One day, when I was about 17, I was riding in my boyfriends' convertible with a girl I thought was my best friend at the time, Tracey. We stopped at the curb for a minute so I could run to the ATM. When I hopped back into the car, Tracey said from the back seat
“You know the problem with you is Sandi? (remember, I have many names, this was mine at the time)”
“If you could just be like this while you're with your friends, everyone would like you a lot better.”
“What do you mean, like this?”
“When you're with Mark (boyfriend) you seem more like yourself, you seem comfortable. But when you're with us, you seem like ... well, like you're trying too hard.”
“Oh. Umm, well. Mark knows me really well so it's easy to be myself.” (we'd been dating for over a year at this point, I think).
“See, the problem with you is ...” Did I ask for her to tell me what my problem was?
“You're like a big smörgåsbord. Everything's just right there. But most people don't like smörgåsbords, they want their meal served to them in courses, one dish at a time.” She sat back, very pleased with herself and her fancy analogy.
I just sat there, stunned. I was a smörgåsbord?
I've thought a lot about that conversation over the years. I think I might have pushed Tracey away after that. I mean, I was a smörgåsbord, after all and she wanted her friendship served up one tidbit at a time. Well not me, mister. Nosiree.
I have since come to think that Tracey did me a favor that day. Her analogy is actually quite a good one for a person like me. Because, you see, she is absolutely right. I AM like a smörgåsbord. Who I am is right here for the whole world to see. All my love, all my virtues and my vices, are right here, prime for the picking. And you know? I prefer it that way. I want you to know who I am. But here's the thing: I want to know who YOU are too. I'm not one for playing games. Don't hide from me or serve me up one dish at a time. Just lay it all out on the line. I can promise you, I'll take the good and leave the bad; I'd expect you to do the same.
Lately, I've had this discussion with several friends. There are many smörgåsbord people out there, but we think we are alone. We see ourselves as decent, good people, capable of being great friends, but we count few people as true friends. The reason? More to do with our own perception of being unworthy or unliked in general, rather than anything specific. I think the reason we smörgåsbord types tend to feel that way is because when people only serve us one little dish at a time of themselves, we suspect that they are withholding something (which they are, by nature). But to us it feels suspicious. Why are they withholding from us? What is it that I lack that would make them feel they can't trust me with the whole meal?
So there are a bunch of smörgåsbord types out there feeling lonely, feeling unworthy of good friendships, wondering why they've only managed to get one or two great friends in their life. I would hazard a guess that those one or two total and complete friendships (because a smörgåsbord gal would accept nothing less than she gives) far outweigh in value and loyalty the handfuls of one-dish-at-a-time friendships out there.
As I've gotten older I've accepted the one-dishers as my friends. I love them. But, the friendships I cherish, that I hold close to my heart, always have always will, are fellow smorgasobrgs, like me.
So thanks Tracey. Thanks for helping me to see what my problem was. I think I like myself just the way I am.