You’ve Got A Fri-END In Me- Part Two

Hi there and welcome to Part Two of my You’ve Got a Fri-END In Me series.

It feels weird calling it a series as that wasn’t the original intention. But as I began to write and really break down the relationship dynamics I’ve had in my life, I realized that keeping it a single blog post, would be just way too long. So far I have four parts outlined.

Part One outlined the foundation of my life up until high school. This part, Part Two, will cover what happened next, then my romantic relationships, codependency and letting friendship and romance cross over into blurred unhealthy lines and boundaries. Part Three will be some friends I made in my twenties and my former friend Spike. Hopefully Part Four will be the last, about Knucklehead, and possible strategies and ways that I can learn how to be a friend and outlining different types of friendships. Also what a healthy friendship is verses toxic ones, how to establish my own boundaries with others and enforce them. How to love others in a platonic way while still loving myself. That being said, let’s get into Part Two of You’ve Got A Fri-END In Me.

We last left off with Leah moving back to Los Angeles.

Before I jump off from there though, it’s really important to explain why and how much I enjoyed being alone. The simplest way to explain it is in a quote by Betty Davis who simply said: “I love to be alone, but I hate being lonely.”

I grew up as an only child even though my father went on to have three other children after me. I call it being the oldest only child. My world was small but at the same time, it wasn’t. At least it never felt small. I lived with my mother and my grandparents along with three cats and two dogs. They were my entire world and meant everything to me.

My mother often worked over forty hours a week, usually ranging between fifty to sixty and during this time I stayed next door at my grandparents. On any given night, I’d alternate going with my grandparents to one of their jobs. My grandmother was a nurse at UCLA and my grandpa, a World History professor at LA Valley College but more often than not I’d accompany my grandpa to his job.

I loved these trips. Most nights I sat on the floor of the back of the classroom and fussed at him every time he used a “bad” word or phrase. “Fuck the Germans,” was a popular phrase of his. I’d scowl and shout, “Poppy!” at him which always resulted in a giant grin on his face as he cheekily shrugged and said “Oops!” An array of giggles would emerge from the room and he’d go back to speaking as if no interruption had happened. After class he’d take me to the local bar till midnight where I’d pass out on the sticky plastic vinyl seats.

My grandfather introduced me to my first computer, how to type and eventually the internet but before he did, I’d spend hours upon hours unchaperoned exploring the neighborhood I lived in called Westwood. I knew my limitations, I knew I wasn’t allowed to cross major streets such as Wilshire or Westwood Blvd even though I ways always tempted. When I really wanted to test my short little legs, I’d push myself in one direction to Sepulveda blvd and Beverly Hills in another. These were the boundaries of my kingdom. Into my teens and well into my internet days, these boundaries expanded to UCLA and Westwood village. My favorite place was Borders and I’d huddle myself into a corner with a pile of books and stay there as long as I could get away with. Afterwards, I’d stop by the 7-11 for a Slurpee and stare at the architecture of all the homes.

When I was at home I’d play with my toys, watch endless amounts of cartoons, play video games and eventually yes, went on the internet. I also loved to lay on the rooftop of the house next to me and just stare at the stars with my Walkman where I unabashedly listened to Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. I liked my life and I liked how it was.

This didn’t mean when I was at school, I didn’t wish to be cool or popular.

It was after my friendship ended with Shay that I really grasped that trying to be popular, wasn’t going to happen, even though it’s hard to explain why or how I knew this.

Maybe it was the fact that up to this point, I had only been invited to one other school kid’s birthday party. Her name had been Stephanie and it was obvious it was one of those, I have to invite her, kind of parties. It was a slumber party and was the first time I had watched the show Sabrina the Teenage Witch and learned what skinny dipping was. I pretended like I knew what they were talking about, nodding along and agreeing but I mostly had no idea.

What I remember from that party was the next morning I went home to find out my cat Patches died. I was furious with my mother for not pulling me out of the party so I could have had a chance to say goodbye. As an adult, I understand that she was only trying to protect me but what I also understand, is that my mother denied me the opportunity to learn about mourning and the process of grief. Which is probably why a few years later when my grandmother died, I found myself unable to cry. Or mourn. Instead I shut down and went nearly catatonic for a year where I completely missed my freshman year of high school.

But, as far as my classmates went, while I was curious about the concept of being cool or popular, I just didn’t care. I found my classmates strange, each one had a complete different personality and I found it safer to observe rather than be in the fray. I liked Rori and when I had to, Leah. For me, that was enough.

Going back to Portland.

Life returned to normal, which is to say, I still stayed in my room more like 95% of the time rather than the 80%.

During the winter Leah visited, I invited my internet boyfriend Tony from Seattle, over to stay for the weekend. My mom was not happy to say the least. In 2003, inviting people from the internet over to your place was not considered normal. We had been talking online or “dating” for a year at this point and had met once secretly at the Seattle airport. I had been visiting my dad in Calgary and on my way back home, had to change planes. I convinced Tony to meet me at the airport while I waited, which I ended up missing my connecting flight because of this. My mother didn’t know why I missed my connecting flight until at least a year later.

For the next several years, Tony was the only one I let myself be vulnerable with.

Like I wrote in the beginning of Part One, I liked people but, I just didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t trust anyone that wasn’t a person online with my most inner thoughts and secrets, my hopes and dreams, what I liked, my sense of humor, etc. My mother always had her own agenda and Leah was so different that while I would occasionally open up to her with little things, she had so many friends I just didn’t see how I could be special to her. I subconsciously was still holding onto the notion that you could only have one best friend and I couldn’t be hers. When it came to my high school friends, in particular Veronica, Maxie and Julie, it was more or less I didn’t know if they would understand me if I opened up to them who I was. I probably got the closest to Veronica, with our talks over books, poetry and all things French.

It’s not as easy for me to open up and be completely vulnerable as I make it look. I’m constantly afraid.

This fear stems comes in the form of the grande faux pas I always make around people, and faux pas that I know I will inevitably make. It was a matter of when, not if, I was going to fall short of a person’s expectations to where they gave up on me and decided to no longer be my friend. Just like Andra had done. I also had no idea how to be a friend to someone.

For example, the first Christmas at my high school, I bought Veronica art supplies and she bought me the first book of the Mists of Avalon series. We exchanged gifts in the middle of a very noisy classroom and as we sat next to each other chaos of the holiday excitement roamed around us. I’m pretty sure I was actually trying to take a nap when I felt her nudge me, saying that she had a Christmas present for me. I was touched. Just because I wanted to give her a gift, I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I didn’t want to offend her by opening the present right there because I was taught it was rude to open presents in front of guests. Turns out, this is also true in certain cultures like Japan. So I sincerely thanked her and put the present, which obviously felt like a book, in the corner of my desk, excited for when class was over so I could open it up. I found out later from either that she had been upset that I didn’t open the present in front of her. The exact outcome I had been trying to avoid had ended up happening. I did thank her in person after we had returned to school from the holidays and how much I was enjoying the series.

But it was exactly those faux pas I was terrified of happening. It always felt inevitable no matter who I was around that along with being afraid of my friends not understanding who I was, I was afraid of accidentally hurting them.

That being said, having a boyfriend felt like it would be a different experience. Which… it was.

It wasn’t so much that I thought a boyfriend had to love me but as every romantic comedy from the nineties and early two-thousands taught me, being vulnerable is what made you lovable. So I let myself be vulnerable… ish. I say ish because for about six years, during our weekend visits, online chats and phone conversations, I was completely myself. When Tony and I moved in together when I was 21, I realized we were not the same people. There were a lot of problems in our relationship to where even though I was physically there with him, I spent a year emotionally checking out of the relationship. I moved back home in 2009 where we went back to long distance dating for six months. Everything always just felt like it was going backwards between us instead of forward. As each month passed, particularly getting to the holidays, there were days we went a few days at at time without speaking. He would be upset over this while I was more relieved.

I’d guilt trip myself over this because on the one hand I wanted to break up because of unhappy I was. But… at the same time, I’d convinced myself that no one else would ever love me and I was lucky to have him. It was selfish… and unfair to do to Tony. He deserved better. We broke up in January of 2010 because I had cheated with the first man who had given me attention, a friend from high school who wanted to meetup and hangout. I felt emotionally sick at myself for what I had done. I didn’t have the heart to tell Tony the full context of what had happened. I was a coward but I also didn’t want to break his heart, and I knew this would. I didn’t sleep at all that night and the next day, I gave as loose context as I could, that he deserved better and that I wanted to break up. Despite everything, we wanted to try and still be friends. A few weeks later, he came down for that Valentines Day, a big mistake, where we hooked up but my feelings remained the same, there wasn’t any.

After this, I really wanted to reconnect with other people from high school. I convinced Veronica and Maxie (Julie had moved out of state) to go out drinking a handful of times and to sing karaoke together. Our hanging out never with further than that and ended as quickly as it started.

This is where I started feeling like the Betty Davis quote, I don’t mind being alone but I hate feeling lonely. I was lonely.

I turned to dating, hoping to fill in the gap where there was this inexplicable sadness was. I went on date after date trying to fill a void for months. It was during this time where I got pregnant and my mother coerced me to have an abortion. Even though I was 23, I was mentally so lost. I didn’t feel as if I had a choice and felt forced into making a decision I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to make. When I woke up afterwards from the anesthesia I cried. Then threw up and cried some more.

Unfortunately, this didn’t slow me down as far as trying to meet guys and going out on dates. When my mother called me a knocked up whore who she didn’t care lived or died, I knew I needed to get my life in order. (My mother denies ever saying this to me but like the saying goes: the ax forgets but the tree remembers) By the middle of July, I got a job in retail as a cashier and even tried to enroll at the Art Institute for Web Design but I couldn’t get the finances in order by the deadline for school. I still went out on dates during this time but it did start to slow down. The dates began to get weirder, which do make for fun story times, but I wasn’t having that much fun. That is until I met Chris.

Chris and I met on the dating website Plenty of Fish and we exchanged long emails that could almost be called letters for about two weeks. Veronica was throwing a birthday party at the very end of July and I suggested to Chris that we get a late lunch, a few hours before the party. We met at a sushi bar and since we were having such a great time, coffee at Starbucks next door. I wouldn’t call the date magical but it was simply, fun, that I ended up inviting him to Veronica’s party. I was able to open up and be vulnerable with him in a way that I had never been able to with anyone before in a long time. Possibly even more so than Tony because we were able to relate with similar life experiences that Tony never could. Six months later we were not only in a relationship but he was my best friend.

The thing was though, I wasn’t in love with him. I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him. Apart of me was disappointed because I wanted my cake and to eat it too but by this point, I had attached every part of my codependent self as apart of him. He was broken but so was I. On the surface, we had a lot of differences. We liked different music, different movies, different books but it was almost because we were so different, we were able to show a different perspective to the other. We would walk all over downtown Portland, OR and we would spend hours upon hours talking about nothing. We could find entertainment in the simplest of things that didn’t cost any money. A lot of time we just people watched on the train. I loved every moment we spent together and it was never quite enough.

When we met, Chris wasn’t working. A few weeks in, in I helped him get a job as a deli clerk at my job but he quit a week later. He said that his boss told him that, “someday he “Chris” will learn how to make a sandwich.” In self righteous indignation, he no called no showed and never went back. I should have taken it as a red flag but instead I laughed and it became an inside joke for years. For the next year, Chris claimed to look for work while I paid for everything. He lived in his best friends apartment who paid the rent and bills. During the week I’d almost live there with them and only went home on the weekends, like a stray homeless cat.

During this time, I met my first group of friends from work. I’ll just call them Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach.

Mario and Luigi were a nineteen year old gay couple whom I had gotten close with. We shared a similar bus commute and we’d joke around and talk after work. One evening Mario mentioned how he and Luigi were looking for an apartment but couldn’t afford one on their own. I said the same and the next thing you know, we were apartment hunting together as roommates. Princess Peach lived in an apartment behind work and found us a cheap two-bedroom one bath in the complex. It was supposed to be just the three of us, Mario, Luigi and I moving into the complex. During this time, the apartment complex Chris lived in lease was expiring. His best friend did not want to renew and instead moved back in with his parents, Chris uninvited.

Chris had no where to go. He didn’t have a job or a dime to his name.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want Chris to come with me, we were a couple in every sense of the terms of boyfriend and girlfriend but, the news was dropped on me last minute. I felt stressed asking my new friends as everything felt so tentative as it was. The friendship was well… fragile. Then there was the factor of Chris wasn’t working. I was frustrated at paying for everything. It was fine when I didn’t have any bills but now, I had rent and utilities of my own to think of. I loved Chris but well… I wanted friends. I made every excuse under the book for him. I’m not going to give all the blame the downfall of my friendships with these people on Chris but, it definitely played a large toll. A lot of the time he was a giant wedge that separated us. That being said it was me who put the nail in the coffin on those friendships. I’ll explain more about those in Part 3.

The problem with Chris was he had PTSD. I’m not here to talk about the cause of his PTSD but only certain side effects, like his inability to hold down a job for long periods of time. I would have understood if he would have tried to find or accept any remote bit of help for his condition. After the first time I saw him quit his first job, the one I had gotten for him in the deli, it would only be the first of many times this would happen over, and over again. I’d support him, find him a job somewhere, only for him to quit a handful of weeks later. Five years in, I was over it and I told him to get out. We had been living together alone in our own apartment at this point. I told him to get out, I didn’t care where he went, just to move the hell out.

Suicide Trigger warning*

I told Chris to get out, that it was over, and then left for work. He wasn’t there when I got home but I had this nauseating feeling that something bad had happened, or was going to happen. So I pulled out my phone and must have dialed his number at least twenty times before he picked up. He was walking around at a nearby park contemplating killing himself. I talked him into coming home and I held him that night. The next day we went to the emergency room together, hoping they would involuntarily check him in but since he hadn’t tried anything, they didn’t. I felt both stuck and overwhelmed. It was more than I could handle on my shoulders. I didn’t want to be in a relationship with this man but at the same time I had this terrorizing fear that if I left him, he would kill himself. I spent another five years working through non traditional therapy before I could realize that any self harm he did to himself was not my fault.

**Trigger Ending**

When I broke up with Chris in 2020, it was like this giant weight had been taken off my chest. I finally felt free and wanted to put myself back out there. I didn’t want a relationship but I did want a little casual fun. It had been years since I had uh… gotten any and well.. I wanted some. Enter Ross Alderman

I met Ross on Tinder because I had heard through the many media stereotypes that, that was where you went for a hookup. Except I didn’t get a hookup with Ross. He told me all the right things that I wanted to hear and I fell for them hook line and sinker. In essence, he love bombed me. A few days in I had confessed that I liked him and giddy as a school girl, he said so too. A week later we were professing in a Motel 6 our love for each other.

The thing was, I didn’t want to be his girlfriend. We had known each other for only a handful of days and even though we had dropped the L word, I wanted to take the relationship slow. I wasn’t even moved out of my now ex boyfriend’s house, that’s how quickly this all went. I didn’t see the problem, the need for everything to be so rushed. Most of my own family hadn’t known about my breakup with Chris, I wasn’t ready to go official or public. I wasn’t ashamed of Ross, I just needed time. Chris and I had been in a ten year relationship and I still had a lot of issues to deal with from that. Ross was living in Beaufort, Georgia with his parents at the time and slowing things down to focus on ourselves just seemed practical.

We only ended up meeting in person once more. The second time we met, we rented another room at Motel 6. Unbeknownst to me, five days before we met, Ross had listed himself as being in a relationship on Facebook with a woman named Abby although you couldn’t tell he was in a ‘relationship’ with another woman when we remet. We weren’t just having sex although there was a lot of that. Both times we saw each other, we did leave the room. The first time we met, we went to a park where he pulled out his phone and we danced in the middle of a field to cheesy 90’s love songs. The second time we met we spent a few hours at Folly Beach. Both times felt like scenes out of the TV show The Bachelor. Also during the second time we met, for his supposedly being in a ‘relationship’ with another woman, we took a photo together and I introduced him to a couple coworkers at my job. In other words, he was a player.

At this point, I still didn’t know about Abby and I still wanted to take things slow between us, not being in an official relationship. At least not yet. I was interested at the possibility of later on being something official but I liked what we had right then. We had been texting everyday for three weeks at this point and after the second time we met, they started to slow down. We still talked on the phone but it was less. I had thought he was being respectful although my intuition was starting to feel… funny. At the end of the third week, I noticed a woman posting on his wall. I’m not the jealous type but I was curious, who is she? A friend? A cousin? A coworker? You can imagine my shock to see her listing herself as his girlfriend.

I went to his profile and it was confirmed. To say I was heartbroken is an understatement but I was more upset at the date when they listed themselves in a relationship. Five days prior to when Ross and I met the second time. Which also meant Ross had taken the extra step to unlist the public announcement Facebook makes when you list your relationship status. So I wouldn’t see it. I was very angry. I was angry at having to find out the way I did instead of being well… a side piece. All because I had said I wasn’t ready to be in anything official. Would he had done the same to Abby if I had said yes? I think so.

I didn’t handle my anger on how I took the news very well but I did learn from it. I felt like John Mulaney explained about murdering someone. I’m not going to do it but I totally get it. It also sparked my creative writing with poetry again. I hadn’t been able to write poetry in years. I wrote five poems, I Wish- A Poem for Ross, Full Circle, You Thought, I Still Wish, More Ramblings of a Heartbroken Woman. I also learned about love bombing.

I bounced back really quickly after Ross, realizing that nothing we had was real. None of what had happened over that month was what real love was.

I re-signed myself back up for Tinder to prove this to myself and for my original intent, to meet people for quick and easy hookups. I didn’t have a hard time (that’s what she said) finding this in the slightest. What I did learn was that in October, November and part of December, I was enjoying the conversations of the people I met as much as the casual hookup. I learned that I needed both a mental stimulation as well as a physical.

Apart of this was because yes, again I was lonely. The only difference was that this time, I wasn’t going to compromise and I wasn’t going to fall hook line and sinker to the first person who said something nice to me.

I was going to be open and put myself out there but at the same time I was going to still protect my heart by being guarded.

Which I did, even with Fishsticks until Lee. I’ve already covered Lee extensively with his own four part series to keep writing about it here. It’s already been a year since the last time I saw Lee in person and let myself be truly that vulnerable with someone. Which I’m fine with.

I’ve been enjoying my undefined and unofficial relationship with The New Yorker for the last seven months now. I’ll be sad when it eventually ends but I don’t think I’ll be heartbroken. I’m always honest with my feelings and I did tell him a couple of times that I love him but there was a clear distinction that it wasn’t in love. He didn’t say it back but he didn’t need to to understand that the feeling is mutual. I can tell that he loves and cares for me back in the little things. The way he asks me how I am, checking in to make sure I am both physically and mentally ok. I can tell every time I can make him laugh and he rolls his eyes or calls me a dork. I can tell every time we do get physically close wither it is sexual or platonic. I can feel his love…. and I don’t just mean through his pants. I can tell that when the nature of our friendship at some point gets redefined, shifts and changes, that we’ll still care about the other.

But that is it for Part Two. It’s a little heavier of a topic than Part One and to be completely honest, will only get more difficult to write about. They also might possibly get more triggering for people to read. Think of it like a Harry Potter series, with each movie getting less and less innocent. I still do hope you enjoyed this and look forward to reading the next part.

Until Next Time


Sarah Smiles

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