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Among Friends

Among Friends

by Mary Lou Sanelli


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Literary Nonfiction. Women's Studies. An intelligent voice. An illuminating book. Mary Lou Sanelli is unsparing as she explores the subject of friendship in women's lives. This is a book of self-discovery...dauntless, smart, funny, beautifully written. She examines, deeply and sincerely, what friendship means, and what it costs. She pulls no punches. Through contemplation and through personal anecdotes, both her own and others, Sanelli crawls through this morass of conflicts and emerges with a strong sense of self and a much clearer idea of closeness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781929355525
Publisher: Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press
Publication date: 05/01/2009
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Mary Lou Sanelli was raised in Connecticut, educated in Boston, and now lives and works in Port Townsend, a small coastal town located on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula, and in Seattle's vibrant downtown Belltown district. Sanelli's previous collections include CLOSE AT HAND, LONG STREAKS OF FLASHING DAYLIGHT, and LINEAGE. She coordinates Port Townsend's celebrated Sunday at One Poetry Series, now in its fifteenth year, and she is Artistic Director of The Moving Arts Dance Company. Sanelli works as a writer, public speaker, columnist, and radio commentator. She is the author of six poetry collections and one collection of essays. Her poetry has been published widely and was recently included in two anthologies of Western Women Writers published by Houghton Mifflin. Her collection Close At Hand was chosen as one of nine Northwest titles in 2005 to be put into Braille by The Seattle Public Talking Book Library. Her staged reading from her collection The Immigrant's Table is an acclaimed, original spoken duet that dramatically and poetically tells a story of immigration, cultural adjustment and weaving Old and New Worlds together into a rich fabric of memoir.

Read an Excerpt


"Friendship is noble, 'tis love refined."
-Susannah Centlivre (c.1667-1723)

Sitting here, fingertips linked to the keyboard, I wonder how I will put into words what it means to be a good friend, both in familiar ways, and in ways vital to a woman's well-being? Ways that demonstrate that I at least have some understanding of what it takes to befriend someone well. How do I lay out some semblance of truth when there is no one set of rules to list; no hard and fast words of guidance to repeat like a mantra?

The answer to these questions is: I can't. But I can tell you what has worked and, perhaps more importantly, what has not panned out for me in this particular realm of intimacy. And I can offer the stories of other women I talked to or exchanged email with from a variety of backgrounds. And, with any luck, our insights may help enhance your capacity for lasting connections. After all, experience is richest, clarifying tool there is.

And though I don't believe the subject of friendship is of less importance to men, I want to speak directly to women because I can't begin to claim that I have the same level of immediate entree into the minds of men. The kind of access that will help me reveal from first-hand experience what it is I think women are seeking when it comes to the demands and uncertainties of friendship.

Be advised. I'm no expert. I'm not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or psych-anything. I never added a doctorate or a master's degree to the truth of me. I've published seven collections of poetry, one book of essays, and I work as a essay/columnist/public speaker with the ordinaryexperience of workaday life at the heart of my subject matter. Yet, unlike a scholar, I didn't consciously set out to make a study of friendship or to uncover what friendship may actually have to teach. More like, over the long haul between grade school and middle age, friendship, unknowingly, made a study out of me. In that sense, whenever I replay my life, I can hardly believe how idealistic I once was about my relationships. It's taken me years to slowly absorb and digest how ambiguous they can be. Years and years.

For example, each friend I make gives rise to a different part of me that needs to take root and flourish in a particular time of my life. Yet if this newer bond causes a less satisfying friendship to fall away, a friendship that, at some point, forced me to accept the fact that it just isn't working, I'm saddened and confused even though relief is what I feel on a deeper level.

Yet understanding something doesn't necessarily make it easier. As women, we tend to be overly tolerant and forgiving of friendships that, if we were to be honest with ourselves, add nothing to our current lives. We question ourselves instead of trusting the voice inside us yelling, "Oh dear God, please no!" when we hear her voice on our answering machine.

"When the ease between a friend and you is lost perhaps it's time to renew yourself with someone else." That's the thought permanently floating behind my eyes. I wrote the words down years ago after hearing them or reading them, I can't remember. But I do recall they were a life line for me, the shortest distance to the real I was seeking at the time. And yet, if you are anything like me, even though we hear words like these all the time, we still experience spasms of guilt when we try to enact them in our own lives. When a particular friend you once counted on for closeness becomes the friendship that is now obsolete (like toe rings and French manicures) and all you suddenly share is a common history so that conversations between you that were once an intimate flow of things that matter become exchanges that, repeatedly, go all the way to nowhere, the emotional parting can be excruciating.

All the same, not so easy to move on.

First off, I find the process of letting go, of moving away from difficult even when transition is necessary for growth. I regain some comfort by comparing this relinquishing to pruning. As if part of me, too, needs to shed a bit of weight in order to thrive. Because it's not only new friend I am seeking but a new way of being.

Table of Contents

Among Friends: An Introduction 1

1 New Friends 7

2 The Truth About Honesty 25

3 How Could You? 46

4 Notes On A Metamorphosis 58

5 Max & Me And Baby Makes Three 73

6 On Transition 97

7 Closing Thoughts 128

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