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Thursday, August 5, 2010

I have reached the ripe old age, emotionally, of ten.

I decided this today while discussing with a long-suffering friend, for the millionth time, my inability to comprehend and become comfortable with the acceptable and inevitable progression of friendship. I refer, of course, to the cycle in which two people meet, recognize that they're compatible, become excited about shared time and conversations, and then allow that excitement to wane as they meet new people and encounter more important things in life which lead them to REAL items of importance (romantic relationships, careers, children, etc.), which eventually means that the aforementioned friendship becomes an afterthought, a memory lovingly dusted off every decade as the two meet, reminisce, catch up, and leave one another so that they can attend to real life. My problem in accepting this cycle, I believe, is that I completely buy into the rituals, concepts, and certainties of ten-year-olds, including the following:

1. Spitting into one's palm and pressing it into the equally spitty palm of one's friend creates a magical bond which allows telepathic communication.
2. Blood brother/sisterhood is real and the ritual negates any life-threatening, blood-borne diseases feared by informed adults.
3. People actually grow up and build houses beside each other simply because they're best friends. Their significant others also join in the best-friendship, as do any children born into either union, and the best friends grow old together and tour Europe in their old age after they get tired of going on joint vacations to Hawaii.
4. Dinners should be shared with friends. Always.
5. Slumber parties are not just for children. Adult slumber parties usually involve separate rooms just to avoid awkwardness, but sometimes the participants stay up late and talk about sex before they go to bed, because that's what grown-ups do. They're sort of obsessed with sex.
6. When best friends get sick, they take care of each other.
7. When best friends are sad, they bring each other cookies and tell funny jokes. Sometimes this doesn't help them stop being sad, but it's always better to have someone nearby, whom you can hug, when you're sad.
8. When friends get mad at each other they talk about it. They say, "I'm mad at you." This allows the other person an opportunity to apologize and make amends, if possible. They don't try to make other people mad at their friend, nor do they stop talking to the person they're mad at. The only time this is not true is when the friend steals another friend's chocolate and eats it without asking, which would never happen because friends don't do that.
9. People who are friends never get tired of each other. Ever.
10. Long-term friendships are built on camaraderie, similar sense of humor, inside jokes, shared sorrows, genuine interest, honesty, and willingness to work on building relationships. And they don't take time-outs for 5 years, then regroup and try to pick up where they left off. They accommodate social and personal changes and they work to strengthen those involved whenever possible.

This would all be fine and dandy except for one inescapable fact: People don't stay 10 years old forever. Therefore, I am left with my childish certainties about friendship, while all the adults around me wonder why I keep spitting into my palm before I shake hands. I try to explain the benefits of my emotionally immature beliefs and they shake their heads, understanding, as I do not, the folly of such convictions in our ever-changing world.

I know they're right. I understand that I cannot expect my friendship to ever be as important as real, grown-up relationships which might lead to such things as romantic partnerships and marriage because, let's face it, true friendship can't hold a candle to regular sex. Really. I get this.

But even as I understand reality, I'm stuck in my ten-year-old certainty that nothing is as fascinating as watching butterflies or blooming wildflowers together, and there is incomparable joy in running in the rain, or turning cartwheels, or skipping rocks, or hunting nonexistent treasure, or believing in magic...and in the end, some part of all those grown-up, mature, distant friends will miss me just a little, even if they don't really know me anymore.

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