Katherine had some wonderful insights in her comments on my last post about the changing nature of friendships/relationships. I especially liked her analogy of a golden friendship becoming rust instead of a precious metal. The same day I posted that, a friend, who I’ll call L. and I were discussing marriage and past boyfriends/girlfriends. A mutual friend of ours was in the unique position that her ex-boyfriend is going to be the best man in her upcoming wedding. They did not part badly and, in fact, after realizing they were really better suited to be friends than boyfriend/girlfriend, the ex-boyfriend immediately introduced her to someone he knew she was meant for…his best friend and cousin who she is now engaged to. I was saying that I thought it was actually quite nice that things had progressed in this fashion. My friend I was speaking with felt slightly differently. She was more of the mind that past “boyfriends” or “loves” should stay in the past. Our talk progressed somehow into a discussion of high school sweetheards. My friend was sharing that she never quite understood how the “high school sweetheart thing” worked. As she pointed out, of course no one is the same person he or she was in high school. I had had another friend to say this to me in the past, so I was interested to hear this again from a very different person. I said that I could agree we are not the same people we are or were in high school, I do think it is possible for high school sweethearts to grow together over time and remain very much in love and happy together. I say this despite not having a high school sweetheart. She said she could definitely see that, but what about high school sweethearts separated for many years who find each other again. I mean, come on, with facebook and the dawn of social networking, we hear about these things happening quite often. I don’t know of any studies done on re-united high school sweethearts and their likelihood to rekindle old flames, the reasons they might or might not and the success of a subsequent marriage. So, it’s difficult for me to say in this case how likely those relationships are to work out. I can certainly see her point about them.
The following day a different friend, who we’ll call A, called me to relate a recent reunion she attended of some of her high school classmates. It was nothing official, but a small get together and she left it shaken up a bit. Shaken up at how much some people seemed to have changed. But even more shaken by how much others had not. “It was as if I was transported back to being 17, all over again,” she recounted talking about reuniting with some people she had not seen in several years. As I listened to her, I began to think back to my post again and my previous conversation with my other friend about high school sweethearts.
When we haven’t spent time, in person, with an individual from our past and are suddenly thrust into that situation, it creates the sensation of being overloaded. Overloaded by changes and/or lack thereof. Typically we see physical changes. I will use the obvious personal example that my husband had hair in high school and does not anymore. It hits you, that person has experienced some level of change. My parents, upon beginning to use facebook, often comment on how old their high school and college friends look. At Christmas they were joking how they didn’t realize in their early 20’s when they were married what “catches” they were! More than a few people don’t recognize my husband until he speaks. He deliberately hung out at the bar at his 30th reunion to see who would approach him that he hadn’t seen in several years. Then as we begin to open up with these people, we begin to find out if outward changes are the only ones this person has experienced. The absolute best case scenario is the realization that while you have grown separately, you have not grown apart. I witnessed this several times at my husband’s reunion. And sometimes you find that although you and an old friend have led very different lives and are hardly shadows of who you once were, you can still be friends at this point in time, your friendship can be different but just as rich. For some people finding out that they have changed while a friend has not or vice versa can be devastating. I remember a while ago a very close friend of mine had reunited with her best friend from high school and was crushed when she realized not only had this person not seemed to have grown since high school but that, in fact, she didn’t really know this person back then either.
I have commented here before on how it appeared from many in my husband’s graduating class there were two distinct groups: one who wanted to relive the glory days and the other that didn’t mind reminiscing but are more interested in living life right now. In the case of A, I found that the fact that some people she once was very close with who seemed to still believe they were 17 clashed so violently with her wanting to live her life now, that she decided she didn’t want to see them again…for at least quite some time. In the case of L, I realized that for some people anything that once was a romantic relationship must be burned in a large pyre of the past and the ashes left to settle. Certainly these are not necessarily the cases for everyone, but definitely interesting views on those “golden relationships” Katherine mentioned tarnishing or turning to rust vs becoming more precious with age.