Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Most Honest Friend I Never Had

I like being different.

I always have. I don’t know if it’s a product of being an only child and having to compare myself against the entire world, or if it’s just my personality.

I learned early on that being different in a “quirky” way was better than being different in a “weird” way (to steal a line from Runaway Bride).

For instance, I’ve always embraced my left-handedness, partially because Dad was a lefty, and partially because it made me part of a special club with limited, genetically-chosen membership.

Growing up, I eschewed the “norm” and felt free to embrace what I really loved. I stayed far away from competition, school spirit, and cliques. Not that any of them would have had me anyway.

In college, I abhorred the Gap. I remember saying, “If you want to look like everyone else, shop the Gap!” Later, I included my nemesis, Old Navy, in that old chestnut.

Of course, there were times I wanted desperately to fit in. I wanted to be able to swap clothes like my friends did, but I was always too big. There were times I wanted a boy to like me, but it never happened.

Overall, though, I was happy being who I was, because I had my words. My words allowed me to defend or advocate the quirks that made me Ann-Marie.

However, my own (non-stop) inner dialogue analyzes everything. It might shock you after reading this vocabulary volcano of a blog, but I don’t write or say a tenth of what my mind analyzes on a daily basis.

My husband hoards words like they are a limited commodity, but he admits to being fascinated when I stream-of-consciousness analyze my thoughts on any given topic. He’s way too nice to say it (and he wouldn’t waste the words anyway), but he thinks I over-analyze things.

He’s right, of course. One of my bosses used to say, “You can over-think anything to death.”

Brett is really the only person who has experienced me in “analysis mode.” Even though I chatter on like a woodpecker to my family and friends, I’ve spared them from this particular character flaw. I was pretty sure over-analyzing things was just “me.”

A couple of years ago, my Aunt Linda, who lives in France, began to visit the States regularly. Aunt Linda and I share a common bond – the same August 20 birthday. We also share our birthday with my Aunt Laurie.

I’ve always admired the symmetry. Aunt Linda is Mom’s oldest sister; Aunt Laurie is Mom’s youngest sister, and I am Mom’s only daughter. It’s a cool birthday trinity.

Since I didn’t grow up with either Aunt Linda (France) or Aunt Laurie (Tennessee), I didn’t know either of them very well. During Aunt Linda’s recent visits to the States, I was finally able to develop an adult friendship with her.

Mom and Gary hosted Aunt Linda for most of the time, so I often found myself sitting around the dining room table engaged in familial conversation.

I was surprised when Mom mentioned Aunt Linda tended to analyze everything. Intrigued, I began to pay attention. Much to my delight, I discovered Aunt Linda had the exact same thought process I did! Unlike me, though, she wasn’t afraid to express her thoughts and opinions out loud.

I sat mesmerized as she explained why I was the way I was, why Brett did the things he did, why her kids did things a certain way, and so on. I basked in finding another person who was a great deal like me.

Aunt Linda sought the reasons why – why people do what they do – why they are the way they are.

Questions that no one else asked out of politeness, Aunt Linda would barge right in and analyze to her heart’s content.

I am not a believer in astrology, but I will say that most descriptions of Leo’s illustrate me (and Aunt Linda) down to a “T.”

Either way, as much as I have come to adore and treasure my Aunt Linda, I’m afraid I will never be able to be as outspoken (at least verbally) and insightfully honest as she is.

One time I did, however, meet someone who was.

It’s no secret Brett and I have almost no “couple” friends. Other than Mom and Gary (who HAVE to hang out with us) and Linda and Aaron, we’ve yet to find people who like both of us enough to develop a close relationship.

I don’t mean to say we’re friendless – individually, we have friends.

But as a couple, we just don’t click with that many people. Either they like Brett and not me, or vice versa. Brett’s not a sports nut, and he hates small talk. I am not domestic (IN THE LEAST), and I tend to speak my sarcastic, little mind on pretty much everything.

It has taken us years and years and years (the third one is just for me) to accept this. When we finally realized it, we just shrugged our shoulders, thanked God at least we had each other, and sucked it up like the rejection pros we are.

For a short time after we got married, we tried very hard to make “couple” friends. Thankfully, we were part of a large group at Windsor and actually managed to make a few connections.

I remember meeting a couple who was part of the group, although we didn’t know them very well. They seemed very nice. He was a bit quieter, like my gigantic mute, and she seemed funny, lively, and quite compatible with yours truly.

After talking it over with Brett, I decided to invite them over for dinner.

I approached *Mamie and asked if she and *Conan would like to come over for dinner one night.

She turned to me politely, a condescending smile on her face.

“You know, we have a lot of family in the area and quite a few friends already. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that we’re really full up on friends right now. Thanks anyway.”

I swear I thought she was kidding.

I even did that “ha, ha” you do when you’re 99% sure someone’s joking. Then, horrors of horrors, I took in the slightly puzzled look on her face and realized she was completely serious.

I stood rooted to the ground in shock. The rejection shot through me like a sword. Even though she’d couched the slap-in-the-face in oh-so-nice politeness, I was fully aware I had been burned.

I stumbled out to the car in a daze, as Brett pumped me for information on our new friends. As I babbled out the story, Brett's eyes grew wide.

“They’re ‘full up’ on friends? What does that even mean? How can they have too many friends?”

My sweet, unassuming husband couldn’t comprehend the fact we could barely cajole two people to see a movie with us, and these people were turning away crowds of adoring fans.

“She…she wasn’t even nice about it. I mean, she could have at least said they’d have dinner with us and then dodged me for a date later. I mean, that would have spared my feelings,” I stuttered, still reeling.

We were both pretty silent on the way home, as we absorbed the incident. Then, out of nowhere, I started laughing.

Brett looked over, concerned. He knows (as many men do) a wife’s hysterical laughter is only a treacherous half-step removed from hysterical sobbing.

But I was really laughing.

“I mean, she was honest right? They don’t like us, and they don’t want to be our friends. She all but came out and said it.” I choked out, still cracking up.

I turned to Brett. “This is actually okay. I mean, it hurts, yeah, but think about it. This way we never have to wonder. I don’t have to put their names in our address book or send them a single Christmas card. We don’t ever have to worry they feel excluded when we don’t invite them to things. We don’t have to sit next to them or make small talk. No pretending. It takes all the pressure off.”

True, if I’d ever been approached by someone I didn’t want to be friends with (has yet to happen), I’d be absolutely polite and then dodge, dodge, dodge them like crazy. Mamie just wasn’t going to play games, so she laid it all out there on the line.

I’m not saying she wasn’t a stone, cold viper to treat us like that, but hey, at least she was honest about how she felt.

Even now, I can’t help but look back and laugh. The truth is that Mamie is the most honest friend I never had.

And I couldn’t be happier about it. After all, with friends like that…

But, who knows, maybe I’m just over-analyzing.

*Names have been changed, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.


a joyful nusiance said...

I cannot believe that someone would say that!!

I'm a a dodger also!! :)

Alice said...

That blows my mind. Someone SAID that? Can you imagine if you had actually survived their friend cut what they would have felt able to say to you? I pity the rest of their "friends."

Juliet said...

That had to be a hard blog to write. Many of us struggle with friendships. It's been said that if you have one or two really good friends in life you are doing okay.

It's always nice to have a "couple" friend but then again that might limit your knowing others and including them in your lives. That so often happens with "couple" friend. They leave other people (couples) out of their lives.

This is hard to say, but I just ask the Lord to give me friends that come from His hand only. I thanks the Lord for the close girlfriends I have. Perhaps because of Dad's death, Gary and I have a few "couples" as friends and I'm okay with that.

Praying that the Lord in His time will grant a super "couples" friend for Brett and you.

a joyful nusiance said...

I just read your comment on my blog.

All I have to say is.....“You know, we have a lot of family in the area and quite a few friends already. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that we’re really full up on friends right now. Thanks anyway.”

Laura Brown said...

What a nasty, nasty attitude. I have a feeling that someday that couple will no longer be "full up" with friends (it's telling that they see friendship as all about THEIR needs), and then they may regret their words.