Friendship over cookies
Making friends is hard. As an adult? It’s even tougher. Where we once spent our days with many peers in school, that friendship-by-proximity often dries up in adulthood. If we’re lucky, we can get close to coworkers — but colleagues drift in and out; that camaraderie may not extend to “real life” away from our desks.
There are other avenues to find new buddies, of course: taking a class; joining a club; volunteering for a nonprofit. As our kids get older, we may get to know other parents at dance classes or soccer practices. We meet people at church. Friends introduce us to others.
But being friendly is not the same as having a good friend: someone to remember your birthday without Facebook reminders; to know when you could really use a milkshake even though you’re on a “diet”; to drop you a line just because. Someone you look forward to seeing face-toface, not just text-to-text. Someone who makes an effort to see you, and you make an effort to see.
I gained a ready-made best friend when my sister was born, and my closeness to Katie has been a constant in my life. But finding someone else to really click with — someone who truly gets you — can be as elusive as finding a soulmate . . . and filled with similar heartache. A betrayal by a friend can hurt as much (or more?) as one committed by a partner.
In college, my then-boyfriend and a very close pal kissed at an event I couldn’t attend. Who initiated? Who broke it off? I don’t know, and I never asked. But I’ll admit I was actually angrier with her in the aftermath — an unsettled feeling that still creeps up on me when I think about that confession, even a decade later.
“You’ll forgive him but you can’t forgive me?” she once cried, and that was true. The moment felt as awful and dramatic as any romantic break-up (though things soon ended with the boyfriend, too).
I had lots of buddies growing up, but few of those relationships have lasted into adulthood. Most now operate in the form of social media “likes” and the occasional email. Some have evolved into family-style dinners with our spouses and kids.
To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt entitled to more than that.
Forming friendships has always been challenging for me. Bridging the gap from acquaintance to texting-at-midnight-about-something-random is often elusive. Honestly? I think it comes down to self-esteem.
Something inside me has always questioned if I was “worthy” of friendship — funny enough, kind enough, engaging enough — in a way I’ve rarely doubted my worth in romantic relationships. It took a while to understand that what a partner would love about me could also win over a buddy (minus the smooching, obviously). But I was — and am — afraid of rejection.
After Spencer dating, I poured energy into our relationship. We got engaged, then married, and now have two children. And if I thought all my energy was funneled into my home life before, I was wholly unprepared for the all-encompassing responsibilities of being a parent.
Aside from my sister, who couldn’t be rid of me if she tried, I haven’t devoted as much time to tending adult friendships. There are plenty of excuses, of course; I’m working on that. Most of the new people I meet come into my life through work — either as colleagues or contacts — and even when I want to keep a connection going, a little voice inside me wonders if I’m bothering them. It can feel as though everyone in the world has a set inner circle, and you’ll never crack in. Why try?
But sometimes friendship just finds you. Tiffany started as a reporter with the Maryland Independent in 2015, immediately jumping into her beat and making connections in the community. She was funny, thoughtful and diligent, and she loved wearing scarves the way I love wearing scarves: with every fiber of my being. (Pun intended.)
I thought she was awesome. We clicked immediately, talking for an hour or longer on her first day. And somehow, she liked me back.
Tiffany landed in my life at a time when I was struggling. I was a new mom of a premature baby, and my son had been sick constantly that fall. Sleep and I were on a long hiatus; I was drinking way too much coffee, which only worsened my anxiety. Many close friends and colleagues had recently left the company, and my own position changed. Nothing felt stable or familiar.
I was a little adrift, and Tiff became an anchor. She is unfailingly positive — a woman who literally smiles through tears — and, over the years, has become the keeper of jokes and secrets. And she is so giving. When I was pregnant with Hadley, Tiffany often showed up with soft pretzels or frozen lemonade — seeming to know my cravings before I did. (I don’t love someone more when they bring me food, but let’s be honest: it doesn’t hurt.)
She always thinks of others, doing little things to make them happy, and never takes herself too seriously. Her stories are legendary and best enjoyed over dessert. I know it’s going to be good when it starts a familiar way: “Let me tell you something, Meg . . .”
Tiffany’s last day of work was Friday; she’s headed to a new position at a Baltimore television station. To say I’ll miss her is an understatement. She has given me such confidence and happiness as a friend, and really helped me become a better person.
Having known a time before her daily sunshine, it’s hard to be back in the dark. But I’m older now — and wiser. At 31, I see and appreciate real friendship in a way I never could have at 21. I let people in. We have to let ourselves be vulnerable.
So here’s to you doing great things, Tiffany. Let’s get coffee (and cookies). I know we’ll have stories to tell.