Thursday, April 01, 2004


Friendships can be classified under several categories (some of them even overlapping). There are friends whom we hide nothing from and can truly be ourselves. There are also those whom we talk to about our problems or confide in. There are friends whom we hang out with every day, the specifics of which doesn't really matter as long as we're with them. There are even friends which we keep at a distance, since we fear knowing them too well or keeping them too close might ruin the relationship. And a lot of other types of friendships which we really don't dwell too much on, because "friendship" is more of an emotion and feeling rather than an intellectual exercise (although we can focus on the latter... but to me at least, there is something disturbing when you calculate too much or rationalize your friendships; would you stop being someone's friend if you came to the conclusion that it wouldn't be "convenient" for you anymore, or if you had nothing else to obtain from him or her?).

Lately though I've come to appreciate the kind of friendship that could easily be misunderstood. I mean when we talk about friends, the image we have is of someone always being there for us. A friend is someone whom we are frequently in dialogue with (even though words are not necessarily said), someone whom we can sense, someone tangible and "real" to us and not an abstraction. I think we can all appreciate that kind of friend, and it's perhaps one of the first bonds we establish with others, and perhaps in the end the one most cherished. But that's not the kind of friend I want to dwell on.

Ever since I started blogging, I've made new friends. Some have kept in touch (either personally, via email correspondence, or blog commenting). Others have gone. And then there are those whom you don't always "maintain" (i.e. email, meeting up with, etc.) and who don't always make their presence felt, but support you nonetheless. Right now my best example is Vern (although not necessarily only her... but right now she's the first one that popped into my head). We used to email each other frequently but that stopped. Yet she still reads my blog (and I hers). We don't necessarily make comments on each and every entry, but rather comment during the times we feel we actually have something substantial to say. I'd like to even extend this to a high school friend of mine, Tim. Tim and I haven't called up each other for the past four years. But either one of us can literally just show up at each other's house and be welcomed just like that. We don't necessarily chat whenever we see each other (aside from the hi's and hello's), but there's that kinship, and at times when you do need to have a serious talk, he'll be there, despite what's happened or what's changed over the years.

Now I'm not saying this kind of friendship is superior or better. It's just different. After all, the idealized friendship most of us have involves perseverance and maintenance (i.e. taking the time to catch up with each other's lives). But whatever this type of friendship lacks, it makes up for in trust (or faith, or even love as some would define it). There's trust that the other person would be your friend despite what's happened (in both of your lives) and what's changed (again, for both involved). Time, distance, and experience is not really a hindrance in this scenario. There's also no real need to continually "prove" your friendship with the other person (and many people, myself included, fall prey to this insecurity). Each one has their own space, and there's no pressure (make no mistake, I'm not necessarily advocating a pressure-free relationship; friends can make certain demands of each other and vice versa because of just that; we care about each other and what one does or does not do affects the other). All that we do and say is voluntary, and there's a certain "leap of faith" involved (after all, an insecure person would often ask themselves why he or she is still considered a friend by the other person despite all that he or she has done or not done).

Of course what I've described is not necessarily the scenario with Vern or Tim. This is, after all, just my perception. Perhaps Vern sees things differently (or some psychologists might even say this is just my projection of the relationship since I barely know Vern and haven't even met her in real life), or Tim has other reasons for his behavior (but since he doesn't know I even have a blog, we'll never know). But the theory still stands. It's great to have a friend who's still you're friend despite the apparent lack of "maintenance" on each of your part. And just because I greatly appreciate this kind of friend doesn't mean I don't appreciate the other kind of friendships that I have. Especially considering I'm insecure, and contact or dialogue is usually the easiest way we allay our insecurities (which takes the form of the friend who's always there for you or someone you freqeuntly talk to).


More of a follow-up that a totally new topic, insecurity plays a part in our relationships. I mean if the human person was totally secure in the other person (and with themselves), there'd be no need for contracts or promises. I mean if we had total confidence, we'd be like Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, who told his fellow conspirators that oaths were not necessary since their action was just and needed no coercion on each other's part. But there's always a certain level of mistrust or lack of faith. And many people also project their behavior to other people (i.e. I'd do this given the chance so he'll do it as well given the chance). The best we can come up with are social laws and universal ethics which we hope everyone follows, and in the event that they don't, someone will be there to enforce it.

I'm not saying that it's wrong to be insecure. We are, after all, human. But there is such a thing as being too insecure. And it's easy to get carried away with this; there's the parent who doesn't allow the child to do something on his or her own (due to either a lack of trust in the child's capability or a lack of trust on society in general), the jealous boyfriend or girlfriend who must always keep tabs on the other (Malcolm in the Middle said it best when the ever-logical Malcolm gave his girlfriend a pager to solve his insecurity rather than opting to give her the benefit of the doubt), and the couple who makes plans for their prenuptial contract (because they either have plans or expect the other to have plans for a divorce). But one must also remember that insecurity is an emotion. Just because we feel it does not mean we have to give in to it. Human beings are able to swallow a lot of emotions; their pride, their anger, their fear, sometimes even their hopes. Sure, we feel it, but it doesn't mean we have to give in to it. I mean I'm sure boyfriends and girlfriends don't have to call each other up each and every single night (although it helps). And it is pretty disappointing when couples get into a quarrel just because the other person didn't reply to his or her text message (and sometimes they're justified, such as being busy at the time because they're at work or having an exam).

Insecurity also manifests itself in our lifestyle that is not always apparent. For example, there's the boyfriend who always calls up his girlfriend and picks her up from school/work. On one side, the reason could be genuine concern and pleasure to see his significant other. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it might be just to make sure she's not seeing anyone else (and not having the opportunity to do so). But more often than not, it's a mix of both ("It won't hurt our relationship if others knew that I'm her boyfriend. And I have an excuse to see her as well!") There's also the whole chaperone and curfew system. Yes, they're part of society's norm, but they're also reflections of society's lack of trust with each other (again, I'm not saying these restrictions are necessarily bad... just pointing out some of the possible reasons [but definitely not the only ones] for their existence).

I'd like to end with the long-distance relationship. Many say it's impossible. It's not. Extremely difficult, perhaps. But impossible? Well, for starters, it takes a lot of trust and faith (which should be there in the first place). If you don't have a lot of that (note: not a lot means you have some of it), then you'll need to exert lots of effort and perseverance (some of which we aren't really willing to endure, but can endure, hence our conclusion that "it's impossible", when we actually mean "it's not worth the effort"). Having said that, I'm not saying everyone is willing to put up with kind of relationship. Some are easily distracted, others just not dedicated enough (because relationships are always a risk, and to expend such amounts of energy and effort to something so chancy might not be lucrative to some). And when I mention those two descriptions, I'm not really criticizing you. I mean people can be dedicated in certain things, but not all of us can be dedicated in everything. Some have a knack for this and that, others find this and that interesting enough that it's worth the sacrifice. The same goes for long-term relationships. Some have the tenacity for it. Only you can tell whether you have such zeal for the other person (although I must point out that if you're not willing to overcome this difficulty, what else in the relationship are you not willing to overcome?), and whether it's all worth it.

Of course my other consolation regarding long-distance relationship is that in this era, it's easier for people to communicate. Even if you're half a world away from each other, there's telephones, mobile phones, email, friendster... I mean half a century ago, all people had to depend on was letters and telegrams at best-- yet long-distance relationships worked (but obviously, a lot has also failed). But technology is a double-edged sword as well. It's also easier to get carried away by your own insecurity. One could request the other person to perpetually carry a webcam with him or her, or you could easily come in contact with a detective to follow your significant other around in the foreign country that he or she is in. And let's not forget mobile phones. Someone with a lot of money could conceivably call you every hour of the day just to check up on you (and let that be a lesson to you youngsters who are eager to obtain mobile phones from your parents... they're just as glad to give it to you as you are to receive them, because that way, your parents can track you down wherever you are and make sure you're up to no mischief).

A bit of insecurity isn't bad in our lives. After all, if we had none of it at all, we'd probably border on being arrogant. But too much can be as destructive as pride, anger, or hate. Learning to keep tabs on it can go a long way, especially when we have many (false) ways to allay our insecurities, a number of which offends the other person.


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