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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Incongruous Friendship

I went to a baby shower for my childhood friend, Ji, this weekend. It was a little bit awkward for me, because most of Ji's friends are very much unlike me. They are the skinny, popular, cheerleader type crowd from high school. I am the quiet, normal-sized, invisible nerdish band geek type from high school. We did not mingle in high school. I knew who they were because everyone knew who they were.

Ji and I were neighbors growing up. There were 5 of us girls all the same age plus or minus a year on my street. We were known in the neighborhood as the Belle Meadows Babes. Except I suppose I would have been the token chubbier homelier nerdier friend, and not really a babe at all.

I remember once sometime in junior high or high school, I was sitting with the other BMBs engaging in some scintillating girl talk when I posed this question to the group: "Based on our personalities, do you guys think we would have been friends had we not grown up together on the same street?"

Ji answered directly, "Honestly? No."

She meant her and I wouldn't have been friends. She might have been friends with the other BMBs, but I was different, and we all knew it.

But that's one thing I always admired about Ji, she never was ashamed to be honest. She never had a problem telling someone no if they asked her to do something she didn't want to do. She turned down many a church calling growing up because she wasn't interested in the responsibility. Most people feel like they can't say no, lest they disappoint someone, but not Ji. I always liked that about her. And I concurred with her assessment of the nature of our friendship.

When we were kids, our conflicting personalities didn't seem to pose much of a problem for Ji and I. When we played at my house, we would play with Legos, Star Wars and GI Joe figures, and occasionally Care Bears. We played school with my little chalk board, and my stuffed animals as students. We created art projects. At her house, we played with troll dolls, Barbies and 90210 dolls, baby dolls that cried and pooped and needed to be burped. We played house. We played card games. These worlds melded together seemingly seamlessly then.

In junior high things started to become different. Ji became interested in boys, and they became interested in her. That really wasn't my scene. I still hung out with the crowd, but I fit in even less than I ever did. In high school, things became even more disparate, and we all really branched out into our own friendship circles. I became friends with some of my fellow band geeks, and Ji and the other BMBs became friends with their own respective groups. Their groups seemed to overlap some; mine did not mix at all. We were oil and water. But I still maintained affection for my childhood friends.

Ji went through a period of teenage wildness, the outcome of which could have been anyone's guess. Things like that have a way of beginning innocently and progressing gradually until eventually you are left with a Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. But, though Ji wasn't particularly book smart, I knew that she was very street smart, and I suspected that she would end up outgrowing her wild phase into a mature and successful adulthood.

And she did. She eventually married a very stable, intelligent man of whom I very highly approve. Her wedding ceremony in the White Chapel near the Utah Capital Building was one of my favorite wedding ceremonies yet. Maybe that's because it was an actual wedding ceremony, and not your standard Temple ceremony followed by a reception. But for me, I suppose it was a moment of pride. Aside from our differences and the fact that we wouldn't have been friends had we not grown up together, we have always truly liked one another. I was happy to see my childhood friend happy.

And so I suppose it is the same sentiment that sent me to the bridal shower willingly like a blind sheep into a den of hungry wolves. Not that it ended up being so bad, actually. Girls like that have a way of taming down as they age; whereas they might have mocked you ruthlessly to your face as a teenager, they would at least wait until you left the party before unleashing their claws as an adult.

Even so, there was one moment at the shower that belied our ever-extant incongruities. While dishing about various high school alums, the girls threw out the name of a rather prominent nerd from high school. He was as renowned as the popular people on account of his ubernerdom. I knew who he was because everyone knew who he was. But I don't think we ever had a class together or spoke to each other. Still, when his name came up, I noticed a few of the girls shifting their glances in my direction, as if weighing whether or not I cared that this nerdy guy was being dished about. As if, since I belonged in the same nerdy category as he, the two of us must have been the best of friends.

And I smiled to myself. Sometimes the best of friends are really nothing alike.

I raise my glass to you, Ji, on the birth of your first child. May she find a good childhood friend for herself like you were for me.

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15 comments:

Natalie said...

you know i've been thinking a lot about old friends lately as well. it's funny what getting older has done to me. i've never shied away from a gathering of friends even if i wasn't really close to most of them. i never worried about fitting in. i just did. now though i think i would be a quiet observer in the back of the room more than a participator. not out of fear or worry, but more because i no longer feel that it is necessary that i fit in. and now i'm rambling.

Frank said...

Wow!!! Beautiful and pure! Your intellect and insight are far more valuable than the plastic fame enamored by the BMB’s and their kind. And because of your acumen, you already know that. Happy Monday, my fellow band geek. : )

Sra said...

I just want to underscore that I love my BMB's dearly. I'm not making a judgment on the type of friends they had versus the type of friends I had; just observing the differences really.

Erin said...

They made 90210 dolls?

Frank said...

Agree. My comment was meant to be identifying, not critical, and is more a comment on me and why I am content. My neighbor was a cheerleader and would die if she wore the wrong shoes. I was just glad I remembered to wear shoes. She taught me how to kiss when we were younger, so will always hold a special place, but we were/are worlds apart.

Claire said...

I only have one High School friend left at this point. He's my Ji, I guess - smooth talker, funny, smart without being a nerd about it (unlike some Latin-spouting, Transformers-collecting friends of his that shall remain nameless), popular, a troublemaker.

When we were kids, Brian and I thought it would be fun to play a prank on a cranky neighborhood guy, so we waited until "The Big Game" (as identified by Brian and verified by Dad) was on, then we snuck over to Mean Guy's house with a pair of pliers and disconnected his cable. It was fun to watch the guy rant and rave, pounding on his TV...for a while. Once we were back home, the guilt began to eat at my incidental Catholic heart, and I eventually DRAGGED HIM BACK and made him apologize with me. He even endured the rage of the Mean Guy's wife, which, it must be said, was as the sun next to the flickering candle of that worthy's anger.

This may explain why I have so few childhood friends.

But you're right, despite being very different in many ways, Brian and I are alike in what can only be described as the right ways. We still talk at least once a week, and even though he lives three thousand miles away now, when we hang out it's just like it's always been. And if I had to hang onto only one high school friend, I'm glad it was him.

Sra said...

You bet they made 90210 dolls! I was nice to have a few options for doll love besides Barbie and Ken, you know?

I didn't take any malice in your comment, Frank, I just want to be clear to the world.

Claire, your escapade reminds me of Amelie's revenge on her neighbor when she disconnected his antenna just as the goals were about to be scored in the big game. I'm impressed that you apologized in your case, and since the prank required actual repair, the apology was warranted. But that takes some guts, too.

tauns said...

The 90210 dolls would be equivalent to the High School Musical dolls or possibly the Brats dolls. :)

I have often been amazed by friendships and how they evolve. What makes this one particular one with such opposites stand the test of time while the other one fails? My best girl friend has been my friend since 7th grade. I "grew up" with others...known them since elementary school yet never overcame that difference between themselves and me, even if we were best friends for a time. We may chat here and there. They are my "friend" on facebook but that is the extent of it.

B.R. said...

Much of my current work is around the 'politics of friendship' so this is good.

There is nothing trivial or inconsenquential about friendships. If people have doubts, then they should check with Plato. And Plato is always relevant. Sociality has, is, and will always be important because it rests on our very natures as humans/social creatures.

If we only befriend like-minded folk, we can't really make much progress.

Granted, most of my crowd is into what I am into but a few of them are 'Ji'-esque and I'm grateful for it.

Didn't Lincoln have a successful career because he surrounded himself by a team of rivals? Well, not that friends are rivals, but you get the point.

Diversity, at times, expedites familiarity and I'll leave with that.

Dena said...

I loved this. I have many friends from my days as an Air Force brat when it wasn't uncommon to lose your best friend when one of you moved to a new city. I have always felt extremely fortunate to have known and grown up with the people I called my friends. Your wish for your friend's baby is so sincere. I hope all children will be as lucky in friendship as we have been with ours! Bravo!

Sra said...

It is hard to say what makes the affection for some friends stay while it fades for others. Friends come in and out of our lives, though a few friends stay the course.

The nature of my friendship with the BMBs is different now that we are adults. We see each other about once or twice a year. Well, they may actually see each other more often, but I join them for dinner once or twice a year. But I still value those get-togethers.

I think the key to any kind of strong and lasting relationship is some level of difference. You have to be able to offer something that the other person doesn't already have, otherwise you will eventually get bored with each other, I think. But a commonality is necessary too, because I think we like seeing ourselves in other people.

It's all very interesting.

jess said...

what a cool post on friendship and how people with major differences can still be very close, respectful and FRIENDS! bravo!

i've been a shiteous blogger lately and even a more shiteous reader.

i've reconnected with some old high school friends via facebook and it's been awesome.

my fellow blogger, bridge and i have been friends for almost 27 years. consider that we are only 32...and that tells you how long we've known each other.

jess said...

what a cool post on friendship and how people with major differences can still be very close, respectful and FRIENDS! bravo!

i've been a shiteous blogger lately and even a more shiteous reader.

i've reconnected with some old high school friends via facebook and it's been awesome.

my fellow blogger, bridge and i have been friends for almost 27 years. consider that we are only 32...and that tells you how long we've known each other.

B.R. said...

Much of my current work is around the 'politics of friendship' so this is good.

There is nothing trivial or inconsenquential about friendships. If people have doubts, then they should check with Plato. And Plato is always relevant. Sociality has, is, and will always be important because it rests on our very natures as humans/social creatures.

If we only befriend like-minded folk, we can't really make much progress.

Granted, most of my crowd is into what I am into but a few of them are 'Ji'-esque and I'm grateful for it.

Didn't Lincoln have a successful career because he surrounded himself by a team of rivals? Well, not that friends are rivals, but you get the point.

Diversity, at times, expedites familiarity and I'll leave with that.

Claire said...

I only have one High School friend left at this point. He's my Ji, I guess - smooth talker, funny, smart without being a nerd about it (unlike some Latin-spouting, Transformers-collecting friends of his that shall remain nameless), popular, a troublemaker.

When we were kids, Brian and I thought it would be fun to play a prank on a cranky neighborhood guy, so we waited until "The Big Game" (as identified by Brian and verified by Dad) was on, then we snuck over to Mean Guy's house with a pair of pliers and disconnected his cable. It was fun to watch the guy rant and rave, pounding on his TV...for a while. Once we were back home, the guilt began to eat at my incidental Catholic heart, and I eventually DRAGGED HIM BACK and made him apologize with me. He even endured the rage of the Mean Guy's wife, which, it must be said, was as the sun next to the flickering candle of that worthy's anger.

This may explain why I have so few childhood friends.

But you're right, despite being very different in many ways, Brian and I are alike in what can only be described as the right ways. We still talk at least once a week, and even though he lives three thousand miles away now, when we hang out it's just like it's always been. And if I had to hang onto only one high school friend, I'm glad it was him.

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