Monday, September 13, 2004

Whither friendship?

I read this in someone else's blog recently and it got me thinking:

I'm lucky to have my friends there too. My real friends, the ones that know me, the ones that let me cry at 3am when they'd rather be sleeping. The ones who would be there through thick and thin. LK, JN, CJ, TB, LT, no particular order of importance, you make my life possible. I only hope that I've brought to your life what you've brought to mine.

(Source: JPK: You can never have enough water. I stumbled across this blog using the random blog search function from blogspot. I don't know the guy (though he's quite amusing -- when he's not depressed). Heck, you too can go to another randomly-selected blog now by clicking on the "Next Blog >>" icon in the upper right-hand corner. But finish reading this first!)

So as I was saying, Jason's comment kinda struck me, because I suddenly came to realize that my friendships aren't like what Jason describes. I've never cried to someone at 3 a.m. when they'd rather be sleeping -- and trust me, there have been times I've wanted to. (I end up crying at home alone instead.) I've always felt strange imposing upon my friends for almost anything. Even when I was recovering from surgery I felt really bad for having to ask my friends to come stay the night with me. I've promised each of them a dinner in return for putting them out so much.

But there are those who would argue (and I wouldn't disagree) that stuff like crying at 3 a.m., or incredibly inconvenient favors, are the stuff of which friendships are made. If your friendship can't survive late-night "I'm-depressed-and-just-wanted-to-talk" phone calls, then what do you really have?

Of course, there's a flip side to that argument, which I again can't disagree with. The flip side argues that if you can't respect your friendships enough to realize that your friends have lives too -- lives that don't revolve around you -- and reliving your drama isn't their purpose in life, then you're abusing the friendship. Late-night phone calls are the stuff of sappy movies, this theory claims, and friendships suffering from that in real life don't last long. Besides, it should be pointed out, even in the movies, those late-night calls either don't result in anything helpful, or in fact lead to bad decisions on the part of the comfortee.

I wish I could say I have a theory on this, but I don't. I can only take note of the friendships I have. Although I know I could rely on most of my friends for all kinds of things, they tend to small things -- like dragging my carless ass to parties, or even for a Target run. One once offered that if I needed help with a down payment for a real estate purchase, I should ask her. (Thankfully, I didn't take her up on that -- I don't think substantial debt between friends is ever a good idea.) Although I generally feel like I could crash at friends' houses out of town if I had to, I would feel like I'm at an age and success level by now that it just seems stupid not to find a decent and affordable hotel.

But at the same time that my friends are good for that kind of small stuff, I don't know, really, who I would have to rely on if, say, a member of my family were to die tomorrow, or if some other devastating personal catastrophe hit me. Knowing me -- and the relationships I have with my friends -- I'd probably put on a brave face, say that I was okay and everything will be okay... and mourn alone. In the movies, we see this all the time, but those people usually seem to have a spouse into whose arms they eventually collapse in a mess of tears. I think I'd have a teddy bear. It's the same thing that makes me unlikely to engage in the aforementioned 3 a.m. phone calls.

So is there a clear line to be drawn between leaning on your friends and respecting their right not to be burdened by you? I'm sure there must be. I just haven't found it yet.

No comments: