April 2018

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Yesterday when Ann walked our puppy Dosey down the block, Dosey stopped at a gate like she always does to sniff her BFF Percy (I assume named for the poet Mary Oliver’s dog). For the first time on Dosey’s walk, the family was there and let her in the fence,  and Percy and Dosey got to run around together. They’d already done introductions, so after brief butt-sniffing, Percy chased Dosey and then Dosey chased Percy. Percy is a few years older and a few paws bigger than Dosey, but she played enthusiastically and gently with her younger, smaller friend.

Dosey’s a cute, wiggly, confident, extrovert, so she makes friends easily with dogs and people (not so much with cats or motorcycles). Though she’s friendly and has a good time whether two or three or a hundred are gathered in her name, Percy is her BFF. (Another small dog, Pico, is also a great playmate but doesn’t live as close, so they don’t see each other as often. Another dog, Rainie, was her first friend, and I suspect their friendship will grow stronger.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately because my ninth grade BFF, whose family was my second family before I went to college, was recently in touch. I don’t think we’ve talked in 25 years, though she now lives just a couple of hours from me. I think she hasn’t been in touch (I’ve tried a few times) because I’m a lesbian, and she’s a conservative Christian, but I’m not sure. I hope we do connect: we were such good friends for such a long time.

My mom is cleaning out the house I grew up in and recently sent me my middle school yearbooks. Middle school was a hard time for me. Before moving to a private school in seventh grade, I had easily made friends, but at this private school, I was the public school kid who was an easily target for the lead girl bully. (If you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye , you know something of my experience. As I remember the novel, the details differ, but the emotional story is the same. )

Looking through my middle school yearbooks reminds me that seventh grade was the hardest: it took forever to make friends after I was black-balled, and I finally made a best friend Chris, who moved at the end of the year. In eighth grade, I felt like I was starting all over, but my friend Kathryn and I got to be BFFs. At the end of that year, Kathryn moved (I panicked…Why are my friends always moving? Forty years later, however, Kathryn and I are Facebook friends, and I love the reconnection). Ninth grade, I finally broke out from under the curse and started making friends again. My best friend that year and I played basketball together for hours in practice and on our home courts. I thought we would be friends forever, but I lost her and another dear friend when I came out. The other friend has come back. Perhaps she will, too.

A passage about friendship in the memoir I’m currently reading, Margaret Combs’ Hazard: ASister’s Flight from Family and a Broken Boy,  (great book! Read it!) makes me think about my own friendships:

“I knew things about friendship. You could not create it by yourself. You had to find another, and then the two of you had to do important things, like be brave, spend time together, have each other over to your homes. Share your life.”

The part of this descriptor that caught my attention was “be brave.” For me, it has meant having the gumption to extend myself, to take a chance on being rejected. I can also think of what bravery has meant for my friends—at times, befriending an outcast: in middle school, a social outcast; in the last 25 years, a lesbian; and in the last 10 years, a disabled woman. I wonder what Margaret Combs meant about friendship requiring bravery. (She lives in Seattle, and I’ll be meeting with her in a few weeks: I think I’ll ask her.)

That passage continues in a way that I understand deeply:

Deep down, I knew what it was to lose a friend: I had lost Lily to Texas and knew that when a friendship ends you lose a bit of yourself.

Fortunately, in my adult years, friendships—like love—have come and stayed. I’m more cautious than my puppy, who wags her tail at everyone, but I’ve come to trust that some people will stay by my side and love me for who I am. This is the most important lesson I learned when I came out as a lesbian: when I am truest to myself, most others are true to me. I am sad about those who leave me behind, but so thankful for those who abide.

I'm not as confident about "forever" as I was when I was younger, but I'm more confident about myself and my friendships. Another reason it's nice to be the older lady down the street. 

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