On Friendship


“…you were either one of her closest friends or no friend at all. She had neither time nor energy for the casual acquaintanceship…she craved the hard lock: two minds, hearts, and souls as one, nothing unsaid, nothing untold, nothing unsung.” (Linda Grey Sexton, writing about the friendships of her mother Anne Sexton, in her book Searching for Mercy Street.)

Over the course of my forty-odd years on this planet, the platonic friendships I’ve assembled have lasted about as long as my relationships with men. Meaning: not very long. Meaning: in the wake of my life there lay scores of scattered (and archived) parting emails and fading photographs of people with whom I was once intimate, but will probably never see again.

I’m not sure what to attribute this backstory to. It’s not genetic. I come from a family that boasts long marriages and enduring relationships. My grandparents were married for 56 years. My parents (who are still very much a couple) met in Latin class when they were both in junior high school and my mother’s best friend (who she speaks to several times a week) was with them on their first date. My younger brother has dutifully joined the ranks of enduring-relationship-devoteés and has been in love with the same woman (with whom he now has four children) since 1996. I won’t bother to tally up the boyfriends that have paraded through my life since 1996, but I will admit that there are two husbands in the mix…if that gives you any indication of my regimen.

I’ve always told myself that I just didn’t get the chip for commitment; that I must have stood in line for the ‘cut and run’ skill set instead. (Though there remains the anomaly of my relationship to my family of origin. It is fierce–especially with my mother–who I talk to nearly every day.)

It has not been my plan to say goodbye to people that I love so often, but I know that all of those broken friendships have created a high level distrust in my psyche. One that remains to this day.

In writing this entry, I want to find fault. I want to point the finger at my bad choices or the nastiness of the people that I chose to befriend, but the truth is that the resilience of relationships is as ephemeral as fog on the river at dawn. Who knows why some friendships (or marriages) endure. A woman I know has decided to stay with her husband after she found he was sleeping with somebody else for years. Another marriage (local in its familiarity) very publicly imploded after two members of the two parties, who were all four friends at some point, decided to swap partners. I also know of a marriage that sustains as it is, riddled with infidelity, dishonesty and ambivalence–but the royalties keep coming in– and the viability of such a relationship (romantic or otherwise) remains forever up for grabs.

One can never tell.

I remember standing in bewilderment in the hallway of middle school as a girl I adored handed me back the friendship pins that I had made for her and told me, quite optimistically, that things weren’t working out between us, but she was sure that I would find someone else to give them to. That my friend and I had been been growing apart for weeks (she was a cheerleader, I joined the band) wasn’t something I considered significant at the time. All I knew was that this person, my friend, was the individual I had told about the wiry chin hairs that got electronically zapped off my face every few weeks, and I thought that divulgence had bonded us for life. It wasn’t that I was afraid she’d tell my secret (she never did) but I was horrified that a relationship in which I could be so vulnerable and that seemed so serious–that WAS so serious–could end so casually, so indifferently; as if it had never been anything at all.

Such is life I’ve come to know. In my twenty plus years of adulthood I’ve lost beloved pets, dental insurance coverage, a marriage and roughly two hundred tubes of lipstick. The truth is, much of what we have in this life doesn’t last very long. Transience and endings are a part of our our existence Here On Earth and our lives are richer because whatever we are able to retain is more clearly discerned by all the other things that fall away.

So I’m trying, on this early summer morning, to make peace with the ridiculous, though enticing, sentiment that my girl Anne Sexton speaks of (in the quote up there at the top of this post) and to chill out. To let go of all those Facebook posts that remind me of the connections I’ve failed to make and to ignore the birthday party that I wasn’t invited to and not feel bad about the acknowledgement page that I wasn’t included on or the group photo that I missed.

Instead, in the interest of clearing out, I want to accept the friendships that I have now and delight in them as if they’ll be around forever.

You never know, though. I’ll let you know what’s left standing at summer’s end.



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