Saturday, November 06, 2004

Shopping for socks

Distance is probably always detrimental to a relationship, or, at least it puts it to tests 'ordinary' relationships never go through. Of course, distance entails that you meet the Other for short and emotionally, sexually and, sometimes, socially condensed periods of time. Thus, long-distance relationships are constantly jet-lagged, rushing to catch up. (Too) many people around me are currently in a long-distance relationship, hence the initial trigger of this note.

Ok, but what happens to long-distance friendships? This was what I was wondering about today, buying socks during an endless (for the shop employees) -20% day. This year (Lord, what a year! From its Spring of Discontent to the 2nd of November, a glorious summer embedded within the nastiness and suspiciousness of confused, fearful, disoriented electorates -- but I will write on this some other time and somewhere else), I had the chance to sample some evidence, all my (and Jod's) friendships being long-distance. For this we have to blame not just the relative remoteness of the Outpost (no no-frills companies fly here, there are no equivalents of the Charleroi or the Knock airports, after all), but the general mobility of people "nowadays".

So, friends have to visit (or you have to visit them). As has happened this year, there are cases when they visit. And compare. And covet you. And they become irrational and they become ungrateful. This is frustrating. These are the friendships that would otherwise (let's say 'normally') dissolve via people discreetly and steadily drifting away from each other, no hard feelings, either. But distance mummifies them and keeps them in suspension, preserved by occasional phonecalls and messages -- where almost nothing can be said. Which is awkward, because people just grow, adults too. So, once they meet you again, long-distance friends might think you have grown too fast (or not fast enough): instead of fading away, some long-distance friendships dissolve upon reunion. The debris can be toxic.

Thankfully, visiting friends can be wonderful. Despite the different place and time since you last met, they go on to relink with you, leaving practicalities (e.g. 'new job', 'small / big / new place') and technicalities (e.g. 'I haven't had a quiet moment since time t') behind. Just like continuing precisely where you left off. You catch up with the old questions, topics, partners and habits, or joke at having given (some of) them up. So, yes, it was wonderful going out to see Theta the Cuttlefish, Henry's Stepmum and the Expat Anarchists again; and it was wonderful having the Hyperborean Hunter and Jorge around. And so on. And I am eager to see the rest of them, soon.

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