What is a friend? In ace communities, most of the time when we’re talking about friendships, it’s in order to differentiate it from other kinds of relationships, such as romantic or queerplatonic relationships. Of course, this puts a strong emphasis on the kinds of friendships that are most difficult to differentiate from queerplatonic/romantic/etc. It puts an emphasis on very close friendships.
I don’t form those kinds of friendships.
Wellll… there’s a big question mark at the end of that statement. It depends on what counts. There are many individuals that I’ve spent an extensive amount of time hanging out with, that I would consider close. But eventually, it slows down or we stop seeing each other–a change that suits me just fine, and does not cause me concern. Not to say that my time with my friends isn’t valuable, it’s just, there are other friends to be had.
And to the extent that I’ve had close friends, they are not representative of my friendships in general. The more common pattern for me, is to hang out with large friend circles. Within these circles, I’m a friend to all, but I’m not close to anyone in particular.
I think this might be a common experience–with many variations on the theme. We won’t know until we start talking about it!
Here are a few examples from my life:
- I loyally attended atheist student group meetings for 9 years, throughout undergrad and grad school. Nobody else does that; most people participated for one or two years at most. It was a constant stream of friend circle after friend circle, so this is really more like 9 examples rolled up in one. Sometimes I run into a few of them but we don’t otherwise keep up.
- I had a best friend who was a classmate in physics. We did all our homework together, and one time I stayed at his parent’s house. After graduation, I saw him only once, at his wedding.
- One year, I spent a lot of my idle time in the lounge of a queer-themed house. I would say I was friends with most of the people in the house, but only two of them would I actually consider close. I lay drunk on their floor more often than I’d care to admit, and we’d complain to each other about the rest of the house. We continued hanging out for a few years, and occasionally we still invite each other to board games–mixed with other friends.
- I dated a guy briefly, then broke up. We became friends again, and he introduced me to my current husband. He is currently our best friend, and we hang out every month or two. Although, I think a lot of that is more motivated by him and my husband more than me. One thing I really like about him is that he is great at friendship networking, and I am always meeting new people through him.
- One time I really hit it off with a guy, and we started hanging out for hours every day, with a third person, a girl. It collapsed after a few months; the girl suddenly disappeared because she got a boyfriend, and the guy and I slowly stopped hanging out after that. With more distance I realized that I didn’t actually like him, nor did I care for the experience of having such a close friend. I saw the girl one more time–ten years later, we had lunch together.
This is maybe a quarter of the stories I could tell about completely separate groups of friends, but it’s enough to get the picture. I form friendships with individuals, with groups, with individuals within groups, and with groups through individuals. And I’m a bit apathetic towards actually keeping up with friends.
If I were to place my friendships within Queenie’s five factor model of relationships, I would say they have low commitment and low priority, and varying degrees of intimacy. But what matters to me is time, not intimacy. I like spending time with a few close friends, but I also like spending time with lots of friends whose names I can’t quite remember.
So. Why am I telling you this?
Honestly, it’s because I want to complain about the way we talk about relationships, and I felt it was necessary to first establish where I was coming from. But I’ll leave those complaints for next time.