Friday, March 1, 2013

On Friendship, Part Two [or] You Do It Differently Than I

I have two settings for friendship, on and off. I am either friends with someone or I am not. There is almost no middle ground, to the point that I don't always like situations in which I'll meet a lot of new people, because it can be so overwhelming to think about getting to know them. When I meet people and click with them, I go straight into 'becoming friends' mode, and when I'm friends with people I maintain relationships with them, and I like doing that but it is a lot of work to maintain friendships in several different social networks and all over the country and AAAGGGHHHHH I'm exhausted and can't do it anymore and end up letting friendship threads drop and that's not the point that's the opposite of the point! So I end up having only two categories for people: Friends and not-friends, and the friends category is kind of hard to get into.

The problem is that in the Cuban dance community there are a whole heck of a lot of people that you see on a regular basis - either locally, at classes and our regular social events, or across North America at the major events - but are not quite interested in claiming as friends. Some are just plain annoying; they keep bringing up that one time that you got really drunk or they try too hard to insert themselves into social situations. One sexually assaulted one of my friends in the back of another friend's van on the way home from something, and I flat-out refuse to be friends with someone who does that, even if he seems so personable and friendly. NO FUCKING WAY.

A couple of people tend to hang silently around the edges of other people's conversations, never saying anything but always just being there, which I find insanely irritating. I am fairly open with people I trust, but if we're not even friends on Facebook that means I've already decided not to share myself with you. If I am giving a presentation or teaching a class, then I am perfectly fine with an audience. If it's a private conversation, no thank you - what the hell are you doing, just standing there? GO AWAY. 

As I realized the other day, Twelve's definition of friendship is more ... fluid than mine. I mentioned this to her, and she nodded, knowing exactly what I meant.

[Side note: I LOVE it when I can get Twelve to consider things and respond seriously. It's been happening quite often, and I just get a huge kick out of it, kind of like when I'm rereading an Anastasia book and read a particularly funny part out loud to her and wait with bated breath to see if she's going to laugh too. So far, she always does.]

During tea, I like to ask about how things are going with Twelve's friends. It's kind of a crap shoot, since I'm still trying to figure out who they all are; since I don't spend much time with them, they're mostly faceless names that all seem to start with the same couple of letters - very hard to sort out from a distance. But I can at least ask if one of the Ss is still behaving socially erratically (because OMG she was being totes weird awhile back!) and if L has gotten up the gumption to talk to the boy she likes lately (no), that kind of thing. What I've noticed lately is that if I ask about a friend who was relevant the last time I checked, I get a blank look (the particularly adolescent one that means I'm equal parts crazy, stupid, and clueless, but she's putting up with me for the time being).

I think I read something about this in one of those scary adolescence books, too; that middle school friendships aren't just on or off. They're on again, off again, on again, off again ... rinse and repeat. Sounds absolutely nightmarish to me; I like knowing where I stand with people, and I like stability. Either Twelve doesn't have this trait or it hasn't developed yet; just this week, the one of the Ss who was behaving really appallingly last month met up with Twelve and me at a coffee shop after school. It was weird for me, and I hardly know the girl! But for Twelve this is how it works, and apparently - I may need to go through a couple of those books again - it's normal for adolescent girls' friendships to fluctuate.

For the DC trip, Twelve is in a group with her best friend L, their friend A, and A's mom (their chaperone). Usually there are four kids with each adult, but I suspect that these three will be plenty, and that there is a containment aspect to just having three in this particular group. When she called to tell us that this is the group, A's mom said that Twelve was currently not speaking to the other two girls and that we needed to get them back on good terms before the trip to avoid drama. I said that of course I would check with Twelve about it and find out what's going on.

When I asked her about it, she gave me that blank look that I just love and said there was no problem. She and A had exchanged messages moments before, and everything was fine. Okaaay, what about L? I asked. Same response, nothing wrong between her and L. I tried to ask why she hadn't been speaking to them for a week, Twelve was noncommittal - something about A being annoying. Since all seemed to be resolved, I decided not to pry. While I would love to know about everything that happens, mostly because I am fascinated by other people's drama, my long term strategy with Twelve is better served by feigning an attitude of nonchalance, keeping an ear to the ground, and asking as many casual questions as I can get away with.

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