The 'housekeeping' of friendships
Being a raving slut, (sorry I mean extrovert) has always been one of my predominant innate features. Easy to talk to, friendly, kind, warm and polite.
When I evaluated this later in life, I realised I was actually a bit of a people pleaser and actually an introvert with excellent extrovert skills.
People have a tough time believing I am shy and dislike attention. I get embarrassed from any sort of attention but I do my best to suppress the awkward look of 'cringe' when I have to.
I then become coy and friendly in the bid to hide this feature.
You see friendships are based on choice. You choose to be friends with a person. It’s different from being a sibling to someone or a parent to a child. We have no choice over such matters.
Choice is borne of freewill. The ability to make an informed decision to form a close loving bond with someone who you may have identified (maybe) shares the same visions, possess the same values or at least have similar interests as yours –is choice.
I have acquired so many friends, companions, acquaintances over my lifetime. Living in 3 different countries, attended about 6 different schools, travelled over 40 countries and met people, worked in nearly 15 different organisations, belonging to countless social and community based groups. Sometimes I cannot keep up and to be honest, I genuinely like many people because so many people have showed me compassion, kindness and love. Mum always says that I beget the kindness and love I show others.
When I turned 30, one of the things mummy said to me was 'you need to start profiling your friendships'. It wasn't random. I was on the phone with her when she called me to wish me a happy birthday and i told her I had fallen out with a good friend who quite frankly let me down a lot. So she said, its time for you to cut down and focus on quality.
At the time, It didn't make so much sense as it does now and as much as I agreed with her because I interpreted this as an immediate mental chore, I simply couldn't be arsed about it.
It suddenly became easier to maintain those mad friendships than to sit down, reflect and evaluate who my real friends truly are. That didn’t last forever, I can now count how many true good friends I have.
But as time and motion evolve, and as people age, or as mid-life crisis sets in, friendships change. The most challenging times being when people have reached the young adult status (25-40).
When we were kids, school and friendships couldn’t go un-associated with. Our lives in school, college, university were hugely dependant on having friends because of the natural social and cultural aspects of being a student. Its that time in your life where if you don't build your social skills, you are more or less fucked!
When we get to that stage where we move cities, have and move jobs, get married, have children, care for our elderly parents, a sick child, become diplomats, career executives, own our businesses, whatever tends to have more demands on our time, everything changes.
It all about expectations. The expectations of our friends’ idea of where a friendship stands, and the interpretation of absence emotionally and physically and how that could be a risky factor to the meaning of friendships.
Before we even identify the status of these expectations, there are different types of friends. I am sure we have friends we call regularly to talk to or confide in for different reasons-, it could be travel plans, investment, sex, life, work, finances or career, then there are those friends we feel comfortable enough to open up to about family dynamics, the ones who reprimand us and call us out when we are naughty or wrong, those who tell us what we want to hear, those who are a voice of reasoning and motivate us, those who give you the fun-factor, the ones you want to get drunk with, travel with, the ones you enjoy listening to etc .
Friends with benefits, friends without any sort of benefits.
But I have tried to categorise friendships these into 3 types: (now this is not set in stone as many friends may not fall into any of these categories)
1. Friends we truly love who can go a thousand miles for us- they are the ones who are like brothers or sisters to us, we depend on them for most things or share a lot with them about us. A lot of childhood friends are likely to fall into this category. We tend to be extremely close to this sort of friends.
2. Friends who share the same interests and hobbies as us and are great for the fun-factor. They have a good laugh; they get the quirky side of you but may not necessarily be interested in some or all of your values, your life issues and all that jazz. It’s very shallow, no deep stuff please? They are good friends you call when you are having a bad day and simply need them to cheer you up, they would have a glass of wine with you and cheer you up without even having to hear what caused the bad day. The friends we want to get drunk with and when we sober up we call the first group (1) above.
3. Then you have friends you acquire from different social groups, the ones you have known perhaps under 5 years. Your kids are friends with their kids, you attend the same local church, mosque, a patient group, a music class, an event and most often are work colleagues. These friends are most likely to maintain long term friendships with us as the friendship does not feel time-trapped and we tend to be ‘killing two birds with one stone’ here as the case may be. Being a work colleague and a friend is easy, it’s convenient. You get to see them almost every day. They can offer each other some emotional support and have a drink or coffee in the process. They are aware of the ‘now’, your current mood. We carry them along.
So the first two categories are friends likely to sometimes demand more time and effort from a friendship because time and motion is an attributing factor that perhaps has created a sort of distance between you two that it becomes a chore to put a time in the diary and have a proper catch up and because it is easier to call off an appointment with a friend than to cancel on the kids swimming classes, or accompany your elderly parents to a hospital appointment, you put off that drink/catch up.
With time, there is some sort of distance, you drift, sometimes there is resentment, and your life is in a place where you are constantly trying to catch up. How can you keep these friends happy?
So the question is ‘are friends best maintained when we are really young and when we are really old’? Is that time (in the middle) when we are building our lives, families, careers, society often in competition with friendships? Are we so time-constraint that we recognise maintaining friendships is often a burden we could do away with?
Is modern and conventional friendship a drive towards social media dependency, a global way of knowing what everyone is up to since even a mere WhatsApp chat can be so difficult to have because of course typing long messages, or just calling is a time investment you cannot afford and maybe somewhere deep, you dread the next question “when are we catching up”? Is silence a fair way to just say to your friends, I love you, you are special to me, I wish I could be more present in your life but I have more important odds I am up against at the moment.
Self-sufficient and less needy human beings are the best type of friends you need in your life.
Do middle age circumstances negate our friendships? Are we managing the expectations that come with friendships? Do friendships begin to develop inferior and superiority complexes as they evolve? I do not know the answers but I am sure that the few ‘TRUE’ friends I currently have do not moan about having not caught up in 6 months.
The moment we meet, whether it’s been 6 months, a year or 5, everything is as it should be. Laughter, food, fun, dance, drinks, emotional support and ultimately love.
Mature friendships should never be perceived as a burden, if there are, then you need to review that friendship.