Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Friendship Promiscuity

A good friend of mine told me the other day that she thought that I "put myself out there" a lot - meeting people, being social, that kind of thing. She said that she herself was more reserved, more cautious, less willing to risk getting hurt.

It's true. I make friends the way that some people date. I collect phone numbers of interesting people and hope that we'll find time to meet up at some later date for coffee or a drink. Especially at restaurants and coffee shops, when I'm sitting in one place for a long time and seeing lots of people, I will become friendly with the servers, baristas, and people around me. I meet a lot of friends of friends with whom I hit it off instantly.

I am a friend slut.

But the problem with promiscuity is that it's hard, for many of us, to separate the act of being social from a committed relationship. And so I expect a lot of my friends. After getting burned a few times, I started keeping mental categories of my friends: superficial friends and real friends. "Superficial" sounds awful, but what it really means is just that superficial friends are the ones I enjoy hanging out with, or even have long and personal conversations with, but who likely won't be there for me when I need a friend. Superficial friends are people with whom I have little in common, but who I really enjoy for those things we do have in common.

Real friends are those people whom I know I can count on. They're the ones I can trust with my deepest, darkest secrets. They're the ones I can make demands on. They're the ones who, as the joke goes, won't just help me hide - they'll help me hide the body.

But as a friend slut, I give my heart away pretty easily. I get caught up in a new friend and I become infatuated with how interesting s/he is, how much fun I have when I'm with him/her. We talk for hours.

And sometimes I fall in like, and it's not reciprocated.

It says something not too nice about me and my perception of others that many of my "superficial" friends have moved over into the "real" friend category because they're such wonderful, giving, thoughtful people. And some of my "real" friends have turned out not to be real friends, after all. It's funny - usually (not always), my closest, truest friends end up being the ones I disliked immediately upon meeting them. And vice versa. So I have to wonder about my own ability to pick friends.

And truthfully, I imagine that I'm a difficult friend to have. For instance, I am entirely too self-absorbed. If you ask me about myself, I will tell you about myself, and then I will forget to ask you about yourself (it really is something I have to remember to do, much of the time. It doesn't come naturally to me).

None of this is helped by the sad fact that it's difficult to make and keep good friends at certain points in life, but I'll post about that another day.

Today I'm feeling lucky to finally have a good circle of all kinds of friends. But I'm also feeling sad as some have moved from "real" to "superficial" over the course of the last couple of months.


Someday Maybe said...

I think I'm the opposite of a friend slut, and as a result the only friends I ever have are friend sluts. The world needs a few.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time making friends--I follow the rules for making new friends, like asking fellow church members for their phone numbers, etc., and I call them once or twice, but they never call back so I give up ont them. The same applies to clubs that I belong to. It's as if, the people belong to certain cliques and don't want to widen their pastures.