On Friendship, Part One

Yesterday I received a Friend Request on Facebook from an old girlfriend I haven’t seen or spoken to since college, & prior to that 9th grade, because in college she happened to be standing in front of me speaking to me, & because 9th grade was the last time I considered her my friend.

I’ve always been fairly Friend dysfunctional.   From age 1 to 7 I lived in Iowa, Colorado, then Ohio; I went to 2 different preschools because even that early I had difficulty fitting in (I refused to speak to any of the other children), & for both kindergarten & 1st grade I started the school year off as The New Kid.   Not only was I The New Kid — I was The New, Asian Kid.   “I heard you Eskimos eat fish raw,” some 5-year-old dumb ass said to me.   “We eat the EYEBALLS,” I told him.   Nevermind that I wasn’t Eskimo.   I didn’t even know what an Eskimo was.   Fuck you, you smug little shit.   Yeah, I had my New Kid attitude down pretty solid.

The truth is, I really did want to have friends.   A friend.   Something.   I wasn’t the kind of baby or toddler who liked or even had any interest in stuffed animals.   At 3 I liked books.   As a little girl I had no interest in Barbie.   My dad said I once asked if I could have a sword instead of a doll.   Probably because I wanted to kill one of the other kids at school, but he didn’t know that.   But deep down inside, I was lonely.   Actually, I’m guessing.   I think I might have had some deeply buried loneliness.   Now that I’m thinking about it it’s a little blurry.

I must have been lonely because in kindergarten I designated Yasuko Arai as my Best Friend.   Yeah.   My BF.   They didn’t have BFFs in those days; it was just BF.   Yasuko was the only other Japanese kid in kindergarten at Steck Elementary, & she was also my downstairs neighbor, because we Japanese peeps stuck together & all lived in the same apartment building, owned by the Kimuras, another Japanese family.

When we moved a year later to Ohio I was heartbroken.   At Case Elementary I was the New Asian Kid again.   In Ohio they weren’t quite as racist or ignorant as in Colorado or Iowa, & no one seemed to bother much that I was an Eskimo.   In the year I was there I didn’t connect much with anyone.   There was some clingy girl named Pam who would sit next to me & ask me to draw pictures of her & this boy she had a crush on.   I drew a picture of them naked & the teacher called my parents, who blamed it on a recent visit to an art exhibit.

At 7 I moved back to Hawaii & enrolled in 2nd grade at Aina Haina Elementary.   I got to be The New Kid again, attitude intact.   I wasn’t looking forward to it; I’d done this before & it wasn’t any fun then either.   Gayle Nakahodo told one of the other girls, who told me, that she didn’t like me because my answer to everything was “So?”   Well, she was right.   I used that comeback a lot.   On the first day of school a bunch of boys cornered me at recess & when the first one charged me I sidestepped him into the tree my back was up against & I got sent to the principal’s office.   See, I’d been in that situation before.   You try being an Asian kid in Des Moines or Denver.   My snappy comeback didn’t work on the principal any better than it had on Gayle.

Welcome to my life as a misfit.

Probably due to my apparent social retardation, I always had friends who treated me like crap.   This is undoubtedly as much my fault as anyone else’s; I was just the natural oddball, & kids are mean.   It’s just how they are.   They pick on the adopted, the dumb, the ugly, the fat, the odd.   I was certainly odd.   I’m sure they just couldn’t help themselves.

High school brought my shitty friend situation to a new high.   I had a group of girlfriends who criticized my clothes & my hair, who told me to meet them outside the football game at 5:30pm, but actually met each other at 5:15 & went in without me.   I waited outside from 5:30 to almost 6 with my mom sitting in the car to make sure I was with my friends.   I didn’t know where they were.   I was sure they had said 5:30.   I ended up just going back home with my mom.   The next day when they casually explained that they had actually met at 5:15 & just gone in, I had no response.   I brushed it aside.

The girls decided to tell me that one of them was “going steady” with a popular senior named Guy because, they thought, it would make me jealous or feel more like a loser or something, & they would enjoy observing me.   This makes no sense at all because I barely even knew who Guy was.   So Heidi would leave our little group for a little while every day at recess, behaving quite obviously secretively, & I thought nothing of it.   I was never the type to question my friends.   When, days later, she revealed her Big Secret – that she was “going” with Guy – I was surprised & happy for her.   “I’m so happy for you!” I gushed.   And I was.   Later they explained to me that it had just been a joke.   I was utterly confused by this but, as before, I didn’t say much about it.

I’d taken, in 9th grade, to escaping campus & going to the nearby shopping mall, where I wandered around & usually got lunch from Orange Julius or McDonalds (anything but school lunch!) by myself.   One day, 2 weeks after I had turned 15, I missed the bus back to school.   I didn’t want to be late for 5th period & was walking, as fast as I could, back towards school.   It was a 10 minute walk, if I walked fast, & I was going to be late, which vexed me.   A man pulled over & companionably said “Jump in!   I’ll give you a ride!”   But instead he took me to an abandoned house, & then to his coke dealer’s house, & while they were pulling mattresses out over the floor I slipped out a side door & ran for my life.

The humiliation & degradation that followed between my family, HPD & the Hawaii State court system is another story.   I’m telling you about my piece of shit friends.   When I went back to school the next day (I had just spent an entire afternoon being terrorized, thinking logically that this dude was going to have to kill me afterward, lost my hymen & spent the night in the hospital clinic with a rape kit but did I get a day off from school?   No.), my so-called girlfriends asked me what happened.   I told them the truth.   And BAM, no one would talk to me.   I was a pariah; I was even more of a freak than before.   When I try to remember what the following days were like as I went through the crap that rape victims go through at the age of 15, I mostly remember sitting on the sidewalk outside of my conflicted & angry house, alone & hopeless.   And silent.  There was no one I could talk to.   There was no one on my side.   I had no friends.   When the schoolwide Cut Day came along I was there, on campus, alone.    I had no one to cut out with.   I’d be alone anyway.

In 10th grade I found new friends.


Hindsight is 20/20, & I know that I have never learned to read people.   Maybe the lack of social stability in my formative years kept me from being able to fit in.   Maybe I’ve just always been an unfriendly, unpleasant personality.   Maybe the abundant criticism I received at home (another story) dulled my senses to the dislike & disdain I blindly accepted from my peers.   But whatever my affliction, I know these things:

1. Friends are nice to each other.   If they’re not nice to you, they’re not your friends. If they do things to deliberately hurt you, they’re not your friends.
2. Friends trust each other. Friends who trust you will believe you when you say you had something really bad happen to you yesterday.
3. Friends enjoy your company. They don’t ditch you. If they ditch you, they’re not your friends.
4. When something horrible happens, you need friends to talk to, but not necessarily about the horrible thing. You just need friends that you can talk to about anything else… so that you can stop thinking about it & so that you can feel that in spite of the horrible thing, someone still likes you.

I’ve had the opportunity to pick up other, finer, points to what Friendship is since then, but that’s for another blog.   In this blog I’d like to thank those girls from 9th grade for being shining examples of what a true friend isn’t.   Obviously it was something I needed to learn, & I think I got it.   Took me awhile.

When I received Shelby’s Friend Request yesterday, I thought about it for a good 30 seconds.   I know, all that ugliness is in the past.   We’re all different people by now.   But I’m unable to just chuck all that pain & pretend it never happened.   It’s not that I’m vengeful; I’m just not that forgiving either.    Also, in order to move on from something I honestly feel it must be acknowledged & understood.   Then you can let it go.   When I found new friends in 10th grade, I didn’t look back except to spit.   But since all I saw from Shelby was a Friend Request, basically requesting that I pretend that everything that happened back then is just alright with me, it didn’t take much consideration to guide my mouse to the Ignore button.

I deserve an apology, you bitch.

No thanks.   I got real friends now.   I think.   I’m still learning.


2 responses to “On Friendship, Part One

  1. Thank you, for what its worth, for sharing your story. Awful “lessons” for anyone to learn in 9th grade, let alone ever. I’m glad, though, that you’ve got a firm grasp of real friendship, and of yourself, now. It certainly shines through.

    An online friend isn’t much, but I consider myself lucky in being one, nonetheless.

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