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“It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2022

Well, this article about the importance and difficulty of friendships as you grow older by Jennifer Senior just hit me squarely in the feels.

When you’re in middle age, which I am (mid-middle age, to be precise — I’m now 52), you start to realize how very much you need your friends. They’re the flora and fauna in a life that hasn’t had much diversity, because you’ve been so busy — so relentlessly, stupidly busy — with middle-age things: kids, house, spouse, or some modern-day version of Zorba’s full catastrophe. Then one day you look up and discover that the ambition monkey has fallen off your back; the children into whom you’ve pumped thousands of kilowatt-hours are no longer partial to your company; your partner may or may not still be by your side. And what, then, remains?

I’m 48 years old, divorced, introverted, with two kids in their tweens/teens. I haven’t had coworkers in more than 15 years (and have worked from home for the past 7 years) and moved away from many of my friends to a place where I didn’t know anyone almost 6 years ago. I feel, acutely, the desire for and the falling away of friendships in this weirdo phase of life, which is happening during the most societally destabilizing event many of us have ever lived through.1

Were friendships always so fragile? I suspect not. But we now live in an era of radical individual freedoms. All of us may begin at the same starting line as young adults, but as soon as the gun goes off, we’re all running in different directions; there’s little synchrony to our lives. We have kids at different rates (or not at all); we pair off at different rates (or not at all); we move for love, for work, for opportunity and adventure and more affordable real estate and healthier lifestyles and better weather.

Yet it’s precisely because of the atomized, customized nature of our lives that we rely on our friends so very much. We are recruiting them into the roles of people who once simply coexisted with us — parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, fellow parishioners, fellow union members, fellow Rotarians.

It’s not wholly natural, this business of making our own tribes. And it hardly seems conducive to human thriving. The percentage of Americans who say they don’t have a single close friend has quadrupled since 1990, according to the Survey Center on American Life.

One of those articles where I wanted to quote the whole thing…so just go read it.

  1. Am I referring to the pandemic or the gradual-then-sudden shift towards de facto fascist rule in the US we seem to be experiencing? Even I don’t actually know.