Every person that I have ever met has impacted me in some way. Every playground pal, classmate, coworker and bestie has left a mark. Some of those impressions were good and obviously some were pretty awful. It was my choice to do with that what I could or wanted to at the time. Bullies, abusers, ex-boyfriends, ex-friends, former coworkers and bosses that have belittled or harmed me, while many, it is still up to me to decide which pain to hold onto, how much anger is healthy for me and what I need to focus on in order to heal.
I know that I, too, have left an impression on those I have encountered in my life and out in the world. I have learned many a hard lesson on how even small and seemingly inconsequential things can have a huge impact on others, good and bad, and I do not get to decide for them which or what it will be. Working in customer service for so long, you learn on the job for the most part, interacting with the public will teach you quickly what is and isn’t okay to say or do. It is why I think everyone should be sentenced to at least one full year of hard retail (ha!). It builds character, it toughens your skin, it gives you new perspectives, makes you a little more/less compassionate towards others and it’s a lot of hard work.
We are human, underneath all of the pretense. We make limitless mistakes in life. This is our nature and it is how we learn, too. At age four upon meeting the first neighborhood kid I encountered in “the tree” I learned instantly how not to respond to a compliment. “You’re pretty.” said Karen. “I know.” I replied, plainly. “You’re so conceited! I can’t believe you said ‘I know’ you can’t say that! That’s so rude! You’re conceited!!! Ha-ha!” I felt as though my face would burn off with every word she uttered. I hadn’t yet learned to say thank you to a compliment. I only knew that my grandpa always said I was pretty and that he’d have to keep the boys away with a baseball bat…I was four years old!
I never felt like I fit in anywhere, yet I never stopped trying to make friends. In my neighborhood the kids were all pretty much complete dicks to me, but there was no one else to play with. *Sigh* I can’t count the number of times I would run home crying because of those jerks! Even little Johnny would turn on me when his sister/s were around. I didn’t give up trying to win them over, that is until I made a real friend and soon had other places to go and friends to play with. Kindergarten brought new friends but new life lessons. The dress I proudly wore because my grandma gave it to me was instantly deemed pajamas by my entire class, “Look! Sarah wore her nightgown! Ha-ha! She wore her pajamas to school! Ha-ha!” That was my first taste of being the fashion misfit.
I learned so much from that first bff friendship. We loved each other so much, I think, even though we were just kids. We went through a lot together and always stayed close even when things got super hard and scary. I look back and wonder now if things may have been differently had I not had a stealing problem in 6th grade. I stole a pair of my bf’s shoes, brand new white Keds. I just wanted to be like her, so I took them and tried to pass them off as a gift from my grandma. Yeah, that didn’t work. We weren’t allowed to hang out again. After all we’d been through (we were molested at the same time, same molester), the years of playing and dancing and sleepovers and hilarity, that was the death nell for our friendship. I don’t know if I’ll ever not carry that guilt.
Junior high is when the bullying started for me and most of my friends would disappear when they showed up to humiliate, slap, kick, shove and otherwise make me feel like crap. The only friend that wouldn’t run or hide was Summer. Maybe it was because she was bigger than most girls or maybe it’s because she looked like a Chola much of the time, but when I was with Summer, they wouldn’t even look at me! Sounds awesome, but more often than not, they would find me by the end of the day and I soon had to find alternate routes home from school to avoid them.
Junior high is also when I formed two very important friendships, both in the 8th grade. Steph I met in first period P.E. class. I had just gotten my ears pierced (had the usual two to begin with but got an additional four) and she offered to help me switch out my studs for hoops as she saw me struggling. We’ve pretty much been bff’s since. Ha! Q I met towards the end of that year. It seemed we each had our own reasons for messing with this one gal and I just happened to know her locker combination and when asked, offered it to her freely. I didn’t realize a third party was involved and would later trash said girl’s textbooks which nearly got us all suspended. Instead, Q and her friend and I bonded over having to clean all the girls bathrooms while singing Salt ‘N Pepa songs.
Between then and now is a sat stretch of time with so many folks sprinkled through like a funfetti cupcake, but those two bitches have always had my back, even when no one else in the entire world did. When I was at my very worst, in the abusive relationship and wanting to end my own life, Q was always there with a phone call or email (she was in college out of state). When things seemed bleaker than bleak, she simply listened and offered her love. Stephy, too, though years later. They helped me heal and become the gal I am today. I don’t know that I will ever be able to express my gratitude to them for that, but I think at this point, they just know. 🙂
When I met my now ex-husband I had no idea I would spend the next fifteen years with that guy! Ha-ha! I hired him for x-mas help at the music store. We were fast friends and later more and pretty much have been inseparable since. Well, until, you know, I separated us. Ha! Too soon? Ha-ha! Ahem, sorry. He’s really a great guy who cares and worries a bit too much but isn’t that part of his charm?! We simply grew apart and I knew I needed to move on because he never would. I’m glad that we are still friends and very pleased that we’ve both found people who keep us very happy (okay, we’re both silly in love). He’s also a pretty fantastic pug papa and I will always be so glad and grateful for that.
When I first met my bff P he was my boss and I thought he hated my guts for a good five or six months, until the day he promoted me and said all this nice stuff about me, I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t until I was promoted to his same position that we became friends and now I consider him and his partner, my bff J, to be my brothers. Just as Steph and Q are like my sisters. B is…I don’t know…something like a brother/weird uncle/bff and undefined thing. Ha-ha! He’s just B! But those fellas, they are to whom I know I can turn no matter what state I am in. I have sobbed over P’s stroganoff (because it’s so good and made with all the love) and sweated it out over many a thing (J helped choreograph my NoLose talent show performance and is the MC for Fatty Affair). We have traveled near and far and can’t wait to do it all again. Those guys!!!
Through thick and thin, I have had these incredible people show me who they are and who I am through their eyes. I am strong and more understanding because of them. They will call me out when I’m being ridiculous or deluding myself and they will be the first to demand who did what to me and can they please go rough them up?! I’ll never forget the time a boy broke my heart on my b-day and Stephy wanted to trash his prized truck. I wouldn’t let her, but the sentiment was real. Aw!
In my new, independent and single adult life, I have come to view friendships and well, all relationships, quite differently. There is a reason I have had the same small little group of close friends that I have for so long (Steph & Q for 23+ years, the boys 15 & 12 years). They have put me through the paces, ya know? They have each hurt me very deeply, but their love and willingness to be present in my life has always proved to be more than I expected. I’ve been told my expectations are too high, but these people prove to me that this isn’t so. What is right for me may not be right for most, so be it.
I have newer friends that I see this potential for longevity, too. I look up to them and respect them because they give me the same. They have my back, for the most part, but these relationships are still fairly new, at least for me. I have been so attached to people who seem real and genuine before, even “bffs” who later turned out to be complete fakers, but in the end they cross a line and I can’t look back. I rarely let the fear of getting hurt like that again hold me back, but I’m aware of it’s potential, always. I don’t know if that is a sign of maturity or foolishness, but it doesn’t matter.
The people who matter, the people who want to be in my life, simply are. The rest is just lip service. I’ve never been fond of having many acquaintances, I prefer a smaller close knit group. Now I am seeing the value in not being so close to so many folks. It’s just how life is sometimes. We can’t all connect on that deeper level and while that is what I will always crave, I know there are some in my life who that just isn’t possible. We all have our passions and interests and where they don’t overlap I try to give folks plenty of space. I know better than to ask P to go out dancing, for instance. It just won’t ever happen.
Understanding where I stand with someone is vital, it helps me know where I fit in their life and how we can both benefit from each others presence. I do think that relationships should be mutually beneficial. If I feel that someone is a giant taker and leaves me feeling tense or stressed, well I’m not exactly going to be inviting them to hang out or do stuff for much longer, ya know? This is an at will situation. We’re grown ups, we can do what we want with whomever we choose. It’s pretty great! And I have learned so much from every person I’ve ever met. I now know to be true to myself no matter what and that is what leads to better relationships. The more I know about myself, my needs and wants, my life goals and stuff, the better friend and partner I can be and communicate those things to the other person/s in my life, too.
For me that was the key, just knowing what I wanted was such a hard thing to discover. People test you, man. They can push you and they can shine a light on shit you don’t want anyone to see or know about. That is the hardest and most rewarding part of a good relationship, I think. That others can show and teach us so much about ourselves. I have learned so much in my last couple of romantic relationships (including my current one) that I say and do things in the hopes that the other person will mirror them. This is not the same as simply asking for them. I’m still learning and struggling with asking for things, but I’m getting better. It is far better to feel embarrassed and blush a lot and suffer through those awkward and uncomfortable moments than it is to long for someone to fulfill your needs without communication. Communication is everything, in every relationship.
My journey in accepting, supporting and loving myself has taken many turns. There’s been some bumps and even a few roller coasters along the way (good and bad), but what’s kept me going is knowing that I have those cherished relationships and my fat community. There has never been anything like the fat community in my life before and I can’t imagine my life without it now. While I have occasionally (okay, often) felt disconnected from the fat community, I know there is always support there. That no matter how bruised and battered I am, the fat community will always listen with an open mind and heart and embrace me, flaws and all, and let me just be me. It’s a beautiful thing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
When I think of our friendship these days — the good and the bad over so many years — I feel so much gratitude for it all. It’s such a weird feeling because it’s relatively new to me. I’ll be driving down the street, and suddenly think, wow, I’m so lucky! I feel nothing but happiness and gratitude in these moments and try to remind myself of that feeling when I’m sad. The handful of people who I love are all doing fine! This has been such an eye opening year for me. THANK YOU for being a part of my life! I’m an only child with a couple of sisters who’ve taught me what really matters about friendship. Love, cheers, and here’s to another 23 years!! May they be healthy and happy!