Monday, March 7, 2011

Befriend, Defriend, Refriend

I don't remember my friendships being as complicated and convoluted as Earbaby's. Some days I need a scorecard to know who's in and who's out. She has a couple of friends, who are always in, even if there are minor tiffs. But there are others, let's say the friendships are in constant flux.

For instance, last week, our former neighbor, Kiki stopped by. She came over to wish her a happy birthday, but that wasn't even the surprising part. Kiki and EB had been on the outs, more or less for a couple of years.

Let me explain.

Kiki and EB were thick as thieves for several years when Kiki lived next door. She's three years older, but they became fast friends, despite the age and some cultural differences, since Kiki is from another country and her parents don't speak the greatest English. Still, the two girls saw each other all the time, started spending nights at each other's houses, celebrated birthdays together and Kiki joined us for The Nutcracker, other family outings and became like the sibling EB never had. In turn, EB went on family outings with Kiki, her younger brother and various cousins and aunts and uncles. We actually got EB her first cell phone because we wanted to feel more comfortable just in case Kiki's family couldn't communicate in case of an accident or other calamity. We knew we had to allow them to reciprocate since we had taken their daughter so many places. So anyway, even though we were friendly with the parents, we weren't really friends, because of the language barrier.

But as girls grow up, they can grow mean. And although Kiki had talked for years about EB being a part of her Quinceneara, as she got into her middle school years, she started to resent EB. Our family isn't well off, by any means, although we both work. But we only have one child and we're able to provide her all of her basic needs and many of her wants. Kiki's family was struggling. There were domestic issues with her mom and stepfather, work-related issues of intermittent joblessness and finally foreclosure on the home they couldn't sell or afford the mortgage on. Eventually they had to move.

But before they did, Kiki ruined one of EB's birthday parties, first by pulling other kids into a corner and talking about the guest of honor (EB) and then coming back to our houseful of guests and going into a crying jag while intermittently texting another friend. It was an incredibly embarrassing display for EB, her other guests, and us. When Kiki and her family moved, EB deleted her number from her phone. She visited about a year after that, a brief awkward encounter when she was looking for her kitten, who had missed the memo about the move.

EB essentially defriended her BFF and moved on. But Kiki's reappearance and 15-minute visit was good enough for a refriending. At least, they exchanged numbers again. No mention of the Quinceneara.

EB's life is fraught with defriending and refriending. She's had gymnastic buddies who go back and forth with frightening regularity, same with a couple of her classmates, one kid from Sunday School she's known since they were both infants and one or two dance buddies. I am grateful that EB doesn't defriend people willy-nilly. She is loyal to the nice ones, sticks up for the ones who are being bullied, and will eventually forgive those who defriend her when they return with an apology. In this age of technology, whispering campaigns go on longer, reach more people and thus can be harder to forgive. Which is why EB can be cautious in her forgiveness. She will be friendly, but not as easily taken in by those who have hurt her. I really don't have a good counsel for her. How do you forgive those who hurt you, try to turn your friends against you and then come back and apologize, when you know they will do it again? Negotiating friendships with some has been treacherous. Mostly because EB wants to be one of the popular cool kids, but doesn't want to be one of the mean ones. The problem comes when one or two of the popular girls are the mean girls.

I've been proud of her so far. She will reject the popular mean group in favor of the friends who are their targets. While at home with me she bemoans not having many friends, she stands up for her principles. At her age, in this time of her life, she lacks perspective on popular. It seems to be what everyone wants, but no one knows how to get. I find it interesting that she's greeted with great enthusiasm by her classmates,  is always invited to the parties, and was even given homemade birthday cards by some of her friends, yet thinks she's an outcast.

Come to think of it, we've all felt like that at some time, haven't we? We could have an embarrassment of riches as far as friends are concerned, and still feel defriended at some point.  I guess at our lowest point we should think about some of those people we have befriended, and make the effort to reach out, and refriend again. We'll probably be pleasantly surprised.

No comments:

Post a Comment