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07 September 2013

I love a straight shooter

Despite the title, this post has nothing to do with archery. Although, if I think deeply about it, I may be able to make some esoteric connection ...

I always find it interesting how life seems to come full circle, especially when you least expect it to. As we grow, we evolve and change and develop, but the core of who we are never really changes. It may be masked and hidden or ignored and repressed at times, but who we are at our core is always there and never really changes. Sometimes it takes earth-shattering events to remember who you are, and sometimes it just reappears as time passes and life stages end and begin. It's always a shocking realization that, no matter where you are or who you are with, at your most essential being, you are the same person as you used to be.

At my wedding, my MOH and best friend gave a speech that helped bring me back to my center. A center that I had unknowingly been getting farther away from as the years have passed. She told our guests that two things she loved about me was the value I placed on family and my appreciation of honesty. It makes sense that she and I have been such good amigas for so long because we can both be 100% honest with each other and expect the same from those around us. And, at this point, she's more family than some of my actual blood relatives. Family for me often extends beyond blood lines, and I'm sure that has something to do with being an orphaned transplant while I attended grad school in Greensboro.

But back to honesty ... her speech really made me think about who I was and what I was allowing into my life. As a kid, I never had great relationships with girls. I would have one or two female friends that I would hang out with, but the majority of my closest friends were male. I didn't date a whole lot in high school (had one or two relatively steady boyfriends at most), but I remember spending my lunch hours hanging out with a group of guys on the picnic table outside the cafeteria. I never had crushes on those boys or had any interest in them beyond friendship. I wasn't the girl who hung out with boys for the attention and casual flirting. I genuinely liked their company and their often crude humor. Because of these friendships, the girls around me thought I was trying to "get with" these guys and often didn't like me. I was okay with that. They suspected me of ulterior motives and, instead of being upfront about it, they behaved like children and talked about me behind my back. It bothered me at first until I realized that they weren't my friends, so I didn't really care about their opinions of me.

My gravitation towards male companionship over female friends continued through college and grad school. I never really thought much about it; I just figured it was who I was. Some people prefer the company of their own gender and some don't. It's no big deal. I didn't really waste time about the psychology behind my friendships. After grad school, I found that my circle of male friends had morphed into a circle of female friends. It wasn't a conscious move; it was just who I was immediately surrounded with at work and in life. And, as things happen, those friendships eventually dissolved. And, when they did, I had an epiphany about why I had unknowingly avoided female friendships for so very long.

I am who I am with everyone I know. I am honest and (occasionally) crass and I know that I lack a filter. I believe in being nice to people and being a good person, but I have absolutely no poker face and lack the ability to "just pretend" when I'm around people who I genuinely don't get along with or like. In fact, my husband is always telling me that I need to learn to make a poker face because it is always glaringly obvious when I don't like someone. He's probably right, but I wouldn't even know where to start! I remember taking a personality test back in high school (way back when schools required aptitude tests to reveal your true “career calling” and personality tests to discover hidden truths about yourself and all those other random tests) and the results told me that I had an “androgynous” personality, highlighting the benefits of typically male and female personalities. It seemed to make sense because I’ve never been a tomboy (I like dresses and high heels far too much!), but no one who really knows me would ever call me a “girly-girl” either because I’m not afraid of doing hard work and getting my hands dirty.

My problem with many of the women that I have been friends with is the same thing that I struggle with as a teacher of pre-teens. There is often a lack of authenticity and honesty in female relationships. So many women have been groomed and trained to be “nice” and say things that they don’t really mean to avoid hurting peoples’ feelings. They smile to you face and say things like “Bless your heart” when they really mean “You’re an idiot.” And then the catty behavior of talking behind peoples’ backs and isolation kicks in. Men tend to be more honest and straightforward. They often lack the very same filter that I lack, so I always know where I stand with them. I don’t ask my husband “Do I look fat in this?” unless I know for sure that I don’t. Because he’ll be honest with me, regardless of what I want him to say, and I appreciate that. I’ve surrounded myself with men like this for the majority of my life and I think that makes it harder for me to tolerate the sometimes disingenuous and catty nature of some women.

That being said, there are certainly wonderful women in my life who, like me, are straight shooters. They are few and far between, but, when we find each other, it’s generally a match made in heaven. My MOH and my new archery buddy are just two examples. A few lingering friends from college and a few colleagues from work. And, of course, my mom (although her filter is a little more effective than mine).  I always know where I stand with these ladies, and that’s an essential element of friendship for me. We all can be catty and obnoxious – I’m pretty sure it’s in our DNA – but I need to be surrounded by people who I can trust to be genuine and honest and consistent with me. Which, after all these years, I realize is why I’ve always had closer friendships with men.


So much for not getting into the psychology behind friendships!

(Disclaimer: As an educated person, I realize that not all women or men fit into the categories that I've created. I'm speaking from my own personal experience, and, in that experience, there have certainly been individuals who shattered my expectations on both sides of the gender divide. I am boiling down a multi-faceted discussion to simple terms for the purpose of relaying my own experiences.)
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