Have you ever met folks who seem friendly and welcoming at first meeting? But when you try to develop a friendship relationship with them, suddenly they are not so warm and full of hospitality at all?
We’ve all encountered people who are like that at some time or another. I once met a young, freshly-married girl who seemed a lot like me. She and her husband had just tied the knot that year and so had my spouse and I. We both were in our early 20’s, both far away from our families and home towns, both married to military officers.
You would think we would have a lot in common. And at first it appeared we did. But as I tried to get to know this woman a little better and cultivate a friendship with her, it was like she covered herself with armor – battlement gear. Prickly, spiky outer skin that definitely said, “Stay away. Don’t get too close.”
The ‘friendship’ ended, not because I hadn’t tried hard enough to be her friend but because she didn’t seem to want a friendship with me at all. Acquaintance status was okay, just don’t try to cultivate anything deeper than that.
Back then I was definitely a people pleaser, so I thought it was me. It was my fault that the friendship never stuck. Maybe she just didn’t like me even though I tried so hard to treat her with kindness and warmth. My husband and I invited her and her spouse to socialize with us and others. I invited her to join in with other friends for shopping trips or get-togethers.
And while she accepted invitations, it seemed like she was never comfortable or completely engaged in friendship. I never tried so hard to be someone’s friend and have that fail.
I also had never been accused of being unfriendly in my life and most people probably would have said I was a very nice person and fun to be with. A true blue, loyal friend as well. So I just couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.
Maybe I was too friendly? Maybe I was too outgoing for her? Maybe I just expected too much too soon? Maybe I wasn’t reserved and serious enough for her?
But after thinking it over, I came to the realization that I never crossed boundaries with her. I never pushed her to talk to me or to join in conversations. I never asked her questions that were too personal. I’m not an overly boisterous person anyway, so I didn’t think I was too outgoing. She just didn’t want to be my friend.
I think she had built a wall up that she wouldn’t tear down. A wall that kept people from getting too close. It was her choice to keep close friendships at bay. We parted ways when her husband was assigned to another military post and mine stayed put. And we never saw one another again or had any kind of contact thereafter.
Seems like the end of the story, doesn’t it? But I’ve never forgotten this woman. Every once in a while she comes to my mind and I still am perplexed over what transpired 40 years ago.
I do remember that she once shared one personal detail with me. Growing up, her parents moved around a lot from one area of the country to another. She was always the new girl in town. And I often wonder if that’s not what prompted her to build up her walls.
It’s so much easier to leave people behind if you don’t have close relationships with them. You don’t have to cry over being separated from a friend if you don’t become good friends in the first place. I’m no psychological analyst, but this makes sense to me. And it could explain what happened with this person I tried so hard to befriend.
Folks like her remind me of palm trees.
Before you think I’ve totally gone coconuts, let me explain. When Papa and I visited Arizona, we saw plenty of palm trees. There even were some in my sister’s back yard.
One of the types of palms garnered my attention – the pineapple palm trees. They are not very tall and they are squat, so they truly resemble a pineapple. I thought they were really cute and took pictures of them because I do like the symbolism of pineapples.
In American colonial times, pineapples were actually a symbol of warmth and welcome. If you visit places like Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, you will notice pineapples used in many decorations, even carved on bed posts. Apparently the pineapple became a symbol of hospitality because they were hard to get and it was considered an honor for guests if their hostess secured such a rarity and delicacy as a pineapple to display on her dinner table.
The pineapple became a tradition indicating hospitality and colonial innkeepers used it on their signs and advertisements to show you were welcome at their establishments. Even today, the pineapple remains a symbol of friendship and hospitality.
Those facts crossed my mind as I noticed pineapple palm trees planted in Arizona residents’ front yards. I wonder if they purposefully planted those trees as a welcome symbol or just because they liked the looks of them.
Never having lived in an area where we had palm trees, I learned something about them that I never knew before. The tree bark must be trimmed regularly. If not done, the bark becomes curled outward and razor sharp with saw-like teeth.
Not very welcoming. Dangerous in fact because by accidentally getting too close to untrimmed bark, your skin can get sliced open. My sister informed me of this when I was photographing the palms which needed trimmed in her back yard.
As happens often while I peruse my photos, this one I shot of the razor sharp palm bark and another of the pineapple palm tree above sparked an idea for this blog post.
And my mind instantly went back to the story of one who chose not to cultivate a friendship.
Welcome…but don’t get too close.
I learned much from that experience all those years ago with the girl who would not become my friend. I’ve learned not to take it personally if someone just doesn’t ‘click’ with me. I’ve learned that either you want to be my friend or not, that’s your choice, and that’s okay with me.
I’ve learned to treasure the existing friendships I do have and still always be open to new ones. And I’ve learned that even if I get shot down, I will continue to be warm, friendly, and hospitable to all.
Just call me a pineapple palm tree with all my bark trimmed.
“When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple. How to better your life 101.” ― Davin Turney