Friday, April 4, 2014

Women and Their Friends: This Chick's Territorial Behavior, Explained

My very best girlfriend recently celebrated a milestone birthday...you know, one of the big ones, where the first number changes and the second number starts over at zero ***staying cryptic because I love her***...

As expected, this event inspired a slew of celebrations, plans, and well-wishes. Everyone wanted to see the birthday girl and shower her with some well-deserved love. The clamoring for her attention was wonderful and sweet, a true representation of the celebration of life and friendship....

...unless you're that chick's best friend .... and you've been left off of the planning committee.

Yep. Not one, not two, but three separate celebratory plans were made by other girlfriends for my best good friend - all pre-planned without me - all before I could even begin to share my ideas for her big #-0 birthday.

Raging Jen - engage!

Now I've gotten over myself calmed down patched things up with the planners for the most part...and I was luckily invited to two of the three events, so I'll get to participate.....but that swift, fierce anger I felt when I first realized these plans were made? What was that all about?

Why am I so territorial?

Some people immediately conclude I am just being a dramatic, immature ass. I'd be the first to agree with those statements in many cases......but not this one. This runs much deeper than simple childish thoughts or catty attitudes. And contrary to popular belief, I actually don't enjoy drama. It's true.

So hang on, readers. I'm going to attempt to determine the source of this territorial behavior.

Back in the day, women bonded with each other for a slew of reasons. They kept each other company. They depended on each other for things like clothing, food, and childcare. They shared skills and traditions. Some would even argue women actually dominated men by quietly pushing their combined views and agendas behind closed doors every night...tricky, tricky li'l ladies. 

They were like little herds.


Today, women continue to band together during times of heartache and tribulation. We talk. And talk. And talk. We shop for clothes together, eat together (wine parties count), and help each other with childcare (ok not all my girlfriends do this but every one of them would be there for me if I really needed it). And of course, we influence the men in our lives....we run this shizza...with our little herds.



Unlike the cultures of the past, however, we don't interact with each other each day. A majority of today's Americans live in segregated families. The herd only gets back together on occasion. It's part of growing up, moving out, getting married, starting careers, buying houses, having kids...the chance (and frankly, the desire) to hang out and relive the days of old are fewer and farther between.

It's a hard obstacle to beat - maintaining your herd when life's choices and paths are taking you in different directions. But it can be done. 

My longest-standing "herd member" is the person who, almost twenty years ago, decided to be nice to me when everyone else chose to tease. She's the one who held my hand when I cried about my first broken heart...and then my second broken heart....and then my third. She's the person who stood by my side, jaw rigid, when I made a major life decision she didn't agree with. She's the one who to this day braids my hair simply because I love how it feels. She yells at me. She cries with me. She makes me laugh again and again. She knows my answer before even asking the question...

...and vise-versa. I can zero in on the exact moment she gets irritated in a conversation. I can tell, just by watching her body language, if she feels happy with the way she looks today. I know precisely how anxious and nervous she is, regardless of how put together everyone else thinks she is. I know just what to say to piss her off. I know her insecurities, her joys, her passions. I know her, through and through.

You see, we were the original herd. When I had nobody else, she was my herd. It was just the two of us. We spent every waking minute together, day after day, for years. People have come, people have gone...some became incredible, insanely-loved long term herd members. These later additions to the group also fall under my territorial umbrella of love...but in the beginning, it was just the two of us.


We didn't just fall into this friendship. It has required lots of communicating, not giving up on each other, and learning to compromise. We've earned the fruits of our labor - unbreakable, almost unconditional acceptance is not easy to find.

This is special. This is a blessing. This is something that deserves respect.

And that's where the territorial thunder comes in.

In the animal world, those who've been in the herd the longest have seniority...not by default, or because they have a Macho-Woman ego, but because they've proven to be well-versed in the ways of the group. They know each other well enough to execute decisions on one another's behalf and they can predict the outcome of certain social situations before they actually happen. They can do all these things because they've been around each other long enough to learn how. Sure, these skills can be learned by new members of the herd, but never at the same intensity. You cannot turn back time, Cher.

Experiences happen once - that's it - especially the unique, special ones that dot your memory with seemingly-insignificant importance.

...like the first time she slammed a door in my face and made me realize I could not be an asshole just because I was mad. Or when we got trapped in the middle of the street, a crazed dog barking circles around us, clutching each other for dear life and thinking we were gonna die. Or when I twisted my ankle on a rock and she didn't call me a sissy for crying my eyes out. Or when she slept next to me the night my baby was born. Or when she dragged her tired butt up and down countless flights of stairs to help me move my things.....over and over again.

You cannot possibly develop the same understanding and lessons learned as someone who's actually experienced these moments firsthand.

And that's it, people. That is the reason why I am so territorial about my longest, closest friends.

I am trying to protect and preserve bonds I've earned through years and years of experience. It's nice being around people who know you to your core and don't piss you off. Plain and simple. Why wouldn't you want to hold fast to such bonds?

Now let's add another layer of comprehension to the bean dip.

Not only am I trying to protect a relationship I hold very dear to my heart, but I'm attempting to solidify future experiences with someone who happens to be on a very different life path from me at the moment. Her path has more in common with the paths of others....others who are not like me. I am on another road - watching from the distance - loving where I am, but missing the days when we skipped merrily along together.

We've been here before. We've gotten through it. We always get through it. This will be no different.

But it isn't easy. How many people can say they have ten or fifteen friends they've known their entire life, are still ridiculously close to, and expect to love until the day they die? The reality is some friendships don't make it. Different paths often mean goodbye. Some friends don't stick around. It's ok, there's nothing wrong with it. Some things weren't meant to last forever. It happens.

But the ones that were meant to last forever only do so because you give them the power to. 

And so I fight. I fight to be included. I fight to be respected. I fight for recognition - recognition of her role in my life and mine in hers. I can't always hang with the herd and that's ok. She meets me on my path all the time...cuz she loves me. I will continue to fight....tooth and nail....because she is worth it.

Do any of you have a herd like the one I described above? Do you find yourself getting territorial, or am I the only crazy, flawed person in this bunch? I'd love to hear from you in the comments down below!

...and as always, thank you for reading :)



Jen
jen@jenniferludwigsen.com's

11 comments:

  1. Jen, beautiful, a beautiful depiction of a wonderful friendship. You will survive this. Sometimes you have to fight to remember how much it is worth.

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    1. Thank you Sarah :) I am so thankful to have you as my #1 reader!!!!! :)

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  2. Oh my goodness, sitting in Panera reading this and trying to hold back the tears!!!!! URGH!!!! I walked away form all those friendships when I got on a plane and came to the USA in 1989. I miss them dearly, we have reconnected through Facebook, but it is not the same. We don't have years of stories and sharing marriages and children. Here I have several friends, but again nothing like you have described. I gave all that up when I came across an ocean for love. My best friend is my hubby, I will fight tooth and nail for him, so in that respect I GET YOU, you fight for it. You have EARNT it.... You were there in the beginning, you will be there all the way....

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    1. Awwww and YES - marriages count! I once lived for 3 years in Germany, away from my friends and family. I missed out on all the things they did - and can never get it back - but I also made my own priceless memories with my family! If it wasn't for that time together we wouldn't be the incredible family we are today. Stay strong and thank you so, so much for reading!!!

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  3. Wow! Wow! Truly an amazing post! I was shaming my head and nodding along with you all the way through! I'm territorial of my friendship with the only friend I maintained from my high school. Things change as we get older, but deep down you know a friendship was meant to last. I totally get why you were upset with being excluded. So no crazy comments from me--I get you :-)

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    1. Thank you Kalley! I love that you can relate!! I honestly think a bunch of women can relate to this - we bond emotionally to people, so it's only natural to react emotionally to anything relating to that bond! I am so glad you stopped by and thank you very much for reading!

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  4. This is a wonderful heartfelt post! I am sorry to hear about how things initially went with planning your friend's bday celebrations. I have definitely been on both sides of this before and it is hard when you grow up and friends become dispersed all over the country and even the world! Everyone makes new friends and has their own family and sometimes it is easy to feel left out. I can totally understand how you felt and you're lucky to have such a close friendship! That is a reason to celebrate!

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    1. Thank you Jessica!! :) You are so right - her friendship is absolutely worthy of celebration! And it is SO hard to maintain the global friendships I made when I was in Germany - one of my favorite people in the whole wide world now lives a few states away and because we both have small kids, we haven't had the chance to visit each other yet. Luckily, we have one of those friendships that pick right up where they left off and I know I'll be seeing her again very soon :) Thank you so much for reading and commenting!!

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  5. What a beautifully written post. I've noticed that as we get older and grow on our own paths it's difficult to come together as girlfriends and get togethers become more of a fun event rather than an undercurrent in our lives. I don't know if I have what I would consider one best friend so you're really lucky.

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  6. I have to comment - I must. My herd member came along later in my 20s but was there for me in the most painful and joyful growing experiences in my life. She is my soul sister. I cannot tell you the immense impact she has on my life. I am in the midst of being territorial and she knows me. She said, "I know you're territorial about _____. Tell me how you feel." I am so thankful to have found this bond... she means the world to me and we have been through so much together -- to recount it all would be impossible. Thank you for this article! Thank you! Thank you!

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  7. Wow! It's like me and my bestfriend. The exact words of our relationship. It's actually my birthday when we talked and realized the territorial friendship we have, really that's the exact word we described ourselves to each other. Kinda we laughed at ourselves but we know and expresively love the company of each other. There the jealous is and protection like we can just live with us alone and we're blessed of each lives. Thanks coz we thought were crazy but we knew its normal 😂. Godbless!

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