At least once or twice a year I give thanks that I’m not in high school anymore, and that aside from my next lifetime I won’t be going back.
Usually this is incited because I have a dream where I can’t open my locker.
Over and over the numbers don’t tumble into place, and the lever won’t lift. The anxiety accompanying the vision is horribly familiar. It’s as if the locker holds an atomic bomb and I’m seconds away from a gang of angry friends torpedoing my adulthood.
When I wake up, it’s in a rush of old age gratitude.
Thank you, butt that’s drooping to my ankles, thank you for being too old to get me into friendship trouble.
It takes conscious presence to listen and employ friendship qualities honorably. In love relationships, there is an expected payback. In friendships, we are desiring community—interaction for the sake of interaction.
As a kindergartner, I raced to school, making friends without a checklist. I didn’t need to know whether we voted the same way, if our parenting styles were from the same rulebook, what God we did or didn’t pray to or whether our husbands liked each other.
Mysteriously, in adolescence a nature or nurture attitude surfaced, which predicated social relationships upon more than sharing a box of crayons. It was obvious there were unspoken rules to maintaining friendships, and I needed a decoder ring.
It has taken me nearly to the point of my middle ages (I plan on dropping dead at 113), but I’ve catalogued 7 foolproof ways to kill a friendship:
1. Weights and Measures.
Evens Stevens in friendship relationships is mandatory, the same as interactions with adult children. The person hogging every conversation with stories about their boring job will become the ball in dodgeball.
2. Graphic Details.
This is true across the board. No one wants to know the things we wish we didn’t know about our own lives. Too much sharing is, simply, too much.
We can keep favorite sex positions, the color of our underwear, the insane urge to drive a car into oncoming traffic and the practice of cutting our toenails in public in the vault.
3. Never Saying I’m Sorry.
Waiting until the other person forgets an argument is not a strategy; it is hiring a hitman for a friendship. However, if that’s the objective, go for it.
4. Tell the Truth… Mostly.
This is an area requiring nuance. Announcing that I’m behaving like a two-year-old is important information to receive from my grey-haired best friend. However, I don’t want to be told the shirt I’m wearing is reminiscent of the wardrobe from the Roseanne show, that my kid is a brat, the house I live in unkempt, the color choice for my kitchen ugly or that I spit when I talk (I already know).
Sharing these opinions brings to life the high school locker nightmare—it isn’t friendly, even when it’s coming from a friend.
5. Do Not Become Besties With Your Bestie’s Mate.
Absolutely never, under any circumstances, be more than a polite conversationalist with a companion’s significant other.
Not only will this destroy a friendship, it could bust up a tenuous marriage, and will bring forth a label of “bad-friend-homewrecker.” Might as well ostracize from the human tribe with body odor.
6. The Gossip Girl Guillotine.
Talking in a snarky fashion about other people sends a signal that we can’t keep our mouths shut and implies that there is no line we won’t cross for a good story.
Unfortunately, I’ve mid-sentence caught myself doing this exact thing because I’m addicted to a rapt audience. As far as I know there isn’t a Gossip Girl’s Anonymous, otherwise I’d be attired in a Roseanne outfit with shame-pinkened cheeks at a meeting.
Honor a distinct line. Be considerate and caring, or use a guillotine image to disconnect vocal cords from the ejection mechanism.
7. Don’t Expect to Agree on Anything.
Politics, religion, parenting styles, mate interaction, the best brand of detergent and how to relate or not relate to aging parents are simply individual viewpoints based on nothing remotely resembling science.
Never expect your personally developed common sense to match someone else’s—it’s not supposed to. We are each engaging in our own struggles and conscious or unconscious experience.
These aren’t the only methods to wind up staring listlessly into a coffee cup at Starbucks alone. Never making eye contact with strangers, intentionally overlooking someone’s attempt at connecting, entire days engaged in one-way only conversations and believing there is not enough room in a “have to” list existence will all lead to a narrowed and rather benign focus.
Friendships are the connection to our global tribe. Engaging with people different from ourselves, for an extended period of time, is soul and mind enriching.
All my high school friendships are in the nightmare locker, except one. Monica and I were there for each other at a time when our brains didn’t necessarily understand the importance of friendship.
In my next high school lifetime, I hope we stumble across each other again.
Author: Deb Lecos
Editor: Toby Israel