Intimacy in Casual Friendship: Too Much to Ask?

This having a network thing is not without its challenges. Now that I’m taking my interactions with people who are not my very best friends more seriously, I’m realizing a few things. The first is that my Truth Tourettes extends to others. Or maybe I should say that I wish it did.

What I mean by this is that it drives me crazy when people pretend like everything is fabulous every.single.time you see them. And by “people” I mean fellow stroller-pushers/park visitors/playgroup attenders that I see multiple times in the space of a week. While it might be reasonable to accept the fact that other people are not (technically) required to share their deepest darkest secrets with me, I am chronically unreasonable. At least when it comes to sharing. I have expectations.

My expectations do not require the complete and immediate baring of the soul, but I do expect something. I need it. Something that seems real, something that has a hint of unique authenticity about it. Maybe dimensionality would be a way to describe it. One-dimensional interaction is frankly painful. It’s not just that it’s boring (which it is), but that it’s actually uncomfortable. When you’re holding everything in, you’re withholding yourself. Pulling back. Maintaining a distance. It’s a thing that can be felt.

All of this is made worse when it is clear that this person with the smile duct-taped across her face is miserable. When every non-verbal message within 10 feet is flashing “Danger, Danger!” in bright white lights. It’s (quite) possible that I put more faith in my intuitive ability than I really should, but when it seems clear to me that something is UP with a person, something very usually is. And even if my gut is completely off and everything really is perpetually-sunny-thankyouverymuch, is that any way to live? Perhaps it’s because I can’t even imagine such a life that it strikes me as mind-numbing, but come on. A person needs some valleys. They make the peaks all the higher, don’t they?

All of this to say that I need some intimacy in my friendships and (with important exceptions) I’m finding that hard to come by.  Why all this “Yeah! Everything is Great!!”? Is there a prize for being totally together in all of your social interactions? If that kind of behavior earns you a prize I bet it’s something really vacuous and fake. Something like a lifetime supply of Cheese Puffs. A lose-lose for sure. Not that I’m bitter.

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12 thoughts on “Intimacy in Casual Friendship: Too Much to Ask?

  1. People at the playground sound very similar to my experience of people at the dog park. There’s a lot of superficial talking among adults (dogs names/ages/origins), but once and a while you learn someone’s name, and then you learn personal things about them. At least that’s my experience.

  2. I don’t think it’s too much to ask but I think it’s hard for people to be intimate or revealing when kids take every last part of your soul (at least some days). And by people, I mean me. I’ve found too that, as a truth teller/reality stater, it makes people uncomfortable to hear that my kid is a terror, or never stops shouting, or is a tiny troll. It seems like all they want to or can handle hearing are the rosy, isn’t it wonderful moments, which makes me a little shy of sharing anything more with people I haven’t got a flavor from yet. Also, I’m hesitant to get caught in a negative cycle or bitchfest with someone so if they start out a conversation with the hard stuff, I’m less likely to do more than commiserate. It’s really hard this friend stuff. And this kid stuff is ridiculously hard. I promise, if we lived closer we’d be awesome together. In the meantime, I hope the universe delivers up someone excellent to talk to at the park.

    • We would ABSOLUTELY be awesome together. Without a doubt! And I do know what you mean about the kid taking every last part of your soul. So true. It’s hard to reach out, but (for me at least) it’s harder to play into the la-la happy land business. It’s just weird and it makes me even more awkward. Which is saying something! 😉

  3. I think that admitting that things aren’t all rosy makes you seem vulnerable, and people don’t (often) want to appear vulnerable.

    This does make me feel slightly better about saying to a not-so-close friend today something about The Bean going through some “terrible twos” moments. I felt so guilty afterwards, not because of the vulnerability bit, but because I felt like it might have come across as me not being a patient, responsive, loving parent. I mean, I love these kids more than anything. I don’t want anyone doubting that.

    • “I felt so guilty afterwards, not because of the vulnerability bit, but because I felt like it might have come across as me not being a patient, responsive, loving parent. I mean, I love these kids more than anything. I don’t want anyone doubting that.”

      This is what gets me I think. I wish that we could be real with each other without fear that our truth would paint us in a negative light. You know? Because all of these parts of being a parent exist together. You love your kid like crazy AND are occasionally driven to lunacy by that same kid. It’s a lot of trust though, isn’t it? Trusting ourselves to be ok even if we are misunderstood and trusting other people to try to get us. It’s a lot to ask. Sure would be nice though. 😉 At least we can get lots of it virtually!

  4. You just summed up what made us decide recently to drop out of one homeschool group’s Tuesday park playdate. Although our kids were having fun, we were NOT. In fact, on the last occasion that we went, I found that I said less than ten words during almost three hours of sitting there with near a dozen other moms. I couldn’t keep up with the fake fake, and my mama raised me not to say anything if I didn’t have anything nice to say.

    I wish we lived closer to have these playdates. I would knock your socks off with authenticity.

    • G would SO knock your socks off with authenticity. I love that lady something fierce (as I do you). And of course, I have no idea how to be any other way (even when the situation absolutely calls for another way). Which is just to say: I hear you. And I’m here. I’m not at the park, but I could be with the use of a couple of smart phones. 🙂 P.S. The prize so would be Cheese Puffs. P.P.S. You totally nailed this. P.P.P.S. Do you think it’s born of the motherhood mandate that says we all have to be perfectly nailing this all of the time and that therefore if we complained it would prove that we’re not perfect mothers and that therefore we’re failures? P.P.P.P.S. We’re night-weaning so I haven’t slept in a week so this might all be drivel. If it is, disregard the above and take away only this: you nailed this. And thanks. P.P.P.P.P.S. The overuse of the phrase “nail[ed] this” in this comment was intention. I was going for a sort of Lost Generation/modernist power in repetition kind of thing. It may not be working, but now I think my baby is up, so I can’t consider it. Love to you. Real live messy love. We need a park.

    • “I wish we lived closer to have these playdates. I would knock your socks off with authenticity.”

      I love that and I couldn’t agree more! I am ready for somebody to knock my socks off. 😉

  5. Ha ha ha – Cheese Puffs!

    I hear you on this one. I find the play date / story time / school pickup world so odd sometimes. We’re thrown together by the similar ages of our children, but do we have anything in common otherwise? It’s like dating. So awkward. Like you, I LONG for the truth-telling types. I want a real conversation! Please! It does seem that people are afraid of seeming like less than perfect parents.

    And if it’s not like dating, then it’s like high school. I see groups of Cool Moms and envy them and wonder if I could be their friend. Oy vey.

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