I'd happily read this to you while you Multi-task.
Take a minute and think about what you felt like on your first day of school. I'll tell you about my first day of first grade. I walked into my new classroom, barely knowing anyone. I was wearing pink overalls. Later that day, when my witchy (in a bad way) teacher wouldn't let me empty my baby bladder for the third time that afternoon, I peed into those overalls in front of the entire class. As urine slowly soaked my crotch while I wrote on the chalkboard, I just pretended like it wasn't happening. But it... was... happening, and everyone noticed. And someone said, "Uh, I think you're peeing." NO SHIT, SARAH! Sorry I'm hydrated, you assholes! This is the cost of obedience! Is this relatable? No? Okay, great.
In any case, the trauma of beginning a new phase in life with seemingly few peers doesn't stop in elementary school. Baby Christine would be unhappy to learn that social anxiety continues all throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Making friends as an adult can be difficult, but keeping friends can be downright grueling. Sometimes you think you've made a new friend and quickly, that person reveals them self to be clingy, creepy, or immature. Breaking up with said friends has made me feel guilty in the past, thus trapping me in an unhealthy dynamic. I am still learning how to identify red flags with new friends, and have embraced the idea of The Friendship Barometer.
The Friendship Barometer is a tool for measuring the quality of a new friend based on the way that an established, exemplary friend treats you. I accidentally discovered this tool through the inevitable fuck ups of being human. Whenever I make a mistake, I break out The Friend Barometer to measure the quality of a friend based on their reaction to my mistake. If that friend makes me feel in a way that would be unacceptable to my pillar of exemplary friendship, that's usually the best sign to cut ties. Let me tell you about my Friendship Barometer.
My Friendship Barometer is Shanelle. You may have seen her work on Babe Roar. Here's an illustration she made when we brainstormed the idea to "Make FUPA's Cool." I love her. She's an excellent artist, a kind and forgiving person, and never fails to hold me accountable when necessary. She also listens to others and takes every opportunity to expand her understanding of the world around her. She's starting a business called Vignetterie. Follow her and buy her stuff! It's going to be very femme and very cute.
Shanelle is not a perfect person. We lived together in college, and she was a little messy. In one very nasty and extreme example of her messiness, she created a fruit fly infestation in our home by leaving ice cream in a mini-fridge that she unplugged and left unattended for weeks. Over the years, Shanelle has come to be like a sister to me, so when she left her things in the dryer, she said "oh you can just move it." I replied, "I don't feel like I should have to." And she stormed downstairs, annoyed, understandably, to coddle my shitty attitude.
My Friendship Barometer isn't a perfect person, but every person deserves a friend like her. If I'm going to spend time away from my dog, it better be spent with a person who only makes me feel like my best self. Don't get me wrong, Shanelle is not just a fair weather friend. She keeps my best interest in mind and communicates with me when she notices something troubling. For example, when I was in a terrible, abusive relationship, Shanelle was one of only a few people who challenged my absurd idea that I could possibly fix the situation. She did so gently and kindly, which is one of the reasons I feel so, very grateful for her.
The beauty of The Friendship Barometer is that I have a scientific (LOL) process which allows me to let go of people with little to no guilt. I think that guilt can be used as one of the most destructive and abusive emotions by friends, partners, family members, and sometimes the look my dog gives me when she wants my last bite of mac and cheese. You have food in your bowl, LULA!
In this way, The Friendship Barometer is self-care. It's also a no-nonsense way of showing yourself and others that you truly value yourself. Throughout reading this, have you thought of your own Friendship Barometer? Who are they? Leave it in the comments! Send them a text to let them know. It's a really kind compliment to give a friend, because they may not even know how important their influence is to you. But even if they do, an important part of friendship is occasionally stroking each others' egos, like when Shanelle and I validate each others' superior curatorial and artistic abilities.