I think Hallmark may have hyped the notion of friendship a bit too much.
Inflated the premise and oversold its availability to the masses.
Or maybe it was those afterschool specials and sappy sitcoms.
Or the mean girl movies in which good prevailed and true friends stood solid.
Something has given our kids a misguided view of where they’ll find real friends and just what they’ll look like.
Perhaps the culprit is Facebook –so much else is blamed on the social networking site.
Eight hundred and eighty-three friends -Seriously?
I used to cringe when my husband came home from a business meeting referring to his friends in attendance.
Those aren’t friends- they’re business associates, I would practically shout every time.
And I was often surprised at the reaction of those newly moved to town who were disappointed by the no-entry cliques that were too reminiscent of high school for my liking. I was never really sure why the newbies wanted in to the select town circles. Did they really think those people jockeying to get their own kids on the best soccer teams were going to pull another’s kid along?
One of my students was recently disappointed by her so-called friends. After what she saw as a betrayal, she said she was now going to trust no one.
In talking her off the ledge, I assured her that this new philosophy was extreme.
And then I delved a bit into just what her expectations of her friends were. But before I reached that bar, I had to ask –who she considered to be her friends? How many did she have? And the question which spoke more to my own philosophy than hers –how many exactly did she think she deserved?
I brokered my own response before she had a chance to answer. If you can count your close friends on a single hand, consider yourself lucky, I told her.
She is lucky. And she knows this. And she also acknowledges that she was perhaps misguided to label every acquaintance on even a small college campus as friend. Because not every project partner or kindred classmate is a friend. Tight living quarters don’t make tight friendships. And slurpy sentiments proffered at local bars are often forgotten before the sticky floors have been mopped dry.
My daughter’s been tricked too many times by the illusion of friendship. At 21, I think she’s finally getting a sense of what she needs from the people in her life. And just how much she’s willing to give in return. Her foundation of friendship rests, in part, on membership in a sorority. When she first considered joining, I have to admit I wasn’t entirely on board. It wasn’t just the what-would-I-do voice in my head; it was that other, much louder voice of parental caution. She’d been hurt before –by girls- and the thought of such a large assemblage of them struck me as that many more chances for pain.
I was wrong.
Theta Phi Alpha has given Alex the friends she missed out on in high school. And I think they may be true friends. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s what she believes that counts here. Time will tell. Alex has always been quick to jump into new friendships, but quick also to abandon them when they didn’t measure up. In Theta Phi, loyalty is a requirement of membership.
My student is under no such contractual obligation to give her own friends a second chance.
But she will.
Or at least she will to those who now fit her narrower construction of the word.
She doesn’t know it yet, but that definition is likely to grow narrower still.
Because I’m that old, I’ve had friendships as old as my student. And I can vouch for the genuineness of them because they’ve stood the test of time. I could teach her much about what constitutes a true friend.
But I won’t.
She’ll figure it out -she’s smart. Although it isn’t often one’s intellect that speaks most loudly where matters of the heart are concerned. And a true friendship is indeed its own sort of love affair. In fact, most friendships last longer than love affairs; many outlast marriages.
So while I’ll pass on giving advice on the girls in my student’s life, I will tell her that when she’s choosing a boy to try seeing first if he measures up as a friend. Because not only is that a great place to start, it’s also not a bad place to end.