Once upon a time, I met a girl at a party. Shortly thereafter, we had taken to having dinner together every Thursday. Mutual friends had no idea what to say. Probably one or two people suspected I was guilty of the most bizarre goth scene political maneuver in the history of man.
This girl, while seeming a lot like me on the surface, also seemed to be my polar opposite. She loved everything and everybody. She was nice. She gave compliments. She had been known to cry in public without wanting to go shoot herself for it. She was kind of like the human equivalent of jazz hands.
As for me, I don’t hate everyone and everything, but I can see where there could be some confusion on that point. I was cynical, completely unable to compliment people to their face (faces? that one always confuses me), and I had a sign in my brain reading “no public crying, ever.”
Years after we met, I have taken to referring to this girl as my reflection. We look a lot alike, but if you look closely, we’re doing everything in opposite ways.
She sucked me in with a love of Halloween merch, we liked the same clothes and we both had an unhealthy addiction to glitter, but all of this is really about the underpinnings. In her, I saw a collection of things I knew I needed to learn. Expressing enthusiasm for something, openly appreciating the people around you and telling people how you feel were all things I knew I lacked.
The best way to learn those things is to hang out with someone who does them and watch them work. At her going away party, her family gathered around her and everyone gave a speech about how proud they were and how much they loved her. I was weirded out and felt like I was trapped in an episode of Growing Pains. Also, I was jealous that her family did stuff like that. I wanted to give a speech too, but I couldn’t make my mouth work.
I have since figured out that, nine times out of ten, everybody else in the room wants to open up too and just doesn’t know how. They’re secretly relieved when you go first, and they almost always respond the way you’d hoped they would. It’s just about having the balls to put your feelings out there first. It is difficult to walk around with your chest cavity open, not to mention an infection risk. It’s easier to just pretend to be bulletproof and then go home and type things, not that I know anything about either of those. No, sir.
The thing about hanging out with people who are better than you are is that it slowly makes you better. while that friendship didn’t make too much sense to people, I have found that it worked out pretty well. I’m slowly learning what I needed to learn. She has made me do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise, just because I don’t want to disappoint her. I saw Twilight in the theater, for pete’s sake. When I had to work the door at my dad’s unfuneral, she was there. When I completely freaked out in the car coming home, she was there. When she took some heat over a guy situation, I publicly told everyone to fuck off and secretly admired the way that she still ran around with her heart wide open.
The idea, friends, is to hang out with people who are enough like you that you can get along well enough to learn from each other, but who are different enough to make you better. I don’t want to hang out with someone exactly like me. I get enough “me” all day long and, frankly. we don’t always get along. (It’s the other me’s fault. That bitch is exhausting.)
I want to hang out with people who are what I hope to be, not what I already am. It’s about the reflection, not the carbon copy.