Journal of the Emerald Specter 86: Friendship

I’m sure you’re wondering about the title. Well, the whole point of a title is to draw you in a bit, and unlike my normal columns, I’m going to do some dwelling on things that aren’t necessarily “fun, lighthearted,” or site related.

I’ve gone through life knowing a certain kind of person. There have been plenty who haven’t fit that mold, so I’ll start with the good before I hit the bad.

In high school, I was best friends with two others that made getting through life bearable. When I was in the Navy, I had a group that would also fit that mold… actually, lots of buddies for all kinds of occasions. Since that point, though, I’ve really only been able to rely on one super friend for all things: my wife.

Here’s where we go with WHY.

I’ve known a plethora of people who would use the word “friend” to describe their interactions with me but I can’t really reciprocate that word in the same way. The reason for that is because what they call friend is more accurately called an acquaintance.

Here’s a little bit of a “normal” interaction. Forgive the dramatics, I’m sort of merging a bunch of first hand experiences into one so that I don’t single out anyone who might be reading this.

“Hey, Joe Q. Public, I’m having a get together at my house on Friday and we’ll have ourselves some drinks and we can watch some quirky movie,” I say.

“That sounds good,” said Joe Q. Public, “But I’m waiting to hear from John Doe about going to Far Town. I’m also thinking about going to Nearsville on Friday with Ron Random.”

So… what you witnessed there is the “friend” of Joe Q. Public literally told me (paraphrased): “I’ll be happy to show up if absolutely nothing else comes up that interests me in the slightest.” I have run into this response many, many, many times. People who claim to be a friend but would rather do anything else than hang out with me.

Now, before you say something like “these people have lives, too,” I want to let you know that these same people expect to be able to show up on my doorstep unannounced, wishing to have me literally drop everything to do something on a whim.

Why should I drop things and take off on a whim? I have a life and I have things that need to be done. I also have a desire to do things on MY schedule once in a while and never getting that reciprocated at least occasionally and that almost never happened. In some cases, it never happened.

I was listening to a podcast today that brought this type of thing up, people who want to hang out with you but never actually do that on your schedule. They want you to adapt. They want you to do all the work. They want you to be irresponsible and just not do things to hang out. Those people are also interested in mainly entertaining themselves and in the above example, those people really aren’t interested in hanging out with you… they’re interested in you because you’re 37th on their list and you’re the first one to answer “yes.”

These people bother me. They bother me to the point that I have to actually relate to you a story about a specific person and how that friendship ended.

The age difference between myself and this other person wasn’t so drastic as to be unable to understand each other’s point of view. I’ll call this other person, for the sake of ease, Ray. Ray and I met before I married my current wife. We hung out occasionally, mostly in the company of others, but came to understand that our own aspirations were lofty and were mostly pointed in the same direction.

Ray had his own best friend, Mike, and they hung out a ton. Mike’s aspirations also fit ours, loosely, but Mike’s seemed to be more oriented towards moving away from others. The pairing of Ray and I seemed to be merging more as Mike wasn’t around as often. Then came the offerings of hanging out and that’s when things started to skew in the direction I gave in the example above.

I would call and try to arrange some hangouts and Ray did come periodically. Then things slowly started working away from the automatic yes and less hanging out was done on my terms. I tried to hang out on his terms as often as possible but as time went on, I got less amiable to working outside of my comfort zone.

My wife and I used to have an annual Super Bowl party where we’d invite a butt ton of people over to eat and watch the game (or commercials). The party started out large and as the years went on, people started making excuses for not showing up. Hell, some people didn’t even make an excuse, they said they’d show up and just wouldn’t. This type of thing is a good example of what I’d been dealing with.

I invited Ray to some sort of party, I don’t remember the details. It was likely an outing or a New Year’s Eve thing… something that would have been just hanging out and drinking like the old days. The response that I was given boiled down to “if nothing else comes up, sure.”

If nothing else comes up. Not like the example above because I was told yes… “except.” Then it was “except if this” and then “except if that” and finally “except of this other thing.” In the end, there was no plan made because I’m not going to base my plans off of a “only if I have nothing else going on” answer.

I picked on Ray because it’s the best example of what I have to detail my dislike.

I understand that people have their own lives but this isn’t having their own lives, this is claiming to be one thing and ending up being just a “in case I get bored, can I count on you?” No, no you can’t.

If you want to be a friend, friendship is a give and take. Friendship is a “I’ll help you move because someday I will need help moving.” Friendship is hanging out both when its convenient for you and when it’s convenient for the friend.

I hope other people read this, identify their own similar “friends,” and kick them to the curb because that isn’t what you need in life. I’ve got better things to do than work twice as hard at a friendship as the friend the friendship is with.