Adult Friendships Are Tough

Have you ever encountered a celebrity, in real life, without their makeup, expensive couture digs, and entourage? Living in New York City this has happened to me a few times and it always progresses through the same stages:

  1. That person looks familiar. Did I go to school with them?
  2. No, not school. They’re from that thing on TV!
  3. Geez, they look nothing like they do on that thing on TV.

The last part is not said with disappoint or ridicule. They look like regular human beings, as they should. It’s just such a severe departure from the the persona they’ve widely presented and it takes time for me to adjust. I’ve had that happen a lot lately. Not just with celebrities but with people that know personally. Those moments when they reveal something or some part of themselves and I have that moment of “Geez, you look nothing like you did on that thing on TV.”

We all know these people. They live in the extremes. Either they present a facade of perfection when there’s really a collection of absolute hot mess going on in the background OR instead of presenting a farce they go completely Men In Black and you never hear or see from them until things are relatively stable again. “Who me? I’ve been gone for 7 years? Strange.” In either situation, I always wonder…what’s the big deal with the mess?

What is there to hide, really? Is it shame? Is it a desire to not appear weak? Is it jealousy? Depression? I struggle with this aspect of friendship because for the most part I’m a really open person. When things aren’t good I’m totally comfortable with saying that London bridge is falling the heck down. When they’re awesome I love to share it and celebrate the peaks in life. But I struggle to maintain relationships with those who don’t do the same.

Listen, I know there are some nuisances to this. I was raised in the “Don’t put your business out in the street” era so I totally understand keeping your cards close to your chest. But I think this has been taken out of context and a bit too far. What I believe is important is that we don’t allow our lives to become shows that people tune into daily for entertainment. You shouldn’t create an audience to misery. Audiences are not helpful. Spectators rarely step in to stop the show. Voyeurs will move on without pause, whether you lose or win, once the curtains close. This is something we all want to avoid. However, you don’t avoid it by shutting the whole theater down.

I’ve watched people abandon their closest friendships. Smile and laugh in public and then drown the pain later in private. Shut out their dearest family members because of pride. Or shame. Recluse by choice because admitting hurt is more painful than the living of it. What brand of brokenness is this? Where we claim to have such closeness, intimacy, and connection with others but become distinctly disconnected when we need support the most?

No, you should not be sharing with the audience. But how about sharing with the orchestra? The people who are down in the front, working right along with you, adding to the soundtrack of your life. They would be instrumental in changing the tune of your situation, boosting your mood, or at the very least keeping the audience distracted while you do a quick wardrobe change and get back right.

I’m personally fed up with seeing relationships that can bear awesome fruit, wither and die because we can not communicate during those tough times in life. It’s a filter that I’ve learn to remove as I get older.

Smile when it’s true.

Ask for help when it’s due.

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