The Mathematics of Friendship

You know that phrase, “Any friend of yours is a friend of mine”? Yeah, it sounds lovely and all, but you know what? That shit is NOT TRUE.

The thing is, whether we want to admit it or not, relationships are one-to-one: just because person A clicks with person B and person B clicks with person C, that doesn’t mean A connects with C. What’s that rule in mathematics? Commutative or associative? I can’t remember. In math, regrouping the elements (like in multiplication) doesn’t necessarily change the result, but with friendships, groupings can vary. I remember, as a kid, my friendships were so chock full of drama. For example, N and I were buds; J and I were buds; But N and J were NOT buds. Even as a kid, I noticed the ridiculousness of having to manage multiple, discrete worlds.  It felt needlessly political, complicated, and quite honestly, a huge waste of time (it was eating into my study time!). Oftentimes too, I was the odd one out: T was friends with me and C, but C and I didn’t click. “Sharing” a friend didn’t bother me too much, except for those times when I felt deliberately excluded and I had FOMO (fear of missing out). In college, the multiple, yet separate circles got even more extreme. But the good news is that eventually, I just didn’t mind being excluded. I guess you could say I got comfortable with being uncomfortable. I mean, we did our things together, but heck, my friends roamed wild. They had great, fun experiences with their friends in other cliques. Likewise, so did I. In the end, I came to see that maybe this is how it’s supposed to be all along: Sometimes, we can all play in the sandbox. Other times, we’re on the jungle gym with these people, jumping rope with these other people, and playing kickball with a third set of people. And people can move around, and create a new equilibrium. This laissez-faire approach can work out pretty well with people governing themselves and feeling out what works for them.

That said, there’s definitely a balance with friendships, weighing effort vs. ease. I feel like I expend a lot of effort, but there is also a natural ease. Like, there’s effort with planning and with communicating, but an ease in comfort and familiarity…which makes things worthwhile.

Sometimes, I’ve noticed there’s discrepancy between people’s personalities “on paper” and how they are IRL (in real life). A few years ago, my buddy D started dating this lady who, on paper, sounded absolutely amazeballs. I could not wait to meet her, bc I was so sure we would get along. After all, D was my bud, and he thought the world of her. Sadly, IRL? The complete opposite! I thought she was the most boring person ever, and Jesus Christ, she had so many goddamn rules about everything– what to wear inside the house, outside the house, what/where to eat, on and on!! After she entered the picture, D and I stopped being friends. Somehow, the ease was gone: we rarely hung out with him solo and hanging with her required so much damn effort with her overkill “stipulations.”

That kind of segues into the next question: how much do you tolerate your good friend’s bud/spouse/sig other/child? On one hand, to some extent, respecting someone who is important to your friend is a form of honoring your friendship. But what if that person does some annoying shit? What if, in your ideal world, you would prefer NOT to spend time with that person?

Seriously, what’s the protocol? Do you
A) Suck it up?
B) Subtly limit interaction, so you mostly spend time with your friend solo?
C) Make some kind of PC comment that illustrates your disappointment in his/her behavior (but not the person)?
D) Honestly explain that you don’t particularly like the other person, and you would prefer to just do things one-on one?

Am I overthinking? Probably. That’s what happens when I get a lot of me time, and Bubbey’s not around to flesh out these mental exercises with me.

In general, I consider myself a pretty laid-back friend. I don’t get jealous about my friends having other friends, another life, and/or doing fun things without me. I really don’t care about being included or excluded, probably bc I’m pretty good about enjoying my personal time and/or staying busy. That said, when I plan/organize parties for a special occasion, I frequently mix my circles, because we’re all adults and I’m not going to overthink or micromanage who gets along with whom. I determine the guest list, and I’m fucking unapologetic about it. If people are uncomfortable with the other attendees, they always have an out: they’re welcome to skip out. No questions asked.

And I’ve definitely been on both the host and invitee sides of the equation. For example, my realtor friend used to always invite me to big parties with her friends (clients), or she always wanted to do family meetings instead of one-on-one. I didn’t really click with any of her other guests at a few of her parties, and then the joint time with her kiddies was so-so, so I started just declining on all those invites. I don’t expect her to throw multiple small parties to accommodate me, but at the same time, she shouldn’t have expectations for me to attend all the group crap. Anyway, for some reason, I’ve been chewing on these topics recently. Guess it all boils down to choices and choosing how to spend time.

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