What About Your Friends?

I’ve been feeling a little friend-less lately.

My sister-friend and I compared our cellphone’s recent history the other day and realized the only calls we get are from each other.

I have 556 “friends” on Facebook, but when I announced my baby girl’s birthday on my profile page a couple of weeks ago, only six “friends” liked my announcement (3 of them were family) and four different people left a little message.

I participate in twitter, follow 95 people and have 91 followers. But I just tweeted “crying over folks who ain’t crying over me. *deep breath and klonopin*” and got crickets back. I often feel ignored on my timeline. It’s the least satisfying social networking tool ever.

I have friends from friends from high school and college on the East Coast. I go out of my way to keep in touch, to attend special events, to let them know that I care. When they call, and ask, “Are you busy?” Even if I am, I drop it, and attend to what they need. Only one of those friends has come here to visit me in the last three years that I’ve been here in California.

Here, in Palo Alto, I know a lot of people. One group of friends are about 12-20 years older than me, with children slightly older than mine, well-off mothers. Good people, we get together for mass playdates, ladies game nights, movie nights, dinners out and the like. But I don’t know anything about their relationships with their husbands, or what’s going on in their lives that has nothing to do with their kids. They regularly give me advice about my marriage and my childrearing, but not the other way around. It’s like I’m not an equal to them.

I’m having a get together on Saturday, of graduate student women. I’ve invited 31 women that I like, new grad students in the law school, women that I know look up to me. I don’t know what the turn out will be. So far 4 yes, 2 maybe, 1 no.

What about your friends / Will they stand their ground / Will they  let you down again?

What about your friends / Are they gonna be low down / Will they ever be around?

Or will they turn their backs on you?

As a black woman, who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, I’m currently suffering from a lack of connection. I feel like I’m looking at a bunch of backs. I’m currently having a panic attack because on the one hand, I don’t want people to start calling me off he hook. People don’t want to talk to me about my panic attacks and my anxiety because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to say about my physical issues for why I need to go to the urologist. They don’t know how to listen, not solve; how to hear my tears without trying to stop them.

But on the other hand, for my sanity, I need more than pills. I need friends. I need to know that my friends love me, care for me, would care if I wasn’t here anymore, enjoy my company, want to hear what I have to say, think I’m interesting. As black women and mothers, we need each other to be for each other. But right now, my lack of connection with any of those I used to call friends has me questioning whether I even know what a friend is anymore. What about you, dear reader? What about your friends?

*I edited this on Sunday, September 19 because I did not want to potentially hurt someone that could be called a friend.

15 thoughts on “What About Your Friends?

  1. I have been in your shoes. For grad school, I moved 700 miles away from everyone I had ever known, except my one-year-old son who I was blessed to have on that journey. While I moved to a wonderful city, I moved to what may very well be the coldest, most souless institution in the world. I spent the first few months completely lonely, forcibly introverted, and afraid.

    Then I met Dave, my rock, and we partied, laughed, chilled for the next four years straight.

    I also dated a number of guys, none of which amounted to friends but they still helped me pass the time.

    I joined a book club of lovely beautiful South Suburban Chicagoans, none of which were affiliated with the UofC, which was why they are so cool.

    When I left Chicago, I packed all my shit spontaneously, two days after I decided to leave and no one from there really calls or writes at this point. Not even Dave 😦

    However; I think some places are just really meant for us to just pass through. You too will get your degrees from there, and bounce!

    I say all that to say when you get back to the East you and I should hang out because I LOVE making friends, old and new ones.

    Also, I’m in San Diego early next year, you should meet me there 🙂

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  2. You are not alone, I often feel the same way. I am involved with a Mom group but often don’t feel that I have made a connection with anyone. There are very few people I can honestly call “friends.” In these modern times I am not sure if people know how to be honest good friends anymore. I don’t give up hope though, I hold fast to the dear friends and family that I do have and can count on. 🙂

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  3. I lived at Stanford for several years while my mom was getting her Masters and Ph.D At the time we moved I was only 16. When she left, I was 23. My sister and I stayed in the Bay Area for a few more years. While I have yet to be a grad student.. I fully understand Palo Alto culture.. and I was the daughter of a gradmommy.
    I’m orig from San Diego, so the culture was reaaalllly different.
    Anywhoo, I’m following u on twitter now.. anytime you wanna chop up PA, holla =)
    My sister packed up herself and her kids and went to grad school in St. Paul, MN away from all her family and friends. I know she’s gone through similar challenges like the ones you’ve shared…. you aren’t alone in your experiences.

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  4. aahhhh….girrl. You saw: the three times my phone rang it was my 16 year old son. We’ve had these convos, and I envy your compassionate heart…whereas I, sadly, have become downright hornery. I delete social networking pages, phone numbers…etc. It’s VERY difficult making friends as a grown up…

    For us sistahs in sorrow, it’s especially challenging to maintain friendships. I’ve TIIIRED of people being “shocked” that I have been battling (i’m talking knock down drag em’ out fights) with depression for 30+ years. As a result, people generally don’t offer sincere meaningful “how are you’s”. It’s a lot of syrupy sweet one liners, the “thinking about you” the “i love you” and the like. Yet not ONE phone call. When I’m in the midst of the struggle, the LAST thing I want is a text, cause my perception is SKEWED and I interpret that as: I don’t REALLY care, but I’m gon’ hit you up out of obligation…

    As we discussed- I supposed it’s critical to be CLEAR, letting our “friends” know what we NEED and EXPECT. Yes, us “superwomen” have to be even MORE transparent…as much as I shudder at the idea of asking folk to call once in awhile, to sound like they wwant to know what’s going on with me. I’ve got to remind people that i’m more than happy to continue being a cheerleader, a shoulder, an ear…but damn- can a sistah get some reciprocity?! lol
    (i’m feeling Ms. Hillish right right about now….)

    LOVELY LOVELY blog!

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  5. I applaud your honsesty and strength for writing something so honest. I think anyone reading this has had these feelings and it’s compounded by our total detatchment from face to face interaction. We are constantly connected but never connected. We broadcast everything but share nothing. While I don’t know you personally, I will take what you have said and think about those I call my friends and my interactions with them. Sometimes I get so caught up in my day to day that I don’t have the energy to be a friend, I’m just trying trying to keep myself together. Thanks for giving me somethings to think about. Take care

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  6. What is interesting is that I read that tweet, but didnt respond because I felt you were just expressing yourself. I didn’t see it as you seeking to talk to someone. I would have glady engaged you. But… it did strike me and I thought to myself “I hope LaToya is ok”. I don’t pry. Believe it or not, Twitter is one of those mediums where people are watching more than interacting. I encourage people to interact, but I think the “loudest” personalities win. I happen to be “loud” lol I can very much recognize the shyer people on Twitter.

    As for what you wrote… we ALL need friends. Whether we have struggles or everything is going well. It is so important to not just have friends, but FEMALE friends. I strongly encourage Black women to build strong bonds with other sistas. There is NOTHING like it. I dont get to see my closest friends too often, but I know one thing… if I pick up that phone at 2 am, someone is going to answer and talk me through whatever made me make the call. I don’t know what I would have done without the love and strength from my friends over these past two years.

    I do my best to travel and see them or I bring them to me. Thats why when I have a big birthday party, it is so important to gather people together. I need that. It can be so lonely and tough. The friends I have in NYC, I try to hang out with them as often as possible. Sometimes I feel like an unhugged baby if I dont get to see them after a certain period of time.

    I feel for you, esp with what you’re dealing with. ((((hug)))) Next time you are in NYC, or even Philly, let me know. We’ll get together 🙂

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  7. Thanks sisters. We’ll see how this Saturday goes with the local folks. I am turning 30 in March, St. Patrick’s Day, and I plan on doing it BIG! Maybe I’ll do it on the east coast, fly my close girlfriends (aka Salina) out with me…

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  8. Thanks for that post LaToya, it really made my day. I was feeling so alone, inferior, sad, anxious, and it seemed like every other mom was out there socializing around 4 pm and I was inside feeling sad and depressed. Then A took the kids out for a few minutes and I read that post and when he came back I had a big smile on my face. He didn’t ask why the sudden change. I suppose he thought it was just those few moments without the kids. Well, it was, because I had time to read this and feel understood suddenly and not alone.:) thanks

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  9. Hello LaToya,
    I had to stop by and tell you that before reading your blog post “What About Your Friends?” I thought I was the only woman who felt friendless. I am a mother of two and a full-time student, so I use these two things to mask the lack of a social life that I have. And while I have lots of “friends” on facebook and lots of “followers” on twitter, I only have a personal connection with about 4 people that aren’t related to me. I lost my best friend this year (not by death, we just parted ways) around the same time I lost my father (he passed away this summer) and the voids are similarly painful. Even worse, she and I haven’t really been close since this time last year anyways, so our friendship was just hanging by a thread. I make mention of her to say that she was the only one who understood my anxiety (because she too had anxiety) and the many emotional scars I shared with only her. In a world where no one cares about my thoughts, feelings, or pain, she appeared to care. But she, as they all do, seemed to stop caring. I just feel like I’m always the friend that goes above and beyond for others while they could care less about moving an inch for me. And it seems that at my weakest point, when I am no longer able to hide my own problems by attending to theirs, they all leave. Most would think my life is full of people who care because I associate with many people. But no real relationships are ever formed, and if they are, I get hurt, used, abused, stolen from, or worse. All I do know is, in the words of Maya Angelou, no one but no one can make it out here alone. So I try to stay hopeful that the loneliness will go away and one day I will be able to form better relationships. Thank you so much for writing about this. Somehow in reading your blog entry, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

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  10. Thank you Kim and Andrea for commenting. And know that you aren’t alone. A friend suggested that perhaps our friends don’t know what we need from them, and we need to be more explicit about what we need. If we need our friends to call us once a week, to just say, what’s up? and then really listen with their undivided attention, then we have to let them know that.

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  11. Ugh. Loneliness. It’s so awful, isn’t it? And I hear you on the mental health front. It’s hard to need people to be with you when you’re at your worst and it’s hard to ask and it’s hard when you can sense people have had enough and don’t really want to hear it. I know you hardly know me, but I am happy to be available at those moments, just shoot me an email. Life is hard enough without having to get through the hard stuff alone.

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  12. I don’t have a twitter account, and I’m barely on Facebook, but I will admit to being one of the people who calls you a friend, but who has failed to visit you in Cali. I’d blame it on the pace of my life over the last 4 years but despite the hectic pace of your life, you managed to visit me, with 1 child in tow, just to help me celebrate the impending arrival of my own child. 😦 I’m not sure what to do with this imbalance. You once told me that you admired my ability to put myself first (an ability that has seemed to all but disappear since the birth of my child!), but there’s sometimes a cost in terms of relationships when you draw firm lines about the extent to which you can extend yourself, particularly when others draw lines with more give than the ones you draw for yourself. Perhaps those lines have exacted a cost in our friendship?

    As far as supporting a friend who is struggling with something difficult, it’s true that sometimes we need to tell people what we need from them. Sometimes I need to tell my husband, “I don’t want a reaction; I just want a nod and some empathy.” Ideally, I wouldn’t have to say that; but wishing for ideal doesn’t get me what I need. I hope you’ll feel free to tell me what you need (even if what you need is more balance); I cannot always guarantee that I will provide it, but as your friend, I will certainly try.

    Finally, I want to note that although it’s true that people are usually uncomfortable with “upset,” and so ask “how are you doing” only with the implicit understanding that the response to that question be “fine!,” it’s also true that sometimes we don’t want to put people in boxes. If I know a friend is struggling with something, I don’t bring it up every time we talk; I want to give them space to be “normal;” I want them to know that I don’t define them entirely by that struggle. It’s not always indifference to other peoples’ pain.

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  13. I’m glad to have read this, hopeful that I will do a better job of being a friend as a result. I agree with Benee on the aboslute necessity of having girlfriends that you can depend on. I am blessed to have a few. It can be difficult to know when to call or what to say but it is so important that we do so.

    Oh yeah… I’m inviting myself to your 30th birthday party 🙂

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