Wednesday, February 03, 2016
We don’t all have to be friends, right?
Someone was telling me recently that he felt an obligation to attend a social function.
“Why?” I asked.
“Are you friends? Do you care above the normal ‘I wish everyone well’ level of caring about this person’s future? Because if you don’t, then I don’t see the need to go. And by going you’re actually giving the person the impression that there is a friendship here and you shouldn’t do that.”
There was a little bit of back and forth which ended with, “Patricia, you’re mean!”
This is not the first time I’ve heard this. It likely won’t be the last. I know how I am perceived, I know I’m not perceived as the nicest apple in the playground. I am okay with that because I am not actively mean. I do not actively seek to hurt people. I take pride in not being a “mean girl”.* However, because - like any good introvert - superficial connections are something I dislike and avoid, I don’t see the need to push myself to do something when there isn’t a true established connection.
But, Patricia, you’re saying, what about social niceties? You’re right. We can’t ignore them, they’re important in a civilized society, if you don’t want people acting like narcissistic heathens. I encourage people to behave in mannerly ways. I hold the door open for someone if they’re immediately behind me. I put my hand in harms way to stop the elevator doors closing if I see someone rushing to get in the elevator. I give up my seat for someone who seems to need it more. These things I do because they should be done but I don’t for one second imagine that this has established a connection, the person I just gave my seat to are not suddenly BFFs. Why do we feel this need to label everyone as a friend? Does this mean we can only be nice to friends? What’s the harm in doing something nice for a complete stranger knowing that you’ll probably never see them again?
Having and using good manners does not mean you have to try and be friends with every single person you’ve ever met. Who has the time and energy for that? Plus, there’s an authenticity to simply doing something for the sake of doing it and not because it may win us popularity points. Which is why I balk at pretending to be friends with someone who I’m not friends with. If I do that, in my mind, I’m diluting my true friendships. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just trying to rationalize being selfish with my time. Maybe deep down I mind that people label me as mean or bitchy.
I’ll ponder that some more later when I’m home enjoying my time and not out forcing myself to have superficial interactions that don’t add positive energy into my life.
*Though, of course, anytime I write that I take pride in being something or not being something, I immediately think of several examples of moments when I was or wasn’t the thing I’m saying I take pride in. But, hey, I’m human, I am flawed. I am a work in progress. I can aspire to be something while at the same time acknowledging that there are areas of improvement. Moving on, or, since this is a footnote, moving back.
Filed under: Dailies