Introverted?

I love people and am fascinated by social interaction. I often wonder why I drag my feet in letting people know the real me. Some days, I want to shock people and write what I am truly thinking on Facebook. Because nobody really writes what they’re thinking… they only write polished stuff that makes them look good, right?  The few people who do let it all out… well. They somehow seem to get away with it.

I often do formulate status updates for Facebook in my mind. But the process of getting the thought from my mind to the screen is quite a lengthy process. For example, the other day I was taking a bath, and and I used shampoo to create a semblance of bubbles. I move my legs a little, and the froth in the bath tub makes swirls like in the painting “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. The swirls are perfect, and even if I drag my finger to mess them up, they just get even more beautiful. I’m impressed, so I sit there in the tub lost in thought, constructing a Facebook update then re-writing it in my head ten times over. Because it sounds either too lewd, too personal, too unrelateable to the normal joe, or too odd. I imagine my sister in law reading it and rolling her eyes like she inevitably does most times I dare to speak in her presence. I imagine the judgemental thoughts of my family members in my daring to write publicly about my experience in a bath tub. I realize for the hundredth time that I’m unhappy that my family members are FB ‘friends’ and wish I had the nerve to unfriend them. Then I realize that without family members, my ‘friend’ count would go down to about 5 people, and those five might not comment or like anything I post in the future. And I need to have a base of people who will ‘like’ stuff, otherwise I wouldn’t post at all. Not that I do post, really. The process of churning out an acceptably safe post is so strenuous that it takes 3 days to deliberate… and by that time the post is old news and not authentic, so I drop the idea altogether.

Now that I think about it, I am highly tempted to delete all family members because they are extremely judgemental, and have a black and white view of the world that everything is either wrong or right. About 99% of the time, stuff is wrong, sinful, unacceptable. And they gossip about it. I don’t want to be gossiped about.

The only people on FB that I feel safe enough to post my thoughts to are the people online that I never met in person. Hmmm.

The concept of “friends” intrigues me. I’ve never had a best friend. I’ve never really had “friends.” I’ve had coworkers, and social acquaintances. Oh, wait, I’ve had friends. But they were all male. And they were all boyfriends, or potential boyfriends. My first friend was my first boyfriend.  The only problem here is that when I broke up with a boyfriend, I lost a friend. And the world became very lonely. I’m married now, so understandably I have one solid friend, my husband. The ex boyfriends are no longer friends.
With my niece

Sometimes I ask myself why it’s been so difficult for me to make friends. Perhaps I’ve inherited an introverted personality.  But there’s more. It’s been a case of both nature and nurture for me.

Let me just put it out there. I grew up in a cult. I grew up emotionally abused, bullied and scared by a dark faced religion that still makes my brothers, sisters and mother cower… but they don’t know it. Let’s say someone asked you to close your eyes. When you open them, you are half an inch away from a large photograph that is blurred because you are so close to it. But step back three feet and look at the photograph, and it’s something evil and twisted, and you’re like, ‘oh whoa.’ My siblings and mother have not stepped back, as the religions entangles every facet of their daily lives. It is normal life to them. They see no alternative. They can’t realize the horror because they are too close to it.

My father’s religion dictated that the world is full of sin, and it wasn’t safe for his children or wife to be in the world. So he warned us that if he saw us speaking to, looking at, or trying to befriend the neighborhood children, he would take the rod to us. We were only allowed to speak to other “Christians” and even then we were only allowed to speak to them under the supervision of another adult Christian. My father was angry and cruel, and I was scared of him. I would have panic attacks hearing his footsteps pounding up the steps toward my room. I followed his rules to a T because I was really afraid of his wrath. Being naturally shy, I didn’t have too tough of a time with this no-friends rule. Or, so I thought. But it was tough enough. I remember countless times, being waved to or said ‘hello’ to, and I would have to resist my natural desire to be friendly. I would have to tell myself, “No, it’s a sin. If you wave or smile, you are sinning. Put your hand down and frown. Be a good girl, turn your back, ride your bike back home and hide in your room until those kids get tired of riding their bikes in front of your house. When they go, it will be safe to go out and play.”

I had to train myself to act like an icicle. Cool and distant, aloof. People probably thought I was snotty. The neighborhood kids called us the “Christian kids,” and knew we weren’t allowed to talk to them. It was the way it was. I really wanted to be friends with this girl Denise down the road, but knew it was sinful to desire friendship with her, as she belonged to the ‘other side.’ The other side, meaning, the non-Christian side.

It’s messed up, I know. I grew up thinking that friendship was a sin. Even friendship with other Christians. My dad let the ax down on each possible friendship I’ve ever contemplated starting with each Christian girl that wanted to be friends. In my dad’s words, they weren’t Godly enough for his liking. No girl ever was Godly enough, and eventually I gave up even trying.

If it was impossible to get my dad’s ok on the godliness of any other female friends, can you imagine his beliefs on the opposite sex. My dad would preach fire and brimstone to us about even looking at or returning a hello to any male in the church. I knew he was staring at us girls at church every Sunday. I felt his eyes boring into the back of my head. My older sisters got in trouble a few times because men in the church tried to talk to them. I wanted to avoid that kind of trouble altogether.

With my niece and sister, when I was 33.

Once when I was in high school, a girl named Christina started to become friendly with me. Christina was a wild child, and under orders from the home front, I was told I wasn’t supposed to ‘encourage’ her friendship. One day our English teacher had my class write a slice of life story, and Christina wrote about her shy friend who didn’t open up, wasn’t there for her, didn’t engage in conversation with her, and made her feel lonely. We were attending a small religious school, and I had only five people in my class. I was the only shy one in that class, so the others knew Christina was referring to me. The English teacher asked the class what they thought of this ‘friend,’ and went on to say that the ‘friend’ was being selfish, and that shy people were actually guilty of the sin of selfishness, since they chose to withhold themselves and lock themselves up on their own volition. In her view, shyness was a negative choice, punishable by God.

I sat there in class with my cheeks burning red, trying to ignore the looks from the others. I attempted to chastise myself for being selfish, but wasn’t able to. Who cared about being selfish or not? Did I care if I was considered selfish? Hah ha. Not at all. All I cared about was saving my own ass and not disobeying the Almighty father at home who I was terrified of. From my earliest memories of childhood, he coerced us into believing that when he spoke, it was the voice of God… and who was I to mess with God? Which was preferable, to have your teacher and classmates think you were selfish, or to go against God’s orders and risk his wrath? An easy enough answer there.

I didn’t move out of my parent’s house until I was 24, and had graduated college. It was extremely liberating. I was so ready to experience the world after being cooped up so long. But every time I went to act friendly toward another female, I felt odd. I felt like I was sinning. I felt like I shouldn’t talk to them. I felt this heavy pull downwards, holding me back from smiling, or showing interest. I felt awkward and weird, like I was trying to start something that shouldn’t be happening. It felt unnatural. To this day, I haven’t had a female friend. It still feels weird.

It was a major breakthrough when I got a boyfriend for the first time. I knew guys wanted sex, and my parents never gave us a sex talk. They were too righteous to bring up that dirty word. They did tell us that non Christian men were as off limits as non Christian women, but they didn’t say anything about sex. So there was the open door for me. I didn’t have sex until my second boyfriend came along, because the church tells you God will be angry with you for this sin. So I wasn’t necessarily trying to have sex. The great thing is that after you have sex, you do feel quite friendly toward the person, so finally I found out an easy enough way to make and keep a friend. You have sex, then that person wants to be your friend. Finally, I figured out a way to make friends.

It’s odd. I feel like I have nothing to offer another woman when I want to be her friend. The way I got a man to befriend me was letting him think I was interested in him “that way.” My friendships have all been centered around one thing: being someone’s girlfriend, or a guy thinking I might become his girlfriend. The promise of sex was what powered each of my friendships. So that’s why I feel weird when I’m on the verge of making friends with another female. It starts to feel like it’s supposed to turn sexual, and that creeps me out and I end up running from the friendship or keeping it so surface level that it doesn’t have a chance to develop.

I will figure it out though. Most people I’ve run into don’t share common ground with me, and have treated me like an odd ball that fell from space. However. My husband has an identical twin brother who married a girl who is similar to me, shy and artistic, intuitive, loves poetry and nature. I’m not sure what her background experiences are like, but I feel like I can relate to her. More on this later.

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