Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Friendship Dance

Remember when it was so easy to make friends? You would go up and say, "Hi, I'm Jill." And the other girl would say "Hi, I'm Suzanne." And you would say, "Do you want to play mermaids with me?" and they would say "OK." And you would be friends. The pact was sealed until you found a more interesting friend. Because you were only 10, after all, and easily bored.

Why is it so much more complicated at 29? I enter a new town, and I meet people I would like to be friends with. But now, I can't just walk up to them and say "Do you want to be my friend?". Now it is more like a dance.

A dance where we discover if we can really be friends. I think, "Maybe this person will be my friend". So I talk with them, or invite them over for coffee. But I don't share too much, and they don't share too much. First we need to know: are they trustworthy? will they tell other people? will they think I'm really weird and abandon me? will they think I'm too aggressive and shy away? will I put them off too much and they will think I don't like them?

Slowly, we reveal ourselves. Slowly, we get beyond the "Hi, my name is" and the "I'm from here" and the "I do this for a living". Gradually, step by step, to a tune we hope is the same as the other person's tune, we say, "This is what my family was like". We say, "This is something I am passionate about". We say, "This is one of my secrets". And we hope beyond hope that the next time we see them, they are still our friend.

Perhaps they will be a better friend, and the pace of the dance will quicken. Or perhaps the dance will fade away, and we will lose them. But if we want to be friends, we must dance this dance, for we are no longer young and innocent. We are scarred and we know that people are dangerous. Worse, we know ourselves well enough to know how we are a danger to others. And so we tread lightly, and we dance the dance in hopes of creating a real friend. For the older we get, the more we realize how precious a friendship is, and how difficult it can be to find a real friend.

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