Failure #8: Keep a Best Friend

If you’ve been following these installments of The Many Failures of Katharine M., then it should not surprise you that I have trouble with friendships. If I had only one regret in life, it’s that I didn’t have that steadfast bosom friend, that one person to turn to when things got rough. Where was the Anne to my Diana? The Mame to my Vera? The Denny Crane to my Alan Shore? I mean, I wasn’t totally friendless. I just never got my best friend. Well, not one I could keep.

In the early years, my mother arranged play dates for me. Unfortunately, the pickings were slim amongst the morally superior set and my “friends” were limited to a girl whose mother dressed as the Icee polar bear, a girl named after a soft drink brand (not RC), and a boy. None of them shared my enthusiasm in staging stuffed animal vaudeville revues. Neither did they want to know how dreamy I found Peter Scolari and whether he was dreamier in Bosom Buddies or Newhart.

By the time I’d entered grade school, I’d lost my morally superior pals. And it seemed like everyone was already paired up. I did fall in with a few other chubby awkward girls. In my grade school’s speech therapy sessions, I bonded with the spiky-haired boy from Illinois and the girl with the lisp. For a while, I was “best friends” with an adopted South Korean girl, whose mom would take a group of us to the museum. But one friendship never truly prevailed over all others and my friends each had someone else to confide their deepest desires and secrets.

Occasionally one friendship would become more predominate over others. Phone calls with this one person would increase in frequency and length. We’d sit closer at the lunch table. Then the tides would turn and I would lose favour with this person. Because my friends lived in different neighbourhoods and my mother couldn’t get out of her bed most weekends, the majority of my friendships ran their courses over the phone and through notes passed in school hallways. There was no one in my ‘hood that I could trust to tell me that leggings were not pants and that, although I might blare Billy Joel and TMBG from my stereo, the oversized black t-shirts indicated hardcore headbanger. My BFF and I weren’t having sleepovers, trading clothes and experimenting with whatever teenage girlfriends experiment with. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t so keen on all the hyper-girly stuff. And the girls I knew weren’t terribly interested in listening to the Shelley Berman album I found in my mother’s closet.

My most treasured friendships were ones with boys. This is because these boys were able to think about things outside themselves. The girls could really only think about boys. Sure, they could talk about movies and television…as long as there was an attractive boy involved—either on screen or in the room with us. I can’t tell you the number of movies I missed because of a girl friend’s Boy Drama. Admittedly, I was guilty of thinking about boys myself. Of course the “boys” I thought about were unattainable and not really boys so much as grown men. While my friends were swooning over the high school drum major, I was sighing heavily over the guy who ran the local comedy club. I was always closer to my boyfriends than my girl friends. At least the boyfriends were willing to endure Shelley Berman. Still, no one was willing to discuss the geeky dreaminess of ’80s era Peter Scolari.

Without a lifelong BFF, I have been able to go through permutations and reinventions with minimal criticism. No one’s been there to remind me of my Bad Decision Dinosaur moments. No one to whom I could confide my own deepest desires. No wind beneath my wings.

If I were on the path to become a better person, I would contact my former BFFs to find out why our friendships fizzled. I suspect that we’re all better off as Facebook acquaintances, with the ability to leave comments on freshly uploaded photos without the messy drama of everyday life. No one really wants to dredge up old heartbreaks and failures…unless they’re writing a blog about old heartbreaks and failures. Onward and upward.

As I get older, it gets more difficult to find kindred spirits in a 10-mile radius. My closest friends reside miles away, across several borders, which makes meeting for bubble tea and giggling nigh on impossible. And without the assistance of a place similar to a certain nightclub set in another era, I’m unlikely to meet the dopplegangers of my most favourite people. These days my partner serves double-duty as lover and best friend, which some might look on as a great thing. But I feel bad that he has to endure my gripes along with my gropes. Thankfully he’s very tolerant of my silliness and ideas involving finger puppets and burlesque shows.

I haven’t given up on the possibility of finding a proper BFF. Boston Legal has given me hope that I’ll find my bosom flamingo. Until he (or she) comes along and invites me for balcony visits and sleepovers, I will endeavor to tend to existing friendships, foist my silliness on them once again and maybe remind them—and myself—why we bonded in the first place.

Failure #7: Join Organized Religion

“Personally, I don’t have the talent to believe.” – Arthur Miller, The Atheism Tapes

I am a godless heathen. I have not be seduced by any one deity. I have not been programmed for the kind of fanciful thinking that most religions require.


As a mere observer of organized religion, it’s very easy to dismiss them all as lunacy. But this isn’t about the rejection or dismissal of all religions. I don’t begrudge the believers for their beliefs. If your religion motivates you to stick to the moral high road and helps you make sense of this realm, then pray on, brother. This is simply a reflection on my experiences in faith-based matters.

Technically, I was born into the second-most widely ridiculed religion on the planet. My parents were a couple of (supposedly) devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were dragged along when their mothers had been seduced by the promise of impending Armageddon and righteous immortality on Earth. If you’re only familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses from hilarious stand-up comedy routines or tidy boys leaving copies of the Watchtower on your doorstep, you don’t know the half of it, buddy. Here’s what I know: they convince their members that the outside world is doomed. Witnesses are forbidden from celebrating holidays or birthdays. Forget Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, kids. Witnesses refuse to vote or participate in any act of national patriotism. They are encouraged to limit socializing with non-Witnesses. If they manage to remain morally superior to everyone else, when the current world order has been destroyed, the righteous will achieve physical immortality on this planet, which will morph into a global Garden of Eden.

By divine providence, I was spared from participating in their special brand of crazy. After my mother’s second divorce (not entirely by her choice), she/we were disfellowshipped (shunned!) and did not return. Thereabouts, she lost her faith. You might have a crisis of faith as well if you lost your one true love, were rejected by those who you thought were your friends, unceremoniously excommunicated from church and your own mother treated you like dirt in public settings, all while working a crap job to straddle the poverty line with two children to support. Her sacrifice prevented me from further ridicule. Can you imagine if I’d been a pudgy, bosom-less, bespectacled, hearing-impaired girl and a Jehovah’s Witness?!

So I was raised without faith. Without faith, it’s difficult to accept—and be accepted into—organized religion.

When I was 16, I did attend a few church sessions with my boyfriend at the time. The Southern Baptist services were solemn and without much ceremony, alternating between standing and singing and listening to some guy yammer about the moral issue of the day. The girls in Sunday school were excited that Easter was approaching which meant chocolate (!!!). The pastor took his family to Disney World for spring break amidst the Southern Baptist boycott of the company and its parks. They all seemed quite content to leave me be on the outskirts, rather than embrace a potential new member of Team Jesus.

I don’t discount the social values of organized religion and the routine of attending church. If anything, I might give it too much credit. Organized religion provides community and social activities that one might not get from public school or cable television. Could my social life have been improved by a couple of church-sponsored bowling trips? Perhaps. But I don’t think gutter balls and rented shoes and soda pop with the youth pastor would’ve renewed my faith in a higher power. My bowling score might be a little better, though.

In my thirty years, I have yet to experience a religious awakening. I didn’t have it when my father died. I didn’t when my sister laid in a hospital bed for several weeks with severe blood clots after giving birth. Based on those school assembly lectures from former druggies/ex-cons/crack whores who found Jesus in a dingy motel bathroom, one gets religious when one has hit their lowest point. I obviously haven’t hit my lowest point yet. Or maybe Jesus should find nicer places to hang out. Panera Bread has free wi-fi. The food court at the mall has some questionable characters who could probably use a hug from Jesus.

Since abandoning the Bible Belt for a pair of atheist garters, I haven’t encountered much in the way of religious pressure. Most people tend to be tolerant of other’s religious practices though I’ve learned to not discuss religion with strangers. Telling people I don’t attend church prompts the follow-up question, “Well, what would you be if you did go to church?” They don’t respond favorably when I say, “A unicorn.”

If this were a Hollywood movie, the act of writing this essay would’ve taken me on a spiritual journey and it would end with me having found faith in a lovable deity. This is not a movie and I remain a faithless cynic. Don’t pray for me just yet. I haven’t fared so terribly as a non-believer. Despite what I might feel in my darkest moments, my most basic needs (and a number of frivolous whims) are fulfilled. Aside from a couple of missteps during a turbulent stretch of puberty and a few adult indulgences, my moral GPS and common sense have kept me out of dingy motel bathrooms. Maybe there is some Heavenly reward for living a pious life. Maybe I’m cheating myself out of my own Heavenly reward by not subscribing to a brand of worship. Right now I’m content to celebrate the birthdays of my loved ones, participate in patriotic hoopla for two countries and just enjoy mortality.