How To Define Friendship: What I Learned From Mountain Girl

I was raised by a narcissist so my mechanism for intimacy is broken. Or at least sprained.

I don’t make friends easily. I have a lot of people who I enjoy being with, but it’s rare that I consider a person a friend. At least, this is what I’ve been telling myself for years.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had friends. I loved these people. I loved these people in a way that comforted me. I got love and acceptance that was foreign to me and I cherished them. I wasn’t afraid they would hurt me, or twist my love into a weapon to use against me.

I dated a boy throughout my teens who was mean to me. I won’t go into details, but it was dysfunctional, ugly and sometimes brutal. I met these friends, who I loved, through this boy. Through him, I found a group of people who would be my family. Different people drifted in and out through the years and they were accepted, but the core group was the same 8 people.

I suffer no delusions that any of them have spared me a second thought, but I remember them well. And young.

For 5 years, I spent most of my free time with these people. At one point, the guys in the group got together and staged an intervention with my boyfriend. They told him to stop mistreating me. They told him that unless he stopped being cruel, they wouldn’t be his friend anymore.

He was nice for a while, but it didn’t last.

When I was 20 years old, I ended my 5 year relationship and I lost my friends. They went with him. They didn’t love me anymore. They shed me with ease. I thought we had a true friendship.

My heart shattered and I grieved for years.

Eventually, I stopped grieving and my shattered heart grew scar tissue. That scar tissue, combined with the scars that were left from my father padded my heart and muffled all the feelings.

I had friends later. Some of them were good friends, but I never let anyone get so close that I couldn’t shed them with ease. Maybe, there would be a little pain, but if I would compare the pain from walking away from later friends with my young adult friends dumping me, it would be like comparing a paper cut to a root canal.

I went through a couple husbands, and while I will contend that they certainly played their roles in the demise of our relationships, part of the issue was my inability to connect with other humans in a profound way.

Time has a way of changing things.

First, I met Randy. Our relationship should have never worked. We had many things working against us, but we are stubborn. We have so much goddamn fun together that I forgot to keep him locked out.

I learned that I could love someone who wasn’t my immediate family.

Through Randy, I got my sisters in law. I don’t include them in this post about friends. The way I feel about his sisters transcends friendship. I love them. They are my family.

Our life unfolded and I made friends again. The kind I had when I was young.

I have a friend that I walked away from, but I never let go. We used to go to New York to shop and I used her as a mattress on a bus once. She will always be my friend.

I have Priscilla, Queen of the Cubicle. We got each other through years of misery as we languished in our cubicles, and even though we don’t work together anymore, we still talk nearly every day. It’s not the same, but it’s not over, either. She will always be my friend.

I’ve known mountain girl 3 years now. There was a connection from the beginning. I remember the first time we met. Randy had done some work for her and her band. We went to see mountain girl and the bass player in Tennessee. We were going to watch their gig and had the opportunity to spend the evening in their studio and listen to them run through their set.

We were lost and mountain girl had to come and fetch us. I remember when we pulled up along side her car. She looked so put together and had the most beautiful smile. It was late already and I was tired and disheveled. As we pulled away to follow mountain girl to their studio, I looked at Randy and said “Fucking hell, Randy, she looked so good. I am a mess”,

Randy was not sympathetic to my plight. Guys just don’t get that shit.

I spent an amazing evening listening to the band play. Mountain girl and I slipped into friendship the way I slip into my old pajama pants with the monkeys on them.

I realized, recently, that when mountain girl hurts, then I feel her pain. I mean, I can’t claim to understand how she feels, but I feel pain when she feels pain. If I feel that someone has wronged her, then I am ready battle on her behalf.

I can feel bad when people I care about feel pain, I can hope that their situation improves, but mostly, I can view it as an outsider and my padding protects me from truly uncomfortable feelings. But when I care enough about another human that I have no defense against feeling real pain when they are hurting, I think that means I love them.

I actually can love other people. I have been able to for years.

I am beyond grateful for my friends. I am ready to let go of the belief that I am too broken for deep relationships. These relationships happened, right under my nose, whether I believed they could exist or not.

Decades have passed since I was abruptly dropped by people I loved. Feeling love now for other humans is worth the risk of pain. I’m not even sure when I decided that. Maybe just this moment.

I’m not sure if it means that I can love people beyond my family, or that my family has been growing.

The other cool thing about mountain girl, is that after years of hanging shit on me, she is finally going to watch Doctor Who. We’ve been negotiating this for a while. I am going to have to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s totally worth it even though I’ve never been interested in Star Trek.

After reading this, no way will she back out of the deal.

I’m a good friend to have. I mean that. I am loyal and low maintenance. That doesn’t mean that I’m not just a little bit evil.

I can hear mountain girl right now, she’s going to read this post and be very touched and then she will get to the Doctor Who part and say “Goddammit, Michelle.”






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  • I connect to this very much. People who have been hurt are often slow to trust.

    I also tell myself that I am too broken for deep relationships, but in my case, I mean romantic relationships. I’m looking forward to letting that shit go. Eventually.

    I would like monkey pajamas, and to have a sleepover with you where we both wear them.

    • Wellll…I’m going to have to lose some weight before we’ll both be able to fit in them.

      I just think trusting and having deeper relationships is worth it. It took me a long fucking time to figure that out.

  • whoa, this post is sort of a cherry bomb for me. Sweet and lovely and has all the feels, but it also reminds me how cautious I used to be with letting people in…and why. It was never conscious, but looking back I see how shallow and guarded my relationships were for reasons I won’t go into here. Let’s just say I relate to this personal story you’ve left, bleeding on the page for us to experience.

    …even now, it takes about a year to “trust” and let someone fully in my heart and life….just ask Lizzi.

    Your writing takes my breath away. *hugs*

    –yer sisterwifey.

  • Hi Michelle. Absolutely terrific post. I got dropped. I know the feeling. Just thought I would mention the book (I didn’t write it so no self-promotion going on here – I just read it and thought it was awesome). It’s called “My Other Ex”. It’s an anthology that was put together by Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock. Written by friends who got dumped and who were the dumpers. It’s really enlightening. Funny. Will make you cry. Thanks.

    • You know what I had bought that for the kindle and then forgot. I just checked. I know what I will be doing this afternoon. haha. THANK YOU!

  • Gosh, I so admire your brutal, heartfelt honesty.
    I always look forward to reading your posts.
    Thank you

  • What you went through was awful and I hate that those people behaved so wickedly towards you.

    But I am SUPER glad that you have Priscilla and MountainGirl and Randy to rely on and know that you’re safe with. That’s brilliant, and also it’s kind of everything.

  • The best kind of friend is like iron sharpening iron
    From only its claw we may judge of the lion
    Truth hurts but it stands I cannot tell a lie
    That was our wisdom
    The reptiles and I…

    Shriekback, “The Reptiles and I”

    I used to think of my friends as the ones left standing when the smoke cleared, but I now I think that that may have been correlation and not causation…

      • Looking back, I guess Shriekback was pretty much of a hipster band back in the ’80s when I listened to them a lot, but that particular song has held up well across the years (and is available on Youtube, should you become curious about it). One thing I have noticed about the real friends I have made in the last few years: they seem to all be women.

  • When I was 14 my two closest friends dumped me in favor of another girl – because they were all blondes and I am brunette. That was my first clue that maybe friendship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I like to think that I overcame that but to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was close to someone without at least a thin wall between us. I thought I was doing OK but then you come along and post this and now I feel like I have a deep discussion with my psyche waiting on my front porch and the bastard is knocking. Probably wants to sell me a subscription because it knows I have issues. And ya know, they are vintage issues too. Those fuckers should be worth something by now!

  • The way I always felt was that the love was there I just kept in one little box inside me, so when some one let me down I could close the box and put it away. It was the way I protected myself. I have lots of little boxes inside of me. Some day I hope I can leave a box open. Thats what keeps me going the hope.

    As far as Star Trek goes try ‘The Inner Light’ it is one of the best STNG eps ever. Even better then Dr. Who’s Blink. Take it from a fan of both shows.

  • This is beautiful, and from so much pain. And the comments! There are some lovely courageous people out there, and you are one of them and connecting them.

  • I’ve always been baffled when someone whom I believed to be a good friend is able to drop the friendship like a hot potato. I don’t really have any CLOSE close friends anymore. Not sure if I just gave up or if I simply don’t know how to form a strong friendship (that will actually last, that’s the key).

  • I related to your post in a few different ways. It’s a wonder I trust anyone, ever, but somehow I got the resilient thing and bounce back up. Hopefully, wiser.

  • Love this. I left behind a lot of faux and short-term friends throughout life, and even though at the time it felt devastating, the friendships I created later on meant so much more. I definitely feel you on being more cautious about who you let in, but sometimes those “comfortable” friendships that just happen are more like the right soulmates coming into your life – and a great reason why we should be happy all the bad ones left us 🙂

  • I worry nearly every day that I’m too damaged and broken to ever have a healthy relationship. While I crave true friendship and true love — I don’t know that I can ever trust or be vulnerable enough. It makes me second guess everything I’m feeling — I wonder if my “gut” feelings are just defense mechanisms instead of true warning signals. It sucks.

  • No one escapes these lessons, and its too bad we learn them so young, when they become a permanent part of our synapses. Perhaps people who live their entire lives in the same small town, keep the same friends. Perhaps not. My family moved so much, I became used to letting people go. I didn’t want to get too attached. Then, I lost lifetime friends through death, and by that time, it was harder to get to know people. They’re busy with jobs and families.

    Now I don’t have time for getting close to someone who has ‘issues’. I’m busier now than when I was working. I write for hours almost every day; work out for two; housework and chores; read, etc. Nothing special, but if I break routine, I’d like it to be for someone with whom I click, and since they’re busy too, they’re hard to find.

    I reconnected a couple of years ago with an intelligent, articulate, funny, former colleague. She lives nearby, no children, retired. Eureka! She let a chance misunderstood remark cause a rift in our budding friendship. Her reaction was over the top, and I could see the dark side of something in it. I called the whole thing off. Who needs it? Just like romantic relationships with a handsome, funny, intelligent psycho. The downside isn’t worth it.

    When you find a kindred spirit, see if it can go anywhere, because they are hard to find!

  • I think that we can have friends but there are a very few that transcend that relationship. I’ve had a couple in my lifetime some I miss dearly and one or two who remain.

  • I’m sorry you lost that young group of friends because it sounds like they–or at least the guys who staged the intervention with your boyfriend–were good people. It says something, though, how seemingly good people can surprise you in the worst way.

    By the way once you’ve watched several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and have a good grasp on all the characters make sure you watch the episode “Phantasms”. It’s the series’ equivalent of “The Girl In The Fireplace”, but as delightfully weird as “Blink”.

    • Yeah, it hurt, but that hurt has long since passed. I just let it dictate how I dealt with other people for far too long.

      I got through the first episode and wasn’t enthralled..but I made a deal. Also, I will probably get into it once I get into it. haha.

      • The thing to keep in mind is that the show got significantly better. Looking at the first season that seems like damning with faint praise, but The Next Generation started in the middle of a writers’ strike and they were taking any lousy script they could get. And even Doctor Who has had its ups and downs.

  • I love this. I really do. I think you and I have a lot in common and I see it a little more when I read things like this. It’s good to have relationships that are comfortable. I don’t have a shit ton of friends, only a choice few and we have the same thing you explain here and it is priceless.

  • I often suffer from classic Friend Jumping Syndrome, wherein I introduce two of my friends and they go on to take me out of the equation. This happened very recently in a really painful way that I swear I’ll get over, but not soon. I’m done playing friend matchmaker though. You’ll get no more introductions from me, people! lol I’m slow to make friends too. It takes me forever to finally feel open and at ease. Like eons.

  • Oh Girl… been there … and it sucked big time. I feel I may have been guilty of it to an extent but not for my really good girlfriends. I keep them no matter what. And I don’t need many- just a few and I am happy. Sorry you went through all that – its a crappy feeling.

  • You see, this is what keeps me coming back here time after time…your honesty and how you put it all out there, and not in a “poor me…everybody feel sorry for me” way, either. It’s like we’re inside your head, and it’s a good place to be.

    I’ve been extremely fortunate in my weird, crazy life to have made some wonderful friends who have stuck by me through some really bad times. A couple of them I used to call blog friends, and now I just call them friends. You never know when and where lasting relationships might spring up. 🙂

    • Thank you. Really.

      I have had my poor pitiful me moments…but I truly try to keep them at a minimum because it gains me nothing. And good friends….good friends make life so much better.

  • you said it!
    I have been supported this week by two women that I thought of as just passing acquaintances, but when I hit full blown anxiety this week, they were the ones who were there – sensing my pain – like you sense mountain girl’s pain.
    Forgive her for her beauty – lol – it is a burden some people have to bear!

    I am glad you have good friends, because you totally deserve it.

  • You just beautifully put into words many things I cannot but all of this rings very true with me too. Maybe there’s hope for me yet, I kind of doubt I’ll find my kindred spirit at this stage of the game but you’re making me think that maybe broken isn’t all I am, even if the people I’ve met so far can’t see past that.

  • Recent addict to your blog, and I thank you, it had to be hard to write this one but it (like all of them) was great. This one hit home in many ways. So, just thank you.

    • I am so glad you liked it! Thank you so much.

      Not gonna was harder than usual to hit ‘publish’ on this one. I’m glad I did, though.

By Michelle


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