Friendships are like relationships, and it took quite awhile for me to grasp that concept. We don’t fuck our friends, and if we do, that’s the bonus that can either break or enhance those bonds. But the determination to stay committed to the primal ties that often times begin when we’re too young to comprehend what’s being nurtured, is definitely the blueprint for a lifetime of rollercoaster rides, that despite turbulence, still manages to keep the occupants securely fastened.
I used to feel the pressure to have as many friends as I could muster, and perhaps that longing was conceived from the experience of being abruptly yanked away from my blossoming years in the United States. My Nigerian-born parents had joined the exodus of the sixties and seventies by exploring educational opportunities in foreign territories that would provide the superior exposure that could be used to elevate their chances for a better life in their homeland.
Once they garnered degrees in their chosen fields of study, the decision to head back home was inspired by the need to give their American-born children the opportunity to appreciate their cultural heritage, which turned out to be a priceless gift of recognition and appreciation.
Trying to assimilate into a coarser system of military coups, and structural lawlessness wasn’t an easy feat for the young family of four from Kansas City, but it was even more challenging for the eight-year-old girl, with the American accent and lady-like mannerisms, that did very little to guarantee seamless acceptance into the circle of mean girls and meaner boys, who were grateful for fresh meat to torture.
Boarding school at the ripe old age of eleven presented the adventure that turned into the art of survival. Dodging the bullish techniques of the older school girls, while trying to establish the friendships that were hopefully going to extend past the barriers that limited our closely monitored movements was the course of study that demanded a skill set that always required more refinement.
I’m guessing that the abuse that occurred at the impressionable age of nine, may have stunted my ability to exhibit the winning characteristics that are necessary for long-term commitments; particularly romantic relationships.
When it comes to guys, my track record is pretty damning, and that has more to do with the curse of attracting the hearts of the “unavailable” who are either permanently committed to someone else or not willing to totally commit to me and the potential residency in each other’s lives.
But when it comes to the sisterhood, and the long and winding road that hosts the evolution into womanhood, and how that affects what’s sustainable before it succumbs to the negligence that transforms the once-solid into dust, it certainly takes graduation into maturity to fully grasp why there’s actual strength in reducing the numbers accordingly — and tolerating the ruthlessness of being discarded.
Growing up in the traditions of the Nigerian lifestyle that heightens the value of human connection on every level, it was hard not to soak up the instructions that dictated the importance of amassing enough friends who could all readily confirm your worthiness, mostly in public.
Attending events like weddings, birthday parties, thanksgiving services, etc, was the test that revealed the popularity of the celebrants based on the impressive number of attendees. The motto was and still is — the bigger, the better — and so the intention of organizers is to maximize exposure to showcase the formidable connections to high society.
But even my parents have had to contend with substantially fewer friends as the years have accumulated due to personalized schedules that are aligned with life’s ebb and flow. Most of the faces that were commonplace in our household back in Lagos, are now part of history without the likelihood of being revived.
And when it comes to my pool of friends that were drastically reduced after shutting down activity on Facebook in response to the growing sense of irrelevancy, that was exacerbated by casual interaction that massively improved in reaction to birthday notices, the current status doesn’t force the recommended reflection in the mirror.
The major takeaway is the reasoning behind the decision to not foster new friendships.
Aside from the new and improved outlook on the complex nature of our existence, that arms me with permission to give myself a break when it comes to weathering the brunt of failed relationships, there’s also the rewarding privilege of living long enough to solve the mysteries that many are tragically unable to access, due to untimely deaths or the outright refusal to optimize the knowledge from consequences.
It’s devastating to behold the brokenness of what used to be, and the instinct is always to figure out ways to patch things up in an effort to fill those gaps. But often times, the best remedy is to acknowledge the beauty that once was, and give it the honor it deserves, before forging ahead with the wisdom and love for what remains in the future.
The person that I have become, with all the lessons that were borne out of past failures is quite content with the simplicity of familial bonds with the handful of childhood friends who share the same profound respect and gratitude for the uniqueness of our connection that I harbor.
At this stage in the game of life, it’s impossible to replicate that degree of intimacy with strangers who become somewhat familiar over time, because of the distinct lack of trust that won’t ever vanish, and the dependency on the tools of engagement that turns burgeoning relationships into irresistible dalliances with keyboards and emoticons.
Only acquaintances will do, and to be honest, who has the time and energy to invest in something that is almost certain to fall apart for reasons that can be as infuriating as stale text messages that weren’t answered in a timely fashion, or the debilitating debates on Twitter that take a turn for the worse.
The true meaning of a friendship has been eroded by the non-committed avenues of expression that breeds the cowardice of robotically beginning and ending engagements with the weaponry that threatened the lifespan of relations the moment those keys began the initiation.
It’s no biggie to kill a friendship that flourished for more than a decade when you can repurpose the debris into your timeline of like-minded allies, who are better equipped to suit your updated tastebuds.
When I find myself in social situations, there’s the excitement that comes with that instant connection, but anything beyond those moments fills me with dread. Exchanging numbers will lead to extended sessions of texting that can distract and sometimes annoy. The climate of artistic collaboration will eventually awaken the need to test out chemistry, and that can be the ultimate dealbreaker. Being social is now a risky territory that can reveal so much and hamper the path to progression.
It’s quite possible that I’m making too much out of something so basic and seemingly uncomplicated, but whenever I consider the possibility of replacing the friends I’ve lost with matchable candidates, it’s hard to imagine those fragile connectors surviving the foundation of our discontent that turns every gathering into Insta-worthy scrapbooks, that don’t ever capture the truth.
I’m starting to prefer my own company above the buzzkill of spaces filled with people who are married to the seductive rays of polluted screens. And I’m too lazy for the work it takes to demonstrate interest past the introductory phase.
Maybe, I haven’t stopped evolving, and will eventually be up for the collection of new contacts that I won’t have to delete from the list that matters, but until then — I’m stealthily avoiding the task of making new friends.