I looked at the clock. I had five minutes before I had to leave to meet my friend at her place. I was wearing the same shirt as yesterday, my “casual” yoga pants, and no socks. I considered being late and taking the time to make myself more presentable – for about half a second, before shrugging and thinking, “Meh, it’s just Genie,” and slipping on my shoes.
I’m an introvert. No, that’s not a strong enough word. I’m a hermit. I don’t like people, or rather, I like people so much that they scare me into not wanting to be around them. I realize my life is sort of a paradox – I make a living sharing my inner-most private thoughts with the world at large, but a chance encounter with an acquaintance at the grocery store gives me heart palpitations.
I value online friendships. They offer me the comfort that in-person ones do not. I once had an in-depth, intensely personal conversation with a very good friend, then saw her at Tim Horton’s a few hours later and legitimately hid so she wouldn’t see me and talk to me. I went to a play and ended up seated next to an editor and friend with whom I speak nearly daily, and was so petrified I pretended not to recognize her – and being the good friend she is, she did the same for me. We laughed about it via Facebook Messenger moments after leaving the theatre.
When I do decide to go out with friends, I require careful thought and preparation beforehand. I straighten my unruly hair. I put on make-up, a bi-yearly occurrence. I fret and over-think. I make everything as perfect as possible before meeting with these people, even though they are my friends.
But not with Genie. In the ten years that Genie and I have been friends, she has seen me laugh. She has seen me cry. She has seen me braless, and sockless, and, after a moment of ill-advised impulsivity, hairless. When Genie asks if I want to come over, whatever I look like is how she gets me. And I don’t worry about it for a second.
I don’t know what it is about Genie that makes me let my guard down. She isn’t my only close friend. She isn’t the only friend I trust with my words, or my secrets, or my heart. I am an open book with many, but I am only an open door with Genie. It isn’t that I think my other friends would be critical or lose respect for me if I showed up at their house in my “true form” – my friends are not assholes. But my social anxiety prevents me from ever trying it with them in the way I do so effortlessly with Genie.
Popularity is a big deal with kids, and indeed many adults. It’s something I struggled with growing up as a child with few friends. I hoped my future children would be well-liked. Now, my hopes for them have changed. I no longer wish for them to be popular. I don’t care if they are given a string of high fives walking down the hall, or if they are invited to birthday parties every weekend.
I want them to have a friend who takes them entirely as they are. Someone who can show up at their house day or night and be invited in, no matter the state of the dishes or clutter. Someone who doesn’t care if they show up at their house barefoot in the winter.
I hope they have a friend with whom they never have to think twice about anything. A friend who will take them in whatever shape or form they are in, no questions asked or eyes blinked. I hope they find someone with whom they never feel a tug of self-consciousness, shyness, or discomfort.
I want them to find a “just” friend. I want them to find their Genie.