. I went to the wedding of one who married a guy whom we all knew. They had dated all year our senior year. I drove to East Lansing because they chose to get married off campus. I never saw them or any of the others again.
I kept telling myself that these broken relationships were natural. Natural in the sense that my life was going in one direction and theirs in another. I was a college student, they were marrying or working. We had little in common. After undergraduate school, I was off to law school in Detroit, so I lost my connections to MSU. Again, I assumed this was logical and normal.
Law school brought more of the same. Frankly the first year was so hectic with fear of flunking out that we all worked like demons. Again, our “friendships” were of convenience. Good study partners were coveted more than anything else. I did the usual things, went to parties, bars and played tennis and attended movies. But I became no one’s best friend. No one became mine.
After law school, I remained in Detroit, going to work at the Legal Aid and Defenders Association of Detroit. I had worked there as chief researcher my last year of law school and was hired on staff immediately after. I had several friends there, male and female. Most lasted for many years, since I worked there for nearly 20 years. But they too disappeared.
When I moved to Connecticut, and then on to Iowa, I tried periodically to resurrect those ties. Oh people were surprised to hear from me, and I urged an e-mail relationship, but they quickly stopped writing, and of course, then so did I. No desire to appear needy you know.
Here it was no different. Troy Mills is a small town. Parker grew up here. He’s known these folks all of his life. The most compelling reason is that his ex-wife chose to remain in Troy though she had no real ties here and they were married less than 4 years. So it became an uncomfortable situation for me to become friends with anyone. It placed a strain on them, since Penny was pretty bitter for a number of years. Even though her marriage to Parker had ended before I entered the picture.
I have no doubt that the fault of all this is mine. I just have never been clear where to assign it. I would prefer of course to assign it to my parents. I like to assign all my miseries to them. It’s convenient to say the least. I cannot come up with a rational explanation as to why it’s their fault however. I have concluded that mostly it’s part of being an only child. I never learned sharing very well, I never learned the importance of others very well. I tend to be self-centered and look out for number Uno. I think that might be a real clue. I have pushed people away at times because I wanted to do things on my schedule, when I wanted to do them.
I always have done the obligatory. I’ve gone to weddings, funerals, baby showers, wedding showers, and that sort of thing. Oh, perhaps I begged off on a couple, but I never ignored them. I sent the gift.
I have shrugged my shoulders in a “who cares” kind of way. But that has never been satisfying. The truth is, I’ve been lonely sometimes. I’ve felt left out, I’ve wondered what it is like to have someone you can always depend on, tell you deepest secrets to, never have to put on an act for. Parker has become that to me as you might have guessed. So it’s clear I wasn’t happy being this loner all the time. I craved and worked at developing friendships, but somehow I’ve never been good at it.
I have been called selfish by others sometimes. Selfish with my time mostly. Unwilling to change my plans to accommodate someone’s need. I think that has a lot to do with my friendless state. Friends can’t do that, so I assume.
I think my Dad was somewhat like this. My cousin once said that he had called my dad over the years asking him about going fishing or hunting together. My father always declined. My father said he wanted to go when he wanted and return when he wanted, and didn’t want to have to respond to anyone else’s desires. I guess that I have said the same.
I feel vaguely sad about all this. I wish it were different. It is not. I don’t dwell on it much if ever. I am somewhat of a recluse, and so is Parker. We do awfully well, just the two of us. But I suppose it means a very very bad time ahead for one of us. More so for me than him. I don’t think about it. I simply find it “not helpful.” I’m good at controlling my mind in that way. Most of the time that is.
I am not telling this for sympathy. No, far from it. I would hate for comments like “you poor thing.” I made this choice some how, without knowing it. And it is the way I am. I just want to be truthful here. About who I am and am not. We all have these places, these cracks in the facade of a personality. Nobody much knows why we are this way, even we don’t ourselves. It’s not solely within one’s control I’m convinced. As I said, I made no such decision to be this way. It just is who I am. I would choose not to be this way if that were possible, but I sense it is not.
I have always resonated in a deep way to the claim that somehow, deeply, we are all alone. No one, no matter how close, can ever get inside this skin and feel exactly as I do, see exactly as I do, smell exactly as I do. Nobody can combine a day’s, week’s or year’s experiences in the same way. Some how that gives me some comfort I guess. Sentience has it price I believe. To recognize myself as a separate me, requires that I recognize that no one else is exactly like me. I rejoice in my uniqueness but recognize that it forever keeps me apart. Perhaps that is the basis for our need to join together, to hold on desperately at times, clinging to our recognition that we all are staring wide-eyed and alone at the world.
I don’t know. I ponder this, but I never reach a conclusion. Perhaps there is none. We just put one foot in front of the other, until there are no more steps to take. No doubt it is in part why I blog.