Everybody Needs a Tribe

I had thought about it, perhaps even obsessively, for a couple of months. In one scenario, when I returned to the spot where what-I-had-thought-was-my-tribe convene for coffee each morning, I would be met with warmth and kindness, the passage of time having clarified how overblown our misunderstanding had become.  In another, I was yelled at, shooed away, had it made clear that, no, actually, time had changed nothing.  And the third: I could easily continue to avoid it all by taking my coffee business elsewhere – which is precisely what I did.

Until yesterday.

I stopped to grab some cash from my local ATM when one of the women who has chosen to remain friendly with me saw my car at the far end of the same parking lot where CoffeeGate had gone down.  “Hey, want to do a quick coffee now?” she texted me.  It was nearly an hour before the big guns would be there, so, with only a brief hesitation, I replied, “Sure!”

I had not stepped foot in there since having been expelled back in January. I kinda felt the way one does when they are 19 and their fake ID fools the bouncer.  But I was there, and whatever would unfold, would just have to unfold.  I am 53 damn years old.  This is absurd.

It was not long before another woman we both know happened to come in for her morning cup of  joe.  A semi-regular “member” of the group, months would go by without her coming in for the daily ritual, yet she knew all about what had gone down.   Even still, she pulled up a chair and we three picked up as though no time had passed.  It filled my soul.  I had missed the camaraderie and friendship.  I appreciated the warmth – neither of these women were having any of the bullshit that went down and I love them for that.


With a much appreciated heads-up, I braced myself for what was to come.  My two coffee-mates were, as they should be, greeted warmly.  I, on the other hand, was totally, completely and without even a hint of acknowledgment, ignored.  Okay.  I hadn’t really considered that scenario, but I guess it beats being humiliated.

As two more of the women came in, I wondered if their approach to me would be the same.  Had they, in the months since my banishment, curated and choreographed just what they would do in such a situation?  Well, given the fact that each did the exact same thing, I have to wonder.  And, yes, I am aware of how narcissistic that sounds.  Yet…I contend: it is not out of the question.

So there we were.  One group of women at one table, another at another.  I can only speak for myself in saying that, more than uncomfortable or stressful or ridiculous, it felt absurd and surreal.  Aren’t we all grown women?  Aren’t we all free thinkers who can decide for ourselves what constitutes an irreparable set of circumstances?  What is this really about?

As infuriating as it is sad, as ridiculous as it is painful, as unnerving as it is surreal, I will cop to this: it is dangerous and destructive.  Here’s why.

We are living in challenging times.  We are at an age that our parents need us more, there is no such thing as job security or the promise of good health.  Everyone, to.a.person. needs more, not less support.  Marriages are shaky.  Relationships are as tenuous as they are desperately needed.   The stock market is eroding our sense of security every.damn.day.  Our children are facing a world so completely different from the one in which we grew up – more so, I would argue, than earlier generations.  Schools are setting up metal detectors and armed guards at the front door. Students are required to wear lanyards not only to prove they are supposed to be there but, perhaps more to the point, to make themselves identifiable should someone run wild in the halls with an assault rifle. Mothers are drinking wine and smoking pot just.to.get.through.the.day.  Grandparents are sick with worry about what the future will look like for their children and their children’s children.  Everything, from stem to stern is hanging in the balance.

What, I ask, is to be gained in alienating others?  How is it good for anyone to be unwilling to accept not only the mistakes someone else may have made, but their own missteps as well?   And is digging your feet in out of pride – or, more likely, in the absence of knowing how to hit the re-wind button – beneficial to anyone?  No one wins.  No one feels good.

I haven’t been able to shake it for months now.  I’ve run the gamut of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, disbelief, frustration and, yep, anger again. Relationships should bring feelings of support, kindness, love, acceptance, understanding and flexibility, right?



I’ve come to realize that my upset is no longer about what happened with these women.

It is about acknowledging that moving five (but feels like 10) town away was hard and entering a new community which, for a variety of reasons – none of which were personal –that did not necessarily offer open arms was even harder.

It is about starting from scratch.  Finding new doctors and dentists and dry cleaners and manicurists and gyms and restaurants and friends.  Making friends is easy when your kids are little…once they are teenagers: close to impossible.

It is about thinking you had found a tribe only to realize you hadn’t.

It is about the challenges that come along with four children – only half of whom you gave birth to.

It is about that sick feeling that every single parent has to one degree or another; you  know: might our school be next?

It is about the ease with which self-confidence can, and will,  morph into crippling insecurity.

It is about hoping and searching for a tribe.

Because at the end of the day, we all need a tribe.

17 thoughts on “Everybody Needs a Tribe

  1. I have been ousted from a tribe or two as an adult, for reasons that were either a complete mystery or a complete misunderstanding that turned irreparable. Some of the reasons that I did know were, to anyone outside of the tribe, completely and totally ridiculous and insane… though to anyone inside the tribe, I guess they made perfect sense. Those periods of time have been incredibly painful and torturous to me, and I try in vain, over and over and over, to understand what went wrong and to prove that I am, I swear, a good person. A few friendships, thankfully, have been able to be repaired, but a number are just long gone, leaving me with a trail of bitterness, sadness, and nostalgia. It is bewildering to me, because I am someone who will, more often than not, forgive someone who asks to be forgiven… but apparently not everyone is. I wish I had a better answer… but sometimes people are just cruel. Sometimes it seems that people just delight in casting someone out or in jumping on the bandwagon. It sucks.

      • I like it! I feel the need to give a little more context, for the benefit of your entertainment, if nothing else! There is a band I follow around a lot (even though I am 37 and supposed to be a “grown up”) and I’ve done it for the last 13 or so years. In doing that, you kind of get to know the other people who are out there doing the same thing, or who want to be. I always feel like, the more the merrier, so I’m all for inviting new people along, sharing hotel rooms and carpools, saving each other spots in line, helping each other buy tickets when the whole east coast goes onsale at the same time, etc. etc. However, I have learned that when all of you are in it because you all have insane, intense (somewhat inexplicably so) emotional relationships with the same thing, it is really easy for shit to veer wildly out of control. This is especially true when you are all competing — subconsciously or not — for a limited resource, whether it’s the attention of the band, the best spot in the front row, or the title of “best fan” (in the eyes of the band and/or the rest of the fandom!) It’s insane, right? And yet, when relationships fracture, you STILL end up running into each other at the same shows, month after month, and sometimes you’re even unlucky enough to end up smashed against each other in the front row (this happened to me. It is SO HARD to ignore someone that you are literally pressed up against for 4-5 hours, but wow, I did my best). And as someone who is “known” in the fandom, it’s easier for people to go online and to sow dislike for me in a fan community made up of hundreds of thousands of people around the world! The whole thing almost feels too stupid for words when I try to explain it to people in my “real” life… but wow, the painful effects of it are real! Hang in there.

  2. God I wish I lived near you. We are so much alike. We think exactly the same way.
    I’d be in your tribe! And even if you made a mistake, or I made a mistake, I’d still be in your tribe!

  3. Even though we live further apart now, I will always be in your tribe. You are one of the most honest real people I know and that, my friend, is very very hard to find! Don’t change, ever, you are just right and shame on them for not realizing that fact!!

  4. Your insights were quite profound. I wish we lived near you. I’d be in your tribe.
    And a belated Happy Birthday!

  5. I’ve stepped away from? been ousted from? had a parting of the ways? from what I thought was my tribe twice in my life. The first time, I felt incredible anger; the second, anger, frustration, and deep pain. I thought these people were my friends — my family. What I realized is in both situations it became a pack mentality … and if you don’t run with the pack, it will turn on you. What I’ve learned from it is I’m not meant to be a full-fledged pack member — I don’t think the same as everyone else — and I’m proud of that. I will stand up for what I think is right, I will do what I think is right, even if the “popular” group does otherwise. It’s like being back in high school. I didn’t play those games then, and at 54 years old, I’m not about to start now. I can belong to several different tribes, all at the same time, and if they don’t like me, well, that’s their loss. I’m a grown-up, with a lot to offer, and I believe in kindness, and treating everyone with respect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s