My S.O.’s daughter was with us this past weekend, and the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic marathon began bright and early Sunday morning. In one particular episode that stood out to me, Twilight Sparkle confesses she’s been spending so much time with them because she’s just not comfortable in her new castle. So, her pony friends combine their thinking skills and redecorate her home, their rallying cry being Twilight’s hopeful statement “nopony knows me better than you.” And it got me thinking about my life’s experiences in friendship (THANKS, Rainbow Dash -_-).
People with tight cliques of friends they’ve known for a long time have always fascinated me. TV shows depicting a solid #girlsquad or #wolfpack (without the awkward sex-triangle story lines) are topics of curiosity and amazement to me. I moved every 4 years growing up, so maintaining the intimacy and familiarity required for those friendships to thrive was almost impossible. There’s exactly one person (besides family and parents’ friends) my age who’s known me literally my entire life (our moms were pregnant with us at the same time; picture evidence exists of us sharing a crib). We even went to the same college, but because we grew up in different states, saw each other infrequently and randomly, and didn’t have social media to bridge those and other differences, we said no more than 50 words to each other (if even) that entire time. We were just very different people with different interests and friends, so we didn’t have any reason to talk.
I’ve remained close and in contact with a small handful of other people who’ve known me since I was in early grade school, though, and when I moved back home I reconnected with a few more people from then, too. But in general, I just didn’t have that block of friends who’d grown up with me over the years, who all knew each other and could hang out together in smaller groups in additional to the main large group.
Because of that, I develop individual friendships with “my kinda people.” Those people are the kind who get my blend of pop culture references, random trivia,
kinda hating people sarcasm, and genuine care for life. I know almost immediately if new people I meet are “my kinda people” or those who will be great to know but not in my Inner Circle. And, truthfully, I do think that solid core of friends I have are very much like ME-we have similar personality traits, preferences, hopes, and yes, a few similar physical features. But we all have very different stories to tell about life, and our varied perspectives give the variety I enjoy in friendships. That being said, I do have friends who aren’t any of those things. In fact, we’re almost total opposites. They’re the ones who I love so dearly but have no idea how we’re friends.
Friendships like Applejack and Rarity-how?!
These are the friendships that have become strained or distant over the last year, though. Friendships that were unique and special and uncomfortably awkward in ways that helped me find my social and personal boundaries. Friendships that pushed some of my comfort zones in ways I didn’t know how I felt about, but knew it was good to have those experiences. And I’ve wondered if I needed to approach all those feelings from the perspective of ‘maybe this just isn’t a good thing anymore, and it’d be healthiest to let it go.’ But I don’t want to let people go. In doing so I’m severing something from my life just because it’s not exactly what I want to experience. So, in adjusting my perspective I discovered the real reasons for the distance.
As I mentioned in my previous post about not being ready to finally address my health and weight, I’ve had some difficulty with getting the friendship part of my life up and going again, specifically those unique and awkward relationships. I’ve been lucky to develop deeper friendships with others I’ve known for a long time, and those are people I’m so thankful for (Ashley, Amber, more), but it’s the sticky, difficult friendships that I’m aiming at, and I know why I’ve been avoiding.
My friends have, for the most part, known me long enough to see me go through a few massive weight fluctuations, college’s freshman 15 to the drop of 30+ from an abusive relationship to the 30+ gain after an accident to the 15 lost with healthy habits to the 30+ gain (and current state) from a combination of ALL THE WORST THINGS. And the majority of them treat my weight issues like they should: with words of gentle support and encouragement, then moving on-they offer support and encouragement when I express frustrations about it, but they don’t make my weight even a tangent in conversations, let alone the main topic. Nor do they let it be my defining characteristic.
Yet, for some of my more difficult friendships, I let it be all the things they don’t. I let my weight, unhappiness, and discomfort in my own body become the sole topic, tainting emotions and conversations with unease and dismissal. I don’t want to hear about my friend’s positive experiences with cleanses and beaches because I can’t get past my 7/11 stops and blanket cocoons. I’m terrified to see other curvier friends because I can’t stop myself from visibly measuring my hips to theirs and finding mine are noticeably bigger. When I think about my friends knowing how I’ve looked and I think it’s can be compared to how I look now, I’m ashamed of the body I have. I desperately wish I could reach into their memories to erase all the ones of me in bikinis or my visible collarbone.
The words “you’re beautiful” from friends are immediately twisted into me convinced the beauty they reference can only apply to my personality, because obviously it’s not any other part of me. And in those moments, I become everyone I never thought I was-the people who can’t believe it when people tell them they’re sexy, they’re wanted, they’re worthy of receiving something perceived as beautiful.
I know all the body-positive language, I’ve seen all the memes and posts. I follow all the self-love social media pages. I deny advertising’s charm because I know it’s all Photoshop. I know, and I love it, and fight to believe it. But it’s been so deeply ingrained into me that it’s a
daily hourly battle to keep the positivity going. From an early age, I learned my weight was an available topic for public discussion, my worth as a woman was determined by it, my ability to find and keep a romantic partner depended solely upon it, and that if anything in the great wide world had measurable power, it was the look of a woman.
And yet, in the face of everything I am terrified and overwhelmed by with the physical space my body must occupy every day, my friends do and will give me grace, that unassuming forgiveness for all the ways my frustrations and fears affect the relationships we have. They love and support and encourage every step of the way, without judgement about all the excuses I’ve used along the way. They remind me that giving myself a break from the guilt trips I send myself on isn’t an excuse, it’s self-preservation and apparently what my mind and body really need right now. They cheer when I make choices to allow better habits to thrive.
While I know I can a good friend and I’m a good person, my friends teach me what it really means to be both when they help me love myself.
And it still looks good on everyone.