It’s not been a great week for my sole new year’s resolution. I had resolved to spend more time with my friends, whom I increasingly miss in the melee of my 12 hour working days, but of course a “quick” 6 pm meeting with a senior manager ran on until 6.50, and I was supposed to be meeting a friend at 7. When I rang to tell her I’d be late, she said she didn’t want to wait for me, and went home. It’s fair enough, since she’s always waiting for me.
In this lost world of pressure I inhabit, I am very conscious that I am letting people down all the time, mainly because my professional commitments take up all the effort I can give, and much more than I want to. It was quite ironic when I was talking to a friend about how much I would love not to work, or at least to work for free, and he said he couldn’t imagine me not working, since I’m apparently a ball-breaking career woman who lives for nothing else. Everyone’s dreams are buried under the weight of other people’s expectations.
Anyway, so I’m sitting at home with nothing to do and no one to see (and clearly failing not to wallow in self-pity), thinking about what a good friend constitutes, and how I can be that. Since I’ve completely lost all perspective, I’m trying to think of examples from film and literature, famous friendships, and realising that although I can think of a dozen romantic couples, great friendships don’t spring to mind. The only female one I can think of is Thelma and Louise, and that ended with a bump.
Back when I had any, I thought of my friends as sharing following criteria:
- Shared values
- No need for grand gestures
- A permanent bond that needs no tending. We just “understand each other” indefinitely
When I look at that list, I realise that it hasn’t changed since I was seven, which might be part of the problem. It was great when I was seven, and all we did was plait each other’s hair, play hide and seek a few times, and then grandly announced that we were “best best friends forever”. It’s just not quite so great when everyone is is actually making a specific effort to maintain their friendships, while I just float around thinking that the experiences I share with my closest friends will supersede all other obligations and all the stuff I screw up. When I do screw up, I resort to the grand gesture (flowers, gifts, cards etc.), which I then feel so shallow about that I deliberately avoid said friend for a while to shake off the feeling – a really brilliant MO.
At least, given my own hopelessly low level of effort, I don’t expect much in return. Just someone to laugh at the world with, who won’t judge me too much. Liking salty popcorn is a plus, but my best friends don’t, so you can’t have it all.
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