In the course of one day, I traveled from the mountains of North Carolina, to the desert of Arizona, to the beaches of California, and I learned something profound: people will believe in the version of you that fits them.
The events that led to this epiphany were trivial, and I won’t recount them to you in their entirety, but here’s the gist. My trip to California came about because a friend invited me to go with her, another one of her friends, and her son. I’ve been friends with this girl for somewhere between three and four years now. We’ve shared similar trips before, and see each other on a near-weekly basis. And yet…
Hint 1 that I’m a Phantom: Friend says something to the effect of, “Some of us actually have to work at not being fat.” That comment made me really sad, for her and for our friendship – for her because the easiest way to hold onto the pounds is to believe that other people are just magically thin – for the friendship because she and I will never be close if she can’t empathize with my struggles. For the record, I weigh a lot. One hundred and ninety pounds a lot, which is probably at least a little bit more weight than she’s carrying, and while I concede that I look about thirty-five pounds lighter than I am, the reason I weigh so much is because I work out all the time and have wicked strong muscles. ALL THE TIME. And I work really hard, but my body is still not all that glorious.
Hint 2 that I’m a Phantom: Friend is having parenting issues with her 12-yr-old son. She’s in an on-going power-struggle with him and doesn’t believe he respects her… so she asks me what to do. I understand the line of thought. It considers that I get paid to know a little bit about interacting with kids, and thus might have something helpful. However, the single-parent thing is a completely different beast, and it doesn’t make any sense to ask a non-parent for parenting advice. Could I make a few relatively intelligent comments on the danger of feeding that power struggle they’re in? Sure. But there is no way I know enough to advise her on raising a young man with the humility to submit to authority, or the general character we hope and pray her son will grow into over the next five or ten years.
There were a few other things that made me believe this friend was perceiving my life as effortlessly sparkly, and I’m not sure what to do. I’ve been guilty of that same idolization of certain friends in my life. I thought Lauren had some sort of magical femininity manual that instructed her in the ways of dress and decorum and I wondered how Lisa Johnson managed to be pretty picture-perfect in nearly every aspect of life… so I can’t really blame this friend for feeling like other people have it sorted out while she’s stumbling, but it’s a bit frustrating for me. I want a friend who knows that I have a gelato and coffee addiction that adds up to about half of my daily intake of calories. And I want a friend who knows that I don’t know if I even want kids because they are SUCH a terrifying responsibility to me that I can’t imagine being so sacrificial. Otherwise, what am I to her except a phantom?
Of course, I can’t complain. I had a few days to check out museums, get salt water stuck in my ears, and take in a play put on in the Old Globe theater… It was a great trip for fun, culture and relaxation. It just wasn’t so great for friendship. 😦