Friendship Pins

I spent most of yesterday at a family barbeque. Eight of my twelve nieces were there. They range in age from four to twenty. They all seem to like me. I’m not really sure why.

I was thinking about how a lot of my longest, most enduring, most quality friendships are with guys. I mention Michael and Jon a lot in these blogs, because they’re the ones that have put up with me the longest (going on 27 years now). Even as a kid, I didn’t surround myself with gaggles of girlfriends. I always preferred hanging out with boys. They were, in general, more accepting of my quirks and ideas of what was funny. (Of course, that eventually worked against me when I began to be “interested” in them, and I learned that the girl who will listen to Rush albums and talk movie monsters is not the girl to make out with at the back of the bus on field trips.)

Obviously, a lot of my inability to be completely open with other women (in person, anyway) stems from having been bullied — exclusively by girls — in my adolescent years. I’ll say it again: you carry this shit with you long after the events have transpired. It has been almost 30 years since the bullying stopped, but I still have very serious trust issues where other women are concerned. Forgive me, ladies, if I keep a whole lot of you at arm’s length until I know you won’t turn on me.

A couple of months ago, I wrote this:

Remember friendship pins? They were beaded safety pins that you’d give to each other and wear on the laces of your sneakers. Being fairly unpopular at 11 and 12 years old, I ended up making some for myself, not aware that I had a predilection for certain patterns and colors. I fooled no one. ‘NOBODY gave you those pins,’ one popular girl sneered at me, ‘Nobody likes you, and those pins are UGLY.’ From that point on, I kept my head down and prayed for the day I wouldn’t have to manufacture friends.

Yesterday I sat in a backyard somewhere in Andover, Massachusetts, surrounded by girls — my nieces — making these very same friendship pins. They completely accepted that I was there, and didn’t shut me out of their conversations. They told me about their favorite ice cream, which songs their neighborhood ice cream trucks played, why the ocean is sometimes better than the pool, and what they were doing at camp this summer. I reached into one of their bowls of beads and made myself a pin, and none of them stopped me. “Pretty!” “Ohhhh, those are the colors in the Irish flag!” “Cool!”

I wanted to tell them how much it meant for me to just sit there, doing these things that I was told I couldn’t do all those years ago.

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