Excuse me,

Lately I’ve been craving female companionship. As my living situation at the moment is precarious, I’ve substituted books, my paper heroines for flesh and bone people. Still reading Kate Zambreno, I stop: “I find myself afraid, feeling too fucked up to have real friends in my embodied existence.”

That pierces. I’m afraid of making friends. Not light, easy friends, acquaintances, dinner party guests, facebook friends, colleagues, but close friendships, blood sisters. My best friend (that term both huge and pale) lives oceans away, and though ever-thankful for skype, speaking through boxes is not the same. I miss her. I miss laughing with her.

In this respect, she is my opposite. She makes friends easily, within minutes she’s charmed her elbows onto their tables and guiding conversations, while I’m neurotically speaking in waves, sometimes awash in irrelevance, I’ll slip away, often to smoke, except I no longer smoke.

As a kid at Catholic school I was bullied for no reason, though I’m sure there was a reason, I was just not privy to it. I know they hated how dark my arm hair was, and they didn’t like my sexual enthusiasm. How openly boy crazy I was. We were all friends, me and these girls. It was a group of about ten of us, always rotating who was in and who was out pending who couldn’t make the latest sleepover, but ostracism, while still devastating, was only temporary. Then, one day, it was my turn, again, except it never stopped. My clique hated me, then the rest of my grade. Later that year we moved. I was thrown a surprise going away party. They gave me a Precious Moments statue they collectively paid for. It was a cheerleader whose caption read: Cheers to the leader. To this day I have never been more humiliated.

I know this is why I struggle making and maintaining close female friendships. But that’s such a generic and textbook explanation. I’m pathologizing myself. Like I said, I also was completely boy crazy, just nuts for sexual intimacy, so I fluttered in and out of relationships with ease. My high school girlfriends were all the same way. We were close, but we held each other at a distance. In a lot of ways I felt closer to whoever I was dating. I can count on one hand how many times those friends had seen me cry, whereas my lovers had seen me collapse into a puddle on sometimes a daily–or christ–hourly basis. My friends never totally knew what a fucked-up mess of a hysteric I was. How dark and afraid and wild-eyed.

I maintained this Plath-like existence. So vanilla on the outside, wholesome and clean. I shopped at the Gap, wore concealer, exercised. But I was so sad and messy and angry, feverishly scribbling and scratching in my diaries, chain-smoking cigarettes, not giving a fuck while giving all the fucks. I wanted to be Ophelia, I wanted to carry the sexy crazy, but I couldn’t stand the dishes piling up.

Again Zambreno, “We live in a culture that punishes and tries to discipline the messy woman and her body and a literary culture that punishes and disciplines the overtly autobiographical (for being too feminine, too girly, too emotional).”

I do like where literature is going. I like the shift in the feminine identity zeitgeist. I like that there is now a space for messy girls. (There are even goddesses: All hail Dodie Bellamy!) Though there’s still such a long way to go for girls to be seen as serious, for them to feel their stories matter and are not frivolous.

The blogs that I follow, the tumblrs that I follow, I would’ve loved to have immersed myself in this online fucked-up girl culture in high school. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alienated in my other self, I could’ve found other sad girl ponies with which to frolic.

But, what am I saying. I’m still looking for those sad girl ponies. Meeting friends just never came as easy to me as ensnaring a lover. My best friend says it’s the same, just a different kind of seduction. I still cannot see it.

So much of this also comes from the isolation of parenting a toddler.

I didn’t intend for this post to get so maudlin. I’ve been sifting through my belongings and parting with everything nonessential. The entire process is taxing. I’m both nostalgic and cold, cutting memories off at the knees. I can’t believe there was ever a life before my child. That I existed once as a free agent, attaching and detaching myself to whomever I felt like, with feckless abandon. Yes, I’m nostalgic for that.

But I wouldn’t go back.

Excuse me, I’m now tired and embarrassed. Image

About Cathy Borders

Writer. Book Midwife. The Republic of Letters. Waterline Writers. Omnia Vanitas Review.
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7 Responses to Excuse me,

  1. are you myself? if so, how are you writing this without me?

  2. Good lord, have you read Violette Leduc? Also, I must be older than you — I had Riot Grrrl, although I’ll go on record to say that the movement had far more male supporters than female. I think women rarely develop interests in anything save gossip, makeup, and diets, and I have no time to talk of such things. They’re also contagious. I like how your blog is developing. I find this all quite exciting but feel a twinge of guilt because I know you’re having a rough time. Still, I like it. If you thoroughly free this voice, who knows what you might do with it when you’re feeling better? (Also, I don’t consider myself a “spiritual” person at all, just FYI. I don’t even like spiritual people.)

    • No, I haven’t read Violette Leduc, but I have come across her by the by, and recently another friend of mine was raving about her. I’m definitely going to look into her.

      It’s true, I was a little young for Riot Grrrl’s heyday, and also I’m not very musically inclined. But I have come to know some of the artists over the years, and am very enthusiastic about their fist-in-face message. I think feminism needs to get radical again. Women just don’t seem angry enough.

      “I don’t even like spiritual people.” Ha! Kin.

      • I think feminism is on an angry upswing, but this could be what I expose myself to. I’d recommend starting with La Batarde — with a circumflex on the first “a” — I just got a qwerty laptop and I HATE it. I may change the keyboard soon. It’s like it’s forcing me to be an imbecile. :/

  3. Sarah says:

    I was never bullied in school, we talked about this when I was there a month ago. But, in reading this, I wonder how much of it is that I just don’t perceive bullying as such. Your Precious Moments figurine was the “pie” I had rubbed into my waist length hair in a stockade in front of my whole school. It was humiliating and devastating, and the kids that facilitated it (read: pooled money together to pay to have this done to me and chose me out of the rest of our classmates) were assholes, but I didn’t go back to school feeling ostracized, I went back to school and told them they could fuck themselves. And all was fine. I always loved school, no matter how much it hurt. It was a social wonderland, a zoo of hormones and anthropological studies. I was there to observe and learn from my fellow post-adolescents.

    I, too, was boy crazy, and remain so. I stole my girlfriends’ boyfriends, I manipulated them away from those girls and to me, and then I left them standing there, half-erect, having received only one sloppy kiss. I would walk away, cackling. I had close female friends, even ones whose boyfriends I stole, because somehow, I could convince them they were yet better off without them. Or, they just went back to them, nursing the wounds I left behind. I believe I’m paying for all of that now, beginning in my late 20s, and continuing to my now mid-30s. I’m paying for telling everyone they could go fuck themselves.

    But I have incredibly strong female friendships now, and do make them easily. When men got in the way, I did keep women at arms length and I did mistrust them. I knew what I was capable of, so every other woman must be treated as a potential bomb threat. Now, it’s the men I hold at bay, it’s the men I don’t trust, and it’s the relationships with men, in a lasting, romantic sense, that I can’t seem to find. Now that I am as good as I know how to be to men, it is not enough. When I was a ruthless jerk to them, they couldn’t get enough. Ah, such malarkey, all of it.

    In any case, you were my first close female friend, that I bonded with, as an adult (unlike some of the female friends I have left over from my teens and early 20s). You were the first woman that I knew I could trust, and that I received the same respect from. You didn’t feel like competition, you felt like how I’d read the bond between woman can be. And that was inspirational. I’ve carried that out into the world and made other female friends based on that model. But, I think it also goes back to my first paragraph; with you, I wonder how much of it is that you still see things, metaphorically, as “bullying” whereas I tell people to go fuck themselves. You are tentative, whereas I am bold. But that doesn’t mean that internally, I am not a ball of anxious neuroticisms. I am. I just know that that’s my problem, and to find other like-minded people, I’ve got to basically tell ME to go fuck myself.

    • I see your point about the different approaches. Your story so moved me that night. I can feel it etched into my long term memory. How brave you were even then.

      In school I did walk around with a fuck you face; at home I was the puddle. Later in high school, when confronted with organized bullshit again, I took a much angrier and impenetrable approach, both externally and internally. And it’s true, that there–most assuredly because of my attitude–I didn’t think of their behavior as bullying, and only recently have I come to call what happened to me at Catholic school bullying. (It was only in retrospect that I became comfortable with that kind of definitive label.) That Precious Moments statue was an ironic parting gift, a cruel souvenir these people chose and pitched in a buck a piece to represent exactly the opposite of its proscribed intention: that a) I was loved and would be missed and b) rather than being the alpha cheerleader championing the school itself, I was the loser omega; I was Carrie, nominated for Prom Queen. But unlike Carrie, I didn’t get the last word. I didn’t triumph over those bitches. I lost. But later, I triumphed over the little girl inside of me who let others get to her. (Though, let me be clear, that little girl is not dead, just weaker.) Because of this I became much tougher, and in that toughness I nurtured a burgeoning ego that carried (pun!) me through high school, letting ridiculous insults and rumors (some true, some not) slide right off my back.

      I have wondered, had we not moved at the zenith of my ostracism, how differently would I have handled my situation? When you have a trap door underneath you, you don’t need to stand and fight. It’s all to enticing to disappear.

      I had no idea our friendship meant that much to you. I’m truly touched to have the honor of being your first close female friend. What happened between us early on was magical. I love that we came to know one another through our writing. That before we could take in one another’s demeanor, our patterns, our inflections, we had to trust and really listen with our eyes and imagination to what was written. It was a beautiful thing.

      I was really glad you visited. I had such a wonderful time that night. So much love.

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