Masha Gessen on American friendships:
Russian friendships are much more emotional and intense than American friendships. When I moved back to this country five and a half years ago, it was like this sense of whiplash because I had a lot of friends here, but I had been absent for 20 years. I would get together with my friends, and then two hours later, our get-together would be over. I’m like, “Well, what was the point of that? Was that just to let each other know that we still exist?” Because you don’t really get into deep conversation until about four hours in and a number of bottles of alcohol. […] But if you’re going to really get down, it’s like a 3 a.m., 4 a.m. proposition. You can’t just have dinner and go home. […] It’s like lovers, even in this country, don’t really drift apart usually. You have to break up. You can’t just stop calling, and go from talking every day to talking every few weeks, and then forget about each other’s existence.
Friendships on TV always seem cooler than my friendships. Friends come over to each other’s houses unprompted, they poke fun of each other and make insightful personal commentary, they help each other enact absurd schemes.
Whenever I see this I’m like: am I doing it wrong? Is everyone around me friending it up better than I am? Are most female friendships really like the one on Broad City?
But looking around me, I don’t buy it. It seems like everyone is doing the same friendship song-and-dance as I am: occasional, pre-planned dinner hangouts, where each person gives their life update and then leaves at the end of the night.
Of course people might have different friendship preferences than I do. But if this is really how things are, then things are sad and a little hopeless for the kind of friendships I want, because the community I’m in has some of the most potential for those friendships I could imagine. Everyone works together, lives together, dates the same people, goes to the same parties. I’m pretty sure we have more than enough interconnectedness to make for a good sitcom. If we can’t nail friendship, what hope is there for everyone else?
This is now threatening to be a Medium post on millennial loneliness, but sometimes, it feels to me like the culture around me is both open and closed. Open, in that people will talk about their struggles and their mental health issues, even on semi-public forums like Facebook. But closed, in that for the most part, I feel like my interactions with friends exist behind an unspoken boundary that we’re not really in tune with each other, just getting brief glimpses into lives that are ultimately our own responsibilities.
I think the way to fix this is probably to try and set an example of the kind of friendships I want in order to promote a different friendship standard. In light of this, here are some inspiring friendship acts I’ve done:
- I have one friend with whom I regularly spend time watching mediocre YouTube videos and napping.
- I have one friend who I’ve known for a while and lives far away who receives and comments on daily, extremely banal thoughts that I have.
- I am currently planning to enact an absurd social scheme for one of my friends.
- This very blog post is actually a part of an epic blogging contest I’m having with a friend who suggested it to me as a healthy life distraction after I shared my woes.
And here are some things I in general endorse:
- Make fun of your friends.
- Spend time together with your friends passively being together rather than actively interacting.
- Ask your friends for favors.
- Send your friends unprompted updates about your life, and ask them unprompted questions about theirs.
- Be vulnerable.
- Ask a lot of personal questions.
- Drink together? I think this is probably helpful for setting the right emotional tone, but I don’t think it should be necessary.