I once went to a WGAF event where the speaker asked if anyone had ever felt like they were from an alien planet. I raised my hand. Surprisingly, so did a lot of other people. Writers are weird. I have accepted my weirdness as part of me and embraced it. I am convinced that a lot of my weirdness comes from having to grow up so fast ’cause I was smack dab in the middle of so many social issues. The biggest area that this infection of weirdness has broken out on me is in my ability to make friends.
I read, a lot. I used to choose what I read by what grade I was in. If I was in fourth grade and your book was titled Tales of the Fourth Grade So and So, or The Fourth Grade Blank I devoured it off the shelves of my local library. No matter what books I read, even the outcast kids always had a best friend. (Well, with the exception of Robert Cormier. Compelling writer but that guy’s a downer.) I never had a friend that came over to my place and vise versa until I was in college.
The first Friday night of Freshman year, I went into the hallway of my dorm and it was deserted. The quiet was startling. Because of my disability I had a single handicap accessible room and no one was forced to talk to me because they were my roommate. I was so out of the loop that I had no clue as to where everyone went. As I stood in the hallway contemplating the likelihood of a mass alien abduction where the gimps were left behind, another head popped out of a room far down the hall. A tall blonde woman with a crooked nose (which I love that she loves) came out lamenting how she was surprised how many people went out to drink at house parties. Of course, she had been invited but she was a “good girl” who didn’t believe in drinking before 21. So that night, we went to the brand new dry dance club on campus and that’s where we were every weekend night (running the place since we were the only ones there) until they shut it down for low attendance. Our senior year, we became roommates and continued to hang out after college. For a short time anyway.
I don’t know what happened but a weird distance that had started to grow between us when we turned 21 became too much. She started to drink socially on a regular basis and I was still dry, mostly because I can’t dance well when not sober. A few months after graduation she stopped calling me back. It hurt but I was used to being alone. All these years later, I finally figured out it must have been because she thought I judged her drinking. I didn’t care that she drank. I just didn’t want to. The one night I did decide to get drunk, I ended up crying on the bathroom floor of the club. As I’ve noted before, ending up on a public bathroom floor is never a good thing.
When I moved to Los Angeles I left my family behind, knowing no one but a dude from my acting class who I drove across country with (a story of epic proportions that I will tell at a later date.) Being in LA I thought what the hell, I’ll change from writing prose to screenwriting. Should be easy. Yeah, I was stupid. By the time I wrote my first screenplay, I was working as a courier on a studio lot. I asked around about who I should give it to. Unknown to me at the time, they sent me to the VP of film development’s assistant.
I gave her my screenplay and about a week later we met for lunch and she handed me back notes from a studio reader. She had changed my name on it so I wouldn’t be passed on for life, which I am eternally grateful for. The notes were three single-spaced pages telling me how much my screenplay sucked. When I finished reading them I laughed. The rage that came out in the writing of that reader because she had to read my crappy crap was hilarious to me (sorry reader, wherever you are.) I had thought I was so great, but having my ego throughly pounded into the ground was a good experience. She looked confused and relieved at the weird girl sitting across from her that was so jolly about getting a trouncing. We ate lunch and talked about things I could do better. I visited her office more and more during my lunch breaks. I don’t remember exactly when I wanted her for a friend or when we started hanging out outside of the office, but I counted myself very lucky and wanted very badly not to screw it up.
Not being great at making real friends, I constantly worried that I would do something to get her to abandon me. At work, I hid in the corner trying to be invisible when her boss was around, and almost got into a fight at Starbucks over a drink that she asked me to get for Leonardo DiCaprio. (Ahhhh! That woman is stealing Leo’s drink! Doesn’t she know it’s Leo’s drink?!) Outside of work, I monitored my phone calls and visits to her, constantly worrying if they were too much or too little. When she caught me at it, it cracked her up. She told me to relax and I did.
She has so many friends from all periods of her life that I didn’t think it would make a big difference in her life when I left LA headed home. Then one night when I was crashing at her place on a visit she told me that she had been devastated that I had left her at that time. I thought, What? Me? I’m weird, awkward and don’t know how to be a friend like the ones you’ve had for years. It made me feel super good that she was still my friend after I messed up so bad. Also, I liked that she missed me even though I wish she had told me sooner. I might have stayed. Even though I still worry every once in a while that I will lose her, I feel blessed that she calls me her friend and I call her mine.
So if you’re weird, and awkward, and lonely, don’t worry. There is someone out there who will take all that in and still think you’re pretty neat.