Tag Archives: friendship

Friendships Age Too

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Everyone always talks about romantic relationships and how difficult they are–the compromising, the settling, how hard it is to be single, how hard it is to be married, blah blah blah.

No one ever really spends too much time gabbing about how difficult friendships can be. Friendships are supposed to be easy, right? Comfortable, lasting longer than any romantic relationship you’ve ever had. I guess that used to be true.

Somewhere around Real Adult Life (not Fake Adult Life), you realize how tough friendships can actually be. Hangouts no longer consist of last minute happy hours that turn into long, carb-filled dinners that turn into late-night pillow talk and accidental sleepovers. Hangouts now have to be planned weeks in advance. Alcohol and carbs are out because someone is on an insane diet. Late nights and accidental sleepovers are out because someone has to wake up early for work or get home ASAP to a baby or a husband or a boyfriend. Suddenly, you’re not a priority in their life anymore–you’re third or fourth fiddle, at best.

At some point, jobs and men, raises and promotions and…men became more important than keeping up with what you’ve been cooking for dinner or watching on Netflix…GASP?! It’s normal, I know. But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

The worst part is, you want to be happy for them, you TRY your damnedest to be happy for them…but mostly, you just feel deflated. There was a time in my life when I talked to my friends every day (usually multiple times a day). Questions like, “Hey, did you wind up buying that necklace?” have turned into “Hey, how’ve you been?”

I’ve never been one of those 27 Dresses types–I’ve always had a close-knit pack of two or three women who were more like sisters to me. I’m currently down to…one. Insert the *eek!* emoji. Yeah. One bestie who keeps up with my woes pretty well–not like she used to, but still pretty well.

Is it because she and I are the only single ladies of the once-wolf-pack? Perhaps. But more likely, it’s because we’ve been best friends since we met in middle school, when she saw me bleeding from my knees and lip and asked if I was OK (ridiculous Spanish Dancing Club incident). Hopefully, she’ll be my person forevs, but let’s be real…she could turn into a Husband-Hungry villain at any moment… That, folks, will be the day I adopt a handful of pets and babies or move to an island and live out the rest of my days befriending only coconuts.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here, I apologize. I have a few acquaintance-types who are fun, but they’re seeking the same thing I am–people to fill in the gaps leftover by once upon a time best friends, sisters. It’s great to have people who you can share a meal with, but it’s crazy to feel like you don’t have anyone to tell the deep, dark stuff to.

It can be pretty lonely, here in adulthood. No wonder people kept getting married even after property promises and dowries weren’t a thing anymore–it’s the only way of ensuring that you won’t slip and die in the shower, your remains left rotting under an enormous water bill for weeks. I kid, I kid.

How do we keep friendships, even after X, Y, or Z? How do we balance other life obligations with these people who know way too much about us? How do we remain understanding, even after being shoved aside to make room for “more” or “different” or “better”?

Prompt: Unexpected Night

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Sometimes, when I’m in a writing slump (which lately, is always), I allow Twitter to feed me prompts. There are an astounding number of tweeps whose sole tweet purpose is to motivate others to write. It’s pretty great. So here goes: an unexpected night.

Mystique-as-a-child-teen-and-adult

Blue paint was creeping into my nostrils and caking around every crease of my lips but I was two drinks down and feeling anything but blue. I guess I can be more specific—it wasn’t blue paint exactly, that was curdling around my eyebrows—it was (unfortunately) more like periwinkle. Luckily, I had a BLUE long-sleeved t-shirt, BLUE shorts, and BLUE tights to combat any confusion: I was blue (even if my face was periwinkle). A long, RED (orange-red, if I’m being honest) wig draped itself around my splotchy neck and YELLOW (definite on this one) cat-eye contacts continued to rotate creepily since I was wearing them over my regular contacts.

In other words, I was a bit of a mess. The paint wasn’t spreading onto my skin very evenly, in fact, it was being downright exasperating. I had chunks on one side of my face that were thick and wet, spots on the other side that were thin and dry, flecks in strands of my hair (real and wig), flecks everywhere else within a 10-foot radius… I looked like something out of a budget Smurf production. An elementary school’s Spring performance. An understudy for a second-grade Smurfette.

Luckily, I didn’t give a damn. Amazing friends, Halloween excitement, and vodka do wonderful things to a mind, body, and soul. I hopped around my living room in my beige canvas slip-ons (apparently I don’t own blue shoes), sipping and laughing and unknowingly splattering a few paint specks on couch pillows and the likes.

“Girrrrrl, you are BLUE!” Anne giggled in her goddess dress and I eyed her (cat-eyed her) jealously. She looked like a goddess, with or without the costume. Giant green eyes, dark hair, olive skin, white dress, curves for days—she was straight out of a Greek myth.

“Do I even look like Mystique, though? Or do I just look like a blue girl?” Mystique has been an idol of sorts for years. First of all, holy hell she’s smokin’ hot. Secondly, she kicks ass. Third, she can literally be ANYONE she wants to be. I’d thought about buying a latex suit to look more like her—I mean, let’s face it, clothes really aren’t her thing. But um, tummy pudge is also not her thing, so yeah, I decided on the t-shirt-shorts-tights.

“Yes, you really do. You really, really do!” I knew she was lying, but in a lovely, daughter of Zeus kind of way.

“It’s actually creeping me out,” Jennifer the 80’s rocker chick chimed in. I was surrounded by such happy, “fluffy” costumes. Athena, the Molly Ringwald-esque punkstress, Tara was Rainbow Brite, and Sandra was a cute pirate. I stood out, obviously. I looked pretty evil, but like I said, Smurfette. So a Smurfette gone bad.

We eventually shuffled into a taxi and met up with a few more friends on Rainey Street. Here’s where I cut to the chase. Fill in the holes with (what else) drinking. There was lots of that. Also, random guys shouting out things like, “Ohhh, I get it! AVATAR!!!” and “Genie chick, cooooool.” To the bro’ who guessed that I was Beetlejuice: You. Are. An. Idiot.

—– cut>>>>chase:

Two pedi-cabs and lots of walking later, we drunkenly made it to our final destination: Gypsy Bar on East 6th to see our friend Brian’s band play.

Here’s where it’s important to know a couple things about me and alcohol.

  1. I’m pretty good at it.
  2. I get suuuuuper ballsy and confident and seductive sometimes (i.e. when I see something I want).

Also, I’d told Anne earlier in the night, “I’m gonna make out with someone tonight, OK? That’s the goal. You in?” And she was in, SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO EXECUTE THIS PLAN WITH ME. However, the goddess, Molly, Rainbow, and One Eye watched as I, and I alone, smoothly decided to yell at a stranger, “WHY aren’t you wearing a costume?! How lame! It’s HALLOWEEN, HELLO!”

Super sexy, amiright? Paired with my crusty paint job and rotating, wompy contacts, I was basically a catch. Did I mention that my skin was starting to itch underneath all that periwinkle? Downright foxy.

Look: he had dimples and he was really tall and someone obviously needed to yell at him for not wearing a costume (that’s just dumb…why even go out?).

Even closer: goddamn he was really tall and he had a random sprinkling of freckles and gray hairs and his eyes were kind of caramel in the light and he immediately matched my bluntness with, “Well, at least my paint isn’t weirdly coming off. And your contacts are all kinds of crooked too.”

Barely a breath between us: “Well then here.” I pulled the cheap tube of paint out of my purse—it was almost the only item in there. “And while you’re at it, go ahead and rotate my contacts for me please.” I leaned up towards his stubbly chin and opened my eyes wide, not allowing him to hesitate, my lips pursed in amusement.

All of our friends had vanished by this point, leaving us in a strange bubble we’d created within minutes. This is apparently the point in which I tell a stranger everything about me: teaching, my novel, moving from Hawaii…I don’t even know what else I told him, I just know that we were locked in conversation and we’d moved to a picnic table and it was ten minutes ‘til the bar closed.

“I really want to kiss you but you’re going to get blue paint all over your face.”

Yeah. That came out of my mouth.

He must’ve said he didn’t care or he might’ve not said anything at all, but as people shuffled out of the back gate and the lights were being shut off, Mystique made out with the costumeless man with two last names. He looked like he’d been periwinkle-pied. I giggled and tried to wipe it off of his lips. He asked for my number. I gave it to him, scampered off, and expected to never hear from him again.

Five months later and my friends still affectionately call him “Blue Man Group,” but usually just behind his back.

Sometimes it’s not a terrible idea to paint yourself periwinkle, take a few shots, and yell at a stranger.

Expanding Hearts

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I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the not-so-feel-good topic of loss and how to deal with it. I guess a lot of it was sparked by the recent death of Joanna, a girl I met in Europe on a Contiki. We weren’t super close or anything—but seeing her picture splashed on news stories really got under my skin and I’ve been thinking of her pretty smile every day since they found her body.

It’s natural to think about death—it’s normal to feel anxious about your loved ones growing older, more fragile. I feel like losing someone you love is the one thing in life you can never prepare yourself for—but you wish you could or you might even feel like you already are prepared, ready, accepting of fate.

My best friend recently lost her grandmother, who was living with her. I walk by that empty room in her house now and my heart feels tight, uncomfortable. I think about them surrounding her with love, reading her poetry. Jo’s sobs still ring in my ears—I had never heard pain like that. Yet, I am envious of her. I told her this recently—that I feel like she’s stronger now, more prepared than I am, for the next inevitable passing. It’s stupid, I know. It’s not like one family death will make the next hurt any less.

Then I think about my aunts—they’ve both lost their husbands and they’ve both dealt with the loss in their own way.

My Uncle Rick was a racecar driver. I don’t remember him, but I’ve seen so many pictures and watched a couple home videos and I’ve heard about a million stories—that’s enough to know he lit up a room. He had that charm, that smile, that laugh—everyone adored him. Whenever I think about him, for some reason I get this ‘80s Tom Cruise image in my head—this cool cat who could make a rock fall in love with him. After a racing accident, he was in a coma for years before he passed away. My Aunt Debbie focused on her kids and then focused on their kids…I didn’t think she’d ever truly open back up to love. Her story made me fearful—I felt like she had this perfect marriage that ended too soon and once you have that kind of happiness, you just never get it again. I thought maybe people aren’t allowed to have that twice. But now she has John and I see this light in her eyes that I’ve never seen before. It reminds me of the pictures, the home videos, the stories—it reminds me of Uncle Rick. I don’t think she finally “filled a void,” as the saying goes, but I think she finally made room for that same kind of big love she once had.

Our hearts are bigger than we think. I feel like we’re constantly trying to cram love into a box—focusing on taking things out instead of expanding.

My Uncle Mac drove an 18-wheeler. He was in a terrible accident and became paralyzed—a quadriplegic. My Aunt Kathleen had been taking care of him for over 20 years before he passed away in 2010. I’ll never forget how positive he always was—if he was unhappy lying in that bed all day every day, he never let on, to us at least.

My Aunt Kathleen has similarly amazed me with her outlook on life. She is one of the craziest, most hilarious women I’ve ever met (she prefers the term “eccentric”). I asked her this past weekend if she’s dated at all. Her response was a big ol’ grin, a sip of her giant Long Island, and: “Not yet, there aren’t any men in Kountze! Unless I want a crazy old man who has a wife. My neighbor won’t stop calling—he wants phone sex! Can you believe that?! Anyway, I’m gonna move to Gruene and find me a man with at least a six-figure salary. That’s just the way that it is. That’s what I’m lookin’ for. I know what I want!”

Priceless. And the best part? The next day, she actually bought a piece of land in Gruene. She loved Uncle Mac deeply and always will, but she’s figured out that whole expanding-heart thing. It’s so great—and I know that both my uncles are smiling down, relieved that their loves are open to loving again.

I wish I could’ve taken a lesson from all of this sooner. People should view every hardship in this way. I always thought the key to getting over ex-boyfriends was filling the brokenness with someone new. But other people don’t fix you—you have to fix yourself. Your wounds might always be wounds, your holes may stay deep and barren—but your heart isn’t a box with a limit. There’s room for whatever, whoever, and however much. I’m still working on realizing this (isn’t it funny how you can realize something, but never really be done realizing it?). But I know that feeling worried and unprepared for loss is normal—all I can do is keep trying to expand my heart. Current effort: making room for each and every one of my new students. Even the one that guessed my age today: 49.

Pieces

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It’s funny how there are pieces of people that stay with you forever, even if the actual people don’t. You can go years without seeing someone, or even talking to them, but all it takes is a smell or a taste or a song—and they’re figuratively next to you, live, in color, in the flesh, dimples flashing.

Even more bizarre is how the current people who occupy your time, your present, can literally be next to you and yet not affect you at all. How can there be some people who don’t leave behind any pieces whatsoever? Were they not supposed to be in your life at all? Or is everyone meant to have these meaningless, vanilla time-fillers? And in that case, is everyone also meant to be someone else’s meaningless, vanilla time-filler? I guess it’s acceptable for the acquaintances that you see every so often, the friends of friends, the distant relatives, the people you ask the same questions to and vice versa every single time: “How are you? How’s teaching? How’s the love life, eh?”

But I hope to God that I never leave someone—someone of more importance than an acquaintance—mark-less, 100% unscathed by my presence in any way, good or bad. How tragic and boring, to never be thought of at all, ever, even if it’s just once in 20 years, when an old friend makes a disaster of mashed potatoes, walks by a person wearing a certain perfume, or sees someone with that same awful haircut that you had that one year…

I guess it’s more depressing to think of this happening with someone you’ve dated. And I can definitely think of people who I’ve dated and “dated” who won’t ever be crossing my mind, unless I’m writing about people who never cross my mind. Sucks to be you. But is it their fault, or mine? I of course want to say that it’s theirs—they should have been more interesting, funny, smart, gentlemanly, etc. They should have stuck around longer. They should have been more memorable, right? Or maybe I just didn’t give them a chance to be those things. Or maybe they were those things, and I didn’t notice or want to notice or care to notice.

We see what we want to see, right? I mean, if you want to hate someone, you connect them in your mind with petty or horrible shit. Bad memories, fighting, yelling, crying, lying. I had plenty of that with a certain ex, but instead, I think of him every single time I eat a cupcake, pick out a Halloween costume, go bowling, see a pair of incredibly blue eyes, or drink Dr. Pepper.

I think of my best friend Johanna every single time I hear any Ben Folds or Jack’s Mannequin, any time someone references Aggies, debate, Nicaragua, or little brothers, and any time I see someone with a huge, happy smile.

I think of my mom every time I eat spaghetti, every time people talk about role models or single-parent-stronger-than-steel-support-systems, and every time I see blue eyeshadow.

I think of my dad every time I see a magic trick, a gun, or a Santa, every time people talk about Texans, every time I eat a steak, and every time I really need a hug.

Every TV show or movie I watch is connected to someone. Every band, every song, every meal I cook, every outfit I wear, every restaurant I go to… The mind is a crazy gadget. Every time I drink tea—Grandma. Every time I smell a pipe—Papa. Every time I eat hummus—my roommate Leslie. There’s not much that my brain doesn’t associate to someone I care about.

I guess the real question I have is: when you reach a certain number of things that remind you of a specific person, does that mean that they should still be in your life? I mean, once you get to a certain point, and you realize that the smallest, most random things remind you of this person from your past, are you supposed to just keep living without them? Are you supposed to wait for it to completely go away? What if it never does? How often is “too” often for someone to pass through your mind? And for that matter, when you find yourself never thinking of a person, is that reasonable cause to drop them entirely? If you only think of that person when you’re in their presence, is that acceptable?

Oops, that was more than one question.

Let me try to nutshell these thoughts. I know that it’s normal to have silly, sporadic moments where an image of someone plasters itself to every inch of you. It’s like someone is drawing from a hat of your past and present relationships (platonic and otherwise) and then flinging the chosen photo down on your day when you least expect it. But I feel like this can’t ALL be purely coincidence via memory—I feel like at some point, life must just be telling you that this person is stuck to your heart for a reason. Especially when those everyday things (banana split ice cream, that one scar, that one expression) that they’re, for some reason or another,  sprinkled on top of are happy, funny, loving, meaningful, or delicious.

Right?