The Friendship Lesson Plan

It’s funny that yesterday’s post was all about age, because I ended up at lunch with three women who I believe were all in their 40s and 50s. Our discussion about MWF Seeking BFF and friendships in general was kind of amazing. As much as I love talking besties–and all the underlying issues that accompany social relationships–so many people steer away from the topic. They think it’s cheesy, or too sentimental. Which sometimes it is, sure. But there are ways to discuss friendship without getting into “I love my best friend she is so nice and pretty and I will always love her” territory. Believe me, those kind of sentimental rants, mostly witnessed at weddings, make my ears bleed.

One woman, who I believe was in her 50s, maybe late 40s, said she didn’t realize how much she needed her friends until she hit 40. In her 30s, she said, she wanted to prove she could do it all–the marriage, the family, the career. She didn’t want to ask for help. It wasn’t until she had a terrible health scare that she realized she wanted–no, needed–friends in her life to support her.

After hearing our lunch companion admit she didn’t want to ask for help, another woman volunteered a story that really struck me. She said her mother once had a lot of trouble with friendships. When she was younger, this woman’s mother didn’t realize that friends are the very people you should be real with. “Friends are the ones you can and should be vulnerable with. They are the people with whom you can just be yourself and let it all go,” my lunchmate said. “My mother spent the early years of her life trying to appear perfect, like she had it all together. She didn’t realize for a while that perfect isn’t interesting. No one wants to be friends with you because you’re perfect, they want to be friends with you because you’re you.”

In fact, I mentioned, some people don’t want to be friends with you when you’re perfect.

“I remember my mother sharing that with me when I was young. Warning me to not waste time trying to be perfect with my friends,” she says. “It really made an impression on me.”

It’s a good lesson to pass from mother to daughter.  If there’s anywhere to be real, it’s with your pals. Try to be perfect at work if you want. Present yourself as having the world figured out when you go out for errands or to a dinner party. But when you’re hanging with your friends, a facade won’t get you anywhere. So let pals do what they are supposed to do–accept you for being the real thing.

I was touched by this idea of mother-daughter friendship lessons. Or friendship lessons at all. What are the tidbits we pick up from other people, without even realizing it? I’ve learned so many over the past two years, but the first I can remember is from when I was in high school. I’d complain to my mom about a friend who did something selfish or manipulative. And then I’d say, “but whatever, that’s just how Friend is.” As if, because Friend was a generally selfish or manipulative person, that made it ok. Or acceptable. And then one day my mother told me that that’s not an excuse. You can’t get away with hooking up with your best friend’s crush, for example, because it’s “just the way you are.” Selfish or manipulative people shouldn’t be let off the hook, or not held to the same standard as the rest of us, just because they have established themselves as historically selfish and manipulative. That doesn’t make it ok.

This was a lightbulb moment. I suddenly realized that some people got away with being rude by always being rude. And I learned that those weren’t people I necessarily wanted to be friends with.

I find myself repeating that lesson in situations all the time: “‘That’s just how she is’ doesn’t make it ok. You can’t just say ‘Friend is a bitch, so whatever’ as if being a bitch is is no biggie.”

So, yeah. That’s my lesson, courtesy of Mom. Do you have any friendship lessons you explicitly remember being taught? I’d love to hear them below!


Filed under The Search

4 responses to “The Friendship Lesson Plan

  1. Marie

    I like to be open minded and form my own opinions on people so I used to completely ignore anything I’d hear about a potential friend. In high school so called “friends” lied to me, stole clothes, and attempted to make out with my boyfriend. I was not surprised because I’d heard those rumors about those friends before it happened to me. I learned that I need to balance being open minded with someone’s reputation.

  2. I often wonder how tolerating an individual’s behavior becomes a way of accepting it. Bad behavior is just unacceptable. Period.

  3. Since she got married, my mom has been an expat with no family around and the lesson she taught me was – Friends are the family you get to chose, choose carefully and value them.
    I agree with your mom, just because someone behaves a certain way all the time, doesn’t make it acceptable. When we live in a society that insists that children learn to be well-mannered, polite, sensitive and PC, why should grown adults get away?

  4. Yeah I can definitely understand this, I realized earlier this year that I might be seen as perfect by a friend, and wanted to let her know some of my insecurities and all that so she could really understand me. It brought us a lot closer, and I learned about her insecurities too.

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