Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Speak For Yourself, Revisited

The other day I posted a really great comment thread and used it as the jumping off point for a post about being comfortable/happy being alone but still wanting a romantic partner.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

There was a second theme in that thread (“toxic friendships and letting other people’s negative comments get to you”), and I’m going to try to write about it here without going off on too many tangents.

I’m of the (unpopular) opinion that the word “friend” is overused and misused (and yeah, I’m guilty of this, too). We friend people we’ve never even met online. People have hundreds and sometimes even thousands of friends online.

But really, how many of those people are actual friends. A dozen or two? A handful?  I realize that different people are different in this regards. I can’t speak for anyone else, only myself. I have friends that I’ve know for decades, others that I’ve known for less than a year. But I take that friend label seriously.  I expect a lot from those people, and I give a lot to them.

Anyway, I just think it’s important to acknowledge in any conversation of friendship how little that word seems to mean nowadays. That doesn’t mean, however, that true friends IMO aren’t still worth their weight in gold.

Which is why it saddens me to admit that over the past 10 years, I’ve had to cut some people out of my life.  A couple of individuals plus most of a group of people I used to hang out with pretty regularly. It wasn’t because I stopped caring about them, or thought they weren’t fun to hang out with anymore. But rather, I found that some of the friendships I made in my 20s no longer worked for me in my 30s. And a lot of that had to do with the way people related to me as a woman.  The unhelpful comments, unsolicited advice and lack of understanding had built up over the years until finally I said, no, I don’t need these people in my life.  I’d rather not spend time with them and then afterwards feel bad about the things that were said/done.

It wasn’t easy for me. Doing that. But I was tired of having the same, silly, hurtful conversations over and over. And on the rare occasions when I asked for favors or help (like, can you take some new pictures for my online dating profile since you’re such a great photographer) I was tired of being belittled (online dating, that’s for losers….).

So here’s my ridiculous analogy of the day – friendship is like chocolate.  Great friends are like great chocolate. It’s about quality not quantity (and if you’ve ever had any really great chocolate you know that you only need a few bites in one sitting).  FYI, in case you ever want to buy me a gift, I like my chocolate uber-dark. Practically bitter.  Very, very rich.

Some people feel the need to gorge themselves on the cheap stuff.  Pounds and pounds of nestles or cadburys. Overly sweetened and mass produced.  Kind of like consoling yourself with a room full of friends who wouldn’t help you in a time of need.

So here’s a random theory that may or may not be completely accurate or relevant –  if you’re a parent, it’s probably not that hard to be friendly with other parents (I know that my parents became friends with many of my friend’s parents, when I was a kid, for example).  There’s a built in topic of conversation that never goes away – the kids.  And there’s an incentive to nurture those relationships  – the kids.

Similarly, there’s an incentive to be friendly with the people you work with.  I’m still friends with people I met at work, years ago. Not many of them.  Just a few random people from different jobs, over the years.  I’d imagine, that if I had the same job for over a decade, many if not most of my friends would be from work.

Whereas the life of a single, childless person who’s moved from job to job every few years (which is the norm, I think) can get a bit lonely. Especially since many of us have seen some of our female friends disappear into marriage, never to be heard from again…

OK, my attempt to not go on too many tangents has clearly failed. The truth is that this is too big a topic for such a small space. Friendship is a tricky thing.  And I realize that by admitting that I cut friends that I deemed to be “toxic” out of my life I’m opening myself up for a potential shitstorm.  But the truth is, sometimes we keep people in our lives because we’ve been convinced that friendship quantity is more important that friendship quality.  And I just think differently.

And now, because I haven’t been random enough, here’s a link to a very funny/relevant post from earlier in the week:  What Friendship Means to Me by Panama Jackson. I tried to find an easy way to work it in here, but hell, it’s Friday and my brain is tired.


9 to “Speak For Yourself, Revisited”

  1. Jolene says:

    Truly couldn’t have said it better myself, and I love the chocolate analogy. We do toss around the word “friend” far too often, and I am also of the view that few is better than many, because I prefer a few strong, quality friendships that last through the tough and the good, than a zillion friends that are all surface-level, or not give-and-take. And now I want chocolate 😉

    • Simone Grant says:

      Thank you. This was one of those posts that I sat on for a couple of days because, well, I knew it made sense in my head but wasn’t sure about anywhere else (my head is a scary place, sometimes).

      Seriously, nothing makes me happier than making a new, GOOD friend. It’s like finding gold.

  2. Lan says:

    as someone who is just 2 years into my 30s, i never thought of it that way and it makes total sense! i’ve pondered why some of my friends in my 20s aren’t my friends anymore. sure, we’re facebook friends and sometimes reach out with a random “hello, how are you?” wall post but that’s not quality friendship, like you said. and i’m ok with that. we just don’t fit into each other’s lives anymore, for whatever reasons.

    this was a great, thought provoking post. thanks.

    • Simone Grant says:

      Thanks so much. Funny, sometimes I think FB has made it easier to lose touch with people. There’s less of a need to call, to catch up. You see every little thing that’s going on with people. Now we only call when we really want to.

  3. Kelly says:

    I personally like the tangents. Weird, I have been going through the same thing, and it all started with my birthday a couple of years ago when I received some unsolicited advice that made me cry for two days. Friendship is a tricky and fragile thing, and sometimes we do have to let go for various reasons…not everyone is meant to be a part of our lives forever. I’m still trying to figure out how to proceed with a friend I’ve know more than 10 years. Anyway, thanks as always for your insight and honesty. Great post.

    • Simone Grant says:

      I’m sorry you had a rough birthday. I find birthdays and holidays are frequently stressful, which is why I wanted my recent bday to be so low-key.

      It REALLY wasn’t easy to cut people out of my life. And sometimes I miss them. Some of the friends in question are people I knew for years, had gone on vacations with, had mutual friends with (people who I’ve worked hard to keep in my life). But I knew it was the right thing to do, for me. Much like a breakup with a man I still love(d) but who I knew was bad for me.

  4. Ann says:

    Hi Simone. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now; I appreciate your insight and also your willingness to put yourself out there in your posts. What you said about friendship is such an important realization that I think a lot of people miss. About a year ago, I noticed that I had a lot of friends who were only my friends when it was convenient, so I really re-evaluated why I was friends with people, and I tried an experiment…I only made an effort to keep in contact with people who I felt were influencing me positively…and not only did it make me happier personally, but it also made the friendships that were important to me deeper. Some people might not understand it, but sometimes people play out their role in our lives sooner rather than later. Thanks for bringing this up!

    • Simone Grant says:

      Thanks so much for reading and joining the conversation. I think that most people believe what they want to believe. So they believe that their friends are really their friends. That everyone they think of as a friend is good for them – supportive, positive, etc.

      But you said it perfectly, sometimes people play out their role in our lives sooner rather than later.

  5. anny says:

    saw this on annother blog the other day, “if you care about what other people think, you will always be their prisoner” – James Frey. i think it’s a great point to consider and apply to friendships – with a caveat…. i do care about what some people think (and it’s a good thing!) – people i respect and admire because their character is tried, true, honest, positive, etc, etc (kinda like your friend who really knows you – the one you can say anything to without fear and who will first try to understand and help before they ever get close to judging or labling.) but, back to the quote – i don’t think i’m ‘held prisoner’ by what other’s say (well, the exception being my mom, but that’s a whole other galaxy of conversations)…. i do think it’s interesting as i reflect on your post about friendships, that there are indeed some “toxic” friendships that we may care about – but perhaps shouldnt care too much…because what they say is only their perspective, nothing more. i can appreciate individual perspectives (which we all have). perspectives may be important to the person who has them, but i need to recognize and embrace that perspective is not fact. and i like to deal in facts. the fact’s are….nobody’s perfect, nobody’s got it all figured out yet… except maybe Al Gore. nah… scratch that, it’s only my perspective. 😉