Friendkeeping by Julie Klam
I’m pretty sure I heard about this book on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and that Linda Holmes talked about loving the book because it reflected the importance of female friendships in her life.
Right off the bat, Julie Klam compares her friendships to her mother’s sisterly relationships. Julie never had sisters, just two brothers with whom she wasn’t very close, so (she feels) female friendships have played a bigger part in her life.
I have close female friends, and I pretty much always have. But they come in and out of my life. I’m not one of those people who is still best friends with someone from elementary school. I’m not really friends with anyone at all that I knew in elementary school. I’m still in touch with one high school friend (more if you count “Facebook friends,” but I don’t). But he’s a dude. I don’t even know where my college roommates ended up, and I’m not in touch with any college friends. Post-college I had probably my best female friendship, and it ended in a really nasty friend break-up. I don’t know if I’d say that I’m still mad at her, but I seriously have no desire to pick up the phone and see how she’s doing, or even to send a friend request on Facebook. I’m still in touch with a lot of my grad school friends, and maybe we’ll stay that way since we’re all in the same profession and will continue to see each other at conferences basically forever. But, you know, maybe not. I toy periodically with bailing on academia, and if I ever do that, I’m sure these friendships will fade, too.
Post-graduate school, I’ve found it much harder to make friends of any gender. I really don’t like my colleagues (in my department) enough to hang out with them any time I don’t have to. And I’m just not sure how to meet anyone else. I don’t have it in me right now to take up a serious hobby that will have me hanging with the same people for many hours per week (I used to do this with Tae Kwon Do, and in fact I still talk to at least a few of the people I met there). I have a husband, a career, and dogs. I travel a lot, and it’s hard to commit to multiple-times-per-week stuff, at least right now.
I did finally shoehorn my way into a group of female faculty from other departments, and they are probably my closest friends right now. But I feel a bit on the outside of the group… a bit older, no kids, and none of us are quite sure how settled we are on this island. When the conversation turns to long-term plans, it makes me sad, because I’m pretty sure we’re not in this for the long term as a whole group.
Some of Klam’s book confused me… she claims at one point, “I’ve had only one friendship ever break up.” But then she details several experiences that I would call friendship breakups, and at the end of the book I’m honestly not sure which was is “the one” in her mind. I had one obvious breakup, and more recently one obvious to me but (possibly) not to her… She went a little crazy. More than a little. Government conspiracies, chem trails. She would post shit on Facebook about how the Boston Marathon bombing was a hoax, and the FBI orchestrated the shooting in Sandy Hook. Also anti-vax bullshit. I just couldn’t talk to her at all, basically about anything, and some of what she said was just incredibly infuriating. So I blocked her and stopped returning her emails. I visited her hometown and didn’t call or make contact. (I’ve actually been there twice since the “break up,” and I’m going again next January. But I think she only knows about the one visit.) She’s probably figured out that I’ve cut her off by now, and given our Facebook fights, I’m sure she can guess why. That’s one that feels like a loss to me, but it’s my friend I lost, not the friendship. She’s just gone, and I don’t recognize (or like) who she is now.
Klam talks a lot about long distance friendships, and claims to be so lazy that she’s terrible at them (though at least some of her friends make up for it). Living so far from everyone I’ve grown up with or gone to school with… long distance friendships are really the only possibility for me. But I also am lazy, unsure enough of myself (would they really want to chat or have time if I called?), and shitty at the long-distance friendship thing.
Maybe it’s because I do have sisters, and I’m close with one of them, that I don’t feel these friendship losses as acutely as Julie Klam seems to. The truth is that in a time of real trouble, my sister is the one I would call, even though she’s 3,000 miles away.
I liked the book well enough, but I didn’t love it. I’m not sure why not. But she has written two books about dogs, so I’m going to give her another shot at some point soon. Dogs >> friends. Always.