Girlfriends, Omnivores and Tossed Salads
Sometimes I suspect I have been cultivating degrees of separation all my life. Usually I blame it on my natural inclinations, being something of a loner who can mimic an extrovert fairly convincingly when the occasion dictates. I’m either an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. It’s too complex to figure out and it’s really just a question of semantics, isn’t it?
At twenty one, after I left my large loud family behind, I had to learn to live a more isolated life. I made friends at work or school or church. I developed some very close ties to numerous people over the years. But the nature of things being as they are in our mobile world, people would come and go in and out of my life. It was so easy to lose touch with them once they had gone. Attempts to maintain contact would fade into the background and I would realize they had new lives and new interests and little time for long distance communications.
Sometimes I was left feeling like I had the summer I was ten and my two best friends, then thirteen, ghosted me and made it clear, by ignoring my existence, that I wasn’t old enough to hang out with them anymore. It took a few days, but I got the message. It was a painful experience for a ten year old. Thirteen year old girls can be pretty brutal. I went through a similar mean girl stage myself a few years later, so I get it, now. Damn hormones. They were older, more mature girls and didn’t want a kid hanging around while they discussed adolescent topics like periods and boys. But they were still just kids too, really, lacking the social skills to let me down easy. So at the time I felt lost, not fitting in with the boys in the neighborhood anymore, who were my age, but not quite grown up enough to fit in with the older girls either. An outsider and a misfit. I lost my equilibrium. I had been playing with the same neighbor girls since I was a small child. Now they didn’t want me around. I didn’t know how to make new friends since they had always been there, available for me. And then they weren’t.
Then when summer was over I also ended up in the hospital, early in the school year, with appendicitis. I missed several weeks of school. I actually milked as much time away from school as I could out of my concerned Mother. I was perfectly happy staying home alone with her all day until my siblings got home from school and she went to her night job. It was a treat to have my mother to myself for a change. We watched her shows and ate lunch together everyday. I took long naps in a quiet, empty house. The sound of a small plane flying low overhead still instantly transports me back to that bedroom and those peaceful naps. But of course I eventually had to go back to school. After my parents explained the concept of truancy to me, I grudgingly returned to the fifth grade. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything there. I was behind in the lessons, my teacher was something of a bitch, and the kids had formed alliances without me while I was gone. UGH!
I eventually made some friends that year. Friendships that I still cherish and love and make a point to maintain over the many miles that exist now between us. They were the friends I shared my adolescent and teenage years with. We stuck to each other like glue to keep from falling apart as we learned to negotiate life out of the nest we were all so anxious to fly away from. They know me and know secrets about me that I share with no one else. And they love me. I love them. What a blessing.
I have to confess that as an adult woman, making friends hasn’t been my forte′. I have woman friends from my years of volunteer involvement in the arts when I lived in the West Puget Sound, and then some from my years of living in a remote and rural town in Eastern Oregon, where women gravitate to each other for comfort and entertainment in a world seemingly made for manly men, but I’m separated from all of them by miles of freeway, or miles and miles of lonely winding roads. It’s not very practical to visit with them face to face. I communicate with some of them on Facebook, but it’s a fairly superficial connection at best.
Now that my old man is retired, he is here, all the time. I’m glad we get along so well and that we know how to make each other laugh. We enjoy our walks with the dog everyday and have our pet places we frequent together. But while he is fine with our extremely low key social life, sometimes I need a little more than him and the dog 24/7. I plan on making a trip up north soon to visit with a friend who recently lost her mother. I’m looking forward to some quality girlfriend time and I hope I can be a comfort to her if she needs a supportive friend. There is just something about girlfriends that can’t be duplicated with your old man. When it comes to friendship, women are the omnivores and men are the vegans. Women chew the fat and gnaw on the bones of things when we really get together. We feast on the savory and the sweet. Men are more like a tossed salad when it comes to friendship…and a brew if they’re best mates. So while I am very comfortable around men and really like them, probably because my first friends were my brothers, I need that women to women contact from time to time to ground me. The way a man needs a good steak once in a while or a dog needs a ham-bone.
A couple months ago, around the holidays, I was pretty miserably lonely. I have gotten used to not fussing over Christmas and spending a solitary day cooking and eating with the old man and giving the dog an extra milk bone or two. But after growing up in a big family with sociable parents and extended family and neighbors as friends, sometimes, even after almost forty years, it feels more like an extended sick day than the holidays around here. So I had a small melt down and confessed to my loving husband that I needed more. It was hard. I didn’t want to make him feel inadequate. I don’t think he did, and I’m not sure he understood. But he did agree that I could travel more often to visit my sister and my east coast peeps if I thought that would help. I do. And I will. Life is too short to worry about the cost of an airline ticket when you need to be with your loved ones. To chew the fat and gnaw on the bones. I’ll be doing that with my sister again this summer. And my friend Diane. And hopefully Donna. Two of those fifth grade friends. And yes, there will be plenty of wine to wash it all down with. And chocolate. And a cannoli or two. Omnivorous friendship. The best there is.
My sister and I getting silly last June!
©2016 by Ilona Elliott