Friendship is a concept that seems so simple but in reality is so complicated. Tweens often come face to face with this tough fact in middle school, when the days of "we're friends with everyone" of preschool and kindergarten seem far, far away.
As tweens and teens figure out who they are and who they want to be, they move in and out of friend groups, sometimes abruptly or without explanation. As with most things with tweens, the resulting feelings are powerful.
It's not surprising, then, that those experiences stay with people into adulthood.
Today is the publication day of My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. I'm thrilled to have an essay included in this anthology edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Springer, and with a forward written by Nicole Knepper of ChicagoNow's Moms Who Drink and Swear.
Given this blog, it is not a shock that I wrote about a childhood friendship that lasted through elementary and middle school, but ended in high school. I wasn't the only one who wrote about childhood friendships, though. A section of the book focuses on friendships from when we were young. Reading them served as an important reminder of the power of feelings that surround friendships, including the joy of feeling like you belong. Chelsea Schott's essay really stuck with me.
"In that moment, I know what it's like to be loved -- to be shown off, to be bragged about, to have my heart knitted together with hers," Schott writes of how she felt when her friend introduced her at the lunch table and then called her "friend."
Of course, the sting of mean girl behavior is just as strong, and Alethea Kehas' essay captures the exceptional sadness that comes with being shunned in middle school. She also touched on a theme that appeared in several of the essays about childhood friendship, which is that parents, especially mothers, were not always privy to what their tween and teen daughters experienced. That doesn't mean, however, that they were clueless, either.
"Although I had chosen to share with my mother only a fraction of the humiliation I had endured during the past year, it was enough for her to know that my life at school had been ruined by my two former friends," Kehas explains.
Spoiler alert: Her story, like others in the book, has a happy ending, and that's not even including the essays found in the section on reconciliations.
Another section of the book focuses on friendship in motherhood. The essays in the section really made me think about how our experiences are tied together with those of our children, and the positive and negative impacts of that. One of the happy endings there comes as the result of a Alyson Herzig's discussion with her eight year-old. Out of the mouths of babes, right?
More than that cliche, though, it reminded me that our perspective of friendship is sometimes different, and clearer, with distance. We need support in navigating friendship, and sometimes that support comes from surprising places, like a child, or perhaps from this book. Several friends have told me that they really related to various essays and had always thought that their experience with the end of a friendship was unique, and that brought shame and loneliness. Those awful feelings abated for them after reading this book, and that makes me feel so very proud to have been a part of this amazing project.
Being published in a book is a lifelong goal of mine, and getting to share pages with amazing writers is icing on the cake. (Having an Amazon writer page is the cherry on top of this delicious confection.)
More importantly, though, I am grateful that this book has given me more insight into my own experiences and to those of my daughter, and that is priceless.
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