How Do You Do Friendship?

April 1

I think we can all agree that we've become pretty casual and relaxed these days. Nothing wrong with that – being casual and relaxed is good for us, right? We no longer have to stress over what time the dry-cleaner closes in order to pick up our starched shirts and pressed suits for work; or making sure we have a new pair of pantyhose in our desk drawer in case of a run. In some circles, polished and healed shoes are a thing of the past, and the majority of men, and a large percentage of women, agree that a woman can open her own door, thank you very much. Four letter words are used as a form of punctuation – no more "Excuse my French" before letting one fly. Some women have proudly adopted the moniker "bitch" – a term that once was a horrible and degrading insult (and to some, still is). We now sit in restaurants with our friends, lovers, partner's, or spouses talking loudly on our cell phones, and texting, while our companion sits silently looking around the room. This is all acceptable behavior today. The world, she isn't a changin' – she's changed!

My intention is not to pass judgment or to share an opinion on any of the above. Live and let live, I say. "When in Rome…" and I figure if I don't want to "…do as the Romans" then I'll keep my mouth shut and adopt Gandhi's teaching to "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Okay, so we've established an informal and nonchalant way of being in the 21st century. What's the big deal? Well, the big deal from where I sit is that this casual style we have embraced is bleeding into the hallowed areas of our lives effecting a lack of respect for our friends, and our friends time.

The connection, trust, support and respect we have with our friends is eroding away one indifferent baby step after another. It's become easy these days to renege on the commitments we make to our friends. Cancellations via email offering a generic excuse have become the norm. Arriving exceedingly late to meet a friend for drinks or dinner, offering no valid excuse or a sincere apology, is prevalent. Bringing along an uninvited guest or significant other without checking with your friend first - is not only inconsiderate, but can also be a waste of your friends' time for - who knows - there may have been something personal your friend needed to discuss with you, and you alone. Receiving a friend's email that contains three important questions, and only answering one in your reply because you didn't take the time to read his/her email carefully enough.

The worst abuse of my time happened with a close friend. She arrived 25 minutes late for lunch because she was texting with a family member. I asked if there had been an emergency, and her response was, "No, everything is fine. Just catching up." What?

And, finally, the elephant in the eatery – friends who arrive at the table, sit down, and the first thing they do is take out their cell phone and put it on the table. Now, there are good reasons for this e.g., your child or spouse is supposed to call you about something timely and important, or you're waiting for your doctor to call you back. I get it. I've been there. I've done it. But if that's not the case, and you're intention is simply to jump on every text, and pick up every call to chitchat about nothing - you're being disrespectful of your friends' time and eroding your friendship by breaking the connection and putting distance between you. Remember the golden rule? "Do unto others…"

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for casual and relaxed - just not when it comes to time - mine, and others. I'm not saying there are, on occasion, some good reasons beyond our control that make us late. The key words being: on occasion. Here, in Seattle, it's the traffic. All ways, always! In those cases all we can politely do is call ahead, explain, and apologize; and the next time we make a date with that friend – leave earlier, or choose a venue closer to home.

In closing, I have a question. We've cleverly turned the noun "lunch" into a verb. "Let's do lunch," we suggest! For the purpose of this piece I've turned friendship into a verb, and ask, "How do you do friendship?"

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