I Want to Be a Diagram Friend: Girlfriendships Before Facebook
I once had a coworker who was a great conversationalist. Amanda was reasonable, funny and perceptive. One day after work, Amanda and I headed to a nearby happy hour to have dinner and drinks and, although we had very little to drink, upon leaving the restaurant we were stunned to realize five hours had somehow passed as imperceptibly and briskly as a sea breeze. (Sea Breeze: A six count of vodka with generous pours of cranberry and grapefruit juices all over ice, if I recall correctly from my bartending days.) Discussing the nuances of our professional situations and personal relationships, we had completely lost track of time! It was at that point that I updated our status from “coworkers” to “friends.” (Mentally, I mean; this was before Facebook.)
But the marathon quality of the chat session (again, I am being literal) is only one of two reasons this particular get-together has remained memorable these several years later. The other is of greater significance. With a few important exceptions, I was accustomed to one-sided friendships back then. Often, friends who shared with and vented to me most later terribly faltered when it came to reciprocation. However, when I confided in Amanda about a personal matter that night, she did not immediately change the subject back to herself. Far from it, she had apparently been paying attention for months as I sparingly divulged occasional details about this particular situation, listening so well that she now quickly cleared a space in front of her on the table, smoothed her napkin onto it, and proceeded to draw a visual representation of my scenario’s dynamics. “See, this circle is you, and THIS circle is your boyfriend, and YOU’RE like,” whooosh! Amanda extended a long line of ink across the paper fabric, “and, essentially, HIS line extends thiiiis way…” Whoosh. Scribble, scribble, etc. Seeing my relationship diagrammed on paper was helpful. Having an insightful friend take the time to provide carefully considered feedback was invaluable.
Hence my elevation of the Diagram Friend concept. Ever since Amanda and I opened that tab (our bar tab… no internet browsers involved), I have wanted to be that kind of confidant. So in my relationships I aim to really listen instead of just waiting to talk, remember the things expressed in the past, and understand what the other cares about most in life. Because while I will rarely have The Answers or even decide to dispense advice, in times of need I want to be able to say, “I completely hear you. I get you. And this is what your life looks like on a napkin.” Occasional five-hour sea breezes aren’t a bad idea, either.
|Okay, okay, I AM a couple of drinks deep in this particular picture.|