I’ve been in kind of a strange place ever since we came back from our Vegas party. A lot of it was the typical post-party drop, the return to reality. But underlying that was something else. An observation about others, and mostly about myself. So please pardon me while I go on a long-ass ramble that doesn’t really have a conclusion or a solution, just me being me.
This particular gathering was small, so I got to see people in a more intimate setting. And while I felt such a lovely kinship with my friends there, a peaceful sense of belonging, there was also that old familiar sense of otherness. Because as I watched people interact, I realize that there are some very deep friendships going on here, particularly between the women. No, I’m not talking sexual; I’m talking about that special affection and closeness that women share. Men have their special guy bonds, and women have their ways of bonding too. I saw a lot of this last weekend. And I realized I do not have this depth of girlfriend-ly bond. I love a lot of these women, and I believe they love me too. I believe they enjoy seeing me and it’s definitely mutual. But I am no one’s bestie. No one calls me one of their girls, or their sister. I am not even a third cousin once removed. Not really.
It wasn’t always like this. In fact, before I met John 16 1/2 years ago, all my dearest friends were women. My first adult best friend was Julie, whom I met when we were both art majors in college. We became fast friends, going through our junior and senior years in college, then getting our first job together in the same office. All through our 20s, we were the best of friends, sharing all our secrets, hours and hours of movies and dinners and laughter and tears. When I finally lost my virginity, she was the first person I told. (She’d lost hers several years before. That slut! 🙂 ) My mother was crazy about her. Her parents called me their third daughter.
I think we were in our mid-20s here. Look at my short hair!
When she got married in 1987, I was one of her bridesmaids. The only reason I wasn’t the maid of honor was because that went to her sister. Her mother liked me so much, she bought my bridesmaid’s dress for me.
Then Julie got pregnant and had her first child. And everything changed. Slowly, but surely. Our girly times were over. Whenever I saw her, she was half of a couple. She had other priorities now, a husband and a baby. My life seemed kind of frivolous next to hers, she lost interest in what was going on with me, and I could no longer relate to her. Eventually, we drifted apart.
She called me once, 15 years ago, when my father died and she read about it in the paper. Five years ago, when we both turned 50, I sent a birthday card to the address I had for her, but it was returned to me. I still think about her, still see bits of her in my apartment in the gifts she gave me over the years. I wonder how she is. Her boys would be grown now.
Then there was Sue, a woman I met at one of my jobs. She was bright, funny, educated, and a Beatlemaniac like me. She worked for the Hollywood Bowl Museum for a while, and we went to Bowl shows together, as well as a couple of Beatlefests and several movies. She also reviewed plays and used to invite me along. We, too, shared a lot, loved each other dearly.
Deja vu. She got married, had kids, faded out of my life. I know this is a common thing with friends in their 20s/early 30s, when one has kids and the other doesn’t. Still sad, though, to have it happen twice in a row.
In my 30s, when I was involved in 12-step, I made two very close girlfriends, Pam and Beth. They had very different personalities — Pam was more introverted like me, while Beth was extroverted. Sometimes I’d hang with one or other, and sometimes both. We were so close, so supportive of each other. I can still remember giving a talk at one of the conventions, and the two of them cheering me on in the audience, waving this goofy stuffed penguin at me. (Yes, the same one you’ve seen perching on my couch.) The three of us celebrated a lot of personal milestones together over the years. But then things changed. First, Beth got angry at me because I let her down one time; I wasn’t there for her the way she’d wanted me to be. I apologized profusely, but she never quite forgave me and things faded with us, even more so after she and Pam had a falling out. Pam and I stayed friends longer, but after a long-term relationship ended for her, she then moved back in with her mother after her father passed away and became rather reclusive. I haven’t spoken with either of them for years.
These days, I guess you could say John is my best friend, and the person with whom I spend the most time. He and I are both loners, he more so than even I. John is the only man I know who doesn’t have “guy pals.” I have some women whom I see now and then, and I have my online friends and party friends whom I love. But am I in touch with any women regularly, doing coffee, visiting, talking, texting, sharing? No.
I realize I have no one to blame but myself for this. Perhaps blame is too strong a word. It’s just the way it is. I realize that the way one cultivates and keeps these special, close friendships is by constant contact. I read the blogs and party reports, I see how the tightly knit women are always traveling to visit one another, spending lots of time. When they’re not together physically, they are bound by texts and Skype. And when they do get to see one another, they spend every possible moment together, savoring each other’s company.
Me? I hate the phone. I rarely text, and I’ve never Skyped in my life. And while I love spending time with beloved spanko people, I burn out quickly. I need down time, quiet time, time without interacting. Last weekend, six of our friends had a suite together. It had two bedrooms, but still, that meant a lot of closeness and being around each other the entire time. I read the accounts with a pang, wishing I had that kind of camaraderie, then realized, who the hell am I kidding? That kind of situation would have driven me up the wall… I would have needed my own room, my own space, my time alone to refresh and decompress. Only then would I have been able to be civil and pleasant and fun to be around.
John and I don’t entertain. Neither one of us has even given a party or a dinner. It’s just not in us. I don’t know why, but it’s just the way we are. At our age, we’re not likely to change. People can change aspects of their behavior when they really want to, but I don’t think they can change their core behavior. I’ve been an introvert and a loner all my life.
So, I get to have my solitude, my quiet time, my peace. But I sacrifice a degree of closeness along with that. I miss out on being fully treasured, as I would be if I were fully available. And that makes me sad sometimes.
I’m grateful for John, because he gets me. He knows it isn’t that I don’t like people; I just can’t handle too much interaction without getting exhausted. He and I talk about this stuff after a party, after a gathering, when we’re still feeling the afterglow of the unaccustomed camaraderie. We say let’s go to more parties, let’s meet some new people in L.A., let’s think about maybe having a few people to John’s house. But then time passes and it doesn’t happen. We are who we are.
Just today, on my way home from John’s, I stopped to get groceries. I was feeling tired; we’d been out late last night and lost an hour’s sleep due to the time change. As I entered the market, I saw a woman I knew and hadn’t seen for a while. A normal, social person would have gone up to her to say hello, give a hug, shoot the breeze for a few. Me? I ducked in the other direction. My first reaction was, “No, I’m tired, I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
I admire social people, and envy them sometimes. There are times when I wish I were a different type of person. But then I wouldn’t be me. I’ve spent most of my life coming to terms with me, learning to accept Erica with all her quirks and foibles. People still care about me and seem to enjoy my presence. Having our friends last week say, “No, you can’t leave, you’re forbidden to leave,” brought tears to my eyes. Some of the hugs I received were so warm and wonderful. Despite myself, I am loved, and I love.
I guess it’s up to me to, once again, accept my limitations, and work within them. There will always be things other have that I don’t, and vice versa.
If you’re still reading, thanks for letting me ramble.