One day, I arrived at softball practice early.
Jamie and Nicholas were already there, waiting on the time between the end of school and the start of team practice to tick away.
I was doing my best to contribute to their conversation about the previous night’s NBA game, when Jamie abruptly turned the conversation towards girls.
Specifically, having sex with girls. As 15-year-old males do. Apparently.
And after trading stories with Nicholas for a few minutes, it suddenly seemed to dawn on Jamie that I was a girl. Shock of all shocks.
And in his wiley way, he somehow came up with a transition that led into him pointing at me and saying:
“… because you know, the bigger the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
Because Nicholas was such a gentleman even then, he awkwardly shifted in his seat and didn’t say anything. But I laughed right along with Jamie.
We could connect this event to years of body shame (and recovery), but that’s not actually the reason I’m telling you about it today. Right now, the line from that story that stands out to me the most is this one:
“I laughed right along with Jamie.”
I know what you’re thinking… Why didn’t I haul off and smack him, right?
This is a perfectly legitimate question.
I laughed along with him because, until my late teens, I was obsessed with boys.
Not in the usual lusty, boy-crushing-teenager kinda way, but in a ‘Boys are sooooo cool!’ kinda way. I wasn’t conscious enough to verbalize it, but for the first half of my life, I thought boys were the superior sex. By far.
So I spent my pocket money on baseball cards and stayed up late to watch basketball games I really wasn’t that into and listened (enthusiastically) to misogynistic music. If the boys were into it, so was I.
And because they were boys (not open-minded, self-aware MEN), they still had limited and often sexist views of women. This meant that I had limited and often sexist views of women.
That old cliche knows what it’s talking about:
We are the company we keep.
The perspective and ideals of the boys I hung out with became my own.
The limitations of their worldview became my own.
Their definitions of womanhood, sex and the female body became my own.
And this is not some aberration that’s particular to childhood.
Even as adults, our thoughts and actions tend to mirror those of the people we spend the most time with.
We tend to dress similarly to our closest friends. We tend to have similar political views, read similar books, listen to similar kinds of music.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this at all. This sense of kinship and sameness can be a balm. It helps us feel connected, like we are seen and related to by people who really ‘get’ us. It’s a beautiful thing.
What’s dangerous is letting our community grow up around us unconsciously. We risk ourselves when we aren’t thoughtful about the views, values and energies these ‘accidental friendships’ bring to the party.
An all-girls boarding school in Toronto and the arrival of some divinely-inspired soul sisters helped me evolve my small notions of femaleness.
And as part of my evolution, I decided that my circle of friends was no longer going to be an accident, a byproduct of the schools my parents chose for me, the university I went to or the companies I worked for.
My friendships were going to be works of art. Carefully crafted with conscious attention and care. I was going to curate my own community of soul sisters + brothers.
Rah rah awesome, right?
Well, yes. AND, the whole thing has felt like one big, gloriously delicious shit show.
Figuring out where I’d go to meet my kinda people was a total guessing game. There were dozens of experiments with meetup groups, workshops and nervous social media exchanges (many of which failed).
And navigating through it all with my natural quietness and (not so natural) social anxiety often felt like walking on ice.
But every sweaty handshake and email was so worth it.
Curating a tribe of spiritually-conscious, drama-free, chocolate-loving, not-anal-about-much soul friendships has been one of the joys of my life.
Those friendships have lifted me through relationship agony, career confusion and more importantly, they have given me the greatest gift of all: the experience of being fully and deeply seen by another human being. It’s what we crave the most.
If you’re tired of being in ‘accidental’ friendships, I’ve put some of my top friend-seeking tips in my guest post on Tiny Buddha: 7 Ways to Form Deep, Meaningful Friendships.
May you find the ones that fan your flames, the ones that cradle your heart, the ones that make you laugh so hard your stomach muscles are sore the next day. May you find the ones that truly see you.