Columns » Thank Me Later

On navigating adult friendships

Losing touch

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Vanessa stopped calling me a few short weeks ago. There was no fight, no disagreement, or exchange of words that would have warranted the end of what had been a 20-plus year friendship.

We were just eight years old when we came to understand the difficulties of finding and maintaining good friends, and from then on I thought we were of the same sect. She and I navigated the perils of monkey bar politics, puberty and AP courses. We got our hair braided like Brandy, and begged our parents to let us stay up late to watch MTV award shows whenever she performed.

Even when we lost touch during college and the all-consuming nature of exercising our independence without much knowledge of the world placated our need for one another, we were still confident that our friendship was one slated to be a lifelong sisterhood.

I stopped following her on Snapchat and the other platforms that allow one to watch from a distance, never beckoning a desire to call, or write, or care enough to build past the images of happiness and simply ask, "How are you doing?"

Navigating friendships in yet another new city has been cumbersome at best. With no microcosm of a ready-built community like college at my disposal to segment friends by interest and class schedules, I find myself craving the kind of closeness only friends from back home can provide. No one sticks when you're navigating your mid-to-late 20s.

Or perhaps I've become accustomed to staying unstuck. Removed from being hurt, or betrayed, or worse: for it to be discovered that I am a complete mess, my IRA is in disarray, and my battle between who I am and who I want to be is ever masked by vampy vegan lipstick and powerful words.

Loose ties have defined my relationships over the years, through text messages, quick brunch meet-ups and the occasional promise to hang out more often even though all parties involved know that it's a lie. Google calendars replace getting lost in the art of getting to know each other through the sacrifice of vulnerability and truth-telling.

No one prepares you for the loneliness that comes with a world full of loose friends — for the exclusionary weight of not being a parent who can easily build strong ties around play dates or having a significant other who happily pays for Netflix each month and romantic dinners atop jazz bars.

There are moments where the solitude is endearing, until you realize that you're by yourself, surviving in the noise, desiring good conversation that does not end with a promise to promote your work or someone else's.

That kind of friendship is cultivated long before we've labeled ourselves. And I've been trying to find it again ever since.

Charlotte, for its part, has been good to me. The people I've met have stood for me, advised me, invited me to family cookouts and have given me warm hugs. But for all of its buoyancy, it hasn't been enough. At least not yet. Perhaps over time, the ties will strengthen and maybe even someone might consider me the makings of a good friend.

Sherrell Dorsey is founder of ThePLUG, the definitive daily source for black tech news.

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