I wanted to answer the Asexual Agenda’s “Question of the Week” this week, but my answer was getting too long. So I’m turning it in to a stand-alone post. And now I’ve made it even longer because it’s just on my own blog haha.
Siggy asked: What are your friendships like?
My answer: I think, sort of like the ambiguity of words like “Family”, I have a very large range of people I consider “Friends”, and my relationship with each person is different degrees of closeness, spanning all the way to “former friend” or “almost-friend” because for whatever reason I decided I didn’t like them enough or we 100% fell out of touch.
Like Elizabeth, I was picky about who I wanted to call friends in high school, and in fact I felt like I didn’t have any, or didn’t have close enough friends, or my best friends were people who would just see me as someone they were merely friendly with. Because we never talked outside of school, and I thought true friends were over each other’s houses all the time or something.
But I found myself surprised to have made VERY lasting friendships with some people from high school, friendships where even if we don’t see each other for long stretches of time, possibly even over a year, we now do know too much about each other’s families and homes and details of their lives that we are intimately bound as friends in one way or the other, and it is seemingly permanent: for better or worse. One of them I met in 2nd grade, and we were less close by high school, but that friendship has lasted just the same.
In college, friendships I made were temporary. Based on convenience mainly. Less intimate. But the couple of friendships I made were still pleasant. I think I became friends with some of my professors too. I would never call those relationships friendships because that seems inappropriate, but I went out of my way to talk to them, like I did some teachers in high school, usually right before or right after class. About personal things, usually. About my life. I wanted to share myself with them and I felt what I guess people describe as “Squish” like feelings toward their personalities and the limited things I did know about them. My college friends, all of them, any of them, randomly assigned roommates I was friendly with or whoever? They are not my friends anymore.
Since high school I’ve also been making friends, real friends, close friends, through online communities — mainly fandom communities, but sometimes also atheist communities. Not really through online asexual communities — I don’t think I’ve made true friendships that way, but I do feel in general “supported” by some people there. It’s been a constant, since before I stopped living with my mother 8-and-a-half years ago. Through all of college. Through these years past college. These friends are real too. They are there for me in times of grief, in times of personal struggles, in times of celebration, and I am there for theirs too. I know intimate details about their lives, and I DO care, for whatever reason, regardless of what country they’re in. These friendships sometimes go dormant, sometimes fizzle out, etc. And I have enough new ones to replace the dormant ones that I usually don’t think of the dormant ones again. There are a few truly lasting ones that I don’t expect to ever fizzle out though.
Now, I’ve made some new, close friendships through being involved in Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic, and I love making friends that way, I really do. Not everyone in the group will become someone I truly consider a friend, of course not, but some of them will, and sometimes relatively quickly too. I really grow comfortable with people quickly. There are certain people I just trust right from the get-go to share intimate personal stories with, and then if they react the way I want them to they are solidified in my mind as someone I really hope feels similarly enough about me. Sometimes we’ll even meet outside of group sanctioned events, on a more personal basis. That’s the proof of us being friends, as is even just texting or emailing outside of the group, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel other people who I only see when they happen to show up for the group are “basically” my friends.
I have a lot more friends now than I did before I started going to that meetup group. I’m much more resistant to forming friendships at the local atheist meetup group I started going to, I think. If I was lonely and desperate for more friends though, I’m sure I could grow closer to the people there, or at other meetups, as well. I think I’m not trying to bond with people there (at the atheist group) because I’m satisfied, fully, in the friendship department at the moment. Because I’m more interested in simply discussing philosophical issues there than actually growing close to people, and I’m also not showing up that often, just once every month or sometimes per every two months.
I don’t measure my friendships based on time spent with them, time spent emailing them, or any one concrete thing. I have a range of people I consider friends, and they are all people where I feel confident that at least 90% of the time we are quite comfortable with each other and understand each other well enough, regardless of our vast differences. Where we really respect each other, and feel happy to know the other is happy, and want to comfort the other if something bad happens. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never met this person in real life, or if I see them, in-person, 4 days in a row. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t talked/emailed/etc in months as long as we both still feel like we know each other well enough for that level of comfort and trust and interest in each other’s lives to have not fizzled. We were just on-hold as a friendship, but nothing was dying out.
Sometimes things never were that close, and if we’re more friendly acquaintances, we were people with the potential to become real, deep friends… even if I tried to become friends with them, met up with them one-on-one, etc. if I never really felt that comfortable around them then I feel awkward calling them a friend. I might use the word, if I was explaining to my dad I was “having dinner with a friend” that evening, perhaps. But it wouldn’t feel genuine. What’d feel more genuine is “I am having dinner with this person I met in class”, a person who isn’t really my friend “yet”, and may or may not become one after we test out the ability to become friends over a casual dinner in a dorm.
As I grow older, I’m curious to see how my definition of friendship evolves. How the range of people I consider my friends might change.