In my early twenties, I gravitated towards people that made me feel inferior.
Last week was Friends Forever Week over at NY Magazine‘s The Cut. One story in particular, ‘The Friend I’ve Been Fighting With For 20 Years‘ really struck a chord. It traced the sometimes-loving, sometimes-acrimonious, but always tumultuous friendship between two women.
In short? It reminded me of one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and hardest friendships I’ve had to let go of.
Marie was my first-ever writing instructor. She was a chain smoker; I was a health nut. I wrote about sex work. Marie wrote about her seven years of abstinence following her mother’s death. On the outside, we couldn’t have been more different, but on a deeply intuitive level, our friendship made sense.
When I first met Marie, I didn’t have many friends. More often, I was constantly comparing myself to other women—trying, and failing, to measure up. In my early twenties, I gravitated towards people that made me feel inferior. I preferred people who, like me, had been through a lot. Me and my friends had “issues” and I forgave them, as I hoped to be forgiven. My friendship with Marie was complicated—dramatic and emotionally intense.
For years, we traded long emails and had dinner together at least once a week, taking turns paying when one of us was broke. She was the type of friend who’d never forget my birthday—the kind of person who’d give you things from around her house if she didn’t have money to buy a present.
She was loving and loyal, but Marie could also be insecure, and when she felt hurt, she could be hurtful.
Looking back, I recognise how our friendship was compromised by alternating feelings of keen need and fear. Both Marie and I questioned relationships constantly, mistrusting and withdrawing from people as desperately as we sought them out.
Surprising celebrity BFFs: (Post continues after gallery.)
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less desperate. I’ve gotten more discerning. I’ve become a better friend. This is all the result of looking more closely at my childhood, and learning how growing up in an unsafe environment can have a lasting effect. It’s not unusual for people with crap-tastic childhoods like mine to find themselves inexplicably attracted to people that make them feel unsafe. In recovery I learned that by choosing the wrong people to let close, I was unconsciously recreating the chaotic environment I’d grown up in.
Two major things happened in my late twenties that helped change my view on friendship. First, I became best friends with a girl named Natalia. Although not perfect, ours was nothing like my friendships before her. I also let go of an abusive romantic relationship. It had been a six year, on-again-off-again dependency, and it took a lot of therapeutic work to leave. After I did, I began to notice the abusive patterns in many of my female friendships as well.