I made friends recently, with a kid in the after school program where I was doing my work practice. That isn't something I do very often. The end of the school year made me realize I would miss my new friend, and I had to think about the fact that this is an almost completely unfamiliar feeling to me.
And like... isn't that weird? Have I been misunderstanding how friendship works for other people all this time?
Usually, when I like people, it's positive but not especially dramatic. I feel better than neutral towards them; if I'm going somewhere and they're there, I'm like "Oh look, it's Eric, I'll go talk to him!" I associate time spent with them with enjoying myself. We've probably had some bonding moments where we connected about this or that and I approved of something about their personality.
If I'm sitting in a room with someone I know but feel totally neutral towards - a friendly acquaintance whom I have no cause to dislike - my feeling is just the same as if they were a complete stranger: I'd rather entertain myself than try to interact with them; my knitting, or Twitter on my phone, or doodling a picture are all more interesting to me (unless they suddenly do something to catch my attention like ask a question I can answer, or say something wrong that I can correct, or express an opinion about a tv show that I'm a fan of).
People that I like are more interesting to me than the very slim possibility that a new fic in my fandom has been posted to AO3 in the 2 hours since I last checked, or than checking Twitter just in case something happened, or than knitting and staring into space. (Not more interesting than, like, a fic that I already started if it is good enough to finish.) Basically, a person that I like, similar to a food that I like, is something that I definitely prefer to the average options. I would always rather talk to a classmate that I like than to a classmate whom I'm neutral towards, even if the classmate that I like seems a bit introverted right now and the neutral ones are having a conversation and laughing softly and if the person I like wasn't there, curiosity would be sufficient to motivate me to go see what they're talking about.
There were several people that I liked in my Finnish class that ended in March, and at the end of class I was a bit sad about the end of our association, even sad enough to idly toy with the idea of whether we should meet in a coffee shop some time, before concluding that we probably didn't have enough common interests to sustain a friendship outside the context of forced proximity. In the context of the class I'd call those people "friends", but in life at large I'd probably downgrade them to friendly acquaintances (or buddies, mates, pals - kaverit[fi] or kompisar[sv]) to differentiate them from the more permanent kind of friends who come to your house and stuff.
In my entire childhood up to age 18, the number of friends I'd liked enough to really and truly miss, to be actively sad in my day-to-day life about their absence now and then, was five: three adults, including my "spiritual big sister"; two age mates, both important enough to me to fly halfway around the world for their weddings. That's it. That doesn't even cover all the people who at one time fulfilled the role of best friend (although after age 13 that was just guinevere33
). And I don't mean these are the four people I miss now
. I mean that aside from them, in my entire life, when a friend left it, I never really felt the lack beyond a kind of 'Eh, too bad about that' sort of thing. It never touched me emotionally. Of course, I also have had actual friends who came to my house and who shared common interests with me and stuff in that time; it's not like everybody except my very best friends has been a mere friendly acquaintance, just that when those friendships ended, the disappointment was mild and fleeting, not a significant event. The meaning of the word 'like' is probably the same for buddies and friends, just that in the case of friendship it's built into a relationship with shared history and interests and exchange of expectations and that sort of thing. Ultimately, I like friends more than I like acquaintances, but there doesn't seem to be a qualitative difference to me.
It strikes me that this seems unusual. I get the impression, from literature and movies and the way people talk and fanfiction, that other people mean something more emotional than I do, something more like the latter, when they talk about friendship. It seems like a higher level of emotional involvement is implied, or just that a higher percentage of most people's interpersonal connections include that qualitatively different emotional connection that made me cry when I met my ex-piano teacher for a brief lunch after six years without any contact, and she described struggling with her divorce. The bond of caring and empathy was still there; her feelings mattered to me deeply, and I felt horribly helpless, enough that a happy mood was dimmed for several days of serious concern. (She's fine now, that was years ago.)
I've calculated that, removing family from the calculations, I've gotten emotionally attached to people an average of once per 3.4 years of life.
So several possibilities occur to me.
- Other people feel this emotionally attached to lots more people, as a matter of course. Because they're used to having feelings about other people, they're able to avoid reacting like Spock in "The Naked Time" when they have to feel sad because of their attachment to other people.
- Other people don't feel emotionally attached that much more often, but sometimes it seems like they do because they experience smaller, more transitory daily variations in mood more than I do, or they just use more emotional language to talk about it.
- I have formed fewer such emotional attachments than I would have were I involved in more social interactions, because I make few social connections. Without the social interactions the emotional connections have simply not had a chance to form. Their occurrence is some percentage of social connections, which is not that unusual for me as compared to other people.
- I have formed fewer emotional attachments than I would have were I simply less guarded/reserved in my social interactions, because I am wary of situations that might cause emotions to arise.
Actually, I'm not completely sure if I've wandered from the point or not, so I'll stop now. I will probably need a day at least to get unlost at this point.