When my momma managed the Family Dollar store at Bullfrog Corner, she became best friends with a hairdresser named Eunice who worked at the Mac's. No. 2 hair shop in the same strip mall, past the Super Valu that used to be a Piggly Wiggly that used to be a Big Star. That was back in the late 90s when I was just starting out in high school and came home crying a lot because I just didn't have any friends. Fourteen, fat, and effeminate were not traits that put one on the fast track to likablity and Horn Lake High School, and I knew it well every afternoon when I had no one to sit with on the school bus. My momma, though, she always knew how to make friends. A real go getter, my mother takes situations by the reigns and guides them in the direction of her favor. I still smile when I think of the story of Momma and Eunice's (now defunct) Friendship. It goes like this.
Eunice used to walk down to the store on her breaks from hairdressing and waste her tip money on polyresin angel figurines. Being the astute Southern woman that she is, Momma noticed Eunice's melon nail polish one day as she rang up her covey at the cash register and told her how much she loved the color. Within the same conversation, Momma found out where Eunice worked, her living situation (poor thing rented a mother-in-law wing from some family on Horn Lake Road) and decided they'd be friends. So, she said it, just like that: "Eunice, you look like somebody I want to be friends with, so let's be friends."
They were good friends for quite a few years, too. Eunice used to come over to the house and bring Momma little boxes of candy and neon colored cigarette lighters, and Momma would drive Eunice to see her mother at the nursing home. For a while there, I even got into the habit of calling Eunice "Aunt Nez," as Inez was her middle name and she had no nieces or nephews to regard her affectionately. She even would cut my hair for free if I went down to the shop after it closed.
Eunice was a recovering alcoholic, though. Momma knew this going into the relationship. Hell, she probably found out that much in the initial cash stand meeting, and that probably made her want to be Eunice's friend even more. I'm a lot like my momma in that we both take on the underdogs, the underachievers, the fucked up friends we hope to fix. Momma did her best to fix Eunice, even took off work for two days, paid for the gas, hotel--everything--and drove her to the hospital in Jackson so she could get on the list for a liver transplant.
I doubt Eunice got the transplant. How could she have ever afforded it? And anyway, Momma put her down a year or so later because the poor hairdresser got depressed and turned back to the bottle. That made my momma so mad that she swore she'd never talk to her again, and I don't think she has except once, a year or so ago. She called Eunice because she had read in the paper that her momma died.
I say all of this because I've been thinking a lot about my friendship style in the past couple of weeks, and I am trying to make sense of my motivations. Taking a cue from my mother, I approached a new MA student named Eric and informed him that he will be my new best friend last week. We have hung out together every day since. I wonder if that was a creepy thing to do--to approach a relative stranger and demand mutual affection beyond the boundaries of acquaintanceship when we really are not more than acquainted at this point. I like to think I'm being proactive in the situation, and I remind myself that I've routinely done this type of thing before, just on a more discrete level. I meet people, decide I want to be friends with them, then proceed in charming them with my dazzling, albeit self-deprecating, wit. That's what I do.
But I hope my motivations are pure. I really do believe they are, but I always worry that I try to orchestrate too much in my life instead of allowing things to develop organically. I like to be in control of what happens to me, y'all, because I feel like if I don't take my life by the reigns, surely someone else will. I'm a chronic rehearser, I come from a family of planners, and, like my momma and daddy before me, I weigh all the options before making decisions. It's my legacy.
Maybe this friendship style is, too.