Fair-weather friends don’t survive the storm

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Ipsa Chaudhary

friend-infographic
infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi

A couple of days ago, as I watched The Help for the fourth time, I thought about how I would never have a friend like Hilly Holbrook. On the surface she is a respectable, polite woman who is involved in the community and looks out for her friends. In fact, she even sets her friend, Eugenia Phelan, also known as Skeeter, up on a date and constantly reassures her that he will like her. But Hilly can’t stand it when Skeeter doesn’t follow her agenda.

The moment Skeeter stops being one of her puppets, Hilly breaks their friendship. And I don’t believe what Hilly and Skeeter had was a real friendship. I would use my friends or disown them if things didn’t work in my favor. And I would hope a real friend wouldn’t do that to me either.

 There are different levels of friendship. And they’re not always obvious. Only when we find ourselves in need of support from our friends, as Skeeter did, do we realize who our true friends really are. I have had a number of friends throughout my life. I have my best friends, the five or so people that know me inside out and are probably closer than my family. I have other friends who hang out with me when their close friends aren’t available or they need something. And then I have acquaintances, people I don’t ever see outside of school but that I talk to occasionally.

Unfortunately, sometimes my best friends, the people I think will be there for me and will stick with me through high school and college, don’t. And I realized that they only kept me by their side as a fallback friend or as long as I was of use to them.

 But I didn’t simply want fair weather friends.Maybe I thought that girl was my friend, but looking back I know that I was the only one putting effort into our relationship. I was usually the first person to text or to start a conversation on Facebook. I learned from that “friendship” that we weren’t actually friends. We continued to talk in class and text occasionally. But we didn’t remain friends.

In ninth grade I had just begun to overcome my shyness and had started talking to people I would never have before. In that way, I made new friends and became close to one girl in particular. We texted a lot, ate lunch together, and yet, somehow, we never hung out outside of school. It didn’t seem odd to me then; in retrospect, I know that was an indicator that I didn’t mean as much to her as she did to me.

Our friendship began to crumble when she said she would be there for me when I needed her. She said she would always be a phone call or a text away and that I could always count on her for support in my time of need. Unfortunately, she didn’t hold true to that promise.

Back then I liked a guy in my social studies class. And we rarely talked. In fact, I’m sure we exchanged a couple of sentences throughout the school year. But of course, when I find out he liked someone else, my little ninth-grade-self was devastated. I knew I wasn’t in love with him of course, but I was pretty bummed, nonetheless. So my first instinct was to call her, and I did. After a couple of rings, I heard the click as she picked up the receiver. But she immediately said she was busy and would call me back. She hung up and didn’t call back.

The next day at school, as I told her what happened, she listened with her eyes locked on her cell phone screen. Expecting some consoling from her — a hug, or maybe some advice — I was surprised when all I got was a sympathetic nod. She then gossiped about how one ofher old friends from kindergarten had started dating a guy that she used to date. This upset me for many reasons. Firstly, she barely acknowledged what I had to say, and secondly, apart from the fact that she simply glazed over what I said, she didn’t seem to care at all.

Not being the response I expected or wanted, I turned to other people who I expected to have a similar reaction. Not knowing whom to turn to, I turned to people whom I considered friends but wasn’t that close to. Our interactions were limited to spending time together in school and occasionally hanging out in a group outside of school. But to my surprise, the people I hadn’t pegged down as very close friends listened to my pitiful tale and were understanding. I hadn’t expected them to show such consideration, and in doing so I misjudged them. I hadn’t given them the opportunity to be real friends.  And what made them such good friends was their willingness to open up to me when they didn’t have to.

 To this day, these people are my friends. They are the ones who remember my birthday and the ones I call if I need a ride. We eat lunch together every day and hang out every weekend. They’re the people that have made the transition from junior high to high school with me.

I became caught up with the idea of a certain person being my friend without realizing that we weren’t the best of friends. But the people who stuck with me until now were ones that I had overlooked in ninth grade. It wasn’t until my fallout with that girl that I realized I hadn’t given much thought to people who had always been there for me. I was too caught up in forcing a friendship that would only fall through. In doing so, I forgot that friendships shouldn’t be difficult.

A real friend would make the effort to text me and ask me to hang out just as much as I would. Friendships should be effortless. I shouldn’t have to try too much to please my friends or have to grovel for their attention. When it starts to feel like I wouldn’t really lose anything if I were to lose that person, I will know the thread of friendship has worn away. I’m not saying my friends and I don’t annoy each other or have our off days. But I have never felt like I couldn’t go to them for advice or just to talk. To me that is what constitutes a real friend.

By Ipsa Chaudhary