"I have palpitations all the time, and I feel so nervous," a thirty-some year old lady said to me in the office.
"You have a reason to be anxious?" I asked.
"Well.." she hesitated.
"I am so stressed because my pick-up number's been changed by my friends," she blurted out.
I was confused. Pick-up number by friends?
"I'm sorry, I don't understand. Are we talking about food?" I didn't know what else to say.
"No..no..," she actually smiled. "I mean when we girls go out, my pick up number is 4 now. It used to be 1 or 2 just a few weeks ago."
I just stared at her for a couple of very long seconds. Words failed me. I stole a glance to the schedule on my i-pad. I had a few minutes. I pulled a chair.
"So what does that mean.... Your pick-up number being lower on the list?" I asked. It felt as if as I was talking to a middle schooler.
"It means that the person picking me up is not that close to me now. It's like sitting next to each other at a party," she said, exhaling a deep breath. She seemed relieved by venting.
"So the strength of a friendship is dependent on the pick up number? And how close you sit at a party?" I asked.
"Yes...yes. And also if a person hugs you or just says "Hi" when you greet each other at a social gathering," she was very animated now.
"I thought friendship was about meeting of the minds and having similar priorities and all that..." my was trailed off. I knew I was wasting my breath here.
"That's all okay, but people can't see those things."
"Aha... so it's people around you who decide who you are close to or not." Before you she could respond, I continued. "I'll give you the number of a very good counselor, and maybe he can help you and your friends about the 'pick up sequence' and the 'meet & greet' protocol."
I had to end this. I had to go on to more mundane problems like heart attacks and strokes !
I can't help but smile when I think of that conversation. Is this what friendship is all about these days? Good optics? Maybe, for some. And then there's this social media deluge. Everyone else seems to be on a permanent vacation or a partying spree! This puts a lot of pressure on insecure minds.
There are two universal truths about a lasting friendship -- "Being Sincere and Being Open."
The opposite is "Being Secretive and Being Manipulative." It's tough to have long-term friends when these two characteristics are hallmarks of a personality.
Friendship should be treasure trove of fond memories, of spontaneous laughter and of comfortable silences. It's not about how many friends you can count, it's about how many of those you can count on.
"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." ~ Elisabeth Foley