As October nears, I feel the pull of the seasons stronger than ever. It draws me toward home with nostalgia for family and New England, and… certain friends.
The idea of a “friend” has changed over the years, and I have some thoughts on it. Probably cynical ones, mind you, because I don’t think that, outwardly, a friend is what it used to be pre-internet.
At its very core, the idea of having a friend is to have a support system – someone who shares some of your interests and views, someone you can have fun with, and who is also there for you when life is not so fun. It’s kind of like a spouse or partner, except there’s no desire for physical intimacy and no romantic attachment.
Things like Facebook have complicated this idea of friendship. For example, I don’t see all of my Facebook “friends” as friends. A few are friends in the traditional sense of the word – people whose company I enjoy, who I can do fun things and talk about shared interests with, and exchange gripes about our lives with, but we’re talking maybe 5% of the people in my entire “Friends List.” And at least one of those friends doubles as family, because I’m lucky enough to have a great bond with my sister.
Some were friends once, but we’ve grown apart. I like that we’ve kept in touch, but the bond isn’t as strong or there at all. That’s just a fact of life. It’s nice to keep up with them, but I won’t be scheduling coffee dates with them from 1400 miles away.
Where does that leave the other people on this “Friends List”? Some are online friends only, people I’ve “known” for a number of years online and would be happy to meet in real life, but distance prevents it. These friends were discovered through a specific shared interest, but also have other qualities or shared views that I value. These are fellow writers, readers, and genealogists, and there’s often another quality or aspect to their personality that makes me want to keep up with them, too.
Some are other moms whose kids are the same age as my daughter. I like these moms and I enjoy hanging out with them. However, that time is sporadic and not likely to change. That’s okay. I don’t mind that, but I’ll be honest: I prefer their Millennial, 20-and-30-something company over my own Generation X, anyway (and my rant about how Generation X disappointed me and let the world down is a whole other kettle of fish). So I don’t pass up a chance to see these moms, if I can help it. In fact, I’d like to spend more time with them.
And it’s not that I don’t hang out with the moms whose kids are the same age as my son; it’s just that I don’t know any. My son doesn’t participate in social activities or parties that have ever necessitated my presence, so the one time I briefly met other mothers was the year he flirted with the idea of playing baseball. They already had their mom cliques, as opposed to the moms I met when my daughter started pre-school. Of course, they’ve formed their social groups, too, but it was a lot easier to be welcomed among them from the get-go. As far as the high school moms, well… it turns out they’re part of the Gen Xers I want to rant about, anyway.
That leaves what I call “friendly acquaintances” – local people that I socialize with, but with whom I have nothing in common. They aren’t people I can call when I’m out of gas and stranded, or to vent about something. Most of them aren’t people I would socialize with outside of school or scouting, because not only do we not have enough in common to draw us together, they’re also just too different than me when it comes to values, views, and more. And, honestly, I don’t want to socialize with them beyond what’s necessary. At some point, these people won’t be on my “Friends List” because I won’t have to participate in activities with them as our children grow up. I won’t be worried about offending them by rejecting a friend request or unfriending them once my daughter has either graduated or we’ve moved.
That’s where it comes across as cynical, I suppose. I certainly see the value in having acquaintances who are different. But we aren’t talking cultural differences. These are stark political and religious differences, and all they do is remind me of how uncomfortable it is to be in the Midwest, sometimes. These are the people who send friend requests that, if I didn’t have to see them face-to-face, I would otherwise reject.
That sounds awful, I know, but it’s the truth. I really don’t have any interest in befriending Conservatives or loud/hardcore Christians, for example. Many of these people post or share things that are insulting to anyone who doesn’t share their political views and religious beliefs. Sometimes, all they talk about is their church this and their church that, and they have to inject it into every conversation. It’s obnoxious, to say the least.
The thing is, I’ve had enough of seeing and talking to these kinds of people to know how this goes. They are who they are, and I am who I am, and there’s really no need to pretend either of us want to be friends. It’s okay with me not to get a friend request from you. Just because we see each other once or twice a month in real life, you don’t need to feel obligated to send me a friend request.
These folks always get Unfollowed by me and placed on a specific list. This way, A. I don’t see their posts and B. I can hide some of mine from them, if I so choose. Even if I do see what they post, it’s not going to sway my views or beliefs. No matter what, my children (aka the Atheist Teenager and Wannabe Witch Child) are not going to attend your church event or Vacation Bible School, and I’m still going to vote blue.
Rather than hope people will change, I’m simply at an age where I just want to find “my people.” That’s all. Nothing against anyone else for not sharing my views or beliefs. It’s just “that I don’t have the time or energy for that.
I think my biggest fear is that people will see my feelings as narrow-minded or cynical or misanthropic, but the plain truth is I’m just done with fighting uphill battles. I did it for almost 20 years with my ex-laws. Instead, I would rather lend my energy to something positive. Part of that happens by spending time with others who share the same path as me.
I just want to find “my” people. That’s all. And I acknowledge that most people, especially in the rural Midwest, aren’t going to be a part of the circle I want to find or create. So even though I’m afraid everyone will see that desire as a negative, to me it’s a positive, an acknowledgement that I don’t want to waste my precious time and energy on things that don’t serve me well.
And let’s paraphrase my favorite line from one of my favorite movies of all time when it comes to relationships (romantic or platonic): I’d rather be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong ones.