At the end of my senior year of high school, I was sort of having a fucking blast (yes, I am a person who liked being a teenager and I know that cool adults don’t like people who had fun in high school in a sort of weird inverse popularity contest where the more you hated your childhood the cooler you are now and the more you were a happy kid the more the now-cool adults want to cast you as Biff-from-Back-to-the-Future, but come on you guys, shit be more complicated than that, can we just admit this?). I had a tight group of 5-or-so pals that I ran around with and beyond that I was the sort of girl who was part of no group, but somehow turned this into being a part of every group, which is still sort of my preferred social territory. I remember having sporty friends (I had no interest in sports), and arty friends (I was not an artist), and theater friends (I was in plays, ok), and burnout friends (I was a big teetotaler then), and gangster friends (never used my own fisticuffs, let alone weaponry of any sort), and nerd friends (I was not an A student), and skater friends (never touched a board), and preppie friends (craziest parties were preppy parties), and loner friends. I was not a popular kid in the sense that anyone was coveting my company or in the sense that I had much social power to lord over people. But people were good with having me around, and maybe they didn’t miss me much when I wasn’t, but this arrangement worked for me. Still does.
Anyway, my little group of friends that I was really tight with started getting to know this other group of girls from a nearby school in a nearby town. I don’t even know how this connection got started. I think one of my friends started dating one of them or something– I don’t know how they hooked up. So my little inner sanctum of besties started to meld together with Other Town Girls, and as we hung out more, I realized: whoopsie, I could not stand these people. I was not trying to make myself sound like a Pollyanna before when I said that I was friends with everyone, which actually would really mean that I had no standards, because I did have standards. What hanging out with Other Town Girls in my social inner sanctum made me realize is that the beauty of being Part of No Group, Part of Every Group is that you can float through, talk to the okay people, ignore the not-okay people, and there isn’t any group-level expectation that you should stick around and merge into the group and really be IN it. As much as I was peripheral to everything, the periphery had its advantages. But now, here I was, with the very few people that didn’t consider me peripheral, and our little happy Group was merging with another Group and so my one little island of Groupiness had interlopers, and I thought the interlopers were hecka obnoxious, and I did not LIKE IT. But my besties did like it, so I half played along, but I half disengaged too. It was subtle, and it didn’t affect my friendships in the long term (still friends with those BFFs to this day), but I have to say it sort of sucked at the time.
I was thinking about this recently because the other week I was at this party that a really close friend of mine invited me to, and one of her bosom friends was there, and I can tell that my pal wants me to be pals with her pal, and it’s a reasonable thing of course, since she loves her pal and she loves me. And it’s also reasonable because most of the time I am up for more lovely people in my life, but you guys. The problem: I actively do not like my pal’s pal. I’m good with our level of acquaintanceship but in the pit of my guttitude I do not want to up the friendship levels. And I was like “this is just like when my high school pals all of a sudden wanted to hang out with those girls from the NOT FEELING THEM crowd” and then I was like “OMG how OLD am I?” and then I was like “just when you think you have outgrown any sort of social awkwardness you are 17 again” and then I was like “UGH I am a GROWN ASS WOMAN I do not have to be pals with my pal’s pal” and when I remembered that I did this when I was 17 and nothing broke, I felt better. But still. When do we stop having flashes of teen awkward? Data is mounting that it will be quarter past never.