The only way to have a friend is to be one.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I used to think I understood what that meant. I have always been there, passionately and in detail for people I saw as a friend. I was ready for anything, intense and connected.
What I didn’t know how to do, though, what I never knew how to do, is kick back and be social. I have always been bad at small talk, at going along with the gang, with doing the routine and the pleasant.
The deep part of friendship? Got that down.
The light part of friendship? Not so good at that. More like a failure. I don’t know how to just be welcoming, pal around, do acquaintance things.
Lightness, I think, requires a kind of hope, a kind of projection. In a simple connection, everyone is a pal, everyone has the possibility of a bright future relationship. “I love you man, I really love you.”
Of course, most average friendships fizzle a bit, just sputtering along over decades. Only a very few move to BFF territory.
That finishing school of friendship. the lightness of eternal hope was take away from me very early. I had to be smart to survive, looking deep, staying moves ahead, hiding and protecting my tender and queer inner soul.
I tried manipulation for a while, but I was too honest for the game, It didn’t work for me, didn’t fit me, and it got in the way of finding honesty.
I read people and situations fast, and I read them pretty accurately. I’m good at deep.
That has always, though, made me crappy at light. It makes me very bad at first friend stuff.
Though I can be a great friend, I am really bad at just being an average friend. Most friendships start as average friendships and then deepen, so if you can’t do average, you can’t really get started on the road to something more.
As I look at events where I can meet people, I wonder if they are worth my effort. Will I make connections, find what I need?
If I can’t just be an average friend, just shooting the shit and blathering a bit, then the probability is that I can’t really make an average friend, make a friendship that might develop or might lead to other contacts through invitations and such.
Somehow, being average and pleasant has never been something I am good at. Smart and intense, with x-ray vision is much more my style. That can make you novel and amazing, but rarely makes you just one of the gal pals.
I still suspect Emerson was thinking about deeper friendship when he spoke abut being a friend, moving beyond the acquaintance stage, but his thought is clear on the other end, too.
The only way to have an average friend is to be one. Just be loose and get jiggy with it.
That’s not so easy for me.