They are the Holy Grail for most of us, whatever the scale of our social dys/function.
The mates who make you laugh till you cry. The ones who make you feel like a million dollars. The ones who need you and fill your time but open your mind. The clever ones, the needy ones, the ones who lighten your day or enable you to talk like a poem. Friends are the fuel that makes life zing.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and sometimes they are only there for a moment and sometimes (if you’re lucky) for life. They ground you, frustrate you and inspire you in a myriad of ways and make life – worth living.
But it’s complicated – from whatever side of the spectrum you look at it. Not all friendships are plain sailing.
The Rose obsesses about friendships. Day dreams about shopping with other girls (not her Mum or pre-teen cousins), sharing jokes, having secret ‘in’ words. She used to be oblivious to how to start, but at 17.5 yrs old she is working hard and going at it full pelt. Like it’s an exam she needs to pass before she’s 18.
She’s gathering up great big fat clues of what to do, slowly and sometimes painfully stitching them together, but she is learning. It drives her day. She invests huge amounts of time striving to get just that one, special relationship started – but it’s so hard. Much of her friendship energy is wasted. She invests her love in the wrong people. I don’t mean nasty monsters or bad people, just people who clearly aren’t interested in her and are just too polite, subtle and indirect, to tell her.
I’ve dropped her off to meet friends on so many occasions, only to get a phone call, hours later, telling me that they haven’t turned up. Their excuse being homework/missed busses/or forgotten times.
The Rose is never cross, always on their side, making excuses for them and saying she understands. But with a mask on her face, shadow in her eyes and with a boiling anger set off by anything we do or say. Her pressure safety value reflects her utter despair and dejection.
I don’t blame the friends (well not after I’ve stuck metaphorical pins in their eyes !) because I can imagine they sent out all the subtle STOP signals. In our world we would then have known we were barking up the wrong friendship tree or that ‘see ya later’ meant, ‘yeah whenever’; not ‘see you at 2.30pm on Saturday 15th!’
So when The Rose announced that she was going to meet a new ‘The Friend’ to go shopping, I prepared our case for the defence!
I checked The Friend out on Facebook. She looked unreal, like a Barbie Doll – all Nicky Minaj, amber tan and no knickers. She shrieked of ‘bad girl’ and ‘boy magnet’. She was barely wearing any clothes in her photos and (gasp) … is that A REAL CIGARETTE she’s holding?!
Now – The Rose dresses to be comfy. She favours leggings and huge drab coloured sweatshirts, ALWAYS worn with an army type jacket (indoors and out at all times). But the day she met The Friend, her dark green cropped sweat top sported the word BOY (eeek) and showed her tummy, her leggings has become really tight jeans and her extra colourful foundation now ended at her jaw line in a ridge of Jackson Pollock like crust, reminiscent of a chocolate and vanilla swirled ice cream, dried up on a forgotten birthday plate!
And by contrast having never before, ever needed a handbag to go shopping with, she’d now found a sparkly one, last seen/used at playgroup. In it she put a massive bottle of perfume, her phone and a teddy.
I dropped her off – my heart pounding, ears ringing with my own instructions. I ditched the car 150 yards away from the meeting point and…. I followed her!
I DID. I stalked her like David Attenborough in Rwanda with gorillas!
I found a place where I could watch over her while she waited. It was a shop with a big glass front and as I hid behind the window display, I feigned huge interest in the astonishing variety of ways to exfoliate and pluck!
The Rose stood across the street, alone, nervously checking and re-checking her phone. She looked so small and vulnerable. So upright and noble. So keen to please. So eager to be a good and cool friend.
It went on for 40 minutes. I couldn’t bear it. The Barbie didn’t turn up.
I left my ground cover and sprinted for The Rose. I pretended I was ‘just walking by’ all casual like. Thank god ironic coincidences are lost on her. When she saw me the relief on her face almost took me out at the knees. But that relief quickly left her and became ashes as she fully realised yet again what had happened.
“Go away Mum, She’ll be here in a minute. Get lost. Well actually she may not be coming. I think she’s ill; yes that’s what’s happened. She was ill last week. Shall we buy a top? Let’s go to New Look”
Many shopping bags later we emerged triumphant and as a team. It turns out it’s not such a bad thing to be with your Mum and her credit card. Even if I did have to stand 10 yards away at all times and not look at her – ever, not even when I’m paying.
And as it happens…
…turns out The Barbie really had been ill.
She made a little video later in the week in which she told The Rose all the things she liked about her. She posted it on The Rose’s Facebook page.
Apparently my daughter smells nice, is never nasty and reminds The Barbie of an orange!
To have someone do that for her and say that about her, on HER ACTUAL Facebook wall, in a video, IN PUBLIC – well The Rose may as well have just been voted Head Girl AND Games Captain.
Now it’s time to exfoliate and pluck – what? You didn’t think the shopping was ALL for The Rose did you?