I'm lucky to know many people whom I consider to be friends, but I'm far from feeling as if most of my friends are my close friends (no offense to those of you in the friends rank... please keep reading!). I just don't have a lot of time for "hanging out," and doing the kind of mindless activities that lead to meaningful bonding. I know you don't have that kind of time either. Most of my friends are truly lovely folks whom I see too rarely, and with whom I often have brief and superficial conversations. How's everyone at your house? Good? What are the kids up to? How's work? I hate that, and I would love to conjure up some tried and true BFFs, but it's hard to find the time to achieve the "closeness" deserving of half of a Best Friends necklace from Claire's.
I guess I could switch around my priorities and give up committees, community service, family dinners, and youth sports. Then we could hang and chat on your couch while we watch TRL on MTV. But it's not gonna happen, and not just because MTV dropped "Music" from their name. It's an unlikely proposition because adulting is hard, and I haven't figured out how to put all the pieces together yet.
A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of why it's hard to make friends as an adult. As we get a decade or more into our 501(K) (or lack thereof), we may unintentionally give up the idea of true soulmate friends, and settle instead on situational friends. It's an economistic model where friends fulfill specific needs - the drinks after work friend, the networking friend, the kids' birthday party friend, the church friend, etc. We enjoy spending time with them until life gets busy, and trying to schedule friendship into our lives means that we hit a point of friendship diminishing returns. Then we just shrug our shoulders and start skipping happy hour before the PTA meeting because finding time to hang out is too much of a hassle. No one cares about our vanishing act because we're all just kind-of-friends anyway. They are kind to post "Missed you at drinks!" on our Facebook walls, and everyone gets the warm fuzzies of affectionate acquaintanceship.
I'm living that model, and it makes me kind of sad. Sociologists since the 1950s have said there are three factors crucial for making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and letting our guard down to confide in each other. There's not much I can do about the first two factors in this phase of my life - I'm scattered about in too many different directions. But I kind of think of my writing as an exercise in the third factor. As you read, I tell you things about me. I share and may sometimes even overshare. I give you sneak peeks into who I think I really am. And here's what I hope... I hope the next time we find ourselves unexpectedly in the same room, perhaps your newfound knowledge of me can help us move past the superficialities and start building deeper bonds. I would really like that. I think you could be a really great close friend. Until then, I'm a definite maybe on drinks on the 3rd Thursday of November, and I'm grateful that you'll keep on inviting me even if I bail.