Friend­ship over cook­ies

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

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.

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