FIVE RULES FOR FINDING FOREVER FRIENDS

Remember the Spice Girls? What seventh grader didn’t really, really want to be them? Being in a girl group rocks!

Unless it doesn’t.

Because here’s the deal: close-knit groups can unknowingly turn into closed-knit groups, leaving no room at the table for newcomers.

I was the middle-schooler who desperately wanted to fit in with the crowd, and I’m the middle-aged, suburban mom who still does. It may have become less about being sporty or scary, but finding my own girl group holds a top spot on my hits list.

bachelorette party on a cruise boat balcony

But unlike my preteen past, I now have some non-negotiables. And one of those is that I’m not willing to make friends at the cost of fitting in.

I think we live in a country where women have become chameleons. They change with the current rage. Our bodies are told to conform to sunken in rib cages and skinny jeans. Our faces don't show marks of beauty, those are banished by Botox. Our clothes, our bags, our outer selves change with the latest Instagram trends. Women are told we must constantly up the ante to be liked, loved, adored, accepted—and god forbid we feel. We are always fine. How are the kids? Fine! Our marriages? Never been better. If there’s a real you, it’s hidden behind a designer shoe, and I just can’t buy into that sponsored ad anymore.

And I also can’t make my forever friends that way.

Social media has held our real-selves hostage. I fell victim to it. I observed my surroundings, and just like that chameleon, I wanted to be unseen. I wanted to blend in. I didn’t want anyone observing my cracks and blemishes, only my beautiful moments; my highlight reel. So that’s what I went with—a portion of my life; the prettiest parts.

But as it turns out, you can't make a connection through carefully worded posts and perfectly filtered photos. All you can do is start comparing. And that’s not the game I came to play. I wanted the real women. I didn’t want to surface schmooze; I desired depth. But you gotta giveth what you taketh, and I certainly was not doing my part.

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My public profile showed no signs of imperfection. I never disclosed a bad hair day let alone my husband’s bad heart or my children’s special needs. And it made me wonder, what was I projecting to the world? Who was I attracting? If I craved authenticity, shouldn't I be authentic too?

The day my daughter was diagnosed with autism I opened a private Instagram page. It became my journal, just for me, holding the moments I am the most proud of and the most ashamed of. And because it was for my eyes only, it was true, unfiltered, heartbreakingly raw writing. Also known as, real life.

It felt so dang good to reveal myself (even if I was the only one reading it), that eventually my public posting started to feel icky; sharing anything but my truth would no longer suffice. So one day, with a shaky and uncertain finger, I hit submit.

Bam! My private life became public.

If I’m being honest, the biggest reason I opened up about my story is a selfish one: I believe the people who I need the most are out there, hiding in plain sight just like I was. I desperately want to find what feels right, and who feels real, and by exposing myself I hope others will do the same. And there will be my tribe. My girl band.

maid of honor toast with bride and groom

So what I want—what I really, really want—is this:

1.    I want to be friends with someone who not only likes my photos but likes me.

And likes every aspect of me. They like the me with ten thousand filters, and also the me that is just flesh, bones, and flaws—walking this earth, trying to figure it all out. I don’t just want a thumbs up or double tap; I want someone who will tap into who I really am and love her anyhow.

2.    I need people who can say “I get it” instead of “I can't imagine.”

We may not have the same story, but feelings are universal. After all, who hasn't struggled, lost perspective, overcome, had their heart broken, squealed with happiness…ate way too much and secretly unbuttoned her pants in a restaurant? I want someone who has gone through the thick of it in her own way, not so we can commiserate together, but so we can form true community.

3.    If you show me yours, I'll show you mine.

My heart, that is. It's full of things I will willingly share with the right person—the loyal and loving person who will giveth and taketh right along with me. It's all yours. I will not however be showing you my stretch marks, cellulite, and sagging lady lumps. Lights off on those areas, please and thanks.

4.    Sharing is caring.

Tell me how you are, how you truly are, and ask me the same. And please don't be disappointed when I can't give you the canned answer of, "I'm fine." I will know my audience, trust me. I promise not to start sobbing at your daughter’s princess party, but I can't guarantee I won't need you to love me deeply at times. I likely won't ask for your help, but if you could just lend me a hand, I will hold it forever. We will all have storms, and I will stand by you when yours come too.

5.    Laugh with me.

Make me tinkle. Make me snort. Let's care less about material things and more about memories. A girls night out is good for the soul. Let's find the time. And let's do it together.

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I'm sure there's more, like being able to accept my fast food fetish and reality TV trash, or love my children as your own, but for now those are the basics. I'll be your Ginger Spice if we can just promise to share our real selves: the good, the bad, and the unmentionable.

Let's start a band, you and me, and never breakup.

Glitter and platform heels optional.