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So I recently read a book called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It quickly became one of my favorite books. I recommend it! I won’t get into too much detail about it, but it’s about the relationship of a Chinese girl named Lily and her laotong Snow Flower.
Laotong means “old same” or kindred spirits. In old China, young women would be matched together and form laotong relationships. These are lifelong intimate friendships that offer emotional support throughout all of life’s ups and downs.
Throughout the book, the author goes through a detailed history of Lily and Snow Flower’s laotong relationship. However, reading this book, my heart ached. It was well-written and amazingly descriptive, but my heart ached. As I read about Lily and Snow Flower’s ability to have a life-long friendship (with some extreme ups and downs), I felt a piece of loneliness. I don’t believe I’ll ever have the ability to have a laotong relationship.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful supportive fiancé who has been one of my best friends for the past five years. Even when we weren’t dating, he’s been my rock and my support system. I have friends who I consider close, but they’re scattered all around the globe. From the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, it’s just hard to consider someone close when they’re so far away. I do cherish my friends closely, but the lack of a “sisterhood” in my life has become apparent. There’s not much I can do to change it.
I have had friends in the past, that I have considered close enough to be a laotong. I cherished them like family. I put them up on a pedestal, praising their life achievements, being the rock when they had their downfalls, and supporting them throughout thick and thin. Those feelings were obviously not returned and over time we grew apart. I didn’t grow resentment towards them, but simply pain that these people could find themselves abusing my kindness. It’s may me weary in becoming close to people at all.
Most recently, I’ve found myself dealing with this situation again. I won’t say much about it because I’ve felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder. The “friendship” caused me more agony and pain. It’s like coming out of a bad relationship. You feel so revolutionary, ready to take on the world. In my heart, there still longs for a fulfillment of my empty laotong relationship. I’ve noticed with a lot of people in my generation that we cannot find friends who are faithful and loyal. I’m sure it’s not different than the generations beforehand, but it just seems as if less people are willing to engage in friendships. I count the blessings of those who do have friends who are like laotong sisters. I secretly envy them as well. Perhaps in some time in the future, there is someone out there looking for a friendship as I have. After being burned so many times, it’s hard to even take a step towards a friendship.
Do you have any friends that you consider close enough to be a laotong? Have you had any bad experiences with friendships?