It's funny how when we get older we are apt to share little stories about ourselves that.....at the time we were doing these things, we would rather DIE than admit what we had done. So it is with the "Guess Jeans..." incident. These were the "in" thing when I was in middle school and you were a complete dork if your jeans didn't come affixed with the telling little triangle that screamed "Like me, like me....I am wearing designer jeans!!" I know, lame, but such is the way of the world in the fishbowl called middle school. I am not sure where my family stood financially back in those days. It was confusing. One week we were too poor to order pizza, the next my family was headed out to eat at a restaurant. What I do know is that when clothing shopping time came around, I was carted off to the discount stores by my grandmother and her magic plastic card and although I was never given a limit of things I could buy, I was well aware not to ask for too much. The day I found the labeled jeans in a Ross Dress for Less was magic. I could finally be cool. Not only would the girls accept me, the boys would like me too. After all, I now had designer jeans. I was IN.
Or not. It didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things with the boys, but the girls did pay attention. They always do to such things. The jeans were ugly. Too light for my taste and I felt stupid in them to be completely honest. I mean they were just JEANS. Baggy in the butt, loose in the thighs....but I wore them....acceptably enough to make sure everyone knew I still owned them. The problem started when the temperatures started creeping up and those cool girl jeans made for a very hot pre-teen and not the swaggering, hair flipping kind of cool. I was sweating my butt off. And so I had to put the jeans away and swap out for a pair of white shorts that became my staple. Always the creative type, one night it hit me...my white shorts could be designer too! I mean the only different between my Walmart piece of crap pants and my ugly designer jeans was that tiny little red and white triangle asking those looking at my tush to GUESS something or another. I'd simply take the label off the jeans and sew them on the shorts. BRILLIANT!
It worked. No one suspected a thing. I did tell a friend after many months of having worn the shorts....a friend with similar financial circumstances and with a similar not so cool house....and well, in typical true girl world fashion she thought it was awesome until she got miffed over me wearing the same shirt one day (or some equally abhorrent offense) and told a bunch of girls. Lovely.
It was an embarrassing incident, that whole label slapping thing, but as an adult, I can see where I've still been slapping labels on things not meant for them. One recurrent theme in my life is giving the label "friend" out like candy, not realizing...it belongs on one kind of person only, not the string of people who will flow in and out of my life as I go through it. It's a lesson I keep having to learn and one of the most painful I've experienced in my life....from way back then...to now.
Jamie is always telling me I am way, way, way too quick to trust people with my respect . I immediately "click" with someone based on some arbitrary thing like....knitting, or how many children they have...or that they like plaid curtains in red, gold and green like me...and think "This person IS AWESOME..." and then...the let down. Then I realize this person will gossip about me, ask me to do things for them that I simply don't have time to do (knowing I don't really have time but not really taking that into consideration) and asking me to participate in the fantasy they've created for themselves about their life. I am not talking having disagreements or even heated debates about things we find passionate (I love that)...I am talking "This is how my life is and even though I don't do any of the things I say I value....and even though everyone else says I am not doing this thing...I need you...if you are my FRIEND to validate and agree with everything I say and see that I really am awesome and if you don't....I'm going to bring YOU down until you feel so low you have no choice but to agree with me or become friendless..." This has happened to me year after year....after year. But then....someone else came along....and became a friend. A real one....and things changed.
This person never once told me 'You should do this...or that....or this..." This person doesn't gossip about other people but is also not shy about making clear who they will/will not socialize with and why. No further details...just the facts. Open and shut. Without all this crazy emotion girls usually have. She told me one time how to handle something that really upset me....gave me the exact WORDS to say and she was so confident in them that I was blown away. You mean I don't have to explain my position? Nope. I don't have to make the other person see it my way? Nope. I don't have to bend over backwards to get them to like me even if it means I don't like myself in the process. HECK NO.
And I don't need anyone's permission to decide they are no good for me. I don't have to be nicey nice about it but I also don't need to talk about it to those who aren't involved. I can make that decision FOR ME. ME. I don't have to justify it. I know this might be old news to other people, but it was an epiphany for me. I always felt like if someone liked me, I had to like them back and I had to give the friendship my all. Quite often my all was denying my beliefs about everything under the sun so as not to offend, allowing myself to be walked all over, exposing myself to all kinds of nonsense that I didn't agree with and unfortunately dragging my children into the fray with me. This past time, my husband also got a little piece of the action (wait, that sounded REALLY REALLY BAD LOL!!! Get your mind out of the gutter. My husband was "tattled on" in a very juvenile way that made him look even better in the place in which he was tattled on and the tattler looking like a complete ass. Justice has been served). This friend has no idea that I know....but I do ;) And that friend was very swiftly erased from all facets of my life. Good riddance and good luck.
I'm still not sure what the label friend is going to mean for me in the future. I have a few ideas. I'm sure they will change over time, as everything does, but there are a few things I know for sure...
1. Don't gossip about me. I am way too open about everything for you to ever find the need to talk to someone ELSE about what you THINK is happening with me. Ask me. I'll tell you. As a matter of fact, I'll tell you more than you want to know most likely. I don't hide a whole bunch. I keep some things private, but they are so private no one would even have enough information to gossip about it. If you want more information about ME...ask ME. Otherwise what you are doing is making yourself feel better by putting me down. Definitely not a good friendship quality.
2. Don't lie. Seriously, this is one thing I will never, ever, ever be able to stand. Lying serves zero purpose. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you have to lie about something, you shouldn't have done it. And you don't stand behind it. And you can't change what you need to change and neither can I. It's stupid.
3. Don't be (too) weird. Don't listen to a concern I have and go off into tinfoil hat land on me and expect me to agree. Like...seriously. I am still reeling over a situation I had with a writing client who was too pushy. They wanted a lot out of me. When I tried to explain to someone how invasive it felt, I was told that client was probably trying to get close to me to steal my bank account information. What? I mean....how does your mind even go there? Get outdoors ye weirdo and realize the world we're living in isn't the Matrix. Yet.
4. Don't think I think like you. Another thing still making me go "hmmmm" was a confession that a certain person liked me at first but was afraid that my family would do a, b and c. I spent so much time trying to convince this person we were NOT LIKE THAT....(cause we're not...don't want to get too involved here) that it never once occurred to me to ask myself "Wait, why on earth would you think we would???' Simple answer? Because YOU would. And that's not okay with me. I need to use a lot more of my brain cells when things come up like this. My immediate reaction is to soothe the other person and assure them I won't like, steal their household goods while they use the bathroom when I visit....or turn them in for child abuse because they aren't Christian.....when I should be asking "Why on earth would they think like that in the first place..."
5. Don't treat me poorly. I know this should be a no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people who want to be labeled a friend just won't do the work required. They want to receive the blessing of having a friend but not being one. And honestly, I'll give until I'm so frustrated and upset that I want to hole up in my own house forever. Thankfully, my husband has committed to helping me in this area. After years and years of seeing me hurt, he's finally feeling like it's okay to say "Hey this person really isn't good for you..." He was hesitant in years past to do so because he doesn't want ot be that mean, controlling jerk, but...thing is. He's the person I chose to spend my life with and knows me better than anyone else. It's not controlling or mean to see a pattern of behavior that just crushes me and remind me....look out.
6. Worship my ability with yarn.
7. Just kidding ;)
I have faith. A lot of it. In people, in my ability to have good friendships...in my ability to recognize the people that ARE good for me and those we are not. I've spent some time in recent months mourning many relationships that I wish were one thing and realizing they were not, but in that realizing the reason I could recognize it was because I was forming REAL ones. I had to realize I don't have the relationship with some friends I wanted, but that others were there for me through something awful.....I had to mourn the relationship I do not have with my mom or my siblings....all the while talking to the cousin who was my BEST FRIEND (seriously) until we were separated due to family drama when we were younger. I also realized though the last few months that my husband absolutely adores me. I mean, I always knew we clicked, but lately....through a lot of prayer and time together and counseling I have realized anew...we have something amazing. I mean AMAZING. I always took for granted how close we were, how connected and how well matched. We had a dream, together and getting there was so hard we kind of forgot to look around and realize "Wait, we did it...we're here, it really happened...." It's still happening.
The best news is, I don't give a rat's tush what my jeans say these days. I really don't. I think my favorite pair are the ugly elastic waist pair I can throw on no matter what the number on the scale says or what stage of baby making I'm in. No label on the butt to be found. So if you want to know what brand they are...you just going to have to guess ;) Ha!