Dear Friends: past, present, and future:

I’ve come to a realization, lately.  And it’s not a pretty one.  Most of you only want to be my friend in three situations:

  1. When you need support or help.
  2. When I’m right in front of you.
  3. When we’re alone.

I wish I could say, you know who you are.  But you DON’T!  Some of you have NO CLUE that you’ve been treating me like this.  Now, I am not innocent in this.  Some of you, I’ve just let you do it.  I’ve never told you it bothers me or that I think you’re doing this.  Others I have called on it and, well, I’m sorry to say it’s not getting better.  And yet others, I have reciprocated similarly until recently.  I have made an earnest attempt to change my behavior and be a better friend to those I was treating badly and have tried to tell those culprits who are by far the worst perpetrators of these attitudes how I’m feeling.

But that’s not been working.  And I know several of you read my blog and those that don’t, well, that’s not my fault.  I put it up on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s not my job to make you invest in my life.

What is my job is to be your friend every day.  That is what I strive to do and what I would like to continue doing.  I hope you, as my friend, will join me in this quest to be friends every day (and no, that does not mean I expect to hear from you EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES).  But, for those of you who insist on doing one of the above three things, things are going to be a little different from now on.

  1. I will not be able to emotionally invest in your problems or be your advice machine until the time comes that a) you will do the same for me reliably and b) I hear from you in other situations.
  2. I will be politely interested in your day to day life, but will no longer work so hard to remember the fiddly little details across weeks and months or send you the little gifts or messages that let you know I’m thinking of you until a) you will do the same for me reliably and b) demonstrate an ability to consider my existence outside our face to face conversations.
  3. I will happily spend time with you in the company of multiple individuals, but I will no longer reserve personal time for you (in my apartment or one-on-one time in a public arena) until you demonstrate a desire to have me part of all your life.

Now, I don’t expect you to just magically figure out how this is going to work now.  I really don’t know myself.  We’ve been in bad patterns for years and it’s time to break them.  Here are some ideas for each behavior:

  1. Text me or call me when awesome things happen in your life.  I’ll be so much more willing to be there during the tough times if you include me in the good ones.  Step up from there: text me or e-mail me on the boring days.  Or the embarrassing ones.  Or the silly ones.  I really do not get tired of hearing about your life.
  2. A similar solution to problem one is a solution to problem two.  When something reminds you of me (like an article on reddit or buzzfeed), e-mail it or text it to me!  Or to the ten people who you think will appreciate it.  I will not be offended that I am one of several.  When I occur to you, let me know.   Every time I run across your mind will be a bit much, certainly, but nothing is wrong with letting me know you’re thinking about me once every five or six times.  Sometimes this will turn into a conversation.  Other times not.  THIS IS OKAY.  Seriously, people, this is not hard.  YOU CAN LIKE MY STATUS ON FACEBOOK OR FAVORITE A TWEET AND THAT’LL BE A SIGN!  Step up from there: call, e-mail, or text me with the INTENT to have a conversation.  Make it happen, even if it’s only a five minute one.
  3. Introduce me to your friends.  I don’t expect I’ll become their best friends or even their good friends, but I want to know the people in your life.  Your family, other people who are your friends!  I don’t want to feel like you’re ashamed to be my friend.   I want to feel like I am part of your life.  Even if I meet your family or friends ONCE and that’s it, that’s enough for me to know you appreciate me enough to include me.  But don’t parse out our friendship and act like you and I can ONLY be friends in a one-on-one situation and never a social one.  And if you’re doing this because I’ve botched a social situation: TELL ME.  I won’t be offended.  I will ask for details so I can do better in the future, but I won’t be angry.  And then, please, have the patience to try me out again in a group situation.   Step up from there: organize a night specifically to introduce not just me but MANY of your friends to each other.  We’ll find some people we like, we’ll find some people we’ll be glad not to interact with, we’ll find some people right in the middle.  No one has 100% success in keeping their friends friendly.

Okay.  There’s the letter.  It’s an open one, so there may be changes along the way.  I may decide that I’m still okay with one-on-one time with you number threes, so long as there’s public time, too.  I may decide to boot some of you to the curb.  Done.  No more. I can’t deal with it.  I have good hope, however, that this will not be the case.  I’d like very much to keep as many of you as friends as possible.

But what I will not do to keep you around is sell myself short again.  You are my friends.  You care about me.  Or, I hope you are and do.  If this is the case, I will no longer accept *implied* friendship.  I’m going to need you to tell me at the very least.  Maybe, one day you’ll do one step better and SHOW me.

Certainly, I will do my best to continue to do so on my end.

But my friendship is no longer a guarantee.  You’re going to have to give some as well.