what i read, what i thought

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 12.15.51 PMHave you ever felt used by someone?  You know what I mean.  Have you ever felt as though some one was being your friend merely to gain access to your home, car, vacation spot, food, connections, lifestyle, advice, etc.?  I am guessing that the sensation of feeling “used” is quite universal. Perhaps the user is intentionally abusing your kindness, generosity, or naiveté, but probably they are seemingly unaware of how their behavior is coming across. While reading the book Prospect Park West  by Amy Sohn, I kept coming back to this idea of how we constantly use those around us. David has recently been reading How to Make Friends and Influence People  and, from what he shared, it seems the user-usee relationship is the integral relationship of human interactions. According to author Carnegie, the best way to interest someone is to compliment them in a genuine fashion and/or ask them about themselves or something/one they love. His advice stems from his belief that everyone is self-interested and that in being self-interested, we therefore use those around.  How to manipulate, control, or shift this primary occurrence is what is key to “success.”

In the book Prospect Park West, the characters are highly interesting. Each has a quirk, a compulsion, a fun side, and, quite frankly, a selfish side. As the book progressed, I was wrapped up in their trivial daily dramas but found that the characters are not likable people. Each character is using someone for their own personal or professional gain in overt ways. Rebecca uses Lizzie to feel loved since her “meanness” repulses her husband while Lizzie uses Rebecca to explore her sexuality until Rebecca put off by the affection Lizzie shows is then repulsed by Lizzie. Karen uses Melora as a crutch for social anxiety while she also uses her husband to gain access to premium property in the coveted Brooklyn neighborhood. None of the characters truly express love or genuine affection for any of the others and yet they are connected through their constant need to self-promote. While I cannot say that I liked the book and its variety of messages, it did get me thinking about the purpose of relationships, friendships, and made me more aware of how I and those around me self-promote or use in order to advance or get their way. While this is all part of human nature, I am hoping that this chick lit can be a breaking point for me. I truly want to try to avoid being like these women in this novel. Yes, their stories are sensuous, suggestive, and fun but the content of their character left me wanting. I can see some of those baser traits in myself and I want to do more to not only be aware of them but to shift them to something more positive. In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes Daisy and Tom as “careless” people.  I would describe many of the characters in Prospect Park West as similarly careless.  But, hopefully with this in mind, I can avoid a similar description.

730 days

Today, David and I have been married for 730 days (2 years). So much has happened in that time and I am so grateful to have met, fallen in love, and committed to this amazing man. He is my best friend, truest confidant, and love.

Here is a link to our photographer’s blog that day (includes a cute little slideshow): Lanierstar

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.28.40 AM

best friend

September 2003 I met by best friend “L.” Walking down the hall of my dorm room, I spied into the open door a tall, blond as she shuffled items on her desk into her bag before heading out.  Quickly, I walked by and into the common bathroom thinking all the while how I would love to be her friend. Something about her was so captivating. She seemed effortless and zany, put together and totally comfortable in her own skin.  Perhaps, my desire to be her friend came from my instant envy.  While she was rhythmic, I felt like sharp angles.  For a few days, we passed each other in the dorm and said polite “hellos,” and from time to time even sat at the same lunch table as the whole floor squeezed into a booth in the dining hall. The exact moment eludes me.  I have spent much time reflecting on when exactly we went from casual acquaintances to  friends but I am so happy that we took that step. It was a step that eventually led us to become best friends.

There we were two young girls learning to become women and leaning on each other every step of the way. From our closet to our classes to the boys we flirted with, every aspect of our development and growth reflected in the other. My sharp angles softened in her presence.  L is the epitome of empathy and kindness. She feels her emotions so deeply and in her presence I felt candid and unreserved.  It was the first time that I could be my total self without the haunting shadow of adolescent self-consciousness. One of my favorite memories from our college years  is the following (not because it is the best moment but rather because L demonstrated her fierce loyalty):

We lived across the hall from a group of hockey players. Trying to be cool, I started to “see” one the boys.  We hung out a few times and I enjoyed going over to his dorm from time to time but it was not getting serious even though I desperately wanted it to. This was during a particularly superficial period in my life and I sought attention and approval from what was otherwise I complete stranger. Regardless, L and I had gone to bed along with our other roommate K. Around 3AM, we heard a terrible pounding on the door. Terrified as to who could possibly be banging on our door, we flicked on the lights and bolted nervously to the door.  We took a breathe and all waited for the evitable break-in.  Isn’t this what our parents always warned us about?  The pounding continued.  Finally, L mustered the courage to open the door and found to her utter dismay and relief that it was the hockey boys having had celebrated a little too hard.  They slurred some nonsense and asked where I was. L would have none of this! We were ladies and we would not be beckoned from our bedrooms at this hour of night. L told them off and firmly stated that she would not tolerate this behavior. She slammed the door closed. A little shaken, she gave me a big hug muttering “Stop seeing those guys” into my ear.  She was not judging me, she was not out of line, she was telling me exactly what I needed to hear, that I was worth more than these boys were willing or able to see and that I needed to move on. While this is such a small story in the “story of us,” it is an important one. L would always be my friend, but she desperately wanted to see me take care of myself and acknowledge and seek out what I deserved.  I learned a lot from my friend that evening.

Since then, L and I have continued to grow as friends and individuals. We lived together after college with David and enjoyed a “Three’s Company” type setting. While those stories are for another post, L was so flexible during that period and I was lucky to have a friend who believed in not only our friendship but also in my relationship with David enough for all of us to be roommates. It was in that apartment that we adopted Buster and L became Buster’s aunt.  To this day our dogs have a deep and unique bond with L.  Even our neurotic and worrisome Bella is at ease with my best friend. In that apartment, L met her future husband E and David and I were there for the ride as she dated and waited for “the one” to arrive. When he did, he joined our little trio and turned it into a quartet.

L was my maid of honor and I was her’s. She is my second skin, my confidant, my competitor, my sister, my soulmate, my cheerleader, my life coach, my twin….

(unplanned outfit for our shopping day together!)

As our friendship grows, I know that we will continue to be family to one another.  Without L, I would not be the young adult I am today nor would I feel comfortable with where I am heading.  Her honesty, compassion, and resilience have set a model example and continue to attract me to her just like that first day in 2003.