My First Friend, My Enemy

Let me tell you about my first friend, “Barb.” Barb has been in my life for… well, forever. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t there. We got along great when we were young, but then when puberty hit and we started liking boys, things got rocky. I knew that there was something about us that boys didn’t like, but Barb didn’t seem to care, she didn’t want to change who she was. I guess you could say were more “frenemies” than friends; while I appreciated some of the good things she brought into my life, most of the time I only tolerated her. (And, to be completely honest, there were plenty of times when I wished we had never met.)

Not this Barb, but close enough!
Not this Barb, but close enough!

Then, at a point in my late 20s, Barb began to listen. She agreed that if we changed some things, life would get so much better—we’d find love and happiness! We were totally in sync. We did the same things, liked the same things, and it felt amazing. And I was totally right about our lives getting better: We made some new friends, and even started to get some serious male attention. Barb and I were, at last, reflecting our best selves back to each other. Life was good!

Fast forward about ten years, and things began to change again. I was still working toward change, but Barb was reverting back to who she’d been. When we’d look at each other, I recognized her less and less. I couldn’t understand the things she was doing or feeling. Gradually, we grew farther and farther apart.

The more Barb changed, the more I began to dislike her. I didn’t even want to look at her anymore. She was a stranger to me, inscrutable. I would lay awake at night wondering how she could betray me like that, after our beautiful decade of bonding, accomplishment, and love. How could she be so different from the person I thought she was? Why was she changing back? Hadn’t we worked so hard to get to this place of peace, of harmony, of happiness?

I did everything I could to get the old Barb back. I reminded her of how great things had been, reminded her of all the things we’d done and accomplished. I assured her we could do them again! But the old tricks didn’t work this time. So I tried new things, anything, to get her to change. I screamed at her, cried, dragged her across countless miles, begged her! Obstinate woman that she’d become, she refused. We were at a stalemate.

Believe it or not, this story has a happy ending. Because one day—I remember it with perfect clarity—I realized it wasn’t Barb who needed to change, it was me. Barb knew all along who she was. She had been trying to tell me for years, and I was the stubborn one who had refused to listen. I was the one who was sure her version of herself was false. I wanted to break her and mold her into my perfect version of who I thought she should be, instead of letting her be her true self.

I thought Barb and I had found peace before, but I was wrong. Now we’re at peace. Now we’ve found harmony. That’s not to say that we don’t have our little squabbles, mostly me picking at Barb to change just a wee bit here or a wee bit there, in the hopes that it will make life happier and easier for us. But the more I accept Barb for who she is, the more I listen to the truths she speaks to me, the rarer those moments become, and the happier and healthier we both are.

She is my first and best friend. Now, when I stand in front of the mirror and look her in the eye, she smiles. And I smile back.