Admittedly, I’m not good at making friends. Like, I thought I was, and I went about my life thinking I was, but as I age and people’s fucking filters break down, I’ve come to realize that is not the case. I’ve narrowed it down to two basic, yet contradictory, scenarios.
1. I get too close too soon. I’m not, like, a hugger or anything, but I talk with my hands a lot, and if I meet you and decide that I shouldn’t be wary of you, I immediately feel like I can touch you with my hands and tell you about my period.
2. You think I hate you. This is the most common Brittany Fails at Friendship situation. We meet and I think things are going really well. But then I find out from mutual acquaintances that you think I hate you. I don’t. It’s just that in it’s natural resting state, my face is mean looking, and I’m often not super talkative in social situations because I’m more comfortable sitting back and listening. I tell stories for a living, so I am like fucking Rain Man about absorbing the details around me. Some of my closest friendships today are with people who started out assuming I hated them.
I was the first in my social circle to have kids, which took me from Fun Drunk Brittany to Erratic Attendance Record, Wet Spots On Her Shirt, Smells Like Hair Grease, Eye Bag Brittany. A seemingly less awesome version of all the previous Brittanys.
My focus went from the fun I was having with others, to the fun I should be having with my kids. Andy and I both had parents who devoted themselves to their families. They didn’t go out to bars. They didn’t have a ton of friends. They just stayed home and spent time with us, and it was a value we thoughtlessly continued in our own home.
But, here’s the rub. It wasn’t always fun. It’s hard to be best friends with an infant, aside from looking kinda like you and being able to put your nipple in your mouth, you have nothing in common. And for a while, it’s an entirely one sided relationship. You gave them everything, they gave you, occasionally, a smile that was probably just a prelude to shooting shit out of the back of their diaper. Yes, yes there is the sense of completion and wholeness, but they don’t get your jokes. They don’t want to watch America’s Next Top Model with you. They don’t care about the fight you just had with your husband. So, I back-burnered that need for adult companionship, and focused on being present.
I saw so many situations where people would have kids and dump them every weekend with sitters and relatives to head up to bars and clubs, and we just weren’t built that way. Actually getting out and doing things was a big deal to us, and we rarely did it together.
Then the kids got older, I started traveling a lot more for work, and that guilt I felt by not being with them was replaced with a sense of self. I appreciated them more because I wasn’t stuck at home with them all day while they sucked the youth from my body like that fungus that attacks ants in the jungle and then takes over their brains and controls their dead bodies like zombie puppets.
I was having adult conversations. I was showering. I was wearing civilian clothes. I was meeting some of my own basic emotional needs. And then I came home to children who assumed I was a productive member of society and a husband who was turned on by the fact that I’d stopped wearing nursing bras, because you’d think being able to pull your nipple out of a feeding hole would be a sexy turn on, but it’s not. This feeling was addicting.
It was finally time for us to have friends again.
But dude, it doesn’t get any easier, because you’re still faced with the issue of finding people who you can relate to, because you’re a totally different person. You’re probably going to always be late, you might have to cancel last minute of someone craps all over you, and you have a curfew. We’ve tried the whole “friends with kids” match game before, and it sucked. We do have one or two couples we hang out with and spend holidays with that allow us to just relax and let the gaggle of children run amok during get togethers, but we wanted our own respective friends to lean on for nights out, away from the butt wiping and sippy cup filling.
For Andy, it was easy, he has a traditional job, he has a group of friends there, and it was simple for him to just glob himself into a wolf pack and have at it.
For me, it was harder. I hadn’t seen any of my old friends in years and we’re all at different stages of our life, because I work on the internet, many of the women I interact with are scattered all over the country, and while I still see them regularly, I can’t really call them up for a last minute dinner and movie.
Having school age kids, by default, puts me into this weird position of having to hang out with people I normally would never ever hang out with. It’s like a blind date with someone who’s only common denominator is that they pushed something out of their vagina at roughly the same time as you. Sometimes, it’s awesome and you meet actual new friends. Other times, it’s me sitting there eating goldfish crackers while they talk about the election and I talk about my period, counting down the seconds until the play date is over or someone busts their lip open and you get to escape in a handful of blood and promises that it’s no big deal and yes, you should totally do this again super soon.
Squeezing in friend courtship while having three kids to tend to at home is hard, and only in the last year have I been able to assemble a tribe of women who just fit.
I stopped trying to impress the other parents at school or relate to the people I used to be friends with a million lifetimes ago. I turned to social media to connect with people locally who are as unbalanced as I am. I hosted meet ups and movies nights, opening the invite up to my Facebook wall and asking murders to please not attend. I put it all out there.
I’m on the internet a lot. I have a bitch face. I have kids and I love them but I don’t want to talk about them constantly. I’d like to not debate religion or politics. I have a bad taste in movies, and an even worst taste in books. I don’t want to go to loud bars or dance clubs, and I have to be home around midnight. I probably weigh more than you. I keep my iPhone on the table at all times. I’m crazy good at keeping secrets. I know all the words to Shoop, What a Man and Push It.
And you know what? It worked. Every get together, we add another chair to our table of sailor mouthed misfits and another address to our daily email chains of smut and gossip.
Women need to connect with other women in real life, like how Temple Grandin built that hug machine thing to experience touch, or guys order those RealDolls off the internet.
It makes me want to start a sorority for women who’ve misplaced their friends, and the only requirement would be backing me up when I hit on the waiter and being okay if I eat the trail mix I find in my bra. Oh, and not rolling your eyes while you read my erotic Twilight Fan Fiction.
That’s a deal breaker.