It would be a gross exaggeration, and a disservice to some fabulous people to claim I had a friendless childhood—I didn't. I had a fair few close friends and was more casual friends with... pretty much everybody. My secret is that I had an overdeveloped sense of empathy, so I was pretty much always nice... or at least never MEAN.
And a few of my close friends knew me pretty well... probably Peggy best, because we were in the same nursery school class, so friends well before I was WORRIED what people thought—no need to pretend with those people. Plus Peggy is an Aquarius... the sign where anything goes... no judgment, just grooviness.
But MOSTLY I felt like I wasn't really ME. You see, in spite of my breadth and depth of friends, I was a little... uncomfortable in my skin... SHY... no, not shy exactly... well indoctrinated that one should never let it be known you don't have a clue. I was a really good LISTENER... and I think my advice isn't bad, as I DO listen, and try to just ask the right questions unless it is something I know a lot about. But if I didn't have a clue? Until I was about 22 (when I reached a point at which there was very little I was clueless about) I just smiled and nodded. (got me into a little trouble-that).
I never ONCE had a pen friend in Brazil who threatened to send me a hat that would shrivel my ears.
Seriously though, I started collecting addresses when I was 9. Camp Ne-Wa-Lu (I am sure that's spelled wrong). My early letters were clumsy and inane but when, at 11, I met Melinda, I was READY for a real pen pal... being boy crazy will do that to a girl. Melinda and I proceeded to write weekly (at least) for a decade.
And you know what? She knew more of what was in my heart, of my insecurities, of my dreams, than ANY of my friends I saw on a daily basis. It wasn't that my friends were failing me, it was that I related better with a pen in hand. I always sort of thought that was a failing of mine.
You see... when I was upset... I wrote a letter... even if the person I was upset with was in the next room or a phone call away. It drove some of them crazy. (and from time to time it did).
Oh yes... relationship failing indeed...
BUT WAS IT?
I first dived into online communities at HPANA, a Harry Potter discussion site that at the time I joined in 2005 seemed to mostly be a bunch of middle aged women and teenage boys. Oh, there were some teen girls, too, but the teen girls were interested in the 'ships' (various romantic pairings) where we were talking about WAR! (That would be the Wizard War).
Mostly, we theorized, joked, played... and I made some friends... some women formed a friends group for more personal sharing. We grew closer. One was coming NEAR here... I met her... I started writing fan fiction... made more (similar) friends. I met a couple more HPANA friends when I was on business meetings...
It was all GREAT. It was like I KNEW people. It was never the awkward 'I don't know this person' thing.
It was like FAMILY, only I LIKED THEM. (kidding, I like my family... but they irritate me more often). But my writer's group DEFINITELY knows me better than my family or personal friends.
Again... I felt a little odd...
And then I started THINKING (you know how dangerous THAT is!) And I started talking to OTHER writers, and I've read several blogs (like this one from Lisa yesterday) that made me realize how I'm NOT that freaky... for a writer...
What do writers do? (not a trick question)-- WE WRITE! Why on earth should it shock us that this is how we bond? That we get closer to each other by writing and reading what each other write... That we in fact share MORE in writing (with each other) than we do with (even our closest) friends. Heck, all of YOU know more than most of my family, or my lifetime friends.
So It's official... I love all o' y'all!