As I mentioned last week, I’ve reconnected with a bunch of old friends on Facebook. Most of these connections are with people I was friends with in junior high school and elementary school but lost touch with in high school. The ease with which we communicate and the amount of fun we are having has me thinking about why these connections work and are so satisfying.
I’ve come up with two reasons. One is something I’ve written about before, that each person still has a little piece of me in them, and it’s comforting to find that piece again. We also shared the same experiences, knew the same people, had the same teachers. Whether or not we really knew each other on a deep level, we knew each other in a way no one will ever know us. There’s a language that’s unique, because we understand the circumstances under which we operated and the times in which we grew. We know why we smoked cigarettes at 12 years old and understand the false cool with which we sipped that first beer. We felt the same things at those times, the same insecurities, the same bravado…we just didn’t admit it.
We know where we come from. I think for people who like themselves or who viewed their childhood positively, maintaining that link to the past makes us a little more whole.
The other reason why these connections are so satisfying has to do with type of people. I find that some folks are the hello-how-are-you types —very surface. The people I am most attracted to—and this applies not just to old friends—are completely, unabashedly open and real. Always.
This is not a quality that appeals to all people. Some people believe in protocol and propriety and keeping the personal to yourself. That’s not a criticism; there’s nothing wrong wth that. But some people aren’t capable of that. That’s the type of person I like: honest to a fault, with no shutoff valve. And a wicked sense of humor.
It took me a while to realize this. I would meet people who, for the sake of conciseness, I will call uptight, relative to me. It was clear they were uncomfortable around me somehow and they didn’t seem to like me. Until a few years ago, I felt bad about this and tried to win such people over. But once I took it apart, I realized that it didn’t matter if they didn’t like me, because I didn’t particularly like them either! It wasn’t that there was ill will between us. There was simply no personal attraction.
Because I sang with a band, I went through a period when I had to go to parties in town featuring a crowd of people with whom I was missing that spark. But for the singing, I came to dread those parties! Every conversation was, Hi. How are you, good how are you, who did your kid have this year, did he/she like him/her, how did the year go, what are the kids doing this summer… I never had a real moment at these parties, never laughed, and was bored out of my mind and very uncomfortable whenever I wasn’t in front of the microphone.
It was during that time that I started to get it. I learned that if I mentioned something personal—for example, my menstrual cramps—and the other person shrunk back, embarrassed, saying “Too much information!” (actual words used), we had no chance at friendship. I could never be friends with a woman who thinks that talking about body functions is off limits.
This became the unofficial litmus test to determine if someone was “my type.” (And I imagine it helps others determine their interest in me or lack thereof as well.)
I don’t need to have anything else in common with a person to be friends. We’re not getting married. We’re just kids on the playground, and we choose the friends we want to play with—people like ourselves.
Merry Christmas to all who begin celebrating tonight.