By Yang Siqi (17A01C)
“I love trash-talking people I perceive to be inferior to myself, in an extraordinarily pretentious way.” “What! Me too!” It could be as simple as that – the formation of a friendship. All of us probably have people close to us, not related by blood, but often sharing common interests and ideals. It seems almost natural to fall into tandem with like-minded people, and the idea of companionship, of trust and reliance, has been around for ages.
We place such importance on friendship precisely because we’ve formed close emotional bonds with people who otherwise hold no claim over us – people who would otherwise remain strangers. Many of us have things we’d rather tell our friends than our parents, perhaps because the former share attitudes similar to our own, in contrast to our parents’ more traditional mindsets, or simply because we feel more comfortable with them than we do with our parents. Friends, after all, would not command us to revise every night or help do the dishes. Some who have tumultuous family ties seek comfort in friends, outsiders who nevertheless become closer to them than those whom they share biological ties with.
However, as quickly as friendship is formed, the bonds between two people can be broken just as easily. It could be a careless word spoken: “I told you weeks ago you should have gone on that diet.” Or: “Why is it that you can never average more than a C? Are you even trying?” At times, we are grateful for our close friends’ candour. But honesty has its place – these sentences may come off as insensitive because they deal with topics which have been worried upon privately, in the recesses of our minds, and unfeelingly exposing them may distress us more than we might think.
Slowly, these friends start to seem less endearing to us. Every word they speak, or every gesture they make, grates on our nerves a little bit more. We learn to treat them with indifference. The friendship quietly disintegrates. Instead of culminating in a spectacular argument, more often than not the ties are deliberately unknotted and people who were once thick as thieves slowly drift apart, reduced to barely acquaintances.
It is as easy now to feign disconnection as it was before the internet. All they have to do is silently block you on Instagram (or post a rant about you in their private accounts, which somehow got around to you), stop replying to your WhatsApp messages, and never answer your Skype group calls – especially when school ends, and everyone goes their separate ways. Sooner or later, you’ll get the message, and stop trying to contact them again.
We often find the bonds of friendship broken because our friends do something unacceptable to us – breach our trust, perhaps, or disappoint us in some way or another. Strangely, we often take their side in an conflict with someone else, but once it involves ourselves, we find it more important to defend our own dignity than to patch up the friendship. This is, of course, understandable: we are obliged to put ourselves first, and regard our perspectives to be accurate. Clearly it is our friends who made the mistake! We can only hope that they come around and see that they were wrong, and we were right.
This, then, raises a question. What do we expect of our friends, and our friendship? We always hope that they will take the first reconciliatory step, as if they should realise that they are wrong and quickly seek to take amends. We expect them to know, better than ourselves, how important the friendship is to both parties, how we yearn to make amends – but are too prideful and too afraid to do so.
But perhaps we expect too much. Our friends, unfortunately, are just as flawed as we are. They aren’t obliged to put us first, even though they often give up personal comfort to accompany us to someplace we’d rather not go alone, like a scholarship interview, or even attend our CCA events and concerts as a sign of support and solidarity. These they do out of affection for us, but they are not bound to do so in the same way our parents are. After a fall-out, or after some terrible breach of trust, that affection has diminished, and we no longer hold as significant a space in their lives as we used to.
Because, after all, what are friends apart from strangers who have decided to spend time getting to know each other? Perhaps this is why we believe friends should stay with us no matter what – they’ve seen us at our worst. But again: why should they? At the end of the day friends are nothing but strangers we’ve decided to endear ourselves to, and the bond between us can be so, so easily broken.
At the end of the day, friendship is a delicate game of give-and-take, where two sides contribute equally to the relationship. If one party gave less than the other, resentment breeds, and ‘cold wars’ or outright disputes occur. But arguments aren’t a bad thing – if our friendship can survive them. They are inevitable where two people cannot reach a full understanding of each other, and more importantly, they allow us a clearer perspective of the other person’s boundaries and limits. We can learn to become more sensitive about these emotional perimeters, and steer clear of those with more tact and consideration, in the future.