(Author’s note: I had a different post ready for today but, due to recent circumstances, decided on a re-write. So, you’re going to get two this week! You lucky dogs, you!)
When you are a single woman of a certain age, there are two universal rules that are almost guaranteed to hold true: 1) The number of people you’ve slept with is bound to be more than you’d probably like to admit and 2) the most valuable part of your life is your friendships. But what happens when those friends, those people you count on to love and support you, use your personal life as weekend gossip? And they don’t even get it right.
Some people are fortunate enough to have those life long friends. You know, the ones you grew up in the sandbox with and playing ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.’ I’m not one of those people. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends. Let’s just be honest here, I was the girl who got shoved into her locker and came home from school crying every day. I had a new ‘best friend’ every week, usually because it was too tiring for other people to put up with the bullying that came along with being my friend. Thanks to Facebook and new-found maturity, there are a few people I have gotten back in touch with after all those years and am happy that I did. But the only two friends who have been there, straight through, for all those years, didn’t go to the same high school as me. It definitely made things easier! Because of these experiences, I think I value the people in my life more than most others do. I know what its like to not have anyone.
This weekend, I spent time with a friend’s cousin who was visiting for the weekend. I later found out that he is only 22 but there are definitely worse things I could be called than “Coug.” From the minute I picked 22 up, I began getting text messages from the friend’s roommate, who happens to be one of those few people who have been in my life for fourteen years or so now. The nature of the messages I was getting? “I hope you two are going out and you’re not robbing the cradle in my house.” Interpretation? You’re a slut and you must be intending to sleep with this kid. Now, to be fair, there was a series of texts back and forth after this and my friend, we’ll call him “C”, stated that he was just being sarcastic. Someone once told me though that, behind every joke, lies some truth. And, late last night, I was woken up by a text from 22’s cousin, we’ll call her Cuz, directly asking me if I slept with 22.
At my age, I’ve clearly had a number of failed relationships. Between those relationships there certainly were some friends with benefits. But does this mean that the people who are supposed to care about me should automatically jump to the conclusion that I’m incapable of spending time with an attractive guy (who lied about his age) without straddling him? If this is what my friends think of me, I’d hate to take a poll at the local bar I frequent. Most of my friends are males so the staff there sees me several times a week, usually with a different guy. I can only imagine what assumptions they’ve made if the people who actually know me, or are supposed to, think I’m auditioning to be the next Samantha on Sex and the City.
While at the bar, 22 asked me about my history with “C”. The best way I could sum it up? We met in high school when he was the host at the restaurant I was at with my friends. I thought he was cute and, after our waitress (Alana. Funny the things the brain remembers) embarrassed me by bringing him to our table and telling him, I hid my blushing face behind my hair and gave him my phone number on a napkin. Written in crayon with a little heart above the “i”. We talked on the phone a lot after that but, for whatever reasons, it never went anywhere. I always had a crush on him, he was adorable, smart, great sense of humor. What was not to like? Then college came and “C” came up to visit me and we FINALLY hooked up. I was definitely “in like” after that. There were a lot of complications though, which I won’t share because unlike “C”, I won’t use his personal life as gossip, and things still never went anywhere. As I recall, we hooked up once more after that. And this was all a hundred years ago. Actual time? Approximately nine or ten years ago. Its ancient history.
“C” and I grew apart, I’m not really sure why. Sometimes, people just go in different directions. I still love him and value his friendship in my life more than I think he is capable of ever understanding. We still talk but not often and its been over a year since we’ve spent any significant time together. Two years ago at a bar, after a day of drinking, “C” picked me up (there’s a solid foot height difference here) and kissed me. I mean really kissed me. And, being the girl that I am, I analyzed it until I couldn’t sleep. I had a team of girlfriends working night and day to figure out ‘What did it mean?’ What it meant was he was drunk and I was there. Men are much less complicated than we give them credit for. Not everything means something. He doesn’t even remember it happening. There have definitely been times that I have been the one who was drunk and tried to kiss him. He’s a good looking guy, there are worse things I could do. He usually pulls away. And in one way or another, “C” has been pulling away from me for years.
22 tells me that he heard I’m “obsessed” with “C”. Obsessed. I miss “C”‘s friendship more than I could ever explain in words and I do often ask him to get together for dinner and to play catch up. He’s usually busy. But I don’t think caring about someone else and not just throwing away a long-term friendship deserves to be referred to as obsession. In fact, “C” recently went on a cross-country road trip and told me that I’m the only person for whom he brought a gift back. Which makes me smile from ear to ear. But then why say something so hurtful behind my back to someone I don’t even know? “C” says he didn’t say it and Cuz says she didn’t either but then talks in circles and it basically sounds like it did come from her. Either way, I was clearly the topic of conversation in that household and it doesn’t appear that any of it was positive.
Since I’ve started blogging again, I have gotten a lot of support, some from people I never expected. Someone told me that reading about all I’ve been through has given them a new respect for me. I couldn’t ask for kinder words. The person who said that is very close friends with “C” and Cuz. And has only met me a few times. But these two people, who are supposed to care about me, basically implied, or came right out and said, that I’m easy and obsessed. I could get a more positive review from one of those people who used to shove me into a locker. Their defense when I told them how hurt I was by this? “I love you.” Seems to me if you love someone you don’t throw them under the metaphorical bus. How is that different from the guy who beats his girlfriend and then comes home with flowers and says “but I love you?”
I have done things, and people, in my life that I’m not proud of. Those decisions, however, have led to who I am today and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of. I am a strong woman who is loyal (not obsessed), compassionate, giving, able to laugh at herself, outgoing, forgiving, smart. The list goes on and on. And those are the things my friend’s should be saying to anyone who asks. I’m privy to some interesting, gossip worthy, info on “C” but, in all these years, I’ve never told a soul. I never have and never will say a negative thing about someone I care so deeply about. But I guess that’s the difference between him and me.
My bottom line? Getting older is hard. I don’t think any of my single friends are where they thought they would be in their lives right now. We’ve all made decisions we would do differently if we had the chance and we’ve all made sacrifices. And we need each other more than ever before. Because when your head hits the pillow in your big, empty bed, what else do we have that really matters? If we have to question even those relationships, well, I actually have no words for that.
“Take what you want Steal my pride Build me up Or cut me down to size Shut me out But I’ll just scream I’m only one voice in a million But you aint taking that from me…And if you strip me Strip it all away What would you find” Natasha Bedingfield, Strip Me