Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of Annual parties and dumpster relations

Today I am asking questions about friendship.  This is the season where a certain sort of party-giving person might give a party and invite their friends.

I have never been much of a party person. I have days when I can work a party room like an insurance salesman- charming even strangers, cajoling and connecting. Other days I sit in the corner nursing coffee or alcohol without saying anything unless directly spoken to....  I think this is a fairly common failing.

In advance of a party where I don't know anyone but the host,  or where I haven't seen or spoken with anyone there since last year's party - I work up a great deal of dread. Over the years in a changing life, one can accumulate annual parties where your only existing connection with the other party-goers  is a memory of a past connect that may be decades old. You don't know them anymore and they don't know you - but someone keeps inviting you for old times sake, or for the sake of a memory of friendship past.

But you can't recreate a friendship that has died with party small talk. There isn't time in a half a minute of conversation to catch someone up on the nuances of a year of your life or to understand their life in return  and when those un-communicated nuances pile up over decades between people - what you have is no longer a friend. What you have is an acquaintance.

Then there is the question of what is a friend. That's not as simple a question as the teenagers think it is. I am  not talking about having 2000 "friends" on YouTube or Facebook. That's a study in volume not nuance.

Then there are folks who use you as an emotional dumpster. For instance, if someone calls you up over 18 years only when they need to vent about their boyfriend, spouse or children misbehaving - is this a friendship?  If you call me up and invite me to watch you clean your house, (yes I actually have had two different women do this repeatedly), and a part of the conversation is the various fun things you have done with  other folks you know,  (usually couples you and your husband know) and you wonder why I don't call you - well enough said about that.  If you call me up indignant that I have not stopped by in ages - and you don't even know where I live, despite the fact I have invited you over....   well, I have philosophical enemies who know me much better than that and who are a lot more fun.

If you have never read my blog - if you don't even know I have a blog -- are you my friend? Since I am a writer, can you really know me?  I am a a charming performer, but when I am no longer on, I am really rather a recluse.

Then what kind of friend am I? I rarely call anyone. I am a recluse. I am, at this late age, no longer interested in talking about how I FEEL. I have learned its what you do that really counts. And what do I do? I forget people's birthdays, often fail to appear at parties, abruptly stop returning phone calls. Often I have my reasons. If you want to know why, ask.

I suspect I will spend my elder years in a tiny eldercare apartment, playing bingo in badly decorated dayroom with people who can't remember my name and I won't be able to remember theirs either.  And then friendship will be like skating - moving smoothly through a bingo game with a wry nod and a smile, living in the present moment, until tea or the next meal or bedtime.

I am not sure what I mean by any of this....