The only reason anyone might want to call past midnight is if they are horny. The smarmy camaraderie of “Oh, I have a 3 am friend” makes me cringe; it has been reduced to a throwaway line. I know it essentially conveys that you can call the person at any time. But is that necessarily true friendship? You might call the doctor, and even service providers of cellphone companies. If you are online, then you’d probably be chatting with your e-friends, some with fake names and fake professions and fake locations and fake ideas.
So, when I read that according to a study by Cornell University Americans have lost one friend in the last 25 years and now instead of three there are only two people they consider “close friends”, it made me think.
The researchers concluded:
- “Although this shrinking social network makes us potentially more vulnerable, we’re not as socially isolated as scholars had feared. Rather than our networks getting smaller, overall, what I think may be happening is we’re simply classifying a smaller proportion of our networks as suitable for important discussions. This is reassuring in that it suggests that we’re not becoming less social.”
I find in this a suggestion that friendships are planned and psychologically, if inadvertently, we place people in grooves and decide who we will tap for what. Is this friendship?
Furthermore, you may have friends, but can they be confidantes?
In my case, I use my writing as a confession box. I would much rather let it be revealed to the world than to a specific friend. For, I get a better sense of my situation. Why does one confide? We have secrets or concerns. They may not be resolved, but they need an outlet. This sort of catharsis works better if you are talking to an ‘empty house’. In that house the walls will cast shadows, and if there are mirrors they will reveal different images. You might find doors and windows that let the breeze in and some dark corners. None of these knows you. You are the anonymous one here.
My friends don’t have numbers and I cannot say whether there are one or two or three or more of them. I am often not curious about their lives because I see it as intrusion. I, too, guard my privacy. You might wonder how anything you are willing to share with the world becomes a private matter when discussed with a smaller number of people who know you. This is the point. I’d much rather not titillate them with half information, and all information is incomplete until we resolve it. Should I choose to write about it, there would be ten ways of seeing and each one will be based on ‘no knowledge’. They are responding to a squiggle on a blank sheet. They could choose to see it beneath the sharp light from a lamp or in the open.
As for the late night calls, I would think that as a true friend I should not disturb a person.
This reminds me of a strange conversation with a young friend. It was almost 2 am when the phone rang. He was calling from the US. A Pakistani. I answered the phone after several rings.
“Why can’t you be quick?” he asked.
“It is late here, you know.”
“Okay, I have a problem…I have a date with this woman.”
“So? How is this urgent?”
“She is Indian.”
“You are saying I should not…”
“No. I just think I am not the only Indian who should be woken up to convey this major event in cross-border dating.”
“I want to know something. Are Indian women good at making love?”
“How would I know? Oh, wait, are you asking me to be vain or self-effacing?”
“Just tell me, please. Will she smell of coriander?”
“Not unless you plan to garnish your meal. This is so ridiculous. Don’t Pakistanis have coriander?”
“I don’t eat that stuff, I prefer American food. So, what do you think?”
“Why don’t you just go out and find out for yourself? Chances are she might want you to drop her home after dinner.”
“No, no. She likes me and we will end up…”
“Okay, so here it is. I do not know about all Indian women, especially those living overseas. And she does not know what you smell like, either. If you find her attractive and it is mutually working out, then fine. Or just go and have your stupid steak and fries. Now let me sleep.” I hung up.
The phone rang again. “Just wanted to say you are a super friend, but I only hope she does not have your temper.”
“It comes with the coriander.”