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The Happy Feminist

You have precisely articulated an issue that has made me feel lousy over the years. You're definitely not alone on this one.

JG

I am exactly the opposite. I do not easily make friends. I can say I only have one friend who is not also a member of my family. I am a little jealous of those of you who make the process look easy.

l.

I'm the opposite - I make friends everywhere but neglect them all for whomever is right in front of me at the moment. It sort of works, though. because when you have a real connection you can pick up and drop off at any time. You don't have to keep it going in any one path or keep constantly oing things with eachother. I'm an a-la-cart friend, or something like that, whereas you sit everyone down for the seven course meal... Actually, I wish I were more like you. But it does sound like it must be overwhelming. Is there any way to back off from the deep-relationship habit while still maintaining all the awesome friends you already have?

Megan

I was at some website that sold t-shirts with slogans, and as I looked down the shirts I was thinking, um, mean, not funny, eh, nothing, nothing, mean. And then I got to "Fuck you. I have friends." and I LAUGHED for a good long time. The caption said "If you aren't gonna suck my dick, I don't want to hang out." I'm not quite that harsh, but really, when I meet a new boy, I'm looking for romance or sex. I am not looking for friendship. I have lots of excellent friends, whom I'm not even as good to as I want to be. But if the boy is cool and we don't work out, we often end up as sorta friends. I guess that's fine, because he was a neat person or I wouldn't have liked him. But really, cute boy, if you want in my life and my fun and my parties and my social circles, date me. Don't turn me down, then work your way back in as a friend.

Mr. Witchirfay

You make me laugh and cry at the same time.

1) "you can't say it out loud" ... umm, you just did.
2) now that your friends know the process and it's "shape up or be kicked out of the inner circle"... yikes. pressure ! ... of course, once they grok the process, you may have lots of room for new friends ...
3) wasn't high school over a long time ago ?


So, I suspect that if I applied for friendship (now that your shower is fixed and my drywall skills won't be needed so it's safe), I'd be handed a number - like 89 (which would make me the next to Next times 89 in line for Friend) which I shortened to Mr. N(89'th)F. I patiently await my turn to impress and kick someone off your current list. Of course, the risk is that your current friends may increase their friendship performance to compensate for this new threat from friendly competition. If they do, you should be prepared for this, because if each friend increases their sharing, common ideals, and conversation requirements, this is increased time spent with you which may mean you don't have the carrying capacity for all 6 (or 8 or whatever) and by virtue of them being better friends you'll have to dump one of them... limited capacity and all ... prepare to be sad and dump one of your closest friends due to limited "carrying capacity" ... weird but again, gee, life is funny that way.

Mr. N(89th)F.

Pat

Hmmm, we seem to have many models of friendship. I have all sorts of kinds of friends and acqaintances, and am not sure where the boundaries really lie; various sorts of friendships come and go.

Different people lead different lives; some have more energy and time available for cultivating friendships than others; some people have to overcome shyness or introversion; some people have to overcome challenging life circumstances or are just plain overwhelmed with commitments; and some people are more and less gifted in "emotional intelligence", empathy, and tact.

Thought: maybe some of us need different types of friends to meet different social, emotional, and other needs. One friend may excel as a confidante, another as a creative spark, another as a source of inspiration or motivation, and yet another as someone who's just easy to be with.

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Jill

I find that when I do say things like that outloud, good things happen. People understand me better, I understand them better and it can work out really well.

On the other hand, there was this one time in first grade when I said it to someone who has reminded me of it every few years ever since. We are still friends although we drift in and out of touch. (Lately she's been the one who has been too busy!)

Anyhow, in the times when I've been lonely, I've always preferred to spend time alone than with someone who wanted to be doing something else somewhere else, and in the times when I've been flooded with friends, I've found that kind, soft honesty and respect for other people's abilities to fend for themselves works out.

Kat

Pat, your interpretation of friendship really resonates with me. There are as many different types of friendship as there are personalities and dynamics...and each is valuable and necessary in it's own way. Friend X brings out/creates something in me that Friend Y or Z can't.

I also believe that it's possible to genuinely love and value a friend, even if experiences separate for a time. It's like being a teacher...although I really care enjoy the different type of rapport that I form with each student, I also understand that I may never see many of them again at the close of each school year. That doesn't mean that they aren't very important to me or that they will forget who I was or the impact that was made in their lives (hopefully a positive one!)...it's simply a case of accepting the transitions that life brings.

To risk sounding a bit cheesy, I think we patch into ourselves a little piece of the soul of each person who we have cared about...remembering what they are passionate about and how they would respond to a situation, and what we've learned from them. For me, that's a big part of what friendship is...

misspixie

This post sticks with me, partly because it's so hard for me, as an introvert and someone who doesn't acquire friends easily, to read. (It's one thing to be empathetic when people are sad or lonely, but it's very different to be empathetic when people are brimming over with friends and happiness!)

One thing I want to say, though, is that it's not fair to listen to someone else's secret without a certain willingness to expose your own vulnerabilities. I've had friends who would ask me about my life and really want to know--and I'd open up and tell them things that were bothering me, or wonderful things. And then I'd return the favor and ask them about their lives and get only, "I'm great!" That's not fair. It left me feeling terribly vulnerable. It's the friendship equivalent of a hit-and-run--or maybe of rubbernecking at an accident. Regardless of how well-intended you may be, there's something voyeuristic and discomforting about hearing other people's secrets without any willingness to share your own. Those people sharing their secrets think that you're friends. When someone responds with, "nope, not interested, I won't share anything about me", it's a violation of trust.

Sherry, how do you think this post relates to earlier posts you've written about the contract (pact?) between a blog author and blog readers? Do you think that your choices about how to engage with readers stem from these same issues?

Last comment: you should pitch something to the Modern Love column in the Times about your blog. Your writing would be perfect for that kind of forum.

UCL

"Friendship" as a concept differs widely from culture to culture, and Americans are on an extreme end of the spectrum in my opinion. In my personal experience with many Asian and European cultures, it is perfectly normal to only have 3 or 4 close friends that last for a long time. I find that Americans, on the other hand, strive to have as many friends as they can possibly muster at one time. It's for this reason that many Europeans I know who live in our country are a bit turned off by our social networking structure. They find many "friendships" that Americans have with one another to be superficial, and frankly I agree with that criticism. I have American friends who will tell me with a straight face that they have "50 friends" in their social circle.

The irony is that the "3 to 4 friends" rule holds true in America just as it does elsewhere. If one really looks at those 50 so-called friends that someone may have (or 20, or 10), it still turns out that only 3 or 4 of them are truly people who one can completely count on and trust as a genuine "friend".

I ultimately don't know if one approach to friendship is "superior" to another. Each has its pluses and minuses, like everything else in life. But I do know that even though I am a proud American, the social lifestyle that best fits my own personality is more European than American. I have only 2 or 3 friends who I've remained close with over the years. I have gone for periods of time in my life where I made very few or no new friends. And I am perfectly at ease with those facts.

Kat

Misspixie, I've been thinking about your experience and I wanted to shed some light on why you might have had that kind of response from friends when you asked how they were.

Sometimes when I'm listening to a friend recount his/her grief, I feel as though it would be too much for me to also dredge up what I'm going through as well...I guess I'm afraid that it might overload /overwhelm them. Similarly,if someone is caught up in the excitement of something really awesome that just happened to them, sometimes I'll refrain from telling them about my problems, in favour of not deflecting attention away from their good news; to avoid taking the bloom off what they've just told me.

But reading your comment was a real eye-opener, in terms of helping me to see this from another perspective...thank you.

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