I don’t know how other people find self-worth. For me part of it involves being liked by people I admire. People I feel are particularly good at _________.
So I have this friend. I met her when I was fifteen. I met her because I was sneaking out of the house to go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I started chasing a guy, well–several, named Scott. Scott was kind of available. He didn’t technically have a girlfriend or anything. We dated a bit but nothing serious–you see he was hung up on this other chick, P. I was so jealous I couldn’t see straight. I hated her on sight. Who is this slutty bitch?
Because you see, she had a boyfriend who went to a different university (all these people were five years older than me) and she was STILL STRINGING SCOTT ALONG. Obviously she was bad. I helped him out. I have never liked those girl games of promising and denying. I make up for those chicks. I feel like those girls are hurting the poor boys who have needs because I am a deeply damaged individual.
She was prettier than me. She was older than me (which was a big god damn selling point when I was fifteen). She had great breasts. She was really shapely. Dear god she had a nice body. I had some lurid thoughts about telling Scott, “Well why don’t all of us just…” but I didn’t. I was good.
Time went by. Scott didn’t last long in my life. Guys in that slot (ha) rarely last longer than three months. I ditch them quickly.
Years later I turned eighteen. I ran into the girl at one of the theatres in San Jose. I showed up to do low-level volunteer work at a theatre with a friend and she happened to be the stage manager. The show was Hair. That was such a lovely frisky time of life. Lots of hinting at sex but not much doing it. I was dating Steve.
(I have to give you a name. You seem to like Pam. That’s an acceptable pseudonym-right? I still think you are being ridiculous. You are one of like 3.7 million people with your name.)
So Pam was around. I was spending a lot of time with Kristine. (God bless her for spelling our name right.) I uhhh broke up with Steve because I wanted to sleep with a different Steve. I wanted to sleep with that other new Steve because Pam was stringing him along and I am a compulsive whore. So I dumped my boyfriend. I’m awesome. At least I didn’t cheat on him. That’s always been my line.
I started getting to know Pam though. As things that summer shook out in my life (found the bdsm community, drifted away from theatre) for some reason Pam kept calling me.
She would come pick me up and we would hang out. I felt… baffled. Why did she want to seek out my company? People don’t really do that very often. I am not pursued. I am avoided. I am abandoned by people I pour many years of hard work and energy into. I don’t get pursued much. It’s a heady experience.
So I spent a lot of time talking to Pam, because she wanted to talk to me.
It’s been a lot of years. She went off and worked on a cruise ship for five years. Then lived in Australia for a few years. Then Taiwan. Now she’s on the east coast having just graduated from an ivy league fancy-pants graduate school. (I’m proud of you for finishing your conclusion. Get started on the last paper.)
She used to traipse around the world being gone for years at a time doing very interesting things. She’s had a fun life. She always makes time and space for me. She calls me. She calls me faithfully though irregularly. Before I had kids I dropped whatever I was doing to answer calls from her. I once answered the phone while teaching because it is that important to me to answer the phone when she calls.
I do it out of respect. This person has spent a lot of money on international phone calls to me over the more than decade of our friendship because she wants to hear my voice. Because she just loves me. Because she wants me to tell her what I am doing and thinking and talking about. She is interested in me and she respects me.
And she is someone I have a lot of respect for. She doesn’t have all that high of an opinion of herself, which I hear is normal. I’ve seen her do things that I want to do but I’m too afraid. She has had the courage to chase a lot of dreams I can’t handle living. I feel like she is my gypsy self. She actually broke free.
And way back in the day when I was dating Tom she wanted to ahem find out more about the ladies so I helped her out with that. Really we’ve had kind of an interestingly sex-related friendship the whole time.
I support her in being parts of herself that the other people in her life wouldn’t respect. She’s kind of slutty, bless her heart. Not a lot. Nothing compared to me, of course. But she hasn’t settled down with one person and she’s kind of nomadic and not inclined towards monogamy.
Before Noah and I got married I was dating this guy I’ll call Spot. I met Spot at BaGG and he was kind of my “club boyfriend” during the time when I did a lot of clubbing. Given that once he had to drive me home because my drink was spiked I feel I was right in believing I needed a protector in that space. Spot overlapped with the early part of my engagement to Noah.
Pam came back to California for one of her periodic visits during that time period complaining long and loud about how she hadn’t been able to get laid in a long time. Given my compulsive bent I said, “Well, which guy do you want to borrow?” She said both. She’s like that. So I called up both boys and told them to come over for a foursome.
I didn’t want to completely run the fuck and that was the problem. For the first bit I assigned Noah to Pam and told Spot I was starting with him. I did announce this out loud. Spot decided it was more interesting to kind of glom onto Pam while she and Noah were playing and ignore me.
Can you guess how this went? Noah realized kind of late into the evening that I was sitting there trying not to cry. He tried to save. Once Pam realized I was upset she tried to save. Spot… well… I didn’t date him much longer and I don’t really talk to him much any more. He did give me the awesome kitty hat for my birthday though. He’s not a bad guy just… not perceptive.
And when Pam was in town while I was pregnant and not interested in sex I had her come over and fuck Noah so that he would be in a better mood. That was very mixed for me emotionally. I’m not sorry I did it–I got the results I wanted. But the cost was high. I don’t like sharing. I’ve decided I’m not going to anymore and both Noah and Pam are very supportive and awesome about it. They were never “dating” they are both just slutty like me. “I like sex. You are here. Ok!” But they are affectionate friends. Only they don’t really talk to one another unless they are both here to see me.
This must be what a V feels like. I don’t mind that they talk and are friendly with one another as long as they are both here to be paying attention to me. I can share that much. I’m generous and all.
I’m not explaining this right. I’m not explaining why she is important. Pam has had a life that is about as different from mine as a life can be in most of the big, obvious ways. And for some reason she latched on to me and fell in love with me and she has created a long term intense relationship for us that freely mutates with my mood swings. If I tell her to do things she says sure. If I tell her to stop doing things she says sure.
When I told her about the smoking she had this interesting reaction. She said, “Hmmmm. If you were anyone else I would start on a long lecture about how irresponsible you are. But you are you. How about if instead I say: I know that you reach conclusions after a lot of careful research, study, and thought. Why don’t you tell me what lead you to decide that was the best option because I know that it must be the best option out there. Or you wouldn’t be doing it.”
I cried. Part of what this relationship gives me is this ongoing feeling of someone feeling that I am important and worth seeking out. Part of what I get is the modeling of what being respected looks like. Not very many people respect me the way Pam does. Not very many people turn to me and say, “Hey I assume you are an authority on this subject. Will you please teach me part of what you know?”
I feel really silly but it feels good to have this person who is nothing like me so she doesn’t understand me at all but that just leads her to ask questions. She wants to understand me–I’m just different from everything she has ever known. She has to ask a lot of questions. I feel like she cares enough to actually want to know me. People don’t ask me very many questions. People don’t want to bother me. So for the majority of my adulthood I have sat alone in rooms not talking to anyone. Except when I’m lucky enough to have Pam call. I prioritize taking those calls over talking to people who show up one off to hang out at my house. I’ve been kind of an asshole about it a couple of times. Pam is very important to me. I drop everything for those calls.
Although having kids has changed this dynamic a lot. Often my phone is on vibrate or silent and I don’t hear it ring. We have a lot more misses now and that is hard for me. I no longer have the space to give our relationship complete seniority at a moments notice like I used to and it is very frustrating for me.
Pam makes me feel like a main character. She wants to hear my stories. She wants me to talk. She wants to know about me. She likes to cuddle me. She’d love more sex’n but is very supportive of that being off the table and thinks it is good that I’m taking care of myself. She wants me to think I am important.
I am fairly honest with myself. She is never going to live near me. She is never going to be anything but occasional phone calls and maybe a visit a year. But she puts a really lot of effort into writing me long emails (I just expect her to read my blog–I don’t have time for all that much long email writing on top of the blathering I do here and I’m a brat and I want it posted.) and she calls. She puts a lot of energy into making me feel important to her. Into reminding me that she thinks about me a lot. When she needs advice she comes to me. When her sister needs advice she tells her sister to come to me. When her friends need advice she relays stuff to/from me.
She has told me that I am her ideal parent. I set the bar for what “doing it right” looks like for her. She makes me cry.
We have occasional long stretches where I get mad at her for some reason or another. Sometimes with semi-cause (things were tense for a good six months after the thing with Spot) but mostly it’s just me having trouble dealing with the ways in which we are very different. I’m not good at that. But she is. And she talks to me actively about compromise and being respectful of one another. And she lives up to her end of it over and over and over and over and over. It’s pretty easy to trust her. She wears her intentions on her face. She is one of the most blessedly honest people I know.
The weird thing is, I’m pretty sure that isn’t the experience that other people in the world have of her. She does a lot of things that are very rebellious by her standards and she spends a lot of time being wracked with guilt for one thing or another.
One of the things Pam gives me is a constant reason to think, “How can someone so obviously tremendous in merit doubt their worth?” When I get an uncomfortable niggle of self-awareness from that thought I immediately stomp on it with great leather boots, of course.
Pam gives me the feeling that if I believe I am important I can go out and be that in the world. Maybe not to absolutely everyone–no one is. Not even everyone likes Santa Claus and if anyone was going to get universal popularity it is that motherfucker. Not me.
But I can be to a few people. And if I can make one life better isn’t that enough? Isn’t that something? Do I really have to be trying to amass a harem? I don’t want or need to be a guru. I want to be respected, not worshiped. I don’t need to be blindly followed. I don’t want or need people to be like me. I really like that there are people who say, “I want to know about _____ and I know you know a lot about it–can we talk?” It makes me feel like my existing in the world is useful. I do have things to give.
Pam is insatiably curious. If I look at my closest cadre of friends that is probably one of the strongest traits for all of my friends. They want to understand. I think you need to be such a person in order to bear my company for long. I’m what is termed “high needs” in young kids. It’s why Shanna’s questions and thirst for more more more from me doesn’t phase me. I feel the same way a lot of the time. Less now than when I was younger, I’m tired.
Pam I love you for so many reasons. Because your extreme perfectionism gives me a little light on how my own perfectionism is pretty twisted. You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are going to get a good job because you are a god damn amazing speaker and you get people. I think you will do well. You are like a cat. You always land on your feet. No, you don’t make a million dollars. No you didn’t become a famous model. You were thirty and not willing to starve yourself–you knew that wasn’t an option going in. You did fine. I wouldn’t have done as well. Sometimes I kind of hate you in an I love you and you are so awesome it feels painful to stand next to sometimes kind of way. It’s complex.
Pam is challenging to me to spend time with or talk to. I have to really think and process and be on in order to handle her. I’m fucking weird to her so I have to explain a lot of things that feel really tangential to me and it gets kind of hard to stay on a track. That feels frustrating. It feels like she is arguing but she is just pressing for enough information to keep following. I’m glad she has the chutzpuh to interrupt me and ask for clarification–don’t get me wrong. I want her to understand, but it’s been an adventure figuring out tone of voice stuff between us. We have different cultures. Very. Different. Cultures.
I have learned a lot and been challenged in a great many ways over the years as I have been exposed to her culture. She is very happy to introduce me to her other friends and she doesn’t give a shit if I make them feel uncomfortable as long as my subject matter is G rated. As a parent I feel a lot more comfortable with such limitations and impose the shit out of it on everyone around me so that has grown more comfortable. I feel like being a parent has finally given me a bridge into being willing to figure out respectable behavior. Pam is an invaluable resource.
No relationship between mothers and daughters is perfect. Pam tells me about her relationship and the relationships she sees and she teaches me a lot. I don’t really have any other access to such information. When I am in tricky situations with the kids I sometimes think about how Pam would handle something. What do I see her immediately do with my kids? I don’t see many people really walk up to my kids and treat them like people to have relationships with–Pam did from the first minute she met them. They were already people to her in her mind because she asks me about them all the time. She wants to know what they do all day. She wants to know the slightly condensed version of the Collected Works. And she comes back for updates quite frequently so things don’t even have to be condensed all that much. It’s really nice.
I can say, “I’ve been thinking about ____” and she responds with (I can hear her brain whirr) “Wait that is the person who did _______ and ______ and _____, right?” She can cross reference my whole experience with people because she has paid a lot of attention and gotten a lot of details about people over the years.
It’s really nice having this friend who is 100% outside my life so I can tell her what I really think about absolutely everyone I know. I don’t have to worry about polite courtesy. I can be honest. I cherish it.
I’m Pam’s beck and call girl. She doesn’t want a lot of my time and I feel so good about being wanted and appreciated that I’m going to respond as consistently and quickly as I can for the foreseeable future like I have for thirteen years. I like being wanted. Not many people want me.
How can you not understand how important you are?