For the past year, a good friend has toyed with the idea of joining an online dating site. The last time that she visited me we went on match.com and looked at other women’s profiles and men’s profiles, and then we composed her profile. Once she got home, though, she looked over the site again and decided that the men all looked old. She figured she’d go dancing instead.
This past week she contacted me about finally doing it. But when she found out that match.com costs $40 a month, she decided against it. A little later she said she’d join a free site. The next day she forwarded to me an article about friends who wrote each other’s profiles and asked if I would do that with her. Why not, I thought in a moment of positivity, feeling protected by the fact that I’m doing this more as a friend than as a woman who feels sidelined from the life of the world by sitting at home alone.
I must say, our profiles show that we are both women of wit, intelligence, and compassion. They are also, I hope, STOP signs to those 50-year-old men who have not learned that they need to wear their shirts in their profile pictures (even if they still have muscles), or who don’t understand that women don’t want to be revered for being the vessel of their longing, and certainly DEAD END signs to those men who, in the more than 30 years they should have been interacting with women as equals, still don’t get that we are not their mothers and that we don’t want to coddle their egos, we would much rather play snarky-comment ping pong.
Regardless of what happens on the dating end, her describing me in my profile as being “good at friendship” made this exercise absolutely worthwhile. We know our friends and we know that we remain friends because we have things in common, and we have what to talk about, and we care about each other, but how often do we come out and say it? When I told a friend at work about what my other friend said in my profile, she commented that she’s glad that she doesn’t have to be on dating sites and, “Yes, you are good at friendship.” So I thank her, too. Which leads me to what this exercise has made so clear: the more mature we get, the more content we get, the more we realize that this is because of our friendships. They are not the side-car to our main-car: we are all riding in a van that somehow keeps expanding to add more seats.
All day I watch my students develop their friendships in between my lessons. There is nothing that most of these teens would rather do than talk (or text friends) or do the teen version of snarky-comment ping pong. And while their ability to go to “outside voices” talking within a nanosecond of my turning around to get a handout, I have come to understand that we all desperately need someone to hear us. Love. It can be grand, but it is not the staff of life. No, that is in the pleasure in presence that is captured in getting together for Sunday morning brunch or Shabbat dinner or in calls to California. Friendships are the yard, the garden, the field from which all else can develop be it love or creations or strength.
When I was their age, I overlooked how important friendships were; they were merely there as a backdrop until true love would come galloping in. So silly. So much wasted time misconstruing life.
But back to love. I don’t know if I want love. Or maybe what I don’t want is the version of love that I have lived through. I wonder if my fathoming the importance of friendships will enable me to create a more balanced love when/if it develops in my planter?