Just Like Me

4:16 AM

Via americangirl.com
Back when most of my friends were imaginary or vinyl, I spent a good many hours flipping through the American Girl catalogs. I pored over those catalogs, picking which dolls looked like me -- a hard task, since American Girl neglected to create a doll with blue eyes and stick-straight mouse hair that crept toward the knees. (My mother suspects that my Kit Kittredge doll influenced the chopping off of most of my hair around the tender age of ten. Perhaps, Mother, perhaps.) Ironically, I have the opposite problem today -- the doll closest to Bailey Bergmann has too long of hair. Ah, well. Murphy's Law.

American Girl wasn't the only doll company to capitalize on ten-year-old's fantasies of "just like me" dolls -- and dolls aren't the only ways girls express these fantasies. I longed for an across-the-street neighbor just like me even more than a doll -- probably because best friends didn't empty my Winnie-the-Pooh wallet. And, well, who doesn't want a identical, a twin, a best friend who finishes your thoughts and agrees with everything you say and understands you better than you ever could?

I guess I felt awkward and self-conscious about myself and didn't like thinking of other people knowing me without understanding me. A just-like-me friend would quell such fears. I wouldn't have to explain my weird views or decisions: she would just know and say, "Me too!" and that was that. After all, C. S. Lewis (the authority on everything second only to Jesus and perhaps Paul) said that friendship was born when two strangers uttered those words. It fed my obsession to find a just-like-me friend.

Any new friend I met, we quickly established how similar we were -- "You like English? You read such-and-such? You love American Girl dolls too?" Pause for shrieking. It shocked me how similar I was to so many girls -- especially when I started blogging and found out that so many people knew exactly what I bumblingly tried to say. Even those deep feelings, those things that are supposed to be unique and weird to each person.

It made me a little jealous, that so many miniature Baileys inhabited the world without my knowledge.

Eventually I extended my friendships beyond dolls and email pen pals and got real-life best friends who lived, more or less, down the street and were, to be honest, strikingly similar to me. There was this time of getting to know one another (took longer since I was homeschooled -- interpret that as you like) where each discovery of similarity prompted ecstasy. Then came those awful times when differences showed up -- ugly differences in places where differences should not be between best friends. At least in my inexperienced view of best friends.

I would try to explain something and this similar person wouldn't know what I was talking about. He or she would share an experience or an opinion that I not only could not and did not understand but disagreed with entirely. It was painful. I resented my friends' differences from me. Not only did it open up awkward conversations but it also confused me about who I was -- was I supposed to agree with this-and-that because we were so much alike? Did my differences make me sub-par? Did their differences make them better than me? Would our differences split us apart?

Differences rocked the just-like-me boat. I didn't like that one bit.

Fitting in. Similarities. Just like me. I took these expectations to college -- a place where I fit in more than anywhere else with the major exception of my family. I thought about this a lot, especially since most of my school friends shared big differences with me. Even fundamental differences, like whether truth is always true. My family, too, did not look like me at all. I loved school and thinking -- most family members did not. I was moodier and crazier and more sensitive. I loved in fundamentally different ways. Still, I point to my family as home -- not just because it's where I came from but because it's where I love to be.

I think of my best friend, my sister, my Bethany, who is younger than I am and older at the same time, who loves crafting while I'd rather read, who handles things differently and dreams different dreams. We were best friends long before we started discovering how similar we were.

And with those thoughts in mind, I came up with a different idea of best friends. I think what everybody looks for is someone who will know who they are and understand how they tick, who overlooks offenses and annoyances. Basically, someone who will love them not only for who they are but also in spite of who they are.

The lie comes from saying that only identical people offer this kind of love -- which is why differences and annoyances cause craters in otherwise wonderful relationships. It's easier to love those who do the right things (and the wrong things) you do, who don't question anything. Love is more about overlooking differences and mending rifts than matching similar personalities.

Personally, my closest friends are the ones who try to understand me -- not the ones who are most similar to me, though usually there's overlap. (I've got one friend who is creepily identical to me.) I find myself celebrating our differences, since different ways of thinking and processing and living are far more fascinating than my exhausted Bailey ideas. My friends find me far more interesting and unique as well -- which, of course, is extremely flattering.

Perhaps Lewis was right that friendship is born first on similarity -- but I think a friendship continues because two different people decide to love one another no matter what comes up.

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2 impressions

  1. "Basically, someone who will love them not only for who they are but also in spite of who they are." Well said! Because there are certainly times when one must think, "If someone literally loved me just for who I am, they would have to be kind of messed up." ;)
    I know we've talked about this already, but you've taken it further, so I will too! I've often thought that it is best not to be surrounded exclusively by people who are exactly like you, people who completely understand you. If they're just like you, then they have the same faults. And when you stick a bunch of people who more or less have the same faults together for a long time, those faults are emphasized. So I like to be around people who are different, who have different struggles and different strengths. They can give new perspectives, and if there's disagreement, it forces you to think through what you actually believe, whether or not you end up at the same conclusions as you started with. On the other hand, of course, it's also nice to have friends who do automatically understand (as opposed to those who come to understand through hard work). If they've struggled with the same things, they can encourage you (hopefully) in a way others might never understand.
    Anyway. I ramble. A lovely post, Bailey dear. Thank you. :)


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