Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My friends are your friends and your friends are my....

I've recently started noticing a place where our lifestyle doesn't completely mesh with the rest of the world, and it leads to some social awkwardness. This problem tends to show up when we meet new folks, who seem like they might be the kind of people we'd like to know, but then we find out where they live (say, in the burbs, accessible only by an hours commuter rail ride, if that), and we realize it's just not going to happen. We might manage to arrange one or two T-accessible meetups, but then then invites to their parties come...parties that theoretically we could get to...but it doesn't quite seem worth all of the work to get there...maybe because it would mean driving a zipcar on shabbat (we really would rather not do that), or dragging H on a hideously long train ride and having to beg a ride back into town way after bedtime. And besides, if we go, then we'll keep having to go. If we solidify a friendship with someone in the suburbs, we'll have to keep finding ways to get to the suburbs, or keep making excuses for why we can't get there.

I find that these days I just really don't want to put much time or energy into relationships with people who are far away, using our car-free definition of far. In fact, if I'm being honest, we only actually put energy into relationships with people who are walking distance away, even though we have good intentions of keeping up with our friends, say, a bus or bike-ride away.

From our end, in many ways this is just fine. We have plenty of wonderful friends in walking distance. Our social life is not drastically damaged by a fairly tight geographic boundary on friendship, but it does lead to awkwardness when navigating new friendships or even trying to maintain old ones. Much of the awkwardness is that while our practical friendship radius might be a couple of miles, most people who use cars regularly have a much wider friendship radius, maybe 5-10, or even 20 miles depending on their location, so we may be within their reasonable geographic circle, but they aren't within ours. I hate to see potentially good friendships wither away because we turned down one too many invitations, and sometimes wonder if a more honest approach might be better. On the other hand, we do have a few surprisingly good and valuable friendships that seem to be successfully maintained two or three meetings a year and the occasional e-mail, and we wouldn't have those if we just dismissed them out of hand immediately based on geography.