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.

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Miss Bliss at 04:03pm on 02/03/2016

I don’t think there is anything mean at all about being judicious with your time.  Life is busy, time is limited and it’s a responsibility to make good choices about how we use our time.  In the same way that not everyone in any given group must be invited to everything, everyone who gets invited to something doesn’t have to attend.  These all or nothing propositions seem like losing bets to me.  I also don’t think that the simple act of knowing someone makes them a friend.  That is why we have the words such as “acquaintance” and “colleague”.  They denote a specific type of relationship that is different than friendship.  But even when a very good friend invites me to something, I do not always feel the obligation to attend simply because I’ve been invited.  There can be many reasons why I might decide to not attend something…not available, having already over-booked myself for that weekend, absolutely positively HATE the type of event I’m being invited to, promised myself I wouldn’t make any plans for that time frame, etc.  All of those are valid reasons to send regrets.

Debbie at 11:28pm on 02/11/2016

I sympathize entirely.  I mohave had only a few good friends in my life, and I feel like I barely have time even for them.  Then again, the best ones are the ones you don’t need to give an excuse to.  You can just say, “Not up for it tonight” and that is okay.  Perhaps ironically, those are the ones you do have a genuine obligation to when they have a wedding or shower or some other lifesucking social engagement.

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