What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see or hear the word, “Friends?” For my younger son it would undoubtedly be the TV-series that aired for a decade on NBC, because he loves it so. For others, it might be that Bette Midler song. Maybe it would be something from Sesame Street? Friends enrich our lives. And, like that famous saying, “We don’t choose our family, but we do choose our friends,” we actually have some control over who is our friend.
That is where the rub is, in my experience. I’ve had many friends over the course of my life. I still have one friend from Nursery School, which is what Pre-School was called in the fifties. We are in regular contact, though he lives across the country.
Other friends have come and gone. Often for good reasons and often for reasons I don’t even remember. Why do we lose some friends and keep others? Why, as we grow older, is it harder to make new friends? Do you even agree that it’s harder to make new friends, as we get older?
It seemed mighty easy to make friends in school, though the cliques and other pettiness that goes with adolescence and the teen years can create a lot of drama between friends. I’m told this “drama” is magnified among tween girls but I have no experience having been a boy my whole life and raised two of ‘em as well.
I do reflect on the loss of two long-time friends - now and then. Then, I would castigate myself over the reasons our friendships dissipated. Now, I realize that this is the natural order of life: Change. I’ve changed; they’ve changed; we all change!
Was I being immature in allowing these friendships to go away? Maybe. But, I also think I was hanging on to those two friendships out of nostalgia, out of a love for what they were, but were not anymore: for what our friendship was in our Glory Days but was no more. I was wishing for the camaraderie I had with my best friend in high school. I was wishing for the every day conversation I had with my closest friend during the height of our respective careers, before marriage and kids intruded. Following are the reasons my 4-decade friendship with my high school best friend drifted away.
My high school best friend and me shared many wonderful experiences. We traveled to Europe, went skiing for a winter while in college, and bought our first house together. We lived there together until he got engaged. And, that is when our friendship took a turn. His fiancé and now his wife of over 25 years were a perfect match. But, in her world, there was no place for his “wild and crazy” best friend.
I did my best to be-friend her. It was always met with neutral cordiality. The relationship my friend had with his wife was unlike any relationship I’d had or ever had later on with a woman. My friend’s wife was and is THE BOSS. My parents had that relationship also.
For many years, I fought my negative instinctual reaction to a man allowing a woman to so strongly run his life. I remember distinctly when this particular friend and his wife were expected their third child. His wife informed my friend that he should go on one last ski trip with me – something we’d shared and loved for so long – because after the birth of their third child, he wouldn’t be skiing any more. We went on that trip. I never skied with him again.
When I later got married, divorced, and married again, I lost and gained many friendships and many couple friends. Other couples had that dynamic of the wife being in charge. In every one of those relationships – my parents and former best friend included – the guy was happy and content.
I finally realized that my reaction was about my stuff, my values, and my desire to have a bit more control in my life. These married men were doing just fine and every single one of those marriages survived and, in many ways, apparently thrived.
Finally, I let go. After acknowledging that the vast majority of the time I spent with this friend was at my initiation and persistence, I finally took the hint and backed off. It coincided with a big scare in my family where my son was hospitalized. I reached out to this friend since I always thought he would be there when it mattered, even if our friend time was limited. He e-mailed me five days after my panicked call with the message, “I hope everything is okay.” We haven’t spoken or corresponded since.
Maybe I was being self-righteous, but maybe I finally recognized that our lives had gone in significantly different directions. Maybe having those Glory Days memories were all we had? I don’t know. What do you think?