Losing touch with friends with whom I have once been at least semi-close gives me a feeling similar to discovering that the milk’s gone bad after I’ve already poured the cereal. Eating the cereal itself isn’t going to make me any happier than a bagel, but the unplanned corruption still results in an exaggerated sense of loss and disappointment.

If someone is important to me, I sincerely care about how they’re doing and don’t like going for long periods without knowing. The thing is, though, I am also vulnerable to a less authentic version of this feeling. This usually happens when the person or people in question live within a few miles of me and I’ve still gone months without seeing or talking to them. With some people, sometimes there’s just scheduling difficulty, where we talk plenty but just haven’t hit on a good time to hang and it’s worth it to keep trying. But eight times out of ten, I’ve stopped putting effort into regularly seeing or talking to someone for good reason– they’re perfectly nice, but the opportunity cost of making time for them just isn’t really worth it for either of us. The pathetic thing is that even in those cases, I get this feeling like the quality of my life is significantly diminished by the fact that I have failed to stay engaged with all possible social circles.

This is of course horsehockey. But that doesn’t stop me from having periodic attacks of anxiety about it, until I begin a comprehensive campaign to plan a superfun meeting. As a result of one of these attacks, I had dinner last night with five girls who were fairly good friends of mine in college and haven’t seen since the summer. They still see each other regularly, and because of this, some stupid insecurity gave me the idea that dropping from their radar was a reflection on my personal worth. Even though actually spending time with them is one of the most neutral experiences I could have. Most of the conversation revolved around their book club and the comedy that must be ensuing at home where their husbands were being forced to fend for themselves for dinner. The one single girl took every possible opportunity and then some to interject comments about her new boyfriend of two and a half months and their “frightening” recent conversations about “the future”. I had planned the whole thing, but I spent most of the time thinking about how delicious my tikka masala was and wondering whether one of my real friends might be available to get ice cream after.

The people in my life are extremely important to me, but I think I need to start coming to terms with the fact that devoting one’s time to specific people is a richer pleasure than feeling the need to commit to the concept of people in general. I still have plenty of these specific wonderful people to find time for, and can value past friendships without constantly needing to act on them only because they were special when I was younger.

Not that next week I won’t be clamoring to find a date for lunch with that coworker I once got drunk with and oh my god we had so much fun.

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  1. Going six months isn’t that long for college friends, in my opinion. Even if they live locally. I find that the distance I feel between myself and an old friend has less to do with how long it’s been since we talked or saw each other, but rather how comfortable we feel with one another once we do talk/see each other.

    I have a friend from high school who I contact about once every 6 years, and when we get together, it’s like there’s barely any distance at all. On the flip side, I have friends I hear from over email pretty regularly (every few months) and I feel like we have nothing in common any more.

    And seriously? Women who marry men who are not able to feed themselves? Explain.

  2. oh i totally know what you mean, i have friends with whom no time has passed at all even if we see each other every three years. my main point was that if people live close, i feel like i should be hanging out with them regularly, and that’s dumb, especially when they’re the people that you realize you have very little in common with anymore.

    and yeah, i was like whoa, is it 1952 in here or is it just me?

  3. Hey there.

    You speak the truth. But the older I’ve gotten, the more philospohical I’ve gotten about this issue. Some friends are just what you need at certain points in your life, or else you are thrown together by circumstances (like collgege). I’m no longer in contact with 2 of the girls who were in my wedding; one by choice, because we just had nothing in common any longer and it just kind of died out, the other because she moved so many damnded times, but I would dearly love to find her again (Carmen, where are you?!).

    Then there were the women I became friends with when we worked together, or had kids the same age, and most of those, too, eventually fall by the wayside. But some don’t, and those are the ones I know I’ll be friends with forever.

    Sometimes I regret that it played out like that, because of the shared memories and all, and they knew you when you were a different (and younger! and thinner!) sort of person, but I think of them fondly and I hope they do of me also.

    Geez, do ya think I was longwinded enough here?

  4. (hope this comment thing works …)

    i am totally of the opinion that friends should be the people with whom you enjoy spending time. i have a number of “friends” with whom i dread spending time, and so i don’t, and i don’t feel guilty about it. my reasoning is: if i don’t enjoy spending time with them, i doubt they enjoy spending time with me. i wonder if it’s true.

    anyway, i’m going to go on pretending like i’m totally fun to spend time with, even if that’s only partly true … (gulp}

  5. The commenting thing did work! And since your comment is an invitation to say you’re totally (not partly) fun to spend time with, I am more than happy to do so, with gusto. Especially when you’re buying.

  6. Court

     /  January 13, 2005

    I wonder if this dynamic changes after you have kids. I mean, the people I would call my parents’ best friends must have driven them up a tree at certain points in their 30s (in fact my mom has said so outright), but because their kids were such good friends with us – because the families were so tight overall – the individual frictions were kind of overlooked or ignored or something.

    But on the other hand, I do think they were always fun to be around; and people who are fun to be around can also drive you up a tree.

    Maybe that’s the test, even.

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