Wednesday, 25 February 2009
I loved reading all your responses to my post on friendship last week. That's the best 'comments debate' I've generated so far! I wanted to reply to all of your points properly, but it was getting much too long for a follow-up comment, so I thought this deserved a separate post.
The first thing I want to say is that I completely agree with Soma, who said "there is nothing wrong with either, as long as they are happy" - and I sincerely hope no-one felt otherwise from my post.
But it can be a challenge, as Chef E also notes, if you feel one way and your 'friend' feels differently (maybe we had it right as five-year-olds when we used to ask "will you be my friend?"). A bit like finding out that someone you've been dating doesn't see a future in the relationship - but potentially more surprising since there's no need for exclusivity in friendships, as Heather says "there's no limit to how many you can have". I've been lucky not to encounter many people of the kind Sam describes when he says he's "cautious about befriending [people] who want a certain exclusivity in the friendship" - but I have met a few people (like those girls at uni) who I thought were friends but who have subsequently decided that they don't want to keep in touch if I'm not seeing them every day. That's fine, it gives me more time to devote to the people who do think I'm worth the effort - but it hurts at the time!
Lilly really hit the nail on the head for me when she said "I regard real friends as those I can tell anything to and they wouldnt judge me." I think this may be a big part of the difference I was looking for, because I will tell anything to anyone and assume that they won't judge me. If I'm wrong, they're probably not in my life any more after that - but if I'm right, the barriers are down.
Diane made the great point that "not having met someone face-to-face doesn't mean they can't be a close friend", which also fits with my experiences, though I will then tend to make every effort to say 'hello' in person if I end up in the right part of the world.
Domestic Executive said loads of interesting things, including making the point that "some friends come and go - but at the time we were friends it was true and meaningful," while also identifying that since moving to the other side of the world "my true friends are those that still keep in touch, however infrequently, and I still keep in touch with them." This reminds me of what happened with my friends from school - I had some great friends, but then we all moved to various places for university and drifted out of contact, and it's harder to put the effort into maintaining friendships at that age (or to realise that it's important). Then Facebook came along, a few of us got back in touch again, and now I make an effort to see those people when I can.
Kazzy's mention of "maintenance needs" is relevant here because I think as a child you don't realise this - you see your friends (and enemies!) every day at school so you don't have to think about it. I wonder, if Facebook becomes even more ubiquitous, whether the next generation of school leavers won't even have to worry about this because they'll be constantly connected to everyone they've ever met.
Dave King's three types of friends theory (utility, activity & quality friends) is interesting to me because I wouldn't class the first two types as 'friends' at all - although I'm constantly looking out for people I meet in those contexts who could become friends.
I love the simple practicality of Cheryl's definition of friendship for people on the move:
"A friend, I have email correspondences with.
A close friend, I send packages to, I call, etc.
An acquaintence, I'll say hello once in a while and only really have a conversation with them when I see them again."
It's great to hear julie70's thoughts because she's had nearly three times as long as I have to think about it! Julie, I love that you have had one of your friends for nearly sixty years now. I hope you find the next one soon.
I may not have had quite so long to think about it, but I have had some friendships where we've fallen out of touch for ten years or more, and then it's still felt like 'just yesterday' when we talk again. Hopefully this happens less now, with the internet!
Hmm, this is getting rather long, so I'll stop there - if I haven't answered your comments explicitly, it's not because I didn't read & think about it, just that I don't have anything to add!
But before I go I must answer Heather's question: "are you by any chance a scientist or married to one?" to which the answer is 'both'... well done spotting my (deliberately geeky) language.