I was challenged, by fellow blogger Matt-in-the-Hat, to write a bit about friendship. I would like to cover what I look for in a friend, what an ideal relationship looks like, past experiences, and how I plan to proceed with future friendships. I have experienced a multitude of different people and relationships in my lifetime so far, and would like to share them with you.
In the following paragraphs I will present a few scenarios that detail the friendships that have meant the most to me, and why they did or did not work out. I hope to provide readers with an idea of what friendship has been like for me, as well as to talk about what I am looking for in future interpersonal relationships.
This first friend is the Breakup and Reconnection. It’s someone whom I’ve known for a long time. We first met in junior high and didn’t get on well, but grew closer as the years passed. We would often hang out at group events or do schoolwork together. Very rarely would we hang out alone back then, simply because I was always with the friend from the next scenario, who I’m calling the Non-Mutual Breakup.
During the latter years of high school, the Breakup and Reconnection became very sick and was hospitalized for a time. We didn’t have contact for a while, and when we did talk again, this person seemed moody, abrasive, and just generally changed. Things inevitably atrophied, and I was left saddened and confused; not quite knowing what had gone wrong.
A few years ago this person showed up at my doorstep, asking me to show them around my college campus, a place they’d been accepted to and wanted to attend in order to earn a specialized degree. After crying, moping, and being generally melodramatic, I agreed and told them where to meet me. I asked my then-boyfriend to tag along in case I decided to mission abort partway through, in which case he was supposed to help me come up with an excuse to leave. I was all ready to bolt at the first sign of uncomfortableness.
Things went surprisingly well. They liked the school and later told me that they planned on attending. We left things on a tentative note, saying we would contact each other during the summer—this person’s home was in the same town as my own—or during move-in time the next fall.
Eventually, we did meet up and hang out a bit. This follow-up, of sorts, also went well, and we hung out more and more. The meetings got easier and more fun; we began to slip into our old habits and things were good. In the end, I’m truly happy this person is my friend. We’ve both faced similar problems in our lives and he is once again a humorous, adventurous, and supportive friend to me.
The Non-Mutual-Breakup involved a long-term friend who was like a sibling to me. This person was the first real friend that I ever had, and I thought we would be together forever. They had a huge impact on my confidence, personality, and expressiveness. I was a generally quiet kid when I entered junior high, and did not meet many people until around Thanksgiving, when this person was seated near me for Geography class. This fateful encounter truly changed my life and shaped me more than most of the other people in my life—combined.
We only hung out only a little at first, with a joint project being the catalyst for our out-of-school contact. It was a wondrous experience; their family welcomed and quickly took to me. After that, we would hang out all the time at each others’ houses, cafes, or parks, texting each other fervently if we couldn’t get together. Their family really felt like my own and we were so comfortable and happy in each other’s presences. I felt at ease around this person much more than anyone else in my high school self’s life.
As time went on, we both graduated and moved away. While they would reply to my text messages and calls less often, when they did it still felt as if we were as close as ever. I liked to talk to this person as much as possible, but tried to refrain so as not to annoy them. That should’ve been the first sign that things weren’t the same anymore.
When they came to visit me during my junior year of college, things seemed off. I had come out as being a transman no more than two months before, and they seemed supportive—at first. Looking back, they treated it like “Red’s New Thing”. It was fun for a while, buying men’s clothes and boxers—something comical that would pass. But it didn’t. And as time went on, I noticed that this person and their family seemed less and less happy with the idea that I was truly becoming a man. The Non-Mutual Breakup also disliked the person who had helped me to learn about transgenderedness and to come out; another friend who was very important to me.
But things weren’t so bad. We still hung out a lot, even though they had begun to distance themselves from me. We both had a friend the other disliked. I did my best to ignore that person for the sake of our friendship, and wondered why they couldn’t do the same for me.
The tenuousness that had become our now irregular interactions finally hit a breaking point during the month leading up to my college graduation—an event I was taking uneasily at best. During this crucial, important time in my life, I wanted to be happy. My graduation was something that I had worked so hard for, despite the many barriers and hurdles I had overcome, and the Non-Mutual Breakup’s actions sent me spiraling down into true despair. They caused a huge ruckus that ultimately created a rift we refused to overcome, as well as effectively alienated me from most of our mutual friends. Their demands: to cut contact with the Breakup and Reconnection. They and another friend disliked the Breakup and Reconnection for reasons I knew not, and their inclusion in my life branded me a “bad friend”. They wanted me to stop seeing him—effective immediately.
Ironically, this is one of the main events that helped the Breakup and Reconnection actually reconnect with me. They helped me hash out my feelings, the possible things I could do to make up or let go, as well as let me know that even if I hurt them to acquiesce the Non-Mutual Breakup, that they would understand. The Breakup and Reconnection’s sentiments both touched and angered me. Pretending to disdain them isn’t the way you treat a friend. I chose to ignore the Non-Mutual Breakup’s wishes and we stopped speaking shortly thereafter; but not before they had tormented me throughout my graduation weekend by assailing me with frequent, angry texts from themselves and others.
By the time my graduation party rolled around—the event that had begun the whole uproar—I was spent. I didn’t care about the Non-Mutual Breakup anymore, as long as they left me alone. I don’t know why they even came to the party—no one does—just to sit in a corner with their significant other, ignoring everyone else. But they did attend, and stayed for a good long time.
After more than a year had passed from the time of the party itself, the Non-Mutual Breakup decided to track me down and—I think—make amends. I’m not entirely sure, because there was still talk of how I had done the wrong thing. They also mentioned having been jealous of my college friends, which made me wonder if they were just trying to stir something up; if they had been trying to make me choose between my friends back home and everyone else.
Unlike with the Breakup and Reconnection, I found their excuses flimsy, and to this day I avoid the Non-Mutual Breakup. After all the turmoil I’ve been through, I don’t really care that we’re not friends anymore—though I do miss the good times, the companionship, and the support we had throughout high school. I still get down sometimes and wish this friendship hadn’t ended, but friends come and go in this lifetime; I know it’s just how things are.
My husband has some bearing on the next friendship I want to talk about—the Mutual Breakup—and so I would like to give him a little airtime beforehand to explain a few things. I don’t generally count my husband as “a friend”. To me, a life-partner fills a slightly different role. For starters—your life-partner shouldn’t ever leave you. That’s why they’re a life-partner. Secondly, the relationship that the two of you have should be something that has transcended friendship and become an even deeper, more intrinsic bond. He’s someone whom I rely on daily to love me, to support me, and to challenge me to grow. Unlike with a friend, he’s there all the time. He’s literal family, and not someone I could ever give up or live without.
My husband’s worst, most stunted quality is his inability to accept change. Being someone who lives with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this should be something that I can understand… And I do to an extent. The difference between my neuroses and his problem, though, is that while I can tell that something is “wrong” or “off”, his brain usually rejects changes. Because of the way his brain is hard-wired, he has a hard time changing associations. When something about me changes, it takes him very, very long to come around, but he usually does. Whenever I get a new pair of glasses, for example, it’s a huge point of contention. He tells me that I don’t look like myself anymore, or that I’ve changed, simply because the thing that unfortunately has to frame my face has been replaced. He literally sees me as a different person. Now, I am a person who is prone to whims, and so things like my next pair of glasses, or new shoes, or a haircut do tend to vastly differ from the old one. If I don’t warn him, these simple, everyday maintenance habits can cause him to panic.
When I came out as trans, I did so tentatively. I read a story by the Mutual Breakup and felt all kinds of feelings: confusion; terror; kinship; loneliness; dissociation. When I brought these things to my husband, he didn’t quite know how to respond. We agreed that I should go to a support group and explore this idea further, but left it at that. After more recon and research, I did reach the conclusion that I am mentally a man, and was able to admit to myself and to him that there was a large dissonance between how I saw myself and how I actually, physically looked. As I began to make changes, he began to grow scared, confused, weary, and angry. He opposed my physical transition, and was a total ass about things like my asking to be referred to as male, my attempts to rename myself, and finally, to cut my hair. My transition caused a huge ruckus at home as well, and I desperately needed his support; support he wasn’t able to provide.
We went through three separate rounds of counseling. He was trying, however small that effort felt, to accept me. We didn’t want to leave each other and stayed together in the hopes that he would be able to. It took a long time, more than three years, but he was finally able to first call me “Red”, and to tell me he understood my need for FTM top surgery, in February of this past year. We scheduled and put a down payment on my top surgery in March. By our wedding in June, he was using solely male pronouns and calling me his husband.
I don’t know what happened to make everything click into place for him, but it did. One day, when we were sitting in the office of our old house, with our desk chairs next to each other, he suddenly whirled towards me and said, “I think I get it, now. You’ll still be you.” I asked him to clarify, afraid he didn’t mean what I was hoping he did, and he explained that after my surgery, he finally knew I would be the same. I would look different, and all of my legal documentation would be different, but I would still be the man—yes, man—that he fell in love with.
I mentioned the Mutual Breakup a little during the last story, and would now like to share this part of my life. While the Mutual Breakup was the one to propose a termination of contact, I, in turn, agreed… Although this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a mourning of the loss.
This time around, the friendship was with someone I met while in college. The Mutual Breakup was a person I felt drawn to from the start. We had one class in common, but didn’t talk at all, until outside events forced us together. I quickly grew to like them, and they supported me while I came out to my family and then-boyfriend (now husband) as a transman. They helped me to cope with my churning, mixed-up feelings and gender disassociation. As you can probably guess, the bulk of the time we were friends was a pretty dismal period in my life, characterized by depression, suicidal thoughts, and my quickly-depleting will to do anything but sulk and clumsily assert my newfound right to masculinity.
We bonded over shared ideals and worries; life experiences and continued misfortunes. I enjoyed the time we spent together: hiking, going to bars, and writing in libraries or cafes. These were things I had always yearned to do, but couldn’t find any like-minded compadres with which to share these pastimes. While I knew the Mutual Breakup’s feelings about my boyfriend’s unsupportiveness and my then-resolve to distance myself from my family, I didn’t realize these things would ultimately drive us so far apart.
A month before my wedding I got The Email. That’s what we call it; my husband and I. Because I did marry my husband. Because I love my husband. Because my husband’s feelings and support concerning my situation had changed so much during the two months before The Email, and because they are still evolving even now. He chose of his own free will to stay with me and to try to change, and then to pay for my FTM top surgery, to stay by my side, to sit—anxious—in the waiting room during the operation. He chose to be the first one there when I awoke; when I walked those first few steps as a legal man from the operating table itself to the recuperating area, groggy—and in what was maybe the most searing physical pain I’ve ever felt in my life. So when the choice came—a choice that to me felt like it was between my soul mate and my best friend, it tore me wide open.
As the Mutual Breakup is my most recently lost friend, I remember writing to this person that I couldn’t lose any more friends. I felt as though I was moving towards what were going to be some of the best years of my life and that I suddenly found myself almost alone. All of the people I had put so much time and energy into were hemorrhaging from my life. And it felt lonely.
And on that note, my message: not all friendships will work out, but they’re still an important part of your personal growth. You can learn something from everyone, no matter how dissimilar they may seem. It can be daunting to meet new people, but each encounter is a chance to discover, to help, and to become a better you. While it can be more fun to have friends with similar interests, the most important characteristics—my Big Three—of true friends are mutual supportiveness, caring, and loyalty. I personally enjoy the company of others who are humorous, adventurous, and individualistic, but I realize that those qualities don’t necessarily make someone a good match. The Big Three are the only things necessary to sustain a relationship—the rest is just icing on the cake.
After all of the different types of people I have met, I still consider myself to be a loyal and caring individual. I want to try again with every chance to form meaningful relationships with the people who enter my life. I don’t have as many offline opportunities, theses days, but I am trying. I joined Meetup a few months ago, and have attended a few NaNoWriMo write-ins hoping to meet people with my interests. And when it comes down to it, I still care for all of my past friends. They served me well when they were happy with me, but when I made my own choices they quickly disappeared.
I will always care for all of my past friends and wish them luck in their future endeavors, even if our paths never cross again. Because—when it comes down to it—that’s what being a friend truly means to me: to loyally support and care about others, and to try—again and again—to reach out your hand with hope and cordiality to those who can affect great change in yourself.