Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and have her nonsense respected.
My friend C sent me a message last night, “Write about this dammit!” Seems C had her knickers in a twist about friend who was acting, shall we say, a wee bit snotty about a lifestyle choice she made that differed from my friend’s. Now, we’ve all been there – that tough spot between a rock and friend, where you disagree on such a basic level that for that moment (hell, maybe longer) you question your ability to remain friends.
I have friends who are wildly different than I am – in at least a couple of ways. Religion is one of the most obvious. Now, I’m Jewish and though I’m not the most observant member of the tribe, I do celebrate the big holidays and there is always room at my table for those who want to experience that or just have a good meal (all Jewish holidays include a rockin’ meal – even if it’s after a day of fasting.) I belong to a Temple and am
making sending mini-me to religious school. I am more religious than my parents – hell, more than my grandparents. I also recognize that having a tree in December bothers some of my Jewish friends but it’s how I was raised, I love the smell and celebratory feel. Most of my friends just roll their eyes and ignore me. Some tell me they hate that I do this. Maybe they talk about me behind my back but I don’t believe it’s weakened our friendship. A work friend is wildly offended by this. She believes it diminishes my religion and that mini-me will be confused and think that things other than Judaism are acceptable (Good grief, I hope so!) and ended the chat with, “But you have to do what is right for you.” I will admit, I wanted to smack the crap out of her. That conversation truly changed our perception of one another and likely changed the course of what was a young friendship.
Now C faced a different situation. Her friend is a homeschooler (one of the hottest topics - ever) and really laid it on thick about the superiority of that particular activity. C was made to feel like she wasn’t doing all that she could – or should - for her princess. Now, I totally get where C is coming from. On more than one occasion, I’ve been on the receiving end of a friend who feels just as passionately about their particular choice. When presented well, I’ve learned something new and maybe even changed something. But, more often than not, I just feel badly about myself and the choices I’ve made. Many, many of these discussions center around parenting, motherhood, discipline, schooling, etc. And really – it’s all hard, all our kids are crazy and we simply need to be more supportive of one another as parents, as mothers. (And really, if you don’t want me to judge me for nursing your kindergartner as they get ready to board the school bus than don’t judge me for not doing so.)
They say that no one makes you feel bad without your permission but I say that is bullshit. We place value on the opinions of our friends and family and while we don’t expect there to always be agreement, we do expect a modicum of respect, decency, courtesy and understanding. There is that old story about a teacher taking a piece of paper, wrinkling and squishing it up and then telling the kids to flatten it out. While they can make the paper flat (sort of) and use it appropriately (most of the time), it’s never the same. It's the same with the harsh words and judgments we use – especially towards our friends. We can say we’re sorry, we can “do what we believe is right” but we can never fully remove the sting – or the wrinkles – of those judgments.
Differences are good. I mean, imagine how boring it would be if our friends were just like us. What the hell would we talk about? How would our friends inspire us or teach us? How would we ever learn something new and dare I say it, better or even just different? It’s a fine line between embracing your differences and preaching. The former broadens your life, teaches you and enriches you. The latter is well – preachy, smarmy and usually, a tad bit hypocritical and a whole lot arrogant.
We may do things differently. We may believe differently. Maybe we will learn. Maybe we will change. Maybe it will reinforce that we are comfortable with what we have chosen. But more importantly, let’s not have our differences define us. We deserve better and so do our friends.