Monday, May 14, 2007

Boring and Annoying and Obtuse, Thanks. And You?

It’s a fact in your average only child’s life that they will spend a fair amount of time alone. I am proof positive of that, and maybe this was made more true by the fact that I was raised primarily by a single mother who worked at a very demanding and time-consuming job throughout my childhood and adolescence. Couple this with the fact that when I was fifteen, she married a man who deeply valued his privacy and “alone-time,” and you’ll find that being alone is a central factor of my life.

Mostly I value having this particular personality trait—at least, I do now. During a period of time in college, it was probably, in retrospect, an extremely bad idea for me to attempt to live alone which led to a year of mornings that I woke up wondering whether, were I to throw myself out the window of my apartment, if I would actually manage to kill myself or if it would just be an embarrassing incident that would have to be explained to a lot of people. Lots of things have changed for me since then, and my mental health is in nowhere near as precarious a state as it once was, but to say the least, I am not anywhere near as unwilling to be alone as I once was. I value it, like most women who have a job and a husband and a son do.

But I have a problem: I have trouble making friends. Part of the problem is that I am inherently shy, and I know I can’t change that about myself and have learned to cope. The other part is that three-quarters of the time if I’m around somebody who could potentially be considered a friend, I am afraid of being boring and annoying and obtuse, and the other quarter of the time, I suspect, I am boring and annoying and obtuse. Which leads me to avoid situations in which I am given the opportunity to be boring and annoying and obtuse.

We’ve run into a problem: Max needs to be baptized, and his god(ess)parents will not do in the eyes of the Episcopal church. Inflexible as they are, the pesky Episcopals ask that the godparents be practicing Christians. (Don’t worry, Goddessmama, we wouldn’t fire you from the job for anything, but we also would never ask you to play Christian for the sake of Max’s eternal soul.) The practicing Christian that I would have wanted for him unfortunately died ten years ago next month (more to come on this topic.) Father Mark, the perfectly lovely Episcopal priest who is the rector of our particular church, suggested that we ask a couple, the Proctors, to serve as his godparents, that he thought they would be pleased to be asked by us. They have an older son, as well as a little boy who’s a few months older than Max.

We’ve talked to them several times, and they seem like genuinely nice, interesting people. She seems to lack a few of the aspects that I tend to list as foremost for friends— regular and repeated dropping of the F-bomb, a laugh that makes strangers turn around and stare, genuine social awkwardness that coordinates succinctly with my own, that sort of thing—but, after all, there are only so many opportunities to use the F-word in church, and she seems genuine and educated and liberal and just exactly the kind of friend you’d meet in church (word up, Gerry, Joy, and Cristina.)

Yesterday, the husband mentioned that he’d been wanting to get in touch with us and had even looked up Dan’s school email address online, but hadn’t wanted to seem intrusive. Dan and I assured him that we would have been thrilled to hear from them, and in my head, I wished that they had been more intrusive, because that’s really the only way I make friends—when somebody is assertive enough for me to not have to make the first move.

Part of the reason I blog is because I like the fact that this is a great place for me to hide. It’s hard to really connect with people this way, although I do like that there’s a community atmosphere, people are supportive and generous with the friends they do make. And it’s clear to me that they do make friends—the pictures and blog entries published by Dooce, Suburban Bliss, Finslippy, Mighty Girl, and Fussy of their long weekend together are evidence of that. But I particularly value this medium because I don’t have to feel like a raging jackass on public display, due to my ability to edit before publishing.

I’m not sure why I don’t connect with many people. It could be the whole only-child thing again. It could be just a by-product of my built-in reticence. I don’t have a problem keeping friends once I’ve made them. My friend Gerry’s girlfriend has become a great and surprising friend via email over the last few months, and I’m thrilled to have met her. She’s smart and savvy and terribly funny, she speaks her mind, has great taste in books and TV and music, and she just bought a house with one of the finest men I’ve ever known. But I don’t have Mom friends, or really very many local friends at all, and I want them, desperately.

I am lonely, and I’m not sure how to fix it. This has been the case for most of my life. We will probably ask the Proctors to serve as Max’s surrogate godparents, because Mark is dead and Joy and Kyle are in Texas and Gerry and Trina are in Michigan, and I can’t think of any others I’d ever want. It is my hope that the Proctors will become friends, but in my head, I am afraid to ask them, because I fear rejection.

Elementary school was much easier. You and whomever bonded over your love of Fruit Roll-Ups or Elmer’s Glue or whatever, and there you go, you’re friends. But now that I’m 31, it’s harder to find people I click with, or click with people who I don’t already know well.

Gahh. I’m a mess. Fuck it. Does anybody want to be my friend? Anybody?


Trina said...

Although I don't suffer from the shy thing by any means, I tend terrify people with my invasive bluntness, I go through the same problem with aloneness. My sisters were all moved out when I was growing up, which left me feeling like an only child for a good 10 years of my life, and my parents were always, always working. I would go home after school by myself and on some occasions be in bed by the time they got home.

After my mom quit her job she felt guilty and tried to make it up by being there ALL the time, but I understood why she had been working, and I really had just become accustomed to being in my own head most of the time. I still get really, really overwhelmed when I am around people for too long. Which is bad because I have a HUGE family.

And I'm thrilled to have met you too! Gerry and I were discussing where our next vacation would be to and he mentioned that he'd like to maybe head out to D.C. as one of our options. So you could have 2 more local friends for, like, a week. You will find local and mom friends, you're just not settling for any random weirdos.

Dawn P. said...

Hi Molly,

You sound just like me. I have lived in WI for 6.5 years and I have a whopping two friends. My husband calls them "The Kims." Two totally different awesome people with the same first name. Sure, I know some of the wives and people from college that live around here, but I was always the odd man out with them. I so wish you and I lived closer. I was an only child too and I kinda get where you are coming from. Its a challenge to live in a state where I have two friends and I could tell you some horror stories about my failed attempts to befriend the most wrong people here. It hard to figure out if someone is too crazy to deal with until it gets weird. That almost made sense.

Hang in there :)