It’s a funny trope in sitcoms. One person is in love with another person, and so they confess their love, only to be given a “Thank You” in reply. We cringe. We hurt for the confessor, and we feel bad for the one not in love. We are also impressed by the thanker, because it would have been easier to lie and say they too were in love, letting FutureThem deal with the fallout.
But it’s awkward. That is undeniable.
Thankfully, I found my person over 25 years ago. I love her, she loves me (and I’m really lucky she does, because I can be a LOT, y’all). But if we take that situation down a notch, I suspect there are many more mismatches. ESPECIALLY when introverts like myself are in play. Let me elaborate…
There are probably 5 people who I consider my very best friends. Then maybe a dozen who are way more than acquaintances, and I consider close friends. The next group in my expanding circle of indifference (is it a circle of indifference if the ones I care about the most are in the middle? Maybe it’s my circle of fading “difference”? But “difference” does not feel like the opposite of indifference, so maybe I’m using terrible words here. And because some of my friends read my blogs via translator to their native language, I have NO idea what this will imply because now I’m confused in English. And English is the only language I’m moderately confident with…)
I’ve decided to abandon the notion of an expanding circle, and I’ve decided to abandon that entire paragraph. My new geometric metaphor will be a pyramid. OK, in my head it’s actually a triangle, but since it will be stacks of friends, I’m not sure how they’d stand in a two dimensional stack, but I also don’t have NEARLY enough friends for a pyramid of people. But basically there are five or so people on the tippy top of my FriendAngleMid. Beneath them, are probably a dozen people who are close friends. These people I’m usually very comfortable around. Being with them doesn’t drain me emotionally. (Well, if I were with ALL of them at once, it would be horrible, and I’d be hiding in the bathroom texting my 5 cake-topper friends about how miserable I was at this stupid party I should have never thrown for my cat…)
Anyway. The next layer (we’re doing cake now, please keep up) is larger, and actually sort of fluid (not like we’re changing metaphors again, I mean they aren’t a solid group of people I could list). These are the people I don’t think about on a daily basis, but when I am near them, or interact with them, it’s enjoyable and I’m glad they’re in my life. Honestly, this is a large group. But because my brain is kind of a jerk, I couldn’t possibly name them all, because here’s the thing — when I’m with people in this group, they BECOME part of the dozen or so top-cake-layer friends. It’s weird, but this group of people is really really great. And I enjoy being with them and talking to them at least as much as my top layer friends. In fact, because I’m not with them often, in the moment, they’re pretty much temporary cake toppers. And not “pretend” cake toppers, but actual, bonafide Smurf figurines on top of my friend cake, celebrating our time together.
This is not the direction I thought this blog post was going. (I’m very happy with the cake metaphor though, we’re keeping that. Even though I’m more of an ice cream person. OH, and sprinkles would be perfect for the topper metaphor, except I want way more than 5 sprinkles… So we’re sticking with cake. Maybe Donna can be the ice cream. Because she’s like the ice cream, my favorite part — PLUS sprinkles, which makes ice cream even better. Yes. Donna is the ice cream, and she is COVERED in sprinkles.)
NOTE: This is why when I write professionally, I have an editor. Jill — I’m so sorry this is going to press. And I know you’re not technically my editor anymore, but you’re the only editor I’ve ever had, so when I think of an editor, it’s always you. Don’t get creeped out, I CLEARLY never think of editing. (Except I do, and I miss working with you, and OMG we should totally play on top of the cake metaphor soon.)
So, anyway most of the people I consider my friends are in that huge group of people that most people would call acquaintances. But I don’t consider them that, because I really, truly do love the people in that huge group. And in the moments I get to interact with them, I’m fully engaged, and fully real, and wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world. It takes emotional energy to spend time with these people, but it’s energy well spent. It’s like the reason I keep as much energy available as possible, because exhaustion from spending time with people you love is the BEST type of exhaustion.
It’s those people that make me both happy and sad in equal measures. I want them to be in my top cake layer, but I don’t interact with them often enough for me to feel comfortable leaning on them. They don’t know me well enough (very likely my fault) to lean on me when things get difficult. I WOULD totally be there if/when they need me, and I’m pretty sure they would be there for me — but again, I’m so bad at letting my guard down, that most people I consider friends don’t fully know me, and in turn, I don’t fully know them. And maybe that’s just how things work. We can’t have 1000 besties. Yet, to say these people are “less good” friends is just not true. Friendship is weird, and I’m not terribly good at it anyway. So perhaps I don’t really have any friends, and I just have human interactions, sorta. But I’m just gonna stick to my cake metaphor and say that the bottom layers of my friendship cake has a LOT of wonderfully sweet layers.
Oh, acquaintances. For me, these are people I tolerate, and I’m friend-LY with, but they’re the people with which I’d probably talk about the weather. (And not awesome weather conversations, just generic crap) These people are the raisins in our cake. They’re not like finding an eggshell in the batter, but you avoid them if you can.
And I’ll close with what I was going to write about in the first place. For introverts like myself, especially those of us who spend most of our time interacting online — it’s almost certain that my cake-topper friends, and my top-layer friends have no idea where they reside on my friendship cake. And I am very unlikely to be on the cake top of many people, or honestly even in their top layer. And that’s OK. Relationships don’t have be built on equal significance. People have different amounts of energy they can invest, and as long as the friendships work for both parties, it’s usually OK. Sometimes there is pain when we discover we don’t live on each other’s cakes at the same layer, but since everyone’s cake is different, direct comparisons don’t even make sense.
My only request is that you not pretend your raisins are sprinkles. Don’t lead raisins on. Be kind to them, but don’t make empty promises about how much we should “totally get together and make raisin bread soon”. It really hurts to discover you’re a raisin when you thought you were a cake topper.
Now I’m hungry. But not for raisins. They’re gross.
PS: Please don’t tell me where I live on your cake. Plus, out of context, that’s a really weird thing to tell someone. And I won’t tell you where you live on my cake either. But unless you’re a raisin, whenever we interact, you’re playing on top of the cake anyway. 🙂