Monday, October 6, 2008
Quotation Mark Friends
In life, there are "quotation mark friends." You know, those "friends" who because of various reasons (romantic relationships, children, work, sheer laziness), drop off the face of your life. There was a time of course, when you were very close. When they were in your Top Five. When you would've used them as a Life Line or maybe even your One Phone Call from jail. But one day you realize that you haven't heard from them in weeks, months, maybe even a year. Or if you have heard from them, it's only when they need/want something from you. They never actually call to see how you're doing, just to get a ride when they're stranded at the airport or something.
Now, friendships definitely go through phases and cycles. Sometimes your schedules just don't match up for a while, or your friend has a new baby and you know you won't see them for say, six months or so 'til they get in the swing of things. This is normal. But say, a year or two without a single personal phone call (I reiterate, a call that does not involve a favor or a bailout), is a BIG SIGN that your are no longer friends, but "friends."
In my life, I have noticed that it tends to be important life events that bring these "friendships" into the light. Like a major breakup, a big cross-country move, or a serious health problem. This past Thursday I had an arthrogram and an MRI for some hip pain that has been worsening since college. It was a relief to find out that it was not all in my head. It turns out I have a torn labrum in my left hip and will need arthroscopic surgery to prevent the tear from continuing to scrape on my cartilage and causing further osteoarthritis. As I was leaving the MRI, I had several thoughts running through my head , one of them being "oh my gosh I have so many people I need to tell about this; who should I call first?" But then as I thought about it, the list quickly dwindled, DRASTICALLY. Which of my friends really care about this? Who deserves a call, who can I just text, and who hasn't called me in two years? I quickly came to the consensus that I needed to call just FOUR people, and that this list of four people is completely different than the people I would've called, say, 3 years ago. I mean, these four people are the ones who I know I can call and will ANSWER their phones. (Why do people have cell phones that they NEVER ANSWER?! That's a whole other blog entry right there.) These are friends I can call when I am in recovery and need help doing laundry, picking up the dog poop in my backyard, or changing a light bulb - whatever. Actually, one of these friends lives in another state, but if I really needed her I can tell you right now that she would jump on a plane with her six-month-old and come to my rescue.
I think one of the hardest things about being out of that high school/college bubble, where I saw the same people every day and friendships that just sort of kept themselves, is admitting that some people aren't as interested in maintaining their friendship with me as I am with them. It takes two, and I can't do it alone. Unfortunately, I still take it personally and it's hard to let the friendship go. But I am starting to see the signs. If I feel I am being taken advantage of, I will stop being the one to always initiate contact, and sort of sit back and see if the other person will ever take the lead and call me for a change. If they don't and they easily drop off the face of my life, then I know that the friendship has probably run its course and I should stop trying so hard. However, sometimes these quotation mark friendships still sneak up on me, and it's always disappointing to realize that I care more about someone else than they do about me.
So if you haven't called to see how I'm doing in over a year (or, um, two), then don't expect any heartfelt e-cards from me on your next birthday.