Thursday, October 25, 2007

Make New Friends, but...

I think that's a Girl Scout thing. Isn't there a song they sing with this phrase? "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold?" I wouldn't know. I was never a girl scout... (no surprise there, right?)

But I think it's a valid point they sing about there.

Until just recently, I never thought of "doesn't have a friend they've known longer than 5 years" as a negative trait in someone. I mean, friendship is a tricky thing. Maybe some people aren't blessed with good friends. Maybe they're surrounded by idiots their whole life and can't connect to one single person. Maybe circumstances beyond their control led them to go through life with no close friends.

Then I realized that they have a word for those people, my friends. And that word is "sociopath."

I kid.

But seriously... the more I think about it, the creepier I think it is. If you don't have any friends that you've known for an extended amount of time, that says something about your past, about your character, about your ability to maintain friendships.... Am I wrong in believing this? Maybe it's not a really bad thing on the level of "jailed for rape," but it's not a good thing, is it?

I remember meeting a great girl (who brought cupcakes to the sorority house) in college. She was fun, she was nice, she was energetic... I immediately liked her. Early in our conversations, for some reason or another, the factoid came up that she didn't have any close girl friends. None from high school or before. None from any extra curricular activities. She said, "For some reason, I just don't get along well with girls." I was shocked. Shocked I tell you! The young, naive version of me swooped in and said, "We'll be friends. I can tell we click already."

Two years later, had I had a chance to re-live that conversation, my response would have been something along the lines of, "Well, if you actually respected your friendships with women and didn't always put men above them, not to mention that whole 'stealing boyfriends' thing, you might have a TAD more success at this whole 'female friendship' thing." This was the beginning of my belief that if you don't have long term friendships, there's usually a reason.

After a dinner last night with girls I went to college with, I'm left wondering exactly what it is about old friendships that is so great. I mean, it's not like you don't have new friends who are closer. It's not like old friends have to be a huge part of your life. It's not like sometimes you can't outgrow an old friendship... But one of the girls last night mentioned, "I have friends at home, but no one can replace you girls....I mean I have good friends....but..."

I understood what she meant, even though none of us could exactly express it.

Old friends sort of keep you grounded. They remember things that even you might have forgotten - but instead of holding it against you, they just know it. It adds to their overall image of you in their heads. Sometimes those are bad things, and sometimes those are good things....but they're very rarely false things. These are the friends who can call "bullshit" when you fill out one of those stupid MySpace bulletins like, "My bar tab is only $250" and it should really be more along the lines of $345 or $450. Maybe that's not a part of yourself that you want to remember, but it IS a part of you, and I think it's dangerous to try and pretend that it never happened.

At the table last night, I was thinking about all the different paths our lives had taken. We had two girls who were married, two girls who had broken engagements, three girls in long term relationships but not yet engaged, two girls with children, one girl who lived out of state, one girl in radio, one stay at home get the picture. And yet, there wasn't one awkward silence. There were a lot of embarrassing memories, but no silence.

I don't know exactly how to express what was so clear last night. The closest I can come is to say that we all have that friend we can tell everything to. We all have that friend we can call if we want to have a good time. We all have that friend we can call to tell us the real truth about the outfit we're wearing. But friends from the past have their own separate category. It might not be a huge one, but it's just as important.

After all, who else is going to remind you about the time you wore those denim short shorts and danced to 'Wild Thing?' (and have the pictures to prove it?)