tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?
You have a few friends and they are all good, nice people. You enjoy them! Friends are good.
But your friends have friends. That is the nature of friends: they have other friends who have other friends and other friends and friends and friends. The friend system goes into infinity, befriending until everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. It’s like that Kevin Bacon game but with normal people: we’re all connected through friendships.
The funny thing about friends of friends is that you rarely meet them. Unlike the voyeuristic mutuals Facebook throws at you, real life only invites a friend-of-a-friend into your life on rare occasions like a party where you’ll be too busy to talk to them or an awkward dinner where the new friend is the only one without prior knowledge of every item discussed. Yet, there are times when a Friend Of Friend will come into your world, by way of a Good Friend—and it jolts you. How does this person you’ve never heard of know so much about your Good Friend?
Your reactions to this Friend come in phases and they are all based in jealousy. You wonder when and where and how this friendship formed. You know your Good Friend and, yet, this Friend Of Friend is so in with them, so present, so well versed in your Good Friend’s life that it seems impossible for some dust-sized blindspot to have covered them. How did you not notice them? Where were you as this Good Friend/Friend Of Friend relationship became something more than a three hour brunch friend relationship? You don’t understand and, yet, here they are and you are now on the outside of a relationship you once had, squinting and smiling and trying to figure out where you were as they befriended. More frustratingly, why isn’t the relationship they have the relationship that you have?
Viewing their relationship takes you even further inward, your face impressing into itself to look at the back of your head: why don’t you have this relationship with this Friend Of Friend? Why aren’t all three of you good friends? Something different happens to you, something where you wish your Good Friend was removed from current company and it was just you and Friend Of Friend, so the two of you could make a relationship, so you both could reenact scenes from My Best Friends Wedding, where the roles of friends change and morph and become a messy pile of relational sludge. You want to make them jealous, yes, but you also want what they have, this cool person who isn’t in your life: this Friend Of Friend needs to be absorbed by you. Why can’t you all be friends only for the purposes of your leeching attention and love and friendship from this new Friend Of Friend? You realize this all feels very Single White Female but you do not care.
You step outside of yourself and you watch them laugh and giggle and exchange batted eyes, an aura around them of intense admiration and love and support, and you realize that what you and your Good Friend have is not what your Good Friend and Friend Of Friend have and you feel terrible and you realize that you have been taken off of the top shelf and moved to the second tier. You are no longer a margarita made with Partón but a margarita made with Don Julio—and not a fancy Don Julio. You see what they have and a small, devil hand grabs your heart and squeezes it and your breath goes short as you realize that you are not what you were, that you are now the Friend Of Friend and this other person, this new person, is the Good Friend. Be it from time or space or simply a cultural shift, you are not in the fore: you are background. The image of yourself and your Good Friend is still very vivid—but it’s in black and white. You are like a great, still working, good computer that is perhaps three or four software updates behind. You know how to work, yes, but you just don’t know all the new ways to operate.
You watch these Good Friends with their Friends Of Friends and you realize that everything changes. Everything shifts, even relationships. Not for better or worse: they just change, they become different. You can be jealous, yes, and angry, yes, but you cannot change what happens outside of yourself. You learn that you should probably be more active in relationships, to bring yourself from the outside in. You spend times like this—with a Good Friend and Friends Of Friends—studying, to learn how to change and evolve and adapt. No, you and your Good Friends will never have what you once had at your old job or when you lived There or back in college but you can always try.