I think there are many situations in life where we’re put with a group of people and you kind of have to choose the best of the bunch to socialize with. It starts in school, happens in university, and then continues in every work place. It happens at parties, weddings, training sessions…basically everywhere. Now I’m not saying that every person you meet is just the ‘best of the bunch’, that sounds just like a consolation prize. Every now and then you meet someone who is your kind of friend soulmate. I met mine in a work place about 7 years ago and no matter how much distance has been between us (I’ve moved a lot) she’s always been there. But sometimes your school or workplace doesn’t have that shining savior who is going to make every lesson or shift bearable or even enjoyable. In those situations you choose the person who you can get along with and you make it work.
The problem with those ‘make it work’ relationships, no matter how good they are, is that there’s always an element of unfamiliarity. Sure you may know their favorite color, or what kind of food they like to eat, but how much do you really know about them?
I’m currently in this kind of situation. I’ve known this friend for about 2 years and we’ve been pretty close for about a year and a half. I know many things about her but I know that I’ve been avoiding finding out those personal details which change someone from a ‘work-friend’ to a ‘close-friend’.
On a fundamental level we are very different people. Part of this is no one’s fault. She is hyper-christian from the Bible-belt of America. I am…I have no idea what religion…from the very satirical UK where religious jokes are galore. With this one difference comes a lot of boundaries and that’s where the friendship is stopped from developing.
I feel like I’m on my guard, unable to fully be myself because I’m putting a filter on my jokes, on my likes, even on my stories about family and friends.
“Let’s watch a movie,” she’ll say.
It’s a great idea except for the fact she won’t watch movies with… violence, sex, crude jokes (and her tolerance for them is very low).
I end up searching for a family animation to watch because it’s safe.
We’ll be joking around and there will be a prime opportunity for a joke about religion. If I was with my UK friends, I’d crack the joke and we’d laugh about it. Here I have to let it slide. See, I’m wasting my talents.
Now these differences haven’t really affected anything…until recently. I figured I knew her pretty well, and things I didn’t know I kind of just assumed. I’m open to differences, I reckon I’m pretty understanding and willing to discuss and debate. However, recently she’s said a few things that have shaken the core of our friendship.
I’ll preface by saying that it wasn’t earth-shattering. She didn’t admit to being a cannibal or to secretly enjoying running over old people. Nothing that crazy…well, crazy but not that crazy.
First: she said that she’d voted for Trump.
I didn’t get involved in this. Sure, I’m concerned about him running one of the most powerful countries in the world – but it’s not my country and I’m not fully educated on his policies and everything necessary to build a convincing argument.
Next: She told me that…*big breath*… she doesn’t believe in global warming.
I knew that there were some non-believers but it’s as though my brain didn’t really believe they actually existed. My head froze, my mouth didn’t know what to say. I wanted to ask…’What’s there to believe in? It’s fact.’ This may sound harsh but…she’s able to believe in a magic man in the sky but not scientific fact about global temperatures? (Disclaimer: I am not saying that God isn’t real.) Further to this, it worried me more because she’s a teacher.
I blew it off. If there’s one thing that I’m sure of it’s that she’s not the kind to change her opinion. I won’t be working with her much longer so I figured I could let it go.
Finally: Her classroom is studying Mexico, there’s a Mexican flag one side of her class and she has her home state flag up on another side. I was a fool, I let down my guard, and made a joke about putting a wall between the two. I thought it was funny and I know my close friends and family would have laughed. I really kick myself for thinking I would have had a good response from her.
She half laughed then added, “but I support the wall.”
Oh, pants. What had I started? I hoped that would have been the end of it, but no. She continued adding terms like ‘those people’ and I could hear the glass around our convenient friendship cracking.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s been a great friend, very reliable and supportive, and we’ve definitely had some fun times. But how long can a friendship last when you’ve got a child-friendly filter on your words, your hobbies have to change, and you can’t talk about some of your friends because you don’t want to have to risk any homophobic comments?
On the flip side, she may be feeling exactly the same. Maybe she dislikes that I can’t join in with her Bible study sessions, and I know for sure she dislikes when I curse. Perhaps I’m also her convenient friend.
Do you have some convenient friendships? Have you ever wondered how much you know about them or, like me, are you avoiding finding out because it may demolish anything that’s already been built?