Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

The Importance of Friendship

Back in 2009—well, actually, before 2009—I realized I was mentally healthy enough to expand my social activities. I was by no means capable of throwing myself into a club or bar with the goal of meeting anybody, whether prospective friend or lover, but I was ready to be more social than I had been up to that point. In 2009, I volunteered for the Pride Festival that’s held here the first weekend of June each year—I forget which one it was. I did it primarily so I had a free entry pass so I could see the sights and maybe meet a couple of people to strike up something of an acquaintance. To do this, I intended to join an organization or two, maybe a church, maybe find out some information on another religion or philosophy or some group activity.

And I found Temple Squares’s booth.

I found them dancing in front of their booth, in fact, wearing variously-colored tees that all said “Circle To A Square” on the back. I hadn’t square danced since middle school, when boys wouldn’t touch me, but I had enjoyed the PE module despite that, and I knew I could learn how to do this. I collected every last bit of information I could find and left them my contact information—neatly written because I definitely wanted them to contact me—then went on my way in search of another organization I could possibly join.

Well, I didn’t find any other organizations I wanted to join that day, but I kept in contact with Temple Squares and joined them for classes when they started up in September. I went in expecting to have fun and to meet a fun group of people, which is precisely what happened. I had fun, and I had it with fun people. Over the course of my first year of dancing, as I learned the many square dance calls, I made friends among these fun, welcoming people.

I went into square dancing the same way I enter into any group activity. I expect to find fun-loving, fun people who are trustworthy and friendly. I go in to have fun, to be a fun person, and with an open mind willing to open wider, and with a complete willingness to be trusting and friendly. I expect to make friends.

My mom, on the other hand, has a completely opposite view of people in general. These days, even her closest, deepest “friendships” are rather shallow in comparison with my friendships. Hell, they aren’t even really friendships at all. Mom is lonely, and has been burned by her loneliness more than once, when she willingly entered into marriages which turned out to be abusive for her.

In a way, I can kind of understand her withdrawal, but I think that’s the wrong way to solve her problem. Instead of looking at people with an open mind willing to trust, she looks at people with a closed mind at first mistrustful. I get that she doesn’t want to be hurt again, but this is not the best way, in my opinion, for her to “protect” herself. It’s not real protection. It further isolates her. She’s lonelier now than she’s ever been before; she may not say she is, but it’s in the way she reacts to those around her.

Mom looks at people with a judgmental mind. Yes, I understand that there are people who are busybodies, nosy, untrustworthy, and who seek to create drama where she lives, but even with those whom I believe are trustworthy and sincere, Mom is reserved and distant. She’ll associate with them, but not let them in close.

She says she doesn’t want friends among anyone in her building, but she also doesn’t make any efforts to get out and meet other people. Mom isolates herself. I believe she doesn’t realize just how emotionally and mentally debilitating this can be, or how much of a sign of emotional and mental disturbance it is. She’s not so closed off that she’s afraid of people, but her “friendships” aren’t healthy, and her expectation of finding untrustworthy people is only further isolating her.

I hate seeing this, but I know and understand Mom’s thinking on this. She believes that if she doesn’t get close with anyone, she won’t get hurt. And, for her, that’s very profound, because she’s been hurt by men she’s married.

And that’s basically because she’s been trying to live out her dream of being a wife and mother. This is a completely honorable and respectable dream to have, but her life simply didn’t work out the way she wanted. She spent most of my childhood falling for abusers because she “needed” a man so much to fill the emptiness she saw in her life when her dream failed. She’s generally a confident person, but with men, she was desperate to fulfill the role of loving wife, and abusers picked up on it and took advantage of her.

And that is why she isolates herself now. I think, in a way, she’s conflating friendship with her bad marriages. She’s afraid to trust anyone now, even with her friendship, because she’s afraid of being hurt again, when, in reality, if she opened herself up a little more, trusted a bit more (with caution), she’d have rich, rewarding friendships with a number of people. My mother is a very rich, rewarding friend to have, with a lot of wisdom, a lot of common sense, and a lot of good humor to share, and I think she could find similar people and connections that would be as rewarding for her as what she can be for other people.

It’s all a matter of perspective. She expects to find mistrustful, unhappy people around her, so that’s what she sees in her neighbors. I’m expecting to find trusting, happy people around me, so that’s what I see.

Now, I won’t say I don’t find the occasional loser, but that’s just it. They’re not that frequent, and they’re easy to spot. Yes, I’ve been hurt before by people I thought were friends. I haven’t let it make me withdraw, though. Years ago, once I got mentally stable, I recognized how bad isolating myself was. It’s healthy to have friendships, and I’m glad for each and every friend I now have, no matter who they are, what walk of life they come from, or what social group they belong to, and I’ll continue to put myself and my trust and my faith in people out there to make new friends because I need friends. Not only is having friends a sign of good mental health, it keeps me mentally healthy.

Mom has told me, on numerous occasions, that I’m too trusting. Well, I’d rather be trusting and rewarded for my trust with friends who trust me, than be mistrustful and rewarded with isolation and loneliness. Being hurt occasionally is a small price to pay for the company of good friends.

2 Comments

  1. I share your outlook on friends and potential friends.

    May you always be rewarded pleasantly for your trust in people and never be hurt again, and may your mother find a way to trust people again.

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