Some time back I wrote a piece on friendship and those kitschy, gushing emails drenched in puppies and kitties and pastels that end up in my Inbox rather often. At first they annoyed me just a bit – after all, I’m not a puppies and kitties kind of girl. But after a while, I realised they meant someone was thinking nice thoughts about me, and that was rather lovely. I may not forward them on, but I usually thank the sender.
Culturally, I think we look at friendship the same way we look at romance – every time out, it’s for keeps, everlasting. And the reality is that few romances and probably as few friendships are solid enough to go the distance. Which doesn’t mean you don’t have a great season together. But they’re not the stuff of lifetime relationships.
Quite often it’s work friends or neighbours – you shift jobs and houses and you mean to stay in touch, but you naturally drift away. The season is over, no hard feelings. Or without doing it intentionally, you just drift away from some people, even after you’ve known them ten or more years. It’s sad when that happens, but the silver lining there is you can often reconnect as if there had never been a down-time.
What about folks you’ve been friends with for a year or so, and you realise you don’t know why you’re friends? At first they were great fun, but you don’t enjoy their company anymore. They may be hard work with little return, bad tempered drama queens, or simply dull, uninteresting.
I had a friend (now former) tell me I was a bore because of my obsession with pizza. It seemed odd at the time, but I in retrospect, our friendship had passed its use-by date for both of us and that was the one thing she could put her finger on. I could come up with a laundry list of her faults – but she had them when we became friends – they weren’t the problem. We’d just moved past each other. (And I am now very circumspect in my discussion of pizza…)
The dilemma is that you don’t truly dislike them – if you did, no problem with terminating the friendship. You just don’t like them anymore. You don’t want to give them your time, listen to their dramas, be understanding when they fly off the perch, hear about proper New York pizza one more time.
This is where I want a nice, warm kitschy email that says, “Gee, we’ve had some real good times, and essentially, I think you’re a decent human being. But now that I’ve got to know you really well, I realise I don’t like you very much. Can we call the friendship off?”
Surely we could come up with something mildly funereal, delicate, sensitive yet to the point? Why does everything seem slightly sarcastic? Why are endings so bloody hard?
No wonder we hide and dodge the whole thing and end up stuck with the odd friend we don’t like at all. We need a roadmap, a plan, a course of action – a path to follow to get it right. And I think we do need to do it right, find a way to get these people out of our lives where we can. There’s not much we can do about family. Or coworkers. Or neighbours. We may have to manage toxic relationships throughout our lives.
Friendships – close, casual, distant, intimate or a 3 hour plane ride long should enrich our lives and bring us joy, support us through tougher times. Like every soppy, sticky, cloying friendship email spells out in detail – friendship is an amazing human treasure. Let’s keep it that way!