I recently decided to be honest with myself about the kinds of people I like to be around, and to act accordingly.
In middle school, here was my policy: if a person was willing to spend time with me, then I liked to be around that person. There were no exceptions. The person did not even have to be nice. As long as the person would put up with me for more than 15 minutes, the person was my favorite person.
It was only recently that I realized that this methodology needed some updating. In middle school, I had a shrine in my closet dedicated to all things Spice Girls; I cried for 80 percent of the waking day (and 40 percent of the sleeping day); I quoted Austin Powers movies at length; and I sometimes ate shredded parmesan cheese with soy sauce on top. In other words, I was not an attractive specimen. The fact that anyone not related to me ever spent any time with me is completely amazing.
However, it's also amazing that anyone spent any time with anyone in middle school, because we were all awful. I was my own version of awful, but this was also an era where we all taped up pictures of celebrities we had no real interest in in our lockers to impress someone else. There were girls who stole their mothers' money to get their hair flattened, and others who peed on peoples' clogs while said people were in gym class wearing gym shoes. (I'm not going to say if this happened to me. I'll just say that you never get the smell of human urine out of pleather. Never.) Watching kids enter into the treacherous wasteland of tweendom as a teacher, it's hard not to feel really, really bad for them. It's kind of like watching people get on a plane to go to war. You just know that they are doomed.
In middle school, everyone hated themselves and simultaneously wanted more than anything to be liked by others. That meant everyone was mean and also took meanness very personally. It was just a disaster. So yeah, the you-like-me-I'll-like-you mentality was actually not a bad one to have back then. But since then, we've all become relatively self-actualized adults, and it's time for us to rethink the way we decide who to spend our time with.
I've been listening to a lot of Dan Savage lately. I know I'm late to the party on this -- basically everyone cool I know was listening to Dan Savage as babies, developing their own personalized individual gender identities by the age of six. But, as a person who occasionally thinks about the possibility of dating around (before remembering that I am "so busy" and have "lots of cats anyway"), I am currently kind of obsessed with his weekly podcast. There's a lot of terms he uses that you have to Google (GGG, Santorum, monogamish, etc.). And then there's this one phrase he comes back to again and again, which I really like: "There's a lid for every pot."
The idea is that you should be honest about what you want, because there's definitely someone else on earth who is also into whatever kinky shit you are into. Like, if you want to dress up like a baby, don't hide you desire to dress up like a baby. Instead, find someone who wants to have sex with an adult-sized baby. It's a very nice principle, and I actually believe in it: be confident about who you are and what you want, and you will find a person whose version of who they are and what they wants matches yours.
For some reason, it's taken me a long time to apply that same principle to my friendships. Maybe because I have some idea that the more close friends I have, the better I will feel, and the more everyone else in the world will see me as worthwhile. The truth is, I don't like to drink alcohol, I don't like to stay out late, I don't like to spontaneously shout in the streets, and I don't like to "just chill." So why have I been spending my entire adult life pretending I like those things in order to please the people around me?
I've recently made a resolution to surround myself with people who challenge me, and who I want to talk to for hours on end. I want to want to be around the people I choose to be around. I want to feel like I'm learning. I want to feel like I'm sharing. I want to give and receive reciprocally. I want to make dinner for people, and know that they will also make dinner for me. I want to believe that if I'm doing something absurd, the people I choose to spend my time with will tell me that it is absurd, in a loving, honest, and straightforward way. I want to be able to say "I love you" throughout my day, to most of the people I am around. And as an adult, I can do that.
That's not to say, Be mean. It's to say, Be gentle with yourself and honest with how you want to spend your time. Find your pots, and be a devoted, loyal, and loving lid to them (or vice versa). Life is too short to be constantly changing your shape to suit the (perfectly nice, totally deserving) people around you. The thing is, there are lids out there that fit their pots too.
I had lunch yesterday with a girl I met last year named Madeleine. It was immediately apparent to me that she had great potential to be a fit. She asked a lot of questions, and answered a lot of questions. She bought me a kale pie (I KNOW), and shared her sandwich with me. She was present and thoughtful, and I got the sense that I had so much to learn from her about the world she inhabits.
When a person clicks with you like that, you realize that it is worth it to seek those people out and hold onto them when you find them. And for the rest of the world -- the ones who are nice, but don't set you on fire -- say hi, smile, ask them about how their life is going, and stop short of, "We should hang out." That's ok. It doesn't make you a bad person. It just makes you a grown up.