We can’t make people love us – that I grasp intellectually, so why do I court uninterested queen bees who do not return my feelings?
Let me take you back to my first day of school, when I was bewitched by Octavia, Princess of Reception – this may not be her real name. I wanted her to like me from the moment her lustrous plait swished across my face as she swivelled her pretty head to stare me down with steel and ice. After following her around like a cartoon spy for the morning, I gently tugged that plait to get her attention and got a gap-toothed ‘Leave. Me. Alone’ in response.
You be the organ grinder…
Octavia led me a not-so-merry dance of hot and cold. She was benevolent enough, and I knew how to make her laugh, but she was in charge and my portfolio was legwork. In the play, while she shone as a blossoming pre-pubescent Cinderella, I gratefully took a bow as an ugly sister – the fat one. It personified the imbalance in our relationship. We had nothing in common besides an appreciation of my jokes, but I didn’t care.
Years later – last year, in fact – I did it again. I found Octavia on Facebook in all her undiminished, middle-aged glory and wrote her a ‘remember me?’ As you can imagine, the princess was too busy at the glittering ball that is probably her life, and she ignored me. The truth is that many of us repeat behaviour that makes us feel normal. Feeling small doesn’t jar because we never had a pedestal and, the more unattainable our prey becomes, the higher their value… until we raise ourselves with self-love, nurtured confidence and plain old experience.
I’m a prize too
It was a real friend who offered me this titbit when I was about to embark on a friendship with someone who showed signs of princess syndrome and ulterior motives: ‘She would be lucky to have you as a friend, Vee.’ I had never heard that before, and I carry it with me for when I am about to bend over backwards for a person who shows little sign of actually liking me.
They may be rare jewels, but genuine friends are the ones who stand by your side while your life falls apart. They laugh with you, not at you, and don’t rub your nose in your shortcomings while feeding you crumbs that starve your self-esteem. They value your opinion and are always in your corner. They don’t judge you meanly, but they will tell you when you’re stumbling blindly down a dead end. And they never say ‘leave me alone’.
The other thing I have learned is that mutual interests and shared adversity create spider-web bonds, founded on equality and respect. And friends who will cherish you are not rationed out in childhood to last forever. While distracted from pleasing others on my quest for personal growth, wonderful people have come into my life. Colleagues in an empathetic team, Parkrunners whose faces light up when they see me, and women who ask me how I am doing – and not only as an opener to offload their own emotional baggage. Some of them even have beautiful plaits, but I am over that now.
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