A Brief History Of My (Mostly Messed Up) Female Friendships

Throughout my life, I've experienced deep love and deep rejection from women.
Publish date:
December 20, 2013
friendship, girlfriends, asking for help

Like Lesley, I haven't had a good year. In fact, 2013 has brought me to an unparalleled mental and emotional bottom, leading me to disbelieve for the first time that old maxim about only being given as much as you can handle. I mean, I guess technically I'm handling it, since I'm still here, craning my neck and chin to keep them just barely above water, but let's just say that I have needed every second of every twice-a-week therapy session in 2013.

Last week, I actually had to stop my therapist in the middle of a discussion of my food issues to be like, "You know what? This is just PMS and I don't want to waste time on it, can we talk about X that happened this week instead?" I am triaging my freaking therapy issues now.

I have had to rely on every support system and tool I've picked up over my nearly 5 (ahhhhhh! how?) years of sobriety, from medication to meditation. But the thing I've found hardest to do is to ask for help from my female friends.

In fact, we realized this week, I'm scared to ask for anything at all from my female friends, probably because I don't feel valuable enough to request time and attention when I'm not providing sex in return. Sad! Unfortunately, I rarely discover a really happy new thing about myself in therapy. When am I going to find out I'm a really talented tennis player or something?

Throughout my life, I've experienced deep love and deep rejection from women.

My best junior-high friend C. showed me how to make a bong out of a soda can behind the fast-food taco restaurant where we hung out after school, placed my first hit of acid on my tongue, and introduced me both literally and figuratively to boys boys boys -- older boys, boys to light our cigarettes, the boys we referred to as "losers" even as we disappeared into separate bedroom corners with them.

C., who had actually seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and knew all the words to "Punk Rock Girl," was the cool one, the Kim Kelly to my Lindsey Weir. I remember a guy telling me once that while C was the "hot, obvious" choice, he'd seen past her to notice me, the nerdy one reading a book. It seemed like a compliment at the time.

Our relationship actually began with a betrayal -- I'd been having my first burgeoning love affair, conducted almost entirely over the phone with a boy from school who was the first boy to ever tell me I was beautiful. After the first 5-hour phone conversation, we were whispering "I love yous" but hadn't yet had the opportunity or the courage to consummate our relationship with in-person contact.

C., whose house I was sleeping at for the first time, picked up the phone and dialed his number when I was too afraid to. Except she never gave the phone to me. Instead, they stayed up talking that night and began a relationship that would extend for the duration of our friendship. My best friend stole my boyfriend the first night we properly hung out, but that seemed like a minor issue at the time.

Maybe because my idea of a girlfriend had always been more of a partner in crime -- someone to navigate the thrilling world of booze, drugs and sex with. As a little budding addict, I'd already written in my journal that I didn't much see the point of doing anything that didn't involve one of the three. Our relationship with one another was secondary, a way to pass the time when there were no house parties and no weed.

C. was my first kiss; we worked up the nerve to "see how each other kiss" after hours of talking about it one bored afternoon. We decided we kissed the same; maybe girls just kissed the same? We invited the stolen boyfriend over to kiss us both and decide for sure, resulting in my second kiss occurring shortly after the first.

Eventually, C. was the first person I told when I was raped. She was also the first person who didn't believe me.

Later, my female friendships in addiction were chaotic and intense, rooted in the toxic soil of a shared penchant for self-destruction.

At 23, my best friend J and were inseparable after 10pm. I'd met her drinking at the local metal bar where I hung out, and rarely saw her anywhere else, besides the sometimes days-long afterparties that would commence at her place until the drugs and booze finally ran out and nobody could afford more. Our intense connection and on-the-edge lifestyle reminded me of the friendships of my adolescence.

With J, I recaptured something of that 15-year-old girl-love that becomes obsolete in adulthood.

When I think back on my youthful friendships, I see us always tumbling around, entangled on my twin bed or white carpeted bedroom, frothy-mouthed with laughter and adolescence. As we get older, we reserve our tumbling, and that crazy mess of hysteric friendship that goes with it, for lovers. We grow up and grow embarrassed for our sprawling, inappropriate selves.

We don't make each other collages anymore with song lyrics stretching across in black Sharpie. We don't kiss just to see what it's like. We don't secretly think punk rock is awesome. We don't try on each other's crazy outfits. We don't cast spells just to see if they'll work. We sit in chairs mostly and discuss things like movies and books.

But J and I, aided by hearty doses of chemicals, lived like wild little girls, more of a pack than a couple. We made up silly nicknames for ourselves -- Leather and Lace, Sugar and Spice -- and then forgot who was who. We sang karaoke and rolled around on the floor.

Our twosome was an alliance of sorts -- we'd work together or separately to attain our most precious resources of money, cocaine, free drinks and men to provide the first three, pooling what we came up with. Our friendship had its own inherent give and take, and all it really asked of either of us was to be where we would have been anyway -- drinking, at the bar.

I rarely saw J. in natural light, much less asked her to meet me for a movie, or dinner. I doubt either of us would have seen the point, even if we weren't so hung over. In the end, I guess I was the one who betrayed J., by getting sober and realizing I had to cut her out of my life completely to stay that way.

I'm lucky today to know some insanely awesome women, and to have developed genuine relationships with some of them. I'm also now capable of having a conversation in which I listen to the other person, instead of looking over their shoulder to catch the bartender's eye. I am not, and I have never been one of those "I hate other women" girls. I love being with women. Some days, laughing with the girls who work in this office, I think, I just want to be around girls laughing at our girl stuff forever!!!

But I'm still more frightened of being rejected by women than by any man I've ever met.

Which is why I don't, as my therapist suggested, just ask one of them to come over or meet me somewhere -- because why, really, a little voice inside me whispers, would they want to? And even scarier, what if they say no? (So what if they do, my therapist would usually interject here, but I can't make it past the part where my heart explodes from the pain of rejection.)

With men, the situation is clear-cut, easy. I know how to trade my sexuality for time and affection. But it's hard for me to imagine what incentive a platonic friend would have to show up when I'm having a hard time. I'm the only attraction now -- no booze, no drugs, no men -- and it's not like I'm even fun to be around when I need support the most.

Like the time I threw my back out when Pete was out of town and hobbled back and forth to daycare with 35 pounds of toddler plus stroller rather than ask for help. (Thankfully, Olivia offered to come by when she found out I was unable to administer a bath.)

A few months ago, the psychic pressure of several of the ongoing situations in my life hit a peak and I was desperate enough to send a mass SOS text to some of the women in my life outlining the basics -- "I am having a hard time, I'm depressed, I'm sick, please help, I need you." It was terrifying.

But one by one, they helped. They brought their dogs over, two different dogs on two different occasions. They sent me messages of support. They called. One bought me a customizable candy bar on Facebook. Not everybody, some of them just ignored me. But people are busy and have their own problems, we don't live in a Lifetime movie.

I'm not cured of my sad-sack core belief that I'm not important enough to ask for other people's time either. But like every other dumb thing about me that's taken years to improve (change is sloooooooow!), I'll continue to work on it, one little leap of faith at a time. Cause as they sometimes say in recovery, "Men will check out your ass, but women will save it."