You are either going to love this post or say to yourself (or perhaps your neighbor): Look how long this fricken post is!
Here’s some easy listening music to get you through the first 5 pages.
No. I’m not kidding.
It’s a soundtrack song from one of my favorite shows of all time. If you haven’t seen the movie, you haven’t lived!
Love Actually: Christmas is All Around song, by Billy Mack
I did what would be the equivalent to my very first “unfriending” of an individual yesterday.
I pressed the button on the social network site and PRESTO-MAGICO (said in a French accent), they are gone from my life.
Through this unfriending process, I realized that I have NEVER once un-friended a person!
I mean real, walking, living breathing life—friends I hang out with, who I touch regularly…okay, that just didn’t sound right.
Today I reached the massive conclusion that I did not come equipped with an un-friend button. Whomever or whatever force created me, forgot to install the un-friend button. (And I don’t mean my mom and dad.)
I’m also missing the whole and complete manual that explains the workings of friendships.
Luckily, through sweat and tears (literally lots of tears), I’ve managed to recreate my own friendship manual that looks fairly equivalent to other people’s manuals. Of course, MY manual is written in some obscure language only Crazy Frog can read.
I’ve lost a number of friends due to my quirkiness and lack of friendship manual. Not so much now, but a fair number in my early years, and a recent loss in my late thirties.
There are two that stand out.
One loss happened with a friend I was close with for a good four to five years. And then one day, she just stopped returning my emails, stopped returning my calls, and un-friended me on Facebook. And her brother in England, he un-friended me, too! No explanation. No closure. No reason. Just erased me from her life. And at the time, she only lived a block away from me.
This is what I imagine she would say, if she were asked to explain why she dumped me. Remember I had no idea I had Aspergers at the time, and neither did she.
She freaked out a lot over things.
She was needy.
She obsessed about her health and writing.
She worried a lot.
She was very intense, too intense.
She talked too much about her church.
Oh, and she insulted my husband one too many times, like when she said, in front of his whole poker gang:
“I bought you these specific low-salt chips because your wife told me your blood pressure was high.”
And another time at a party when she said, “I told you that you should have gotten that mole on your forehead checked out a long time ago!”
The other friend, was the only friend I made the first four years of college. This college friend simply disappeared. She stopped returning my calls. And when I phoned for the tenth time, her father informed me that his daughter was too upset to talk to me and no longer wanted to be friends. I’m still clueless on this one. But I imagine this person would have said something to this tune:
She talks about spirits and ghosts all the time.
She talks about precognitive dreams.
She dates men out-of-town she hardly knows.
She obsesses about men she just met.
She talks nonstop.
She’s odd. I mean who has never once bought themselves a soda?
And how could she not know I was dressed as Mrs. Bundy on Halloween? Doesn’t she watch Married with Children?
Interestingly enough, these two friends both have the same name. I’m not super fond of that name anymore.
I’m going to close this post with two friendship vignettes. (I don’t mean to imply the post is almost over; it’s not. Sorry.)
The first takes place when I was a freshman in high school (9th grade) in the east coast state of Massachusetts. My mother had just moved us across the United States to live with her eccentric boyfriend.
The second occurs during my sixth grade year, when I was eleven.
Both pieces illustrate an aspect of my friendship experience.
I find the juxtaposition of the element of judgment between the two vignettes fascinating and highly revealing. Where Rosie was quick to judge (scene one), I (scene two) was oblivious to judging.
Vignette One: Winter Bites
From the moment I stepped foot on the high school campus, I was targeted. Where my classmates were all dressed in their Sunday best (even though it was Monday), I, being from the west coast, was dressed in an Ocean Pacific t-shirt and Levis jeans.
In the hallways and during physical education class, the boys whistled and commented on my figure, some of them shouting out obscenities. The girls were no better. While clicking across the hallways in their high heels and colored slacks, they whispered secrets, intentionally ignoring me and rolling their eyes in disgust.
Being embarrassed, as I was, to look at people directly in the eyes, made the situation worse, as I came across looking conceded and stuck up. If the kids weren’t calling me a slut to my face they were claiming I was a snob behind my back.
I survived by hiding out in the back of the classrooms and penciling the entire lyrics to the song Hotel California across my desktop. Since moving, every song that mentioned California, the west coast, or even beaches, became my favorite
I acclimated within a few weeks’ time, but I never assimilated. I learned how to curl my hair in tight ringlets, waking up at five-thirty in the morning, and spending an hour every day to form the curls perfectly. I babysat the neighbors’ children to earn money to buy a couple of pairs of colored pants. I purchased one pair of black high-heels. I adapted to the girls’ style of makeup, packing layers of foundation onto my face and lining the lower section of my eye with a thin wisp of black liner. I cleaned up well. Just not well enough.
The boys still hooted. The girls still jeered. But I was able to make a friend.
Rosie, a chubby brunette who was obsessed with the color pink—hair ribbons, clothes, sneakers and feather tipped writing pens—everything pink—became my new best friend. She lived with both parents in a two-story, tastefully decorated, newer home and had, what seemed to me, everything a girl could want. However, Rosie was very inexperienced when it came to the subject of boys. So knowing all of my secrets, she relied on me to fill her in on the details.
Rosie was the friend who helped initiate my first meeting with my freshman crush, Jeff, a popular Italian boy in my homeroom class whom I fell in love with as soon as I spotted him limping down the aisle in his crutches. He was lanky and thin, in that just sprouted way, so that all the parts were there and developing daily into more manly features. I think what got me, what made me want him, were his dark brown eyes, the ones that matched mine, and of course his leg cast.
Rosie graciously delivered my love letter to Jeff and later waited by the phone with me for his response. And she was all caught up in a dancing flutter when Jeff called and asked me to go steady. After all, by all the kids’ standards, he was the most popular freshman boy on campus: a star athlete, drummer in a basement band, and strikingly handsome.
There were a good couple of months I was on cloud nine; Rosie and I did everything together: slumber parties, my first MTV video viewing, Halloween parties. And I spent each afternoon at Jeff’s house in his basement listening to him drum out the music and making out while pretending to watch General Hospital.
But everything fell apart by the time I experienced my first snow flurries. I dropped down a few clouds by then, actually out of the clouds completely, and plummeted down to the hard surface breaking my head open, like I had when I was four years of age, only this time there was no hospital, and no one soothing my soul with kind whispers.
It was a frigid day when Rosie wore her fuzzy hot pink sweater, the first day I understood how winter can bite. Dressed in her padded shoulders of pink and matching leg warmers, looking like she was auditioning for a part in a Flash Dance remake, Rosie greeted me at our usual blue table in the crowded school cafeteria. I arrived with a thankful smile. The week had been horrendous, with one enormous and aggressively loud junior girl barging into science class during the professor’s lecture and shouting, “You’re dead after school, Slut!” And a couple of freshman boys having had poked fun at my new glossy yellow gym shorts as I bent over to retrieve the volleyball. And let me not forget the French teacher who had informed me my average was a C-.
Rosie brushed the sleeves of her gaudy sweater and frowned deeply, before tossing her big hair back. I assumed she was still disappointed over the news that the boy she liked, tall Frankie, didn’t want to go steady with her. Before I had a chance to take a seat at the cafeteria table, Rosie barked, “Here!” A pink piece of folded paper floated down to the table. Giving Rosie a raised brow, I reached down and retrieved the note. By the time I read the first hot-pink words, Rosie had grouped in the corner and was gawking with a gaggle of giggling girls. There was a raw burning in my throat, as I read the letter to myself:
“You are a stupid slut. I don’t know what any of the guys see in you. You are nothing but a cheap whore and nothing special. You think you’re so hot, the way you shake your ass and the boys all watch. It’s only because you are easy. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to be your friend.
Your X-Friend, Rosie
P.S. Jeff is only with you because you are a slut. If you don’t believe me ask anyone.”
I digested Rosie’s words, swallowing each of the letters like spiky thumbtacks. I looked out, my bleak expectations tempered by conscious trepidation. My hands shook. Rosie whispered and shook her dark mane. Outside the steamed window, the first of the snow flurries sprinkled down like powdered sugar. Trembling, I turned away and led myself from the crowded room, outside into the courtyard, where my tears fell swiftly with the soft snow.
I try to keep my blog PG-Rated, but these stories are probably PG-13, some strong language.
Vignette Two: The Bleeding Napkins
The thing I remember most about Renny, besides her over-sized nostrils and cooked-spaghetti-like hair, was the bleeding napkins.
“We show them at the county fairs and other places,” Renny said, one afternoon in her dingy kitchen. Squeezing my face together, I covered my mouth and nose with my hand and stared out at the pile of gray and blue cat carriers stacked high in the corner.
“You’ll get used to the smell in a few minutes,” Renny apologized.
I smiled. “I like your orange wallpaper,” I offered.
Renny pulled down an enormous bag from the pantry shelf and proceeded to fill up five bowls with cat food. Nine cats and three kittens came running. “Mother and I show them at the cat shows,” she announced, and pointed to a shelf laden with dusty ribbons, plaques and miniature, gold trophies shaped into cat faces.
“Do you get money?” I asked from behind my hand.
“No,” Renny frowned. “We only get the prizes.” She pushed aside some dirty dishes in the sink and filled up a large water bowl. Then she wet a stack of napkins.
“Oh,” I said, sinking my hands deep into my jean pockets. I breathed in. Renny was right, the smell was fading.
“I used to have thirteen cats when I was little,” I said. “But only for a couple weeks. We had three cats and two got pregnant, and soon there were thirteen. But I like the number thirteen. It’s my favorite. So that was pretty cool.” I was rambling. I rambled when I was nervous. “But then one day I came home and there was only one cat left, Ben’s cat. That’s all. And I asked Mom what happened and Mom said that she found them all good homes. But I knew she hadn’t really, because it was only one day. And no one can find twelve cats homes in one day. So I knew they were dead.” I peered out at Renny who didn’t seem to be listening. “Did I tell you ten of them were kittens?”
Renny glanced up and smiled. “Come in here. I have something I have to do,” she said. The water dripped off the napkins, making a trail from the kitchen into the living room. Renny kicked an empty soda bottle out of her way and tossed a clump of her sister’s clothes onto a chair. “It’s a good thing we don’t have carpet, my mom says. But they still find their way to the couch, mostly this couch. That chair over there isn’t so bad. You can sit there if you want.
“I’m fine,” I answered. I picked at the green alligator appliqué I’d sewn by hand on to my old shirt, an alligator I’d plucked off of a ten-cent, stained polo shirt purchased from the local thrift store.
Renny stopped moving, and asked, “I do this everyday—well most days. Do you want to try?”
“No, thanks,” I said with shifty eyes.
Renny set the pile of wet napkins on the arm of the couch and began separating them from each other. One at a time she spread white all across the seat of the couch, until there appeared to be a long line of paper ghosts.
Like magic, the napkins began turning red, bleeding out from the center to the edges. I twisted my face in disgust. “What’s that?” I asked.
“Flea poop,” Renny said quickly. “It’s one of the downfalls of having cats. But it’s worth it. You saw all those ribbons.”
My eyes widened. I gulped. “I guess. Do you think I can use your bathroom?”
Five minutes later, after I’d rinsed my hands under the water several times and stuck my head out the open bathroom window, I found Renny atop her waterbed. There were no blankets. Well there were, but the covers were all piled in a corner of her closet. But there was one big orange sheet.
“My mother’s old boyfriend Ben used to have a waterbed,” I said.
“You’re pretty safe up here from the fleas. Here.” She tossed a training bra at my head.
“Yuck. What’d you do that for?”
Renny flashed an unfettered smile. “My sisters have them. I thought it was about time I got one. Plus when a guy goes to feel me up, if I’m not wearing a bra, what’s he going to think?”
I touched my sunken chest and frowned. “Who’s going to feel you up?” I looked up. “Do you think I need a bra?”
Renny jumped down from the bed. I flicked a flea off of my arm and examined the floating green cluster of goop in the water under Renny’s waterbed liner. “Yuck,” I said. “You need water conditioner or to drain it.”
Snatching the bra from my hand, Renny held it up against her shirt and galloped about the house neighing like a horse. I followed, prancing about with a pair of Renny’s floral underwear on my head. We were both out of breath when we heard the sounds of barking laughter.
We peered out the living room window. At the end of the driveway, Renny’s sisters flashed their black bras at two shaggy-haired boys. Renny’s mouth was agape, her pointy ears turning red. I pulled my eyes away and focused on the flea on my sock, catching the parasite with the first try and popping it in between my thumbnail and finger. A drop of blood squirted out.
Renny stepped away from the window, taking the string of the blinds with her. The blinds clanked and scraped against the mildewing glass causing a miniature dust storm. Coughing, I ran to Renny’s bedroom and sought retreat from the fleas under the orange sheet.
Minutes later, Renny lifted the lid of a red and white cigar box, and pulled out a small bud of marijuana. “It’s the expensive stuff,” she said and bit down with a sour face.
I wasn’t too impressed, but smiled anyhow. “I’ve tasted the seeds before,” I offered.
Renny chuckled, set the box down, and pushed an orange tabby cat away. “Mom keeps the dope hidden in her closet but my sisters are always stealing.” She pulled off cat hair from her sock and scanned her slovenly room, the whites of her eyes turning pink. “Sometimes,” she whispered, “I wish I lived with my father.”
I pang hit me hard in the stomach then.