1a : one attached to another by affection or esteem b : acquaintance 2a : one that is not hostile b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group 3: one that favors or promotes something (as a charity) 4: a favored companion 5 capitalized : a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and an ordained ministry, and opposes war —called also Quaker
I’ve been struggling for quite a while now with what truly sets a person apart as a friend.
I’ve had friends at various stages of my life, and they’ve filled various needs I had at the time — someone to be there, someone to accept me for who I am, someone to be the devil’s advocate, someone to complain with, someone to discuss deep thoughts with, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to push me out of my comfort zone, someone to remind me not to take life so seriously.
So, what happens when the thing that bound us together is no longer one of my needs in life?
Do we stay friends because of mutual life experience? Once a friend, always a friend (unless something drives us apart, like a major shift in philosophy)? Does someone get mentally demoted to “acquaintance,” but never formally told that we’re just not as close as we used to be?
I have friends from college whom I can call or text or visit and it’s just like old times. We still get along, still have the same gestalt, even if we no longer know the ins and outs of each other’s daily lives.
But then I have friends from college, high school, and earlier with whom I really have nothing in common anymore. The age of Facebook makes it easy to either pretend we’re still buddies, or to finally realize that we’re no longer true friends and cut the cord — perhaps without the other person even noticing they’ve been “defriended.”
As for new friends… It’s hard. Most of my new friends since college have been work friends. Some of them I’ve hung out with outside of the work setting, but all of them have drifted off my radar once we stopped working together, despite our best initial intentions. (Not counting Facebook stalking, of course.)
If I suddenly had an entire child-free Saturday to myself, and could go hang out with anyone besides my husband… there’s no one I would call. I would rather spend time alone — reading, cleaning, writing, gardening — or with my husband. If I had an entire weekend, I might go visit out-of-town friends… if they were free, that is.
I’m just remembering how things used to be, some ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago. I had a core group of friends, and Aaron had a core group of friends, and it was just expected that we would hang out in some capacity on the regular. When I was in college, I could IM or call or just stop by someone’s room and hang out. (This was in the late ‘90s, before we all had cell phones and could text one another.) I wasn’t much for the bar scene, but if a band we knew was playing, a few of us would go out and see them. Every weekend, Aaron and I would go thrifting with one of his friends, or go to lunch or dinner with another, or hang out and watch movies or play games. Come New Year’s, the question wasn’t whether Aaron’s friends would all get together, but who was hosting the party. When one of our favorite bands was on tour (and they frequently were), it was a given that we’d have someone to go with.
We’ve all moved apart physically — or grown apart socially. We all have set routines and we don’t like to deviate from those. Sometimes it’s awkward to just “hang out” when you’re 40, as opposed to when you’re 20. It’s not always easy to party with your friends when your friends live in a different city, or state, or when they have kids, or spouses… or maybe they just don’t want to hang out. That’s totally valid, too.
The annual Memorial Day Weekend Shindig isn’t the only reason I think about who my friends are, but it’s definitely a big wake-up call every year. I invite local friends, local acquaintances, local and quasi-local family, and a few out-of-town friends, all with the hope of recapturing that experience of hanging out with people who want to hang out with us. The same core group of people show up every year — which has been pretty surprising, honestly, considering that it’s always held on the Saturday of a long weekend.
This year, two couples (so, about a third of the usual partygoers) have other plans — and I certainly don’t begrudge them that. What makes me feel kind of weird is trying to figure out who to invite instead, so we don’t end up with a one-guest party. My core group of friends — well, let’s face it. I don’t have a core group of friends anymore. Neither does my husband, really. We have a couple people we can talk to, besides each other — and those people are busy that day. (Or, in the case of my BFF who lives in Dayton, we’d rather her spend her time hanging with us exclusively instead of sharing us with a party full of people, since she can only do a day trip.)
If I don’t have a core group of friends, either that makes everyone B-list friends or it means I don’t have a B-list, either. And who wants to be told they’re on the B-list (or gather it from reading this blog post)? That’s shitty.
This whole thing is reminding me of sixth grade. I had one friend, Jessica, and I considered her my best friend. (At the time, it felt like everyone else shunned me and made fun of me, although my classmates remember it differently.) Jessica and I were the two girls who sang in the school district’s honors choir, who sang a duet for the solo and ensemble contest, and who actually sang out loud in music class when everyone else was too cool to sing that dumb stuff. I seem to recall us hanging out together outside of music stuff, too.
One day, while we were rehearsing after school, some adult (I don’t remember who) asked us, “Are you best friends?”
I looked at Jessica, and she kind of looked at me and glanced away.
“No,” she replied.
BAM. Mental punch in the gut.
I’m sure Jessica didn’t mean to be mean — just like I never mean to come off like an asshole when I sometimes do. But I know someone who knows me IRL will read this, having not been invited to the party for some reason, and feel that mental punch in the gut, too.
It’s not intentional. It’s a very rare occasion for me to be an asshole on purpose.
I just miss hanging out. I’m a creature of habit, too, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also miss chilling with friends.
One rambling blog post later, and there are no conclusions. My husband is still my number one BFF, and my number two BFF is still living in Dayton, and retains her BFF title despite our rarely seeing each other in person. Apart from that, I’m really not sure where I stand anymore, or what a “friend” really represents at this stage of my life.
Maybe friendship is kind of like love. It’s not the same fluttering excitement it used to be when we were younger, but it’s something more… solid. Maybe we don’t have to hang out all the time to be friends. Maybe if we just know that we have each others’ backs, that we’ll be there if something goes wrong, maybe that’s enough.
Are we still friends?