Monday, August 25, 2008

Unrequited friendship

The other day one chap I knew buzzed me on IM. We spoke for about five minutes and then I was desperately grasping at conversational straws punctuated with a whole lot of “What else is happening?” from his side. (WHY do people keep on prolonging conversations with ‘what else’s’ and ‘aur kyas’. There should be a statute on the number of “what else’s” that can be spoken in any one conversation).

And I realized with a slight shock, how little we really had to talk about anymore. Three lines, five minutes and that was pretty much the sum of it. Beyond that, it was agonizing, but there was this sense of obligation, almost like I owed it to him, or owed it to the memory of some good times we HAD shared, to have a chat which was more meaningful than just the perfunctory inanities we had swapped.

This was a person, a colleague; I was reasonably friendly with about six- seven years ago. We met at one of those office conferences (we were from different cities).He is a terribly (and I use the word terribly intentionally) nice guy who had lent many sympathetic ears when I was going through a particularly nasty patch (life, heart, and work – mostly work) in my life.

So we used to exchange mails, text messages and phone calls once in a while, where I would whine, crib and rant as I did with other friends. But the strangest thing happened, the minute I left that particular job (and life went somewhat back on track), I suddenly and quite completely ran out of things to say to him. And I am very ashamed to admit it, but I completely ran out of the desire to talk to him as well. (In my defence, the conversations tended to revolve only around the ex-job and how much fun we had at the conference. The former I didn’t want to speak about and the latter had pretty much outlived its shelf life.)

And now, six years down the line, he still talks about that job and that conference. And I have moved on, had many more ‘fun’ experiences, changed some, learnt some, forgotten some. I am sure he has changed too. But somehow, our conversations don’t seem to be able to take that leap and transition beyond those not-so-wonder-years as I have done with other friends or even acquaintances from that era and other eras.

The odd meetings which we have had have been excruciating – with these vast voids of silences which are awkward as hell.

So that brings me to the question of what to do with this, or should I do anything at all? A friendship based on the foundation of force majeure is hardly good news. But then I think that he DID listen to me rant ad nausea so I should have the decency to talk to him. And then I think again, that how long I will keep on paying the price for the support which he gave me and that I owe it to myself to stop prolonging something which I don’t enjoy anymore.

Whichever conclusion I land on, I end up not liking him too much, and myself, even less.

The truth is friendships like love, can grow yes, but it can also grow apart. Some stand the test of time – from the initial euphoria of getting to ‘fall in kinship’ with someone to a more mature, stable, relationship which has morphed, moved, grown and solidified as the two individuals have changed

Some unfortunately don’t survive this – falling out of friendship as it were. Usually when that happens, the two individuals will gradually and naturally fade out of each other’s life and meet after a period of time and wonder about how they were friends. A sense of wistfulness sometimes, but very little regret. Other times, there are circumstances which force two people apart (travel, marriage, vastly divergent monetary and intellectual attainments – where it becomes very difficult for one to catch up with the other). And some just sour – a fight, a misunderstanding and that irrevocably ends it for once and for all.

But its cases like this. When there is very little left in common, but there are some memories of a relationship that was. Where one person has fallen out of kinship and the other has not, this strange state of 'unrequited friendship'. How long can one flog the memories and when should honesty come in?


Akshaya Kamalnath said...

So true.
And 'force majeure'....are you a lawyer?

Epiphany said...

Everything does have a shelf life...but you can't make people realize it I guess..they need their own time for it...wokay...need to think up a morbid post now ;)

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I know! Its happened to me too.

BlueMist said...

I can understand abt those "what else" type conversations.
But this is scary and left me thinking !!

I wouldn't attribute such relationships as "Friendships"!! Probably I guess that's why my collegues have been just "collgues" all these years. they never graduated to friends level.

and yes such relationships come with an expiry date ; but not the real friends !!

shub said... point in carrying on a friendship when it feels like a farce...or doing it just for old times' sake. Of late, especially on IM I've begun to feel this huge void in conversations with people I could relate to much better a few years back - like you said there's only so many "so what else is happening?" that you can punctuate your conversations with. Then it becomes awkward. Explains why I don't even do IM these days.

And who was it who said it's better to burn out than fade away? He was right.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

akshaya - lawyer? heck no. not even close.

epiphany - its like prolonging the play after the curtains are down. one needs to just move on i guess. problem is this particular one the chap in question doesnt seem to know that its three or four years after shelf life is done. sigh.

nandini - im glad to know that, honestly. coz whenever i think about it i feel like a really terrible person. so misery likes company and all that.

bluemist - absolutely bluemist. most of my colleagues have not made the transition to friends either. but i reckon it happens with friends as well, though probabaly not really close friends. i know a couple of people i was pally with in school, i have not too much in common now. we just grew up with different values etc.

shub. yus me too. taken to lurking. the dilemma especially when the other person is nice is why do that to him/her. hmmm.

Pinku said...

hmmm....uncomfortable situation surely. But ever tried getting into the present with such guys? as in telling them what u do now...or better still ask what they do. how work is and what their future plans are?

Atleast u will not be fumbling with different ways of saying aur kya?

Princess Fiona said...

can totally identify with your post and have often been in the same boat..
i resort to 3rd rate tactics to get myself out of it...after the statutory number of "and what else" or "give me some news", i just say "boss in room, gtg" or "phone..brb" :(
i felt bad so much!!!

manuscrypts said...

contextual friends :) wrote about it sometime back .. check it out

Trinaa said...

kasam 'what else' n 'aur bolo' is highly irritating...
..pity slamming the phone down voilently is frowned upon ;)

Roop said...

So what else is new?

Lekhni said...

The first "What else" means, to me, that the conversation has ended! I cannot imagine myself finding much in common with ex-colleagues either..

Cynic in Wonderland said...

pinku - yus tried. but it ends up damn stilted. and i guess unless there is a genuine connection and interest, the conversation still ends up being stilted.

fiona - i do that too. all the time. but then i feel terrible about it. wish the other person wasnt nice you know. that helps minimize the guilt.

manu - fellow sufferer eh?

trina - isnt it? one is just cringing thinking ok just hang up now pls.

rimzie - what else is new to you too.

lekhini exactly and imagine a conversation composed almost exclusively of what elses. yus by and large dont have too many colleagues who have made the friend cut. but there are a couple. but then i guess we neevr ever behaved like colleagues. hmm

a million different people said...

Any "What else?"s directed at me merit only a "Nothing much; I think I need to go" and nothing more.

narendra shenoy said...

Deep, ma'am, deep! Great post as usual.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

a million different people - what do you do if it comes up very early in the conversation?

thank you naren.

Anonymous said...

But how awesome it is, when it is the other way round! I have moved physically away from my friends; but as I called them after some years, i knew exactly why they and i had become friends to begin with.

But it too was force majeure, i think!

Anonymous said...

I was quite impressed with what you have written here.
I have been going through this myself HOWEVER I feel it is me that is on the receiving end of the unrequited friendship. It has plagued me for a while, and I cannot shake this unending feeling of a loss overwhelming.
For my part though the frustrating element is this is all over someone I have not physically met.
At the end of the day, the fact remains that I became tremendously close to someone and now, it is though my friendship is an inconvenience.
Added to this is the geographical limitations of it all.
I am naturally a talker, and am very open and honest. In most cases if I have an issue with someone, or someone has an issue with me, then I can talk my way through to an amicable solution.
In this case, I have to rely soley on the internet. I cannot even pick up a phone to call. And even that would be referable to IM's as at least that way I would be able to impart some tone into my message.
I fear though that with the onset of the internet age, my problem will no longer be an isolated one, and more and more people are turning to IM to engage socially.
Consequently friendships can be turned off as easily as a press of the button.