If you have been reading “Far From Normal,” you may already be familiar with the term “Five Minute Friend.” It was first coined by our stepsister Sissy to describe the many people her mother came in contact with each day. They might work in the clothing department of a large store, or they might wait tables at the local Cracker Barrel; but regardless, our stepmother Beatrice began conversations with each and everyone one of them. At first the conversations were pretty innocent. Beatrice was warming up and she could be a delightful and entertaining conversationalist.
Later, when she was well acquainted with the person, she would begin sharing the most personal details of her children’s lives with them and embellishing the stories to make them a bit more interesting. Sissy, my sister Lindy, my stepbrother Kevin, and I have all had the experience of meeting someone in a store and having them look like they wanted to check the web site for America’s Most Wanted to see if our picture was there.
It does no good to tell the people (as Sissy once did):
I am not the shit-ass everyone thinks I am.
because any denial just confirms that part (or even all) of the story might be true. We have all been introduced to a clerk in a store with the charming words:
This is the one I was telling you about.
On one occasion, the cleaning lady said to me:
I hear you are having problems with your husband. That’s too bad because he is the only son-in-law she can stand.
Obviously, Beatrice had shared her preference for Taylor’s father with the cleaning woman, who seemed to be well-acquainted with our entire family’s repertoire of problems.
On another occasion, my stepmother leaned across the aisle prior to the start of a wedding and shared with another five minute friend who had just mentioned that her daughter was getting married in two weeks:
Our children are older, and they’re all getting divorced now.
I was sitting with Dad and Beatrice and could not contradict the statement that “all of us” were getting divorced. Actually, it was just me and Kevin by that point–and it would have been pretty tough to work that into a conversation.
Although not nearly as numerous as Beatrice’s friends, our mother also managed to have five minute friends. She would start up conversations wherever the people were willing to make eye contact. In her last year, the workers at the nursing home all became her five minute friends, and some of them really enjoyed her tales of her wild children and her marvelous parenting.
Lindy, Sissy, and I all have five minute friends as well. Lindy has a special waitress named Samantha that she enjoys visiting with and I love to speak with Chris who does my pedicures. Here is the big difference–we don’t speak about all our children’s faults and we try to be encouraging and positive. We never air our family’s dirty laundry for, while there might be plenty of said dirty laundry to air, we prefer to do that with a few close confidants.
When speaking with our five minute friends, we allow the other person to talk and it is not always about us. The five minute friends in our lives make life more enjoyable and fun. Sometimes they are the glue that holds the day together even if it is only for five minutes.