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Spill It!: The Girls’ Club

July 29, 2011

The summer after junior year of high school, my two closest friends abandoned me. I can’t remember a specific incident, discussion or argument that preceded our departure. All I knew was that K and K were driving off in the morning and the afternoon while I stood at my window, peeking behind the blinds.

Most of what we had in common was proximity. Like most teenagers, I molded myself to fit into a social group. With one person, I might share the love of a band. With another, disdain for our Physics class. And with those girls, it was the fact that we were the same age and lived on the same block that made us show off our Christmas presents or our back-to-school clothes, talk about the boys we liked and sit in sun-bleached grass until our skin burned. There was not much to do in a rural south Jersey town except watch cars go by, beg our parents to drive us to the faraway mall, or listen to Nirvana from our bedroom floors, our ears pressed close to the speakers. So that is what we did.

And then I was left to do it by myself. I had to babysit my brother for three long months, and they were carefree, able to come and go as they pleased. Before the phone calls and get-togethers completely stopped, there were whispers of parties and pot and people I didn’t know. In our high school yearbook, the memories below their pictures described events from that year of which I had not been a part. Instead, I was the ghost of years past, lurking amidst their laughter and in the smoke of their cars.

It seems I am no stranger to isolation, so why am I so surprised when those feelings hit me again, hard and fast, my loneliness a cloud of familiarity?

This summer, as I slipped back into the role of stay-at-home mother while my college classes are on hold, I remember clearly why it was so hard the first time around: Motherhood is isolating, lonely, often thankless. While my days are full of a kind of busyness, my desire for social contact goes largely unsatisfied. I am once again at the window, watching others come and go. Through my computer, I see glimmers of meet-ups and vacations and busy, fulfilling days belonging to other people. At work, people have an automatic social group for commiseration and feedback, whether they like it or not. At home, though, it’s solely up to me to lead my small herd out the door every day, to find inexpensive ways to occupy our time, to spend sometimes the entire morning and afternoon without hearing another friendly adult voice. The kicker is that when I meet someone I have something in common with, our kids may gravitate toward opposite sides of the room or beg to go home. Maybe one mother’s child naps late in the afternoon, just when mine are looking to go out again. Or the kids love each other, but the adults are left dumbly watching, with nothing to say. I have plenty of people I enjoy talking to, people who I call friends, but that doesn’t mean we are available at the same time, or that they’d want to help me entertain my kids all week.

All of this means that motherhood is a solitary, hermitic job. It means that many days, I feel like I’m in high school again, wishing to be invited to the Cool Girl’s party. Of course I know there is no official Cool Girl, but that doesn’t mean I don’t assume there are moms’ groups and writers’ groups and women’s groups having a grand time in French bistros while I sit on my couch, scanning the news.

I often think of the quote from Julie Delpy’s character Celine, in the movie Before Sunset:  “I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.”

Once I graduated high school, I definitely thought I’d meet loads of people I’d click with, whose passions would be similar to mine, who’d keep me up talking and laughing until morning. Isn’t that what we learn in the movies, in shows like Sex and the City and Entourage? There are plenty of people I can talk to and get along with, but as for true, lifelong confidants, aside from family members? The number doesn’t extend beyond the fingers of one hand.

These feelings and musings come and go like an allergy. Many days, I am content to care for my children, chat with a friend, write, teach, reunite with my husband at dinner. There is wine, my book club, dinner out, many things to look forward to. But other times, the past creeps into my chest, those feelings of insecurity and hopelessness, the hours before bed stretching into an eternity of silent, lonesome tasks.

Adolescence was never practice for the harsh realities of life. It was very much it. There is no practice. There is just the real world, hugging you with sweaty arms every single day, whether you’re 16 or 31.

It’s a good thing those arms so often belong to someone who loves you.

 

If you haven’t seen the movie Before Sunset, I highly recommend it

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine July 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I love you. And if you were here I’d hug you. We are so very much alike.

xo

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Liz S July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Timely post: touching and beautifully written….I just ran into a high school friend who now hangs out with a college friend of mine. We all live so close, but they are stay-at-home moms and I’m left out of the loop entirely. I’m happy for them (they’re wonderful women), but it put me in a funk. I want to be included and feel like they’re still my friends (I know they are, but still).
*sigh* Motherhood can certainly be lonely….thanks for posting. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

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Louise July 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I found this through a Twitter link … I have a lump in my throat while I’m nodding my head in comprehension and a little bit of relief. You mean I’m not the only one who’s been feeling this way?

This is a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Ana July 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

so glad you posted this, its really honest & I can truly identify. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately (notably the lack thereof in my current life). I also don’t consider most of my family members as true confidantes, either—these relationships are so loaded with history and obligation; I can’t unburden myself the way I can with a true “kindred spirit” friend. I really took my friendships for granted for many years; I didn’t realize how valuable those relationships were to my sanity and happiness, and how difficult they are to come by as a busy working mom.
also, love the ‘before sunset’ reference!!!

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Kimberly July 29, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Beautiful. Everything you wrote holds so true in my own life. This is especially true since I was the first of my high school friends to get married and start a family. I’ve reached out to a few people, but most of the time I spend the days with my kids. I love every minute of it, but I am also excited about graduate school- I’ll have a chance to talk to real people again! ;)

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Jana July 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Good luck with graduate school! What will you be studying?

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TheKitchenWitch July 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

Jana,

That’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for–the total isolation of stay-at-home motherhood. You are so honest here. I found myself nodding along as I read. I live in Stepford; I understand how you feel.

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Melissa Sher July 30, 2011 at 11:30 am

The best writing — the things you read that stick with you long after you’ve read them — is about something universal that hasn’t been put a certain way before. You nailed this. Thank you for it.

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Carrie July 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Wow, that was well done. I know that feeling. That stuck inside feeling. H and I go through it alot. Everyone else gets to do something she can’t. So, we stay.

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Lady Jennie July 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm

My getting dumped moment was end of elementary school and I spent some pretty lonely lunches in junior high. I don’t think I suffer from lack of friends now, but I still feel lonely. I think it comes from within, this sadness, and has less to do with others.

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Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri August 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Beautifully written. As a high schooler, I had two childhood friends leave me out. Many times. I am grateful for the wonderful conncections I’ve made throughout my life, but sometimes when I am excluded, I think back to those days of high school.

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Cathy August 1, 2011 at 10:34 pm

You know I’ve never been in the cool kids club. Aside from that though, I wonder if people’s personalities predispose them to being a “loner”. I was that alone kid in high school – the one that never fit in. College was no different and now, even though I’m in the working world and have been since my kids were born, I still can count the number of friends on one hand. Given that, I am inclined to think that it’s me, not the circumstances.

I’d totally be your friend and do meet-ups if we lived closer.

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Sean August 2, 2011 at 1:49 am

I love you Jana and I wish we did live closer. We are very kindred spirits. I’ve been pondering the same issue (among others) and struggle with this, too. I’m not close to my family for a lot of reasons. I did have one friend whom I thought was my best only to find out she didn’t think the same. I’ve made a couple of new friends, but it is hard to break into their tight circles beyond the surface level. I have no solutions for any of our insecurities. But you aren’t alone. I peek out at the world through my window blinds quite often and then go back to the web and my wine.

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Rebecca August 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I really understand what you’re saying here. I think the huge attraction of Sex and the City for me is that it portrayed a world of friendship that I longed for and that I have rarely had in life. Those close friendships…women who make time for each other, no matter how busy they are. I agree with you and with Before Sunset that those kinds of connections come rarely…We should appreciate them when they come because it may be a while before they come again.

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