I lead a double life, maybe a triple or even quadruple the more I think about it. I’m not a serial killer, hooker, dominatrix, CIA agent or anything remotely that exciting, but I practice separate spheres when it comes to my social life. As I get older, I notice myself paring down my friendships. Why waste time with people I don’t genuinely enjoy being with–life’s too short and I’m no longer in college.
You see, while in college it doesn’t really matter who you hang out with–everyone is ‘cool’, ‘chill’, ‘fun’, ‘funny’, drunk. You scarcely even know your friends outside of a party, and therefore you probably will come to realize you hardly want to see or talk to them in the sober light of day. So now you’re twentysomething in the real world, slightly less intoxicated, and you find yourself with fewer but better friends, you know, that “quality over quantity” philosophy old people swear by. In this ubiquitous process of social streamlining I’ve ended up cozying up with a handful of first-rate friends. The catch is, my close friends hail from disparate social circles and in my social calendar they simply don’t mix.
If I had to break things down I guess there are three distinct groups I orbit between. I have my rather conservative petite bourgeoisies investment bankers and their wives. I love them for their fancy education, discriminating wine palates, generosity, antiques, propensity for the Left Bank and weekend homes in Normandy. However, their idea of a *wild* night includes a glass of cider and semi-sober dancing to the Arcade Fire. Group number two on the other hand consists of a more flamboyant mix of characters all hailing from the art/fashion worlds. For the most part they have minor drug problems, communicate in snide quips and generally linger behind velvet ropes. Then there are my decided intellectual activists. They’re passionate, informed, idealistic academics. Over bottles of cheap wine they spend long evenings engrossed in heated discussions about politics, philosophy and love.
I adore all three, I couldn’t pick a favorite, but I always end up having to make a choice on Friday night because I also know I can never successfully combine them. This isn’t because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of any particular one like you might be thinking. They all know the other groups exist in my life but like any good hostess will tell you, you just can’t please all parties at all times. I know they simply don’t *get* each other because literally the sole thing they have in common is me so that really leaves my birthday and my funeral as the only time for them to ineluctably converge. I happen to know they don’t particularly care for one another, so why impose my varied tastes on them?
If I could have it my way, I would love to be able to call all my friends together to meet at a café for Thursday evening aperitif, but this would be a great disservice to them as everyone would end up decidedly uncomfortable as my investment banker would be horrified by my designer’s story about anal gone wrong in the Silencio bathroom and my intellectual would be mortified by the unabashed decadence at a trendy night club while, across the table, my banker’s 800e cuff links catch the light as he bbms his fiancée. The ultimate result is confusion and uncomfortable silence all around. So I mercifully spare us this unnecessary and selfish social unease, as I must make a choice when sending out that 6pm text. I’ve come to terms this fact, and have even grown to embrace my divergent copaine planes.
However, since I classify my friends, does that mean I have to classify myself? I firmly believe I can have my [friend]cake and eat it too. Maybe this is indicative of an underlying borderline personality disorder, but my different worlds keep me in check. I need my separate spheres to feel fulfilled; I think it keeps me socially limber, plastic, adaptable. Is it so wrong that one could enjoy dancing to Death Cab for Cutie, as much as Kavinsky or Stravinsky? I think all social beings do this to some extent–we all have needs and it’s simply unrealistic to think we can have them properly attended to with one place or person. If we try to stay within the confines of a singular circle we risk conforming and losing those other different and valuable aspects to our persona that make us who we are. Let’s face it, polyphilia just might be the new polygamy. Besides in a life where I know I will never be a Clark Kent or Hannah Baxter, I can at least wear a few different hats when it comes to my mildly schizophrenic social life.