We all want to sit at the cool kids’ table. We all have #squadgoals and want “our people” and matching friendship bracelets. In the jungle of mommyhood, we want membership in something. We want a buddy, a pal, someone to sit next to, someone to help us out when we need it, someone to buoy us up when we’re having a bad day and maybe write us a note in sparkly pen once in a while (don’t pretend a glitter note wouldn’t make your day a hundred times better).
But friendship as an adult can be just as confusing as friendship when you’re a teen. It can be as hard, as weird, as difficult to negotiate, and even as heartbreaking.
You can feel left out.
I feel left out a lot. As an adult who homeschools her kids and spends her time doing things most people don’t care about, friendship as an adult is hard work for me. I have to expend a lot of energy caring about other people’s stuff rather than having my own stuff cared about. I’ve kind of resigned myself to the idea that in the high school that is adulthood, I’m still the total dork, the nerd, the one into all the stuff no one else is, and unlike high school, there’s no college to grow up into and find a bunch of like-minded souls. I’m still different. Fuck. I thought I’d grow out of that.
It can be hard to meet up.
In high school, everyone was super busy all the time. We all had band practice and drama club and college essays and homework. If you got to hang with your friends on the weekends, you counted yourself lucky. Friendship as an adult? Kind of the same thing. You see your friends at parent stuff, like you saw your friends in class, and if you don’t, well, say bye to that particular friendship, unless you both make a ton of special effort to make it happen.
It can be hard to know if it’s working.
Friendship as an adult is fraught with the same stupid questions I remember from high school. Does she like me or doesn’t she like me? Are we friends or not friends? Is she talking about me behind my back? Does she really want me around or is she just nice to everyone? Wow, I thought once I grew up, all friendship questions would be answered. Hard no. Still exactly the fucking same. Friendship as an adult feels just like friendship as a teenager, only I keep pausing to wipe people’s snot or yell at them to stop beating each other with sticks.
The gossip mill is just as vicious.
In high school, we lived in terror of people talking about us. Now? Nothing’s changed, except I live in terror that they’ll talk shit about my kids, too. Friendship as an adult comes with the same trust issues friendship as a teenager did, except you have to toss kids into the mix, and that makes everything more fraught. Everyone wants to talk about their kids, but you’re worried if you tell Sally Ann you started Billy on ADHD meds, she’ll tell Karen about it, and Karen will tell Carol, and Karen and Carol will nod at each other and say, “Uh-huh, well, that’s why Billy’s such a little asshole.”
You worry about who gets invited to what party.
Before, you worried about getting invites to house parties and proms. Now it’s all about the birthday parties and parents’ nights out and MLM parties. Friendship as an adult means stressing that Karen’s kid is having a birthday party at the trampoline park and Billy never got an invite, what the fuck? Why not? Did she not have enough space, did she not think of you, or does Karen secretly hate you? What about those parents’ nights out? If you get included, you pray you have someone to sit with, and you don’t hunch weirdly against the wall all night, trying and failing to make conversation with different social groups you don’t fit into.
You have to remember all the drama.
There’s always drama in any social group. And you have to remember it all. Guess what? That happened with friendship in high school, and it’s still the same when you negotiate friendship as an adult. I once had a dear friend who hated another dear friend, and I had to remember that I could talk to one about another, who remained fairly indifferent, but I couldn’t talk to the other one about the other girl, because she hated her guts. These were grown-ass women. People unfortunately have to remember that I hate Jennifer because I think she’s a raging bitch. I think Jennifer’s a raging bitch because Jennifer totally shuts me out and thinks I’m crazy, both for reasons unknown, so we refuse to be at any social events at the same time. We are also grown-ass women.
Welcome to friendship as an adult. You didn’t think, when you were a teenager, it was actually friendship for the rest of your life.
I’m told nursing-home drama is about the same.