Thought Catalog
August 6, 2012

FAQs Re: Friendship In Your 20s

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What is the issue?

Q: Where did all of my friends go?

A: Your friends, unless they’ve all simultaneously died in some horrendous twist of fate, Final Destination-style (and my deepest condolences if this is the case), are still there. The thing to remember about human beings is that your relationship with them is only one of many aspects they have to consider on a daily basis — this becoming especially true when you reach an age where you’re no longer coddled by things like loan deferments and health insurance via your parents. Your friends are people who might need to, I don’t know, support themselves, move for employment opportunities, worry about their parents’ health, get laid occasionally, etc. So if it seems like your friends are fading away or forgetting about you, well… they might just be. But! This isn’t a problem. The problems arise when you take your friend’s distance as a personal affront. What you’re confusing with getting left behind is just growing up. Stop overthinking it and give them a call. Make plans. That’s how we do things now.

Q: Why are all of my friends getting married and having children before me?

A: Remember in your late teens and early 20s when your friends would get knocked up and you’d be like, HA-HA, sucker! Have fun milking your boobs while I hit ~da club~? Well, here’s your karmic payback: age appropriate people are tying the knot left and right and YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THEM. You’re single by force, or you’re not living with your partner, or you’ve been in the same relationship for ten years and there’s no sign that you’re ever, ever getting engaged. Meanwhile, your friends are doing insane things like wearing jewelry worth five months’ rent and owning freaking property. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but if you’re not in a stable relationship, you’re not allowed to ask this question: the answer is obvious. You don’t just get to join the forever-relationship club on your 28th birthday. It’s not a driver’s license or a navel ring. Just ’cause your friends get one doesn’t mean you get one, too. Anyone — single or not — waiting for their moment in the sun needs to remember that this isn’t how relationships with other people work. The sooner you figure this out, the sooner you’ll be the type of sane person someone actually wants to date for more than three months.

Q: Why is it so hard to make friends?

A: Because being passive is safe and comfortable. An anecdote (and no, I don’t have my friendshit together): I recently participated in a focus group about personal finance. There was a girl in my group, six years older than myself, who I almost immediately identified as my focus group friend (this is the person whose answers you anxiously await and then nod along with in agreement, the person with whom you bond, I guess). We had very similar experiences with money, which is something most friendships aren’t founded on, right? When you become friends with someone, you’re typically blind to their financial situation, and it’s only after you become close that you’re left to navigate the uncomfortable void between your histories with dat cheddar. But because of the nature of our meeting, I knew this could become a friend with whom I could talk openly about money without shame or awkwardness. I thought about how I might give her my number, even considered asking her to have drinks after the group wrapped up — instead, we took the same elevator down, said “bye” to one another, and walked our separate ways. The one who got away, har har. But really, she was. I had the opportunity to make a friend, one who could fill a role that is as yet uncast, and instead I let her walk away because I lost my balls and, hell… I have friends already so no big, right? It’s only as hard to make friends as it’s hard to put yourself out there… which I guess, at times, is pretty goddamn hard.

Q: My friend got swept up in their job/relationship and now they’re crawling back — what should I do?

A: A mature friendship encourages both parties to be their own person; as such, great friends allow you to guiltlessly make your own decisions. Sometimes those decisions are bad ones — like hibernating for months with someone you won’t end up with — but at the end of the day, real friends are not turned off by your ebb and flow; they recognize and accept that you’re a dynamic person who sometimes makes mistakes. BE THAT FRIEND. If you’re going to give someone the silent treatment or force them to ‘win’ your friendship back, well… what kind of friendship is that? You either want this person in your life or you don’t. If you do, don’t punish them or hold it against them when they want back in just to prove a point (but if you’re angered by their absence, get it off your chest immediately because that resentment makes you look fat). And if you don’t want them in your life anymore, say so. Either way, make a decision and move on with your life. Do you guys even know how many seasons of Real Housewives you missed watching together during the latest boyfriend k-hole?

Q: How do I meet people?

A: The truth is that we want to meet new people without getting to know the ones we’ve already met. We assume that our next great friendship — like our next great romance — will be immediately apparent to us, and anyone we meet in the meantime is just friend filler. We expect instant gratification because we’re confused about how friendship actually works; and instead of turning strangers into friends, we just collect them while we wait on our new bestie to appear from thin air. To fool ourselves into thinking we’re proactively building relationships, we use Fast Friendship — we add people on Facebook and pat ourselves on the back while thinking ‘new friendship level achieved,’ or something, and then we never contact the person again, and weeks later when we feel unfulfilled we blame the void on having not met enough new people while hundreds of unmet, unknown people sit in list format waiting to be asked to grab drinks or to ride bikes or to do whatever the hell it is people our age do with friends. You know how friendships have always historically formed? Before social networking, people became friends by hanging out and exerting effort. Writing letters. Making plans. Now we just press a button and expect the work to be done for us, and when it’s not, we think it’s because we need to meet new people. Focus on getting to know the people who are already your ‘friends’ — the person behind the profile picture has more to offer you than a ‘like’ on your status update.

Q: Can I hook up with my friends?

A: Yes. Just try not to hurt anybody (unless they ask you to). TC mark

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