By Tinky Ningombam
Having friends was definitely simpler when I was young. You spoke to them, offered them a bite from your lunch box, help them with sharpening a pencil and you would, in a blink, turn best friends. Next thing you know, you are sitting together, carrying the same bag, wearing the same watch. And even eating the same candy.
As you grow up, friends become complicated and harder to manage. Some become too aloof, some too demanding or we just grow up to have different ideas about living our lives. Three words I do not want to hear from my good friends are actually those that I keep hearing a lot , the probably innocent but condescending sounding “You have changed”. For women, that’s almost equivalent to saying “Oh, how could you do this to me?”
Friendships are amorphous, always changing just as people are.
And sometimes you get appalled or surprised by the change in your old friend, we somehow either learn to accept them or we start drifting away. And as one enters into the daily routines of adult life, where earning a living takes centre stage, we shuffle these people and sometimes leave some behind and pick new ones. We always have friends who for some odd reason we never spoke again but it seldom strikes us as strange. Although it’s true, by the simple law of Life, we are supposed to evolve and change, but somehow it seems we are not supposed to, socially. We are expected to say the same things, give the same advices and talk the same way as we used to a decade ago. And this got me thinking about the many expectations that the bond of friendship entails. From this silent treaty that we seem to have signed to accept each other and behave the same way to each other as we used to, for all eternity. But does friendship come with an expiry date? Can friends become too different from us or useless? I think they do, for some they do. Look at what I call the short-term friends, the friends who we seem to like to have at a certain point of time. And we outgrow them or them us. These are people with same taste in choices or habits for a particular period of your life. And with them, friendships become useless after a while because we grow out of it.
Friendship is over-rated.
Our society has put so much pressure on social popularity and Like-ability that it seems abnormal to avoid friendships. Take aside social psychology but we are measured in this invisible cup of social appropriateness and expectations. The burden of having a lot of friends and keeping them has made many a young soul miserable. And to top that, the constant comparison on the popularity charts, the fight for compliments and the outward show of “friendly” gestures. And yes, it is true that I speak from a vantage point of the one of the privileged few. I am one person who likes to keep a lot of friends, acquaintances and social company. But that does not mean that I do not hate superficial name-sake social relationships, which is unfortunately rising with the increasing lifestyle change and the online buddy era.
And these are questions especially for people on Social Networks. Do you constantly get pinged by a random friend from the past who keeps asking you to meet up some time which you have no inclination of doing? Or someone who posts a one-off group photo and claims to be your bestie? Or that one friend who you had to add on your network because you did not want to offend her? And it is the fault of the age where we have to differentiate between a friend, a Facebook friend, a mutual friend and a friend who is not actually a friend.
Who is a FRIEND really?
Some years back, in my innocent past, we had a one-thumb rule to describe friends. A FRIEND used to be the one person who would stick by you no matter what. The one person who would go through bad decisions and good, who would stand up for you even when he would get beaten up and who would always loan you money no matter how much you owe. Today, everyone that I meet is a friend of a friend. And then there is the constant guessing game that you start to play to decide between who would stand true to you and who won’t. This however is not a new age phenomena. Friend betrayed by person posing as a friend, very common old wartime tactic. But besides, the communities were smaller, we had a lot of rivalry, our friends were smaller groups. Now the global era has finally arrived, we meet more people and make more friends. Some we fake. We notice that the more learned a person gets the more diplomatic and politically correct they must act, which have to make them pretend to be friends with an enormous amount of people that cannot and will not be friends with them in their wildest dreams. And that is the hard fact.
So, now comes a million categories of so-called “friends” that we are surrounded with, which confuses me to an extent that now I honestly wish someone would just invent some new names. There should be names for different categories of friends: The friends that you do not want to call over to your house, the friends that you can only hang out at work, the friends that you can call on the phone, the friends that would understand what you do, the friends who can accept your weird habits. And to be sure to keep the best friend away from all them, the person with whom you can do all of these things at once.
Friendships will always remain confusing. We might probably never be able to tell our true friends from the ones who are not. We might even die adoring the one friend who back-stabs us. But good or bad, I think that no matter who your friend is, a person, a dog or the voice in your head… we should be willing to accept them change and let them move on if they want to without a grudge.
(Inspired by Sheldon Cooper’s “Roommate Agreement” the author is thinking of writing a “Friendship Agreement” for all her old friends which will above other things include Sheldon’s *Zombie-bite contingency : that you cannot kill the other even if they’ve turned. And the * Superheroes Clause: If one friend gets super powers, the other gets to be the sidekick.)