Thoughts on Friendship

by - December 15, 2009

Yesterday morning, my friend Claire and her son Tav came by for a visit. While Claire and I were enjoying good conversation, Scooby and Tav were a little ornery and unsure what to do with themselves, so they alternated between snacks, trucks, fridge magnets and mama begging. About 45 minutes into their visit, Scooby takes Claire by the hand, and leads her through the kitchen and dining room and then stops with her at the front door and looks up at her expectantly. Claire asks, "Do you want me to go home?" to which Scooby nods and says, "Home!" I was a little flabbergasted at his blunt request, but then couldn't help but laugh because surely, this was my son.

A couple weeks back I wrote about beginning to open the doors to my home to share my time and my space. For some people, this takes no effort. I hear friends tell stories about how growing up, their house was the hub of the neighborhood and there were always extra seats at the table prepared for friends to come eat. I grew up in the country (I use the term loosely, because really it was just the pre-suburbs), and most of my friends lived at least 30 minutes away. Our house was totally awesome with fields, a pond, a creek and a barn; and my mom totally rocked our birthday parties, but there was not a steady stream of visitors on normal weeks. My brother, sister and I played together most of the time and had all kinds of adventures inside and out, building forts and villages and going on hunting trips with our pop-guns.

My life patterns eventually developed such that I love being with people and get energized by social interactions and good conversation, but left to my own inclinations, I'm most likely to let the initiative to plan something pass and just stay home with the family. I find irony in that one of my deepest longing is for rich community and friendships, yet I have this nature that is prohibitive to me opening my life to develop this. I am not sure if it is a desire for autonomy, laziness, selfishness, or shyness that holds me back, but I do know that I am not alone in my desire for community and my frustration at my seeming lack of ability to let people in.

There are many levels to friendship, and if I were to chart out the normal progression of female friendship, it would go something like this:
1) Small talk - for me, this is the dreaded meet and greet, shaking hands with people in church, chit chat at community group before the study starts, one-handed drink and party plate chatter, etc.
2) Discovery of common interests, humor, or passions - this can be fun for me, "Oh you do this?... ME TOO!"
3) Shared time, casual, planned hangouts - being that this usually requires a phone call or email or some other type of correspondence and actually making a commitment, this is where I get off the bus.
4) Dependence, sharing needs - and here we get into doing life together, watching each other's kids, helping with meals, last minute phone call requests, asking for help or prayer.
5) Vulnerability - and finally, we start sharing the good stuff: our hidden disappointments, passions, fears, joys.

I think we all excel in different aspects of friendships, but rarely do we conquer them all with more than a small handful of people. There are plenty women who are great at small talk and hanging out, but getting them to share their needs or be vulnerable is like pulling teeth. While the friendship is usually fun, it lacks depth and permanence. On the other hand, I have become very proficient at jumping straight to number five and am terrible at the small talk and casual hangouts, so I come off as extremely awkward and standoffish at first meeting. I can't tell you how many of my friends have later confessed that they initially thought I hated them. For those I can get past the small talk with, I am very open with my struggles, and in turn, they are compelled to open up to me. This often leads to relationships where I play out the role of counselor in a long dragged out adult game or Truth or well, more Truth. Personally, I don't think all friendships can and should achieve all five of those stages, but there has to be balance. I need people I can just laugh with, and people who know and accept my lack of proficiency at small talk and can just hand me beer (well in another 6 months).

I really don't know where I'm going with all this except to say I've been thinking on friendships - the seasonality of friendships, the roles of them, letting them go and growing them deeper. Lately, I've found myself really excited about one thing or another, giggling over something funny that has just happened, or processing something deep.. and want to call up a friend to share, but then I realize I don't have anyone to call! Seriously, mom is tired of the daily phone calls and I hate calling up friends at work or interrupting nap times, so usually I just end up blogging whatever it is.

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4 comments

  1. as an only child, i relate to this. i've always had very close friends, some of which i still maintain & have had nearly all my life (since we were introduced when i was 6 months old).

    this last year has been tougher for me because i've realized the lack of real, whole relationships here where i am. i love my friends in other states & treasure the little fact time i get with them, as well as the frequent (or sometimes infrequent) phone chats.

    but nothing can replace that whole friendship that's weathered time & circumstance together in person. perhaps one day!

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  2. * fact time = face time.

    grrrrrrrr - wish i could edit my posts with atrocious grammar & spealling!

    /grammarnaziness

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  3. I'm totally with you. I always feel like I'm missing out on something like 'How do these other moms at school all know each other and seem like they're hanging out?' when in reality, it is my own hang ups that keep me out of the loop.
    I rock the first impression, but suck at follow-through and plans and so on. Char begs for playdates and then I balk at committing to them.
    Now, if she wanted to have some kind of VIRTUAL playdate, like playing Scramble on Facebook with some kindergarten chums, I'd be all over it...

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