Edge of Everywhere

Archive for October 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways relationships form and what keeps them going. Most relationships are initiated due to proximity–two people being in the same place at the same time, generally over an extended period of time. The internet has mixed things up a bit, so that we can meet people with similar interests whom we never would have encountered in real life, but we’re still more likely to become friends with our classmates, co-workers, and neighbors than with most people we don’t regularly spend time around.

What I’ve come to realize recently is that most relationships also require proximity in order to keep going; in other words, most of the friendships I’ve made through school, work, and other activities have been abandoned once I stopped going to school or working or doing whatever with those people. This has often happened despite the fact that we had a lot in common and really enjoyed each other’s company when we were involved in the same things.

Therefore, the necessary element when there isn’t proximity to keep the relationship going is work–both people have to have an active desire to work at maintaining the relationship. This means taking the time to keep in touch and get together. It amazes me how many friendships just fade away because people get busy and just don’t prioritize keeping in touch with their friends. Sometimes, both people are equally responsible; sometimes, one is willing to do the work and the other isn’t. There have been many times when I kept contacting and chasing down and trying to hang out with a formerly good friend, only to give up on the friendship after I finally realized that I was the only one trying. It was depressing to know that I would probably never hear from them again once I made the decision to stop trying.

In my next post, I’ll look at the different motivations behind working to maintain a relationship.

I’m going to try to get into the habit of posting regularly again. I have a lot of things I want to write about relationships, but right now I’m just going to share a pop culture observation.

I had heard about Britney Spears’ song “If U Seek Amy” and how the title is scandalously meant to sound like a word that can’t be said on the radio, but I didn’t actually hear the song until the other day. The verses make no sense because they’re about this Amy character, whose real purpose is just to be one letter out of four, and the chorus goes, “Love me, hate me, say what you want about me, but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.” Get it? I found this statement to be quite interesting. She’s certainly not the first celebrity to make a “love me or hate me” statement (the most recent that comes to mind is Lady Sovereign), but instead of telling the haters that she doesn’t care, or saying that it doesn’t matter because she’s rich and famous, or (as Lady Sov did) cursing them out, she brags about her sexual attractiveness. I think this doesn’t make a lot of sense and is kind of sad. Is that all Britney’s songwriters could come up with for her? That no matter what bad things people say about her, they are somehow negated by the fact that people want to have sex with her?

Over the past year, while my understanding of asexuality has developed, the way I think about all of my relationships has evolved as well.

You know how when people talk about dating, they often talk about “deal breakers,” the qualities or habits that make them call off (or not want to enter into) a relationship? These are often small, ridiculous-seeming things that they would never hold against a friend, but for some reason find unsuitable for a partner. Since I am not looking for one person to be my perfect everything, I find it possible to appreciate each person and relationship for what it is rather than holding any of them up to a highly specific set of standards for the “right” person and inevitably being disappointed.

But at the same time, I often end up disappointed anyway, because I’ve raised my standards for what I expect from each of my friends in terms of how they treat me and show that they value our relationship. I want each relationship to be meaningful and worth both of our time, and just as people who are dating often want to be clear as to whether they are “in a relationship,” I have found it increasingly necessary to know whether or not someone is my friend, and to see it as an all-or-nothing thing the way people view romantic relationships. I’ve developed my own set of expectations, of “deal breakers,” that I think most people wouldn’t apply to people they are “just” friends with. I don’t care if any given one of them is taller or shorter than I am or snores or likes the same sports teams, but I need to know that each of them is committed to the maintenance and growth of our relationship, and that they won’t drift away and abandon me whenever they’re in a romantic relationship. But my expectations have just set me up to get let down again and again, and then to let go. It really frustrates me that while it’s normal and expected for people in romantic relationships to discuss their relationships, I’m pretty sure that if I attempted to have a similar “state of the relationship” conversation with a friend who had disappointed me, I would be seen as crazy, as imagining myself as and/or wanting to be that person’s girlfriend, when that wasn’t the case at all. I don’t have a framework for making demands, for fixing things, because I haven’t earned that right by being their primary person–we never actually made a deal either of us is obligated to uphold. So instead, frustrated and insulted, I walk away, wondering why it has to be that way.