We are so happy to bring you a brand new friendship essay from one of our HerStories Project contributors, Vicky Willenberg. Vicky blogs at The Pursuit of Normal, and her essay, Big Girl Friendships, is featured in our upcoming book, which will be available in just two weeks! We bet you will be able to relate to the post she is sharing with us today:
I’m going rogue. I’m going to take a cultural norm and smack it upside the head. Am I going to challenge gender roles and the unreasonable expectations thrust upon women? Um, not really. Am I going to admit that I often forget to turn off the water while brushing my teeth and I don’t even feel badly about the wasted water? Nope.
I… am going to call you. Well, not all of you. But I am definitely calling some of you.
I am breaking the cultural chains that have tried to convince me that I cannot and should not call my friends. The same chains that have bound me to my computer, iPad and smartphone and have brainwashed me into believing that I don’t have time to make phone calls. Even more tragic is the fact I’ve convinced myself that I don’t need to call, that my current means of communication are enough.
But the truth is, they aren’t enough. So I will be making some changes. I won’t be texting, Facebooking or emailing you. There will be no tweeting, Instagramming or Google Circling. Well, there might still be some of that, but that’s not all there will be.
The truth is, friends, I miss you. I miss the sound of your voice. I miss the way you roll your eyes when you’re telling me something your mother or mother-in-law did. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you flail your arms as you share another story about your kid and how he just won’t pick up his clothes! And I miss nodding in solidarity when you heave a sigh and tell me how you and your husband feel more like roommates than lovers these days.
I want to Laugh Out Loud with you and even Roll On The Floor Laughing. And when you tell me something utterly ridiculous, I want to Shake My Head. I mean physically shake my head with you… in the same room!
I know it won’t be easy. We’ve become accustomed to this detached form communicating. It will be a tough habit to break largely because we did not arrive here intentionally. Someone once told me that the best way to cook a frog is not to drop him in a pot of boiling water, but to put him in a pot of tepid water and set the heat to low. Little by little the temperature will rise until the poor little sucker is cooking to death. Unbeknownst to me, over the last few years I think I’ve slowly boiled my friendships to death.
When I had my first child, I regularly chatted with girlfriends on the phone because my son was confined. I could strap him into the swing or the bouncy seat and he happily stared at his feet or gnawed on his fist. But those days passed much more quickly than I expected. Soon, he was on the move and all bets were off. The minute I got on the phone he decided it was time to attempt climbing the stairs for the first time or riding the dog. Talking on the phone was a bit like this…
Next came the parenting phenomenon known as The Magnetic Phone began. The second I picked up the phone, my children were drawn to me like magnets with life or death questions such as, “Can you read this for me?” or “Do you know where my Lego guy is?” and my personal favorite, “Can I have a snack?”
The next phase of parenting brought on the harsh reality that the “little ears” that rode around in my car were now big ears attached to an even bigger mouth; and unless I wanted my business discussed with the entire third grade or announced loudly in the aisles of Target, I needed to conduct all “adult conversations” after hours, in private.
And so, it became virtually impossible to have meaningful conversations with my friends. Slowly and surely I adapted and the Age of Texting dawned.
I’ve come to realize, though, that this really isn’t communicating because “communication” by definition is the “exchanging of information.” There was no “exchanging” going on. I was more or less dumping information as quickly as I could in a tiny window of time.
I equate texting to Grammatical Photo Bombing. While stopped at a red light I am furiously texting the latest events of my life as fast as my fat thumbs and autocorrect will allow. I breathe a sigh of relief that I finished before the light turned green, hit send and I’m on my way. You, on the other hand, are not sitting at a red light. You are driving your child to soccer, while mentally planning dinner, reminding yourself to sign that permission slip and trying to figure out when you’re going to fold that clean load of laundry that has been sitting in the basket for 4 days. Suddenly BOOM! You’ve got a text- smack in the middle of your life. Like the goofy guy who waves and flashes a giant smile in the background of your photo, interrupting the romantic atomosphere, I’ve just interrupted your groove with a 2 paragraph synopsis of a recent altercation I had with a friend. So you read it, plan your reply because you are a law abiding citizen and don’t text at red lights (unlike me) and get around to texting me when you have time- anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days later.
This, friends, is not communicating. Whatever it is, it’s not enough for me. My friendships are worth more than 140 characters, the length of a red light, or the 11 minutes I sit in the carpool pick up line at school. YOU, my friends, are worth more.
I wholeheartedly believe we were designed for community. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, the need to connect and share is ingrained in us. Our technology based lives trick us into believe that Text Bombing is connecting.
I don’t feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen you because I saw a picture of you and your sweet family at the pumpkin patch just yesterday. Although sweet, that 3 second glimpse of you doesn’t strengthen our friendship nor does it tell me anything other than where you are. But I want to know how you are. And I need to tell you how I am.
Pictures and fun updates have their value of course. But I don’t necessarily need my friends to share in the fun happy times nearly as much as I need you when my life is in the crapper and I’m drowning in my over-scheduled, over-carpooled, over-guilted life. And no one’s posting that stuff on Facebook and if they are, they’re certainly not getting any “likes” for it.
Simply put, the current trend of drive-by communicating does not satisfy my soul.
The women I have chosen to call “friends” are amazing, complex people. They are women who enrich my life and help me be my best self. Our friendships are beautiful and deep and fulfilling. And in order to glean all that they have to offer, I must invest the time to connect- truly connect, in a way that is meaningful.
So I’m taking back my friendships. I’m restructuring my priorities and rediscovering what made you all my favorite people. I’m going to call you. I’m going to stutter and mumble and giggle and drone on and on and on, on your answering machine. And if you have 5 minutes to call me back- awesome. And if you don’t- well, that’s OK too because I know how busy you are and how hectic your schedule is. But I want you to know in a way that’s meaningful to me, that YOU are important to me and I’d love to hear your voice when you’ve got some time.
Being a rebel feels pretty good. You should join me.
That’s just my normal.