Monday, March 13, 2017

Ranting On...Not Having a Best Friend

I keep this blog largely anonymous in terms of who I am in real life.  I kind of like this for a variety of reasons, not least because I look at my Facebook feed (which I do VERY rarely) and realize that I don't want to get into a political discussion with people I know or have to explain why I think a film is "racist" or "homophobic" as it's just not worth the squeeze sometimes when it comes to your former boss who has a #MAGA avatar as their picture and doesn't actually want to understand my point of view.

The other reason I decided not to put my real name out there initially was that I occasionally wanted to write some more personal things on this blog, something I don't do very often (mostly because between politics and movies I keep myself plenty behind as it is), but am thinking about doing as a bit of a creative writing exercise (I'm working on a book again in my real life, as well as some fictionalized memoirs, and think that writing a bit more about myself, albeit anonymously, might be a cool way to get a little more intimate in the rest of my writing).  If you don't like this, it'll only be a once-a-week thing, and if you do or can relate, share down in the comments!

One of the things that I have learned through perpetual singledom is that on first or second dates, you get to know quite quickly where you're "different."  Topics will come up with frequency and you'll either agree or disagree, or have nothing to relate to the other person.  While there is, obviously, some difference in terms of the age you're doing this at (I can tell what questions I'll get on a date with someone my age, or five years younger, or five years older, with relative ease), by-and-large a few topics will come up that either I know I'm going to have something in common (love of Adele, Game of Thrones, and cooking), or where I'm out on a limb (1940's cinema, tennis, and my lack of watching any reality television).  This is all well-and-good (I think people having hobbies in common is wildly overrated in a relationship), but then there are moments where your lifestyles are different where I will admit to getting self-conscious.  Occasionally this is when I get asked the longest relationship I've ever had (my most dreaded question) or whether you go out on weekends a lot (hint: I don't), but yesterday I got asked a question that sort of flummoxed me: "how many best friends do you have?"

It made sense as a question in the conversation, and the guy didn't seem to have any malice behind it, but it did hit a nerve, because, well, I don't have a best friend.  While I've had close friends in the years since, and I have people that I've liked a whole lot, I've probably only ever had one truly best friend, in college, and other than that I don't really have this anymore.  This isn't to be confused with having no friends (which he asked, I think a bit perplexed by my candor, though I make a point of not lying to direct questions so I told the truth, perhaps to my demise), but I definitely don't have a best friend, and not because I'm not against ranking someone against another person (I love awards shows, after all).  It's because that has never really been part of my life.

A weird thing happens to you when you hit your late 20's/early 30's in terms of friendship-it becomes less important to you, and it becomes more about convenience than anything else.  This is largely because that wedding vow you took a few years earlier, the cheesy one that everyone rolls their eyes at and probably isn't true at the time, becomes true: you do marry your best friend.  Even if they aren't your best friend at the time, they become that because of location.  As a result of this, your other friends in your life become less necessary-you don't rely upon them for advice in the same way, because when they're giving advice it's either about your spouse or it's second/third-hand advice that ranks below your spouse's.

It also becomes true that while single people and married people can be friends, it's hard for them to do so while they are the same age, and started at the same point in the race.  I find that it's easier for me to talk to new people in my life who are married than my college-age friends whom I have loved for years in part because those college-age friends I remember when we were in the same relationship caste.  I recall when we both were trying to find a significant other, and having unsuccessful dates.  But in my life, in particular, that's a very stark contrast-all of my friends from college, my close friends at least, are married, and have been married for many years.  Most, nearing all, have children or are carrying a kid around, and as a result it's very hard to relate.

The reality is that your relationships with people change as they alter their personal lives by getting married and having children.  It also means that it becomes harder and harder to relate to people who were once essential to your life.  That's something that hurts-there's no denying this, and it hurts more when you realize that they would rather have people in their lives that mirror their current status rather than someone who used to do so.  I can't tell you how many times I've found out I didn't get invited to a couples night with a bunch of friends because, well, I can't come as a couple.

As a result, you adapt.  It can be lonely, sometimes very lonely, but you adapt.  And you end up having a fine enough day-to-day, perhaps only seeing your closest friends a couple of times a year (in my case), but I don't like to pretend like it doesn't change things in your life if you "come in last" or "don't cross the finish line" at the same time as your friends (or perhaps you never get to cross it).  I can't sit here and type this and state that I don't wish, almost every day, that I'd ended up finding a nice guy at 25 like everyone else in my life and that I had gotten to have the big dance and the big reception like all of them did.  I can't pretend that that doesn't break my heart a bit.  And I can't pretend that I don't wish that I was closer to those friends now in a way that I could explain that to them, that I don't wish that I was more essential to their lives in the way I used to be.  But that's not going to happen, the expiration date has expired.  I know they still care about me, but it's too awkward to have a truly real conversation with someone you see thrice a year, and trying to come to terms with a pain that's at least partially rooted in jealousy is an ugly affair.  It's the truth, but it's a truth that you're not supposed to acknowledge.  And that's hard to wrap your head around, particularly when you don't have a best friend to share it with.

So no, I don't have a best friend, and I probably never will.  Most days I'm fine with that-I have lots of lovely people in my life who make me smile, and I have adapted properly as an introvert in the time being to ensure that I am rarely bored or without purpose.  But there are certainly moments where I wish I didn't have to answer questions on dates like that with an answer that surprises the person across from me...and more moments still where I wish I wasn't on that date to begin with.

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