Monday, November 23, 2009

In which I make up a silly word for a deep, psychological characteristic

People are different.

I know. Shocker.

But let's rewind a little bit. Whrrrrrrrrrrr! *Play*

So I'm in Brazil. Visiting friends. Having the time of my life, if you remember. But for every high there is a low, for every up there is a down - I'm pretty sure The Sword in the Stone has a song about that.

See, for some of those friends, a few days wasn't enough. For some of those friends, a few hours of (what should have been) laughter and conversation was 95% complaining that I don't keep in touch well enough.

This, in a word, BIT.

This plunged me into at least fifteen minutes of complaining to My Man - until we came to that SHOCKING conclusion: people are different.

I have a very good friend, whom we'll call Jane, because that's not really her name. We've been friends a long, long time. Good friends. Best friends. In high school, Jane befriended another girl, Betsy, to whom she became quite close. I liked Betsy. I had no jealousy issues. I was glad to include another body in my circle.

But in college, Jane "dropped the acquaintance," as Jane Austen would say.

Betsy called. Left messages. Wrote emails. Sent letters. Yet Jane disdained not to reply.

I got mad at Jane. "Write her back!" I urged. "Call her back! She's your friend!" But Jane, in so many words, made it clear that it was not a friendship 'worth keeping up.' Jane only had so much room in her emotional friend box, and it could not include Betsy at the moment.

I've thought a lot about that Friend Box.

Everyone is different.

For some, picking up the phone and calling once a year is plenty enough to keep up the status of "best friends." For others, once a month is better. Some women are more every-day-ers, who need constant physical companionship to deserve the word Friend.

And I don't think any one of them is Right, where the others are Wrong. Just different.

I've come to the conclusion that a Brazilian Friend Box is quite large. They have huge emotional capacities, ready and willing to embrace everyone as a long-lost soul friend - and work hard to keep them that way. They write weekly - sometimes daily - messages. Emails. Phone calls. And it's still not enough. My friend Jane, on the other hand, has a relatively small Friend Box. Select are the few who gain admission. And she's content with a once-a-year phone call to stay a part of that exclusive club.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

I'm totally okay with months of silence from some of my best friends - among them, my college roommates. They rarely remember my birthday. I never remember theirs (although I could TELL you what they are ....)

And that's totally cool.

I used to know everything about them. I was intimately acquainted with every item of clothing they owned - where they got it, and how much they paid. I knew when they ran out of cheese. I knew the daily ups and downs of their emotions, and what kind of tampons they used.

Now, I don't know those things. I have no clue what's in their closets - or their refrigerators - or their bathroom cabinets. But I know THEM. I know the foundational soul-building part of them that makes them my friends. And luckily, our Friend Boxes are relatively the same size. It makes things so much easier.

We don't see each other often. When we meet, there's that initial coolness and the "what've you been up tos?" and then everything is fine. We're back at Apartment 80, discussing the deepest darkest parts of US with music blaring in the background, and trying on each other's makeup. (Heidi always had the best. )

They are in My Box. But so are the Brazilians. It's just that Brazilians need more frequent proofs of their membership.

And that's okay.

Because people are different - and so are their Friend Boxes.


Becky said...

What a great post this is. I definitely lean more towards the Jane camp - at least phone-wise. I email fairly regularly, but there has to be something really big going on for me to pick up the telephone. And that used to cause all kinds of guilt, but now I'm okay with it.

And I love that that's okay.

Kristina P. said...

I loved this post. I have different size Friend Boxes for different friends, honestly. I have some friends that I could talk to once every six months, and it's like we never stopped. But others, I need more regular contact with.

I did drop a friend about over a year ago. I realized we just had very different friend needs. I needed her to return emails once in a while, and apparently, she didn't need that.

wonder woman said...

I think I have a pretty big friend box. Honestly, I wish I had more close friends than I did.

My husband, however, only has a friend gift box. I'm talking the size of a ring box. Very low capacity/need. Makes things interesting. ;o)

Kazzy said...

Finding that balance with friendship maintenance is tough. I love my friends, and need them. But not everyone reciprocates. But yeah, some friends are just as close if you talk to them once a year as if you talk to them daily. I love that!

Deb said...

My friend box is not very big, either. I haven't seen or spoken to my best friend in over a year. We have exchanged a few e-mails, that's it. But when my dad died, she got a sitter for her kids and drove in to stay with me through the funeral. I'm very much a "quality over quantity" gal, but it's hard for someone who values quantity to understand that.

DeNae said...

I'm with Deb. I have more friends than I deserve, and for me it's all about quality. Goodness, I have blood relatives I don't speak with for months, and no one's offended or put out or anything. So the 'super contact-y' friends don't last very long in my box. The paradox being, you're most likely to hear from me when you aren't demanding it or keeping score.

Margaret said...

I love how you wrote this post. It is so true some people need more than others do.

InkMom said...

Yay for this one!

My very dearest friend-who-isn't-also-related-to-me-by-blood just came to visit me. We try to get together once a year. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we talk regularly, and sometimes we go months. But there are no expectations because we know that there is no pretense between us. I forgot to call her on her birthday. She totally laughed about it, because she does not rely on gestures like that to firm up the glue of our friendship. (Although, this does not excuse my thoughtlessness. Maybe late pregnancy did? I hope!) The thing that really binds us together is absolute love and acceptance of each other, faults, flaws, and all.

I think, when you don't have any preconceived notions about an individual relationship, it's easy to just find a comfortable level of communication and stick with it. When expectations become different from each side participating, then you run into problems.

Lara said...

This is wonderful. I do not have a large box, and I fully admit it. I am the one who drops out of contact first. I am easily overwhelmed with my life and when friends start being a chore, I can't do it.

I still love them, every one. I'm thankful for Facebook because it has made it so much easier.

My best friend and I go months without talking. And we can easily pick up right where we left off, no problem. It would be different if we lived in the same state, but since we don't, this works for us.

Kathy @ Real Mom, Real Life said...

What a cute idea -- a friend box. I have a large friend box -- but I am a once and a while type of gal...

MommyJ said...

For me, I don't think being friends should be hard... I get that sometimes it requires effort, but with the friends that are most dear to me, it isn't an effort because it just happens naturally. And what I love most about my closest friends is that when we do go several months without talking, like you described, in an instant, we are right back where we left off, sharing everything... it feels good. Great post.

Kimberly said...

I love, love, love the insights you shared here!

I'm really messed up because my friend box MORPHS constantly. It has to do with being neurotic and paranoid and insecure and all kinds of other issues I'm working on. Sometimes I only allow a few people in, sometimes I shut everyone out, sometimes I invite the world in, and sometimes (happier times) I'm more moderate and even keeled.

I love that you've given this phenomenon a name. I suddenly feel like I can better understand myself and, you know, deal...having vocabulary to do so with.

You rock.

And not just because a package from a certain someone is on its way up from my parents' house right now. Wheeee!

Hel said...

I had to drop a friend because she was just too needy. I would go months without talking to her (a common thing for me) and she would think that I hated her. Then I would spend a couple of weeks trying to convince her otherwise and by then end of the convincing I was just too exhausted to do anything else.

I tried explaining that it is ok not to be in constant contact but she just couldn't understand.

I am definitely a once a year friend and I give thanks every day that my friends understand that and love me for it.

Harmony said...

It's true. I ran out of cheese today and you didn't know. In fact, I didn't even call to tell you that I ran out of cheese. Oh, and by the way, I use a different kind of tampon than I used to (now I use Playtex... da** periods!)

I'm so glad we share a Friend Box. You say things so perfectly, my friend.

Tamsin said...

Eh, it's all good to me. Some friends I see and talk to a lot, some friends I only have contact with every couple of years. Sometimes I go through phases with a friend when we see each other almost daily, other times months will go by without talking. Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have friends that put up with my sporadicness :)

Mommadj5 said...

Ahem - it's Mary Poppins "Spoonful of Sugar" you quoted, not Sword in the Stone. Just, you know, so I could show off my musical smarts...(gosh I hope I'm right - pretty sure though...) (loved the post BTW) :-)

janel said...

I wonder where blogging (lurking?) friends fall.

heidizinha said...

June 24?

Love you.


Tobi said...

I think as far as friends go I need a monthly affirmation from my girls to let me know that we are still cool. That you still like me. That you think that I'm hip and with it, despite my many quirks.

Tessa Nelson said...

I loved this post! It's all so true! Love the way you think:) Thanks!

Tessa Nelson said...

I loved this post! It's all so true! Love the way you think:) Thanks!

Qait said...

Friend Box, I like that a lot. :) You've even helped me understand myself better--I used to think it was evil that I don't really feel a need to contact one of my best friends as often as she needs to contact me.
But people ARE obvious as it might seem, there's a lot to understand!


Wish I had something deep and profound to say. Here's what I got: I heart you.

You make me think, you make me laugh, and if there's friend boxes for the blogosphere, I definitely count you in mine. I don't think daily contact or BFF necklaces need apply here, but to develop a quiet trust and respect means so much more.

High five your man, he's a keeper.

Blessings, C~

Melanie J said...

I'm more of a Jane for sure, and I think that's okay. I mostly attract friends that are the same. I love them deeply, madly and truly, but I don't need to talk to them very often. At all. I think it's because I'm more of a "be with you" kind of friend than a pick up the phone and call or email you kind of friend. But guess what? When I finally got married at 32, every last one of them showed up anyway, so I guess it's working out okay.