Not Hanging On So Hard

An article in The New York Times reports, “Most girls won’t admit this, but they’d rather you hit on their significant other than their best friend.” (New York Times, ST-2, October 26, 2014).  The article says the advice columnist Julie Klam says  (via the magazine Dame) “When she introduces two friends to each other who she thinks will bond, she says, ‘Now, you may not go off and be friends without me.’ And they laugh . . . and I say, ‘I’m not kidding. No shoppng trips or going out for a drink after work.'”

I read the story twice without believing it. And then I did. Of course, this is Screen-Shot-2013-03-26-at-12.41.36-PMfear-based thinking, which is driven by control. And if we lose control of our friends, no telling what will happen. We might be alone. Someone might have a better time than we are. Control is not the best foundation for friendship.

Friends come and go. Some last many years, some a few weeks. Friends are not obligated to check in with anyone to make sure they get approval of their lunch companions.

We don’t own our friends anymore than we own the trees in our yard. And that’s a great way to think of our friendship–like trees. Trees protect us from too much heat, and they require some care to thrive. They put down roots and allow us to stand on them to see the future. Trees change, and require work. So do friends. But we don’t own people anymore than we own the trees that other people see, enjoy and share the shade of.

Patrol your friends and you’ll spend your whole life watching for infractions, keeping spreadsheets on time spent and what it means. Friends don’t thrive all that well with rules, time-enforcing and feelings of ownership. They do better with understanding and introductions to other people in your life. Of course we all need to set boundaries, but a good friend will help you and understand you.

And that sounds like thriving all the way around.

—Quinn McDonald loves the trees in her yard as well as her friends, who have lots of other friends she doesn’t know. And that’s fine with her.



11 thoughts on “Not Hanging On So Hard

  1. Trees are a very useful metaphor: some stand out and are stunning alone and some need to grow close together. I feel sorry for the ones clipped into a hedge.

    If I were a tree I’d need to be able to move around!

  2. We don’t own our friends, they are wonderful additions to our lives, not possessions we own. I’m amazed anyone would have that mindset but I’ve run across people who think exactly that way. They are not in my life anymore.

    I’m so glad we are friends, Quinn. I love that we can have different ideas, opinions and viewpoints and still acknowledge and respect each other. You are a true bright spot in my life!

  3. Great post and a much needed reminder. This is a hot topic in my life. I choose activities that I enjoy and find sharing time with those who enjoy that same activity rewarding. The idea of owning does not always mean they or it will remain a treasure. Enjoy the time spent with friends and the time we spend with ourselves and consider both gifts.

  4. I’m struggling with a friend about this right now. He actually said (because we don’t hang out every week apparently) we don’t know each other. This after 10 years of friendship. Now I feel like I shouldn’t trust the connection I thought we had. You help me realize that it was about his need for control and validation, not proof that I have been a poor friend. Thanks, Quinn.

  5. Certainly you are aware that lots of folks believe and act as if they own the trees in their yard. Especially if there might be an apple or two or a peach on it.

    • One of my shocks when I sold a house with apple trees was that the trees no longer belonged to me. I now have two fig trees, and an orange, lemon and grapefruit tree as well. And each time I eat from any of them, I am reminded that I do not own the tree, but am the caretaker for a while. And that’s enough for me, and so is enjoying the fruit in exchange for pruning, watering, fertilizing and painting the trunks.

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