My darling, sweet, totally socially clueless fifteen-year-old daughter can’t make (or keep) a friend to save her life. The more desperately she chases after friends, the faster they run. Just this week I got a call from a mother whose sixteen-year-old daughter (with her own schizo-affective sister and therefore a tender heart toward the friendless) had tried to reach out to my daughter.
A little background: sixteen-year-old Tender Heart had witnessed an awkward situation between my daughter and two other girls (one of whom has bullied my daughter in the past). The cool girls were talking about going to a dance, and my darling, sweet, totally socially clueless daughter said, “Oh, fun, I want to come with you.” The cool girls back-pedaled like Wylie Coyote about to go over the cliff….”Uh, we were just talking, we’re not really going. blah blah blah.” So Tender Heart went out of her way to arrange a group of girls to go to the dance and invited my daughter to go with them. My rivulets of gratitude for this girl’s kindness turned to stone cold pits of frustration at my daughter when I found out Kaylyn ditched Tender Heart at the dance and hung out with Bully and her friend. And when I say “hung out” I mean stood next to them as long as they would let her.
Kaylyn also managed to finagle a ride home from Bully’s friend, whom I had never met and did not know her parents, and didn’t even know Kaylyn hadn’t come home with Tender Heart until TH’s mother called me. TH’s mother called me because Kaylyn told Tender Heart a few days later that she was thinking of killing herself to get people to say nice things about her like they did about a little neighborhood girl who recently died.
I know Kaylyn well enough to know (as well as anyone can know) that she wasn’t serious, and I monitor her and our home environment so closely that I don’t know how she could manage it even if she tried. My gut told me Kaylyn was just thinking out loud about how she could get people to say nice things about her and was oblivious to how it sounded.
I asked TH’s mother why she thought Kaylyn didn’t have any friends. I got two big reasons: she lies (puffy, transparent lies) to make herself (she thinks) more popular, and she cuts other girls down to make herself (she thinks) look better. When TH’s mom asked Tender Heart if she thought Kaylyn was really serious about killing herself, the girl answered that she had no idea since she could never tell when Kaylyn was lying or telling the truth. Ouch.
When I talked to Kaylyn about it, she first denied having talked about killing herself, but finally admitted it, denied doing it for attention, said she was just having a bad day, and it sounded like an escape valve. First I told her that when she thinks about killing herself, what she’s really saying is, “I never want to go to prom, I never want to graduate high school, I never want to get married, I never want to hold my baby in my arms, I never want to have a career doing nails (her current ambition) because suicide is a permanent end to everything.” Second I told her to talk to me about those feelings and not teenage girls because they don’t know how to handle it, and if she’s trying to make friends, being the heavy girl that talks about suicide probably isn’t going to get her invited to a lot of parties.
Then we talked about the lying and how that kills any chance for real friendship with nice girls. The saddest part of the whole conversation was when Kaylyn burst out, “But I won’t have any friends if I don’t.” In nine years as her mother, nothing has broken my heart more than to see her desperately wanting friends and showing herself to be utterly incapable of understanding how she’s preventing friendships from happening. She also said she knew it was wrong when she blew off Tender Heart at the dance to go stand with the other girls, but she wanted to be with the other girls. How heartbreaking is that? TH was sincerely kind and Kaylyn was “bored” by her; she wanted the cool girls, even if they didn’t want her. Ouch ouch ouch. For both of us.
I told Kaylyn it was a good sign that she knew it was wrong to blow Tender Heart off, that it meant her conscience was working. I told her she knows what to do to be a good friend. She just has to choose to do it. I hope for her sake she gets the hang of this relatively soon because it isn’t that big a town and there aren’t that many more girls to blow through.