Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ideal Friends

When I was young, the times I spent with each of my friends usually centered around a particular activity we both enjoyed doing. For instance, I loved going to the movies with “A”. We were joined at the hip for seeing every funny movie that came to the local theater. Our standards were very low -  the dumber, the better.  “A”  and I had the same funny bone, and watching something silly together was always more hilarious than watching it alone. Often people in the audience would shush us for being too loud, but trying to suppress our laughter in that setting only made everything twice as funny. I'm sure we were very annoying. I'm sorry. We were very young.

Around that same age (10 or 11), a few girls from the neighborhood and I formed a private club. Meetings were held in the attic above our garage. We were all fans of the Judy Blume books, and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was our favorite. We learned a lot about our approaching womanhood from Judy Blume.  And even though we were at least a year or two away from getting our first periods, we decided it was best to be prepared, and voted at one of our meetings that each member should stock up with the required provisions now.

All my pocket money went to the local pharmacy for the next few weeks. We proudly compared our purchases at meetings, evidence of our advanced maturity.  I remember feeling greatly embarrassed when my Mom found some of my stash and couldn't keep herself from laughing. When she finally stopped, and said it was all really very cute, my complete humiliation was achieved.

There were friends I liked to hang around with because they were funny, and others who made good phone palls when the weather kept us in. I realize now that I had no real “bosom buddy” friend, someone I could trust with my innermost secrets, until I went to college.

I met “C” on moving-in day and “J” just a few days later. The three of us became roommates a year later, and lived together until graduation. We grew to trust each other completely. We shared in our disappointments and small triumphs, and told each other the most intimate details of our lives. I don't think any one of us quite appreciated at the time how precious our friendship was and how hard it would be to duplicate with someone else when we grew older. After graduation, we became distanced by miles, but a phone call or a visit brings us right back to where we left off. I value that very much.

In my professional and social adult life I have made some casual friends, similar to the kind I had when I was very young. But sadly, too many of the people I meet seem to find it impossible to let go of an image they have created for themselves, and their conversations circle around what they own. The latest car, the biggest home (at the best address of course!) and simply the best designer, darling!!  When bragging becomes apparent in stories of travel, charity work and encounters with the rich and famous, I am so turned off that any type of true friendship becomes out of the question.

Another person I try to avoid is the “advice giver.” I met a classic example of this type recently at someone else's home at a housewarming party. Our host and hostess took their guests on a tour of their newly renovated home with some justified pride, telling funny little anecdotes about their mishaps and miscommunications with the contractors and workers. The aforementioned adviser took every opportunity to interrupt the stories we enjoyed with, "Oh, honey, you know what I always do?" followed up with whatever it was she had done.

We all began to hate her quite openly, and tried to discover who had had the nerve to bring her. The last room to be shown was a redecorated guest room. Holding the arm of our hostess, the lovely lady told her, “You know, this could be a pretty room, if you painted it light green and changed some of the furniture." Enough said.

Every morning at my daughter’s preschool, a small group of happy children along with their sleepy parents gathered in front of the school, waiting for the door to open. It was very early in the day, so I usually just waved a weak hello to the other moms and kept quiet, thinking of the coffee waiting at home. "Do you give your kids a bath everyday?" someone asked over my shoulder one day. With a haughty “I beg your pardon!” on my lips and one eyebrow raised to underscore the point, I turned around to face the offender. I was greeted with a big smile from one of the moms I had casually chatted with at one of the many preschool birthday parties. Still smiling at me she added, "I don't."

I knew immediately that I could be friends with this women, and we have in fact grown to be very close – the first new bosom buddy I have made in a long time. There is no pretense in my new friend, despite her impressive credentials. She has the same casualness talking about her goof ups as she has about her accomplishments. I find that so attractive.

If you find yourself still looking for a really close friend, allow yourself to be vulnerable with others. Sharing our foibles makes us relatable, pretending perfection does not. Take a chance. Your instinct will tell you who that contender may be.

After reflecting on the friends (and non-friends) of years past, I’ve concluded that a good friend is a true treasure because,

He will listen to you when you need to be heard.
And will not judge you harshly because she knows your heart.
He will never cross boundaries.
She will not give unsolicited advice.
And he won’t keep track of how often you call, or how long it's been.

Genuine friendship does not require “work,” nor is it in any way related to the words “should” or “ought.”   It simply is.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the stories in this post. The description of a good friend, in italics near the end, is wonderful -- is that your own composition?

    Another question: do you believe that for two people to become really close friends, there can be no possibility whatsoever of a romantic relationship? For example, in "When Harry met Sally", the main characters are best friends for a long time but then ultimately get married. I seem to recall an interview with the writer, Nora Ephron, that this ending was inevitable.