Something I never understood about relationships, and not the romantic kind, is that weird expectation when one party moves away is that one party is wholly responsible for all efforts associated with visiting the other. Now, I respect that some people’s lives are simply busier than others, and I give far more credit for people who have things like full time jobs, or school-age children, or elderly/sick family members who require a larger than normal amount of attention. What I find interesting, however, is the complete lack of effort on the part of the others who do not have any of the above conditions. It is doubly interesting is that, in spite of a full time job, which at some points in my life also included two additional part time jobs, that I was the sole responsible party, not only for the initiation but complete scheduling and accommodation when it came to “visit time.” The other party, was only required to make the obligatory “Miss you!” comment when the appropriate time interval has passed. Then the “visit dance” begins. Having moved away from a well-built social circle several times in my life, I have noticed an irritating pattern among some of the people in my life, who I had no idea until that moment, were so incredibly self-absorbed. The thing is, for people without children or sick family, our schedule fills up pretty quickly. And yet, if I am caught ‘neglecting’ my social duties, I’m suddenly the jerk.
A particularly interesting example, is two individuals with whom we associate, who do not work. In spite of this each time the expectation to visit arises, it is on us to schedule. Not once in the last 4 or 5 times has the travel burden been placed on the other party. We always drive to them. But, should we neglect our usual expected interval, we are severely chastized for doing so. It leaves us bewildered, thinking, “Well, what do you exactly contribute here? When was the last time you came to us?” It is not as though the distance is that far either, and considering that we manage to drive the distance ourselves, we can vouch for exactly how quickly it can be done. This duo is exceptionally good at neglecting other forms of communication that would, perhaps, mitigate frustrations that build. An email or text or call occasionally would go a long way to keeping those irritations at bay. But there is radio silence.
The other irritating factor here is the one that, if you are returning to the place where you used to live, that you must visit each and every friend you ever had there in the tiny window of time you will be there. Now, with facebook and twitter, each of them can know and become angry with you about this neglect in nano-seconds, whereas in the past the whisper down the alley technique would take months, and by then you could get your next visit in before they realized. Oh, and you must go to each and every one of them. Heaven forbid they meet you some place along the way. Once I attempted to gather a group of mutual friends at a bar for drinks to catch up, giving a fair window of time at a relatively quiet space where it would be easy for all parties to meet up. Not one, not a single friendo would drag themselves out of their well-ground rut to see us. Instead, we had to make a whirlwind tour, stopping at each house for what seemed like maybe 15 minutes tops, just so they would get time with us. It was exhausting, and left me wondering what exactly I gain by maintaining these friendships in the first place.
I guess, in the end, it is our own fault. We inevitably give in to these demands, because the alternative is to be a drama queen, pitch a fit and potentially burn the bridge of friendship with these people forever. So given the alternative, we relent. But, there’s a lot of anxiety that goes with even that. Often we have to restrict our facebook postings, and request we not be tagged in photos, so that our other friends who didn’t make this trip’s itinerary feel badly that we didn’t see them. Although, to be fair, they didn’t make any effort either.
Now, dear reader, you’re probably asking why we don’t just ask the people to come see us. And the answer to that, is that we do. All the time. Perhaps we are living in some sort of Bermuda Triangle like area, where humans dare not to venture. For example, once we invited two friends with whom we were incredibly close prior to our move, to come visit us. There was no real excuse not to for them, as they had tickets to a show in the area, and were on their way back north from a city further south than where we lived. Understandibly, there was a family emergency on their end, so the visit had to be cancelled. So, a few days later I phoned to check in, wanting to make sure everyone was okay. Much to my surprise, and crushed feelings, they still made it to the town south of us and still went to the show. Our stop on the trip was the only thing omitted. It’s difficult not to be hurt just a little by that, especially when we go to visit them, it is still a fair amount of distance from our original destination.
In the end, it is the sad familiarity of a concept I discovered while I was in middle school: friendships of convenience. Basically, FoC is something that occurs in a situation where you as an individual “must” be, such as school, work, neighbors, or the like. Of course, most of us are capable of getting along in those situations, and sure, there are some people we like in those situations more than others. Foolishly, as a young person I believed that all of these friendships (and enemies for that matter) were permanent and unchanging, that I would always be friends with the same individuals for the rest of our lives. I was reinforced in this belief by statements written in yearbooks and in notes passed (yes this was before text messages) citing “BFF” or Best Friends Forever and pleas scrawled to “never change!” It wasn’t until I had a falling out with a BFF in the 5th grade that I realized that people would not always look so kindly toward me, and neither would I toward them. It was then that I knew eventually, we would all move on in some way to lives outside the tiny brick building where our universe had, until that moment, existed in its entirety.
In spite of my efforts to hold on to some of the people that I deemed worthy, feeling our FoC was something bigger or better than the conditions under which it was kept, I have lost all but a few. FoC’s make you realize that in order to keep them going, efforts must be made and that some people are just happy to move on with their lives and involve you only in fond memory rather than active and ongoing interaction. Sadly, it never feels good to be let go or in a sense, gotten “over.” I do my part whenever an FoC tries to reconnect, even if its only via email. I guess that’s why we make so many of these trips to see them, but in the end, we realize that we are unvisitable ourselves for them. For the few FoC’s I have been able to successfully maintain, it is only due to genuine efforts by both parties and it enriches that into something better, actual friendship. For that, I am grateful, and it makes up for the feeling of being forgotten by others.