I had a friend who would only make plans if I agreed to meet at their house. We’d known one another for decades but I only noticed this during plague-time. When I suggested they come to my place, they’d nod and promise to, but next time they texted, weeks, months later, the plan was always for me to go to theirs.
I explained this to myself by saying they were more worried about catching the virus, were being careful. In any case, it was nice to be invited. But as years went by I started to resent this setup. It was clear that our interactions were conditional on my accepting their terms. I had no one to blame but myself for letting this happen.
What kind of friend are you? What are your friends like? At this late date I find I need them less and less. The terms of engagement are often too much. We all get so set in our ways. It’s easier and usually better time not to even bother and just stay home.
The plague crystallized a lot of these realizations. Taking a step away from relationships that had become rote and habitual it was easier to see the defects and flaws that had been there all along. Now I find I will put up with a lot less than I did before from people I thought cared about me.
I have no doubt that some of these friends I’m thinking of came to similar conclusions about me. That the frustrations and annoyances of having me in their lives weren’t worth whatever positive there might have been. I don’t hold it against them. But I probably won’t be calling them anytime soon either.
Aging is part of it too. When it becomes clear that the time left is no longer endless you take more care in how you spend it. I have a few things left I’d like to do before I’m done and sitting bored sipping a drink I don’t even want on somebody else’s couch takes away from that.
It’s all the more special when I meet up with someone I care about and we have a good talk or a meal. That feeling of being met, if not halfway, then at least part-way, is rare and precious. It means a lot to be valued on my own terms. It doesn’t happen much.
I’m no hero or martyr but I’m also not that thirsty a flower. I don’t need much from others. I’ve lost friends over a single unresponded-to text. The same ones who ignore messages for weeks at a time. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as equality in any relationship, there’s always an imbalance of affection and of power, but if one side of the seesaw is always up, the one holding it down will grow tired and will get up and leave.
If they have any self-respect.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t talking about you.
—Listen to my talk with Mat Daly then tune in Wednesday for one with Jake Austen, of Rocktober and Chic-a-Go-Go fame. Mallory and I discuss a really shitty zombie movie she made me watch.
—I made you a playlist called “The Worst Thing You Can Do For Your Health“.