Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:12 am
Today I'm preparing to go to a women's event. I don't even know how to describe it. I was invited by someone I've met and shared a lunch with but don't know well. The group of women (I don't know how many, and I don't know any of them) will meet at her home. We will watch a webcast and, I suppose, talk about it. There will be brunch involved. We're all supposed to bring something to share for the brunch. I'm taking a loaf of strawberry bread that Rachel made.
I'm feeling very insecure about it. Not an unusual experience for me. I already feel sort of dorky about going to be in a room with a bunch of women I don't know. I always feel insecure and inadequate in situations like that. I worry that they won't like the bread or that it's an inadequate offering or that it's wrong of me to take something that Rachel made rather than making something myself. I'm nervous that I won't be dressed right. I worry that they'll judge me because of my car. I'm afraid they'll all know each other — they at least all know the hostess, because she invited them all — and I'll feel left out. I'm afraid that they'll see how unspiritual I am and I'll feel uncomfortable because they'll talk in the religious platitudes that drive me crazy. I'm afraid nobody will like me.
I don't want to be the needy one in the group. I want to be the strong and helpful and accomplished one. I want friends, but I want to be sought, rather than to be seeking. Always. I want people to want to be my friend. I guess this is the consequence of a friendship that wasn't really. When I reach out to people, even if they respond positively, I feel like they're just humoring me and I'm imposing on them. How silly is that? How many other women feel that way?
Image by Benjamin Earwicker
I wrote the words above in my journal on Saturday morning as I was preparing to go to an event that I appreciated so much being invited to, but was so afraid of attending. A writer I know published a blog post recently about how women often hurt each other. I know I've done it to others, and I've felt it myself. The fear of rejection is so strong that it keeps many of us hiding behind carefully constructed walls. We pretend that we have everything under control, that all is well, even when it's not. (And, truth be told, even in the most fabulous life — and I acknowledge that mine is pretty great — sometimes things are out of control, not well.) The fear of rejection is so powerful sometimes. Like today, when before I left the house to go to this get together I said goodbye to my family with the old (probably apocryphal) gladiator's phrase: We who are about to die salute you. I was joking, of course. Sort of.
Of course, the experience was not nearly as awful as I feared it might be. The women were kind and friendly. There were only seven of us, so it wasn't a scary-big group. We each shared a little about who we are and what we do. And there were flashes of transparency, like when someone admitted that she felt intimidated by the rest of us. All of us seem to be in transitional phases to one extent or another, feeling a little off balance, a little vulnerable. At the end, we traded email addresses and blog URLs and talked about staying in touch.
Whether we do or not, I'm glad I went. I still wonder if there's someone out there who'll want to be my friend — the kind of friend I can be real with and feel safe. The kind of friend I've thought I had in the past (but found out I was wrong and not safe at all). The kind of friend that I want to be to others. I tell myself that it's busy schedules that make connecting so difficult, and that it's not just that I'm fundamentally unlikeable and unworthy of friendship. Sometimes, though, I wonder.
What I thought about as I left the event, what I thought about throughout the rest of the day, is the very real possibility that I'm not the only one who feels inadequate and unlovely, who's hoping that even at this stage of my life it's possible to find a true friend. I'm not looking for someone who thinks I'm fabulous, but someone who sees that I'm not, and likes me anyway.
Regardless, I'm at a place in my life where I'm just not willing to play pretend anymore. If there's a chance that there are others out there who are feeling the same, maybe they're waiting, too, for somebody to give them permission to be real. As brutally risky as it feels to me, I've decided that, as best I can, I'll go first.