Jumping through invisible hoops, or making friends

S is one of my closest friends in Dallas. When I think back, the first time I ever thought, “Hmm, a kindred soul”, was when I found out that we both love Sting. Then there was nothing for a few months. This was followed by what is often one of the best phases in the process of establishing a friendship – a series of realizations that you have a number of things in common.

I am a boring person. But I’ve always thought of myself as a unique sort of boring person, with esoteric tastes in everything from food to movies. So it always feels amazing to come across another soul who shares even some of them.

From Sting, S & I went on to discover we also loved off-beat movies, BBC documentaries, cold weather (we’re fellow aliens in Texas, surrounded by idiots who jog shirtless at 3:00PM when they’re not driving around in convertibles), discussing half-baked theories of history & spirituality, hogging at Madras Pavilion (essentially tasty food cooked by someone else), laziness…To top it all, we are fellow insomniacs.

I believe that each of us has a few hoops, some critical, that we hold out for folks to jump through, before we start thinking of them as “friends”. With some friends, like S, the progression is clear. With others, it’s a mystery, how one proceeds from “I wouldn’t kill myself if I had to spend a ½ hour that person” to “This is the one person who can help me snap out of my Dumbledore-blues.”

Like so much else, friendship appears to be fraught with risks – an extremely complex process that can fall apart at any instant, and for the most trivial reasons. To continue with the S example – if he knew of my LOTR / Potter twin obsessions before he knew of my preference for overcast days, and if I knew of his sports mania before I let him convert me into a Tarantino fan, would we be the sort of friends we are today? There appears to be some sort of invisible threshold that, once crossed, suddenly makes us think of differences as endearing, rather than as annoying. Pain-in-the-backside type behaviors (inability to talk of little else during basketball season, waiting outside Barnes & Noble in the middle of the night to buy a kid’s book, health-food crazes, an interest in the politics of Zaire & nominations to the Supreme Court (honestly, who gives a damn?!), and so much else) suddenly become “that’s-what-makes-them-special” type qualities.

The one encounter that bumps people up from acquaintance to friend is the weirdest thing, though. Don’t remember what it was with S. With other friends, it ranges from a shared horror of amusement park rides to a single shopping spree where a now-close friend & I discovered a taste for things that we don’t ever see ourselves using, but find them irresistible all the same.

When I think about my friendships, the one feeling that’s common across all of them – ‘Who’d have thought?’

What started me on this maudlin train of thought? S is leaving Dallas. He’s moving to a better job in a colder place. The best of both worlds. Am very happy for him, and look forward to a free place to crash when I feel a need to escape this unbearable heat. Here’s to you, friend! Dallas will be drearier without you. But here’s hoping that you find another Sting fan or another Lakers-hater in your new city.


2 comments so far

  1. swami on


    Dont we all feel this way? 🙂 I am very picky about choosing friends too. Once we make friends with someone, we magically discount the same qualities that we might dislike in a stranger. We come up with biased justifications for those ‘special’ qualities.

    For a long time, my two main criteria for choosing a friend were 1) does s/he read any thing worthwhile (other than tabloids, that is) 2) Can s/he talk anything remotely erudite than superficial?

    Time has tempered most of my quirks and I now realise differences are as important as similarities.I have many friends who are unlike me, which actually makes them endearing. You say, ‘Who’d have thought?’ My thoughts, precisely.

  2. DoZ on

    I remember a Seinfeld joke about how people stop making friends after they reach the big ’30’. After your late 20s, you might still meet people you like, but you just stick to the friends you already have… The joke was funny when I heard it a few years ago, but as I relentlessly march towards 30, I live in dread of never making friends again… I’ve been getting almost fiercely protective of the friends I already have…
    I’ll be alright…just trying my darnedest to ignore the fact that am going to miss my good friend 🙂 But folks moving away only means one thing – one more friend to email 🙂

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