Monday, September 24, 2007

Grieving Friendship

I write this without a particular provocation, except that I saw several parts of the Brideshead Revisited miniseries, a month or so ago, and it brought this topic to mind. In the book/miniseries (I'm proud to say I did read the book, no matter how Raoni and Mike derided me for reading a "romance novel"), our narrator, Charles Ryder, recounts meeting the amazing Sebastian Flyte, their "friendship," the demise thereof, and other ensuing events.

Of course, the demise is the part I aim to say something about. Flyte falls into a very serious depression, which he, like the best of us, self-medicates (as they say spitefully) with the most immediate agent, alcohol. Ryder deeply loves his friend, but nothing he can do affects recovery. Although I read the novel without difficulty, the miniseries was too much for me, and I have yet to watch past that fifth or sixth episode (of thirteen).

But I'm kind of a softy. I watch horror films with my hands over my face.

The idea of the demise of a friendship is particularly difficult for me, although I wish I knew why. Of course, here I mean my male friends, not my female friends. The issue is pointed for me because I grew up, practically, with two women, and so I was somewhat starved for the attention of other males. I needed to know what I was supposed to be feeling and thinking. I needed the recognition of others. And I needed the unique desire of a male friendship.

Perhaps it is not surprising that I have more female friendships. Which means, really, that I tell them more. That I can count on them and that their support is vital to me. But again, these male friendships are vital, although I am not able to tell them much. And my two closest male friends both live in other countries. These days, I see them perhaps once or twice a year, and sadly not for very long. Despite this distance, these friendships are very much alive, I think ... and perhaps I like my closest friends at a distance.

So of friendships I've mourned: how did I lose them? One, I missed his wedding because of a conflict. Another, I simply haven't spoken to in years, but our last encounter I was pretty haughty. Another, distance, circumstance. Another, I dated his ex-girlfriend.

God, have you seen the images that appear when you type "friendship" into Google Images? Sad.

Losing a friendship is a harder loss, but it is never felt as such. The end of romantic relationships usually occurs dramatically. Which is not to say that there are not dramatic ends to friendships (of the likes of Heidi and Lauren on "The Hills," zum Beispiel). But I tend to think those were friendships not meant to be, anyway. Losing a friendship, like in the case of Ryder and Flyte, is about the slow deterioration, which is arguably worse. The level of confusion is more severe, precisely because there is no immediacy to underline the symptoms. Even the simplest, friendships lost because of circumstance: those are just wanings because the practical conditions are no longer there. But the common idealistic sense of friendship cannot comprehend this kind of thing. And the last thing we want to realize is that our friendships were chance affairs.

The elephant remains in the pitch black room.


Doctor J said...

Beautifully written and oh-so-true post.

I have resolved several times to "keep in better contact" with friends, but I'm still not that good at it. Academia's hard... it spreads the closest of friends all over the world, which forces them to constantly make and re-make just the kind of resolutions that are difficult to keep.

I don't keep in contact with most of my (romantic) exes, but I don't regret that nearly as much as friends that have faded from my life.

By the way, friend, we should catch up sometime soon...

Doctor J said...

okay, so I put the ix-nay on Memphis posts for a while.

now I've gotten all serious on my blog. so you better show some r-e-s-p-e-c-t.