The other day I posted a really great comment thread and used it as the jumping off point for a post about being comfortable/happy being alone but still wanting a romantic partner. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
There was a second theme in that thread (“toxic friendships and letting other people’s negative comments get to you”), and I’m going to try to write about it here without going off on too many tangents.
I’m of the (unpopular) opinion that the word “friend” is overused and misused (and yeah, I’m guilty of this, too). We friend people we’ve never even met online. People have hundreds and sometimes even thousands of friends online.
But really, how many of those people are actual friends. A dozen or two? A handful? I realize that different people are different in this regards. I can’t speak for anyone else, only myself. I have friends that I’ve know for decades, others that I’ve known for less than a year. But I take that friend label seriously. I expect a lot from those people, and I give a lot to them.
Anyway, I just think it’s important to acknowledge in any conversation of friendship how little that word seems to mean nowadays. That doesn’t mean, however, that true friends IMO aren’t still worth their weight in gold.
Which is why it saddens me to admit that over the past 10 years, I’ve had to cut some people out of my life. A couple of individuals plus most of a group of people I used to hang out with pretty regularly. It wasn’t because I stopped caring about them, or thought they weren’t fun to hang out with anymore. But rather, I found that some of the friendships I made in my 20s no longer worked for me in my 30s. And a lot of that had to do with the way people related to me as a single woman. The unhelpful comments, unsolicited advice and lack of understanding had built up over the years until finally I said, no, I don’t need these people in my life. I’d rather not spend time with them and then afterwards feel bad about the things that were said/done.
It wasn’t easy for me. Doing that. But I was tired of having the same, silly, hurtful conversations over and over. And on the rare occasions when I asked for favors or help (like, can you take some new pictures for my online dating profile since you’re such a great photographer) I was tired of being belittled (online dating, that’s for losers….).
So here’s my ridiculous analogy of the day – friendship is like chocolate. Great friends are like great chocolate. It’s about quality not quantity (and if you’ve ever had any really great chocolate you know that you only need a few bites in one sitting). FYI, in case you ever want to buy me a gift, I like my chocolate uber-dark. Practically bitter. Very, very rich.
Some people feel the need to gorge themselves on the cheap stuff. Pounds and pounds of nestles or cadburys. Overly sweetened and mass produced. Kind of like consoling yourself with a room full of friends who wouldn’t help you in a time of need.
So here’s a random theory that may or may not be completely accurate or relevant – if you’re a parent, it’s probably not that hard to be friendly with other parents (I know that my parents became friends with many of my friend’s parents, when I was a kid, for example). There’s a built in topic of conversation that never goes away – the kids. And there’s an incentive to nurture those relationships – the kids.
Similarly, there’s an incentive to be friendly with the people you work with. I’m still friends with people I met at work, years ago. Not many of them. Just a few random people from different jobs, over the years. I’d imagine, that if I had the same job for over a decade, many if not most of my friends would be from work.
Whereas the life of a single, childless person who’s moved from job to job every few years (which is the norm, I think) can get a bit lonely. Especially since many of us have seen some of our female friends disappear into marriage, never to be heard from again…
OK, my attempt to not go on too many tangents has clearly failed. The truth is that this is too big a topic for such a small space. Friendship is a tricky thing. And I realize that by admitting that I cut friends that I deemed to be “toxic” out of my life I’m opening myself up for a potential shitstorm. But the truth is, sometimes we keep people in our lives because we’ve been convinced that friendship quantity is more important that friendship quality. And I just think differently.
And now, because I haven’t been random enough, here’s a link to a very funny/relevant post from earlier in the week: What Friendship Means to Me by Panama Jackson. I tried to find an easy way to work it in here, but hell, it’s Friday and my brain is tired.