Wednesday, August 3, 2016

More Thoughts on Friendship

Just because I'm taking a modified break right now doesn't have to mean that our conversation about friendship needs to stop.  Before I hung my "Gone Fishin'" sign on the front door, I found some words  relevant to our discussion in Anne Berest's Sagan: Paris 1954 (translated by Heather Lloyd; published by Gallic Books, London 2015). Berest is speaking to Françoise Sagan's good friend Florence Malraux about the book Sagan's son Denis Westhoff has asked Berest to write to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Bonjour Tristesse.  She says,

I explain to Florence that my book is taking on a strange form, somewhere between a novel, a biography and a fictionalised autobiography. I tell her, therefore, that she will feature in it significantly and that I hope she will agree to be a character of mine, for I would like this book to talk more than anything else about friendship. That is probably because, at the point where I am in my life, stories about friends are of much more interest to me than love stories. I feel unable to speak of Françoise Sagan's love affairs. I find it impossible to put myself in the frame of mind of someone in love.
I say, 'I get the impression that in 1954, even if, as the evidence of her book shows, her thoughts dwell a lot on physical love, friendship is the really important thing. What's more, once she has become successful she is going to gather a group of friends around her . . . . long before meeting a "husband". I want to talk about friendship, for I take a jaundiced view of love relationships, whereas I do believe that, if I had not met my female friends, I would not be the woman I am today. I'm not saying that I would have been the worse for it; I might have been all the better for it -- who knows? But what I can state is that my life would have been quite different. It is as if today we bear responsibility for one another, for we have each played an active part in shaping the other person. Love is different. Love is something you live through and that lives through you, but I do not believe that, any deep level, it makes us who we are.'
The part that I've highlighted is the part I thought particularly relevant to our conversation about friendships. She makes an interesting comparison of friendship with "love relationships" (and it's obvious, I think, that she's not ignoring the reality that friendship often involves or includes love, but she's distinguishing platonic from sexual or at least romantic-passionate relationships). And the emphasis she places on our friends changing us, making our lives different than they would have been surely connects to the overlap between transition and/in friendship.

Because I'm trying to free myself some time from blogging to re-energize for blogging, I'll say no more about this for now. Nor am I going to assume responsibility for facilitating any discussion that emerges from it, but I will be reading comments as they land, and I may not be able to resist adding a few words of my own. So if this quotation triggers any thoughts you'd like to share, I suspect your fellow readers would be interested to read them -- I know I would.


  1. As a woman with a group of women friends drawn from different periods and aspects of my life, I believe that we do influence and shape each other's lives. I was inspired by the decision of a friend of a friend to study in Paris. I would not have dreamt it possible except for P's experience. My time in Paris provided an opportunity for another friend who had not travelled in many years to visit me and
    to begin a new era of her life. I love to listen to the tales of grandchildren and grown kids. We share our experiences and our troubles. With some friends, years go by, but when we meet it is as if we were young girls again.

  2. That is a very interesting quote. I have a tiny number of close female friends and often look at other people and wonder how they have room for what seems like tribes of friends. I have three and two of those I see only a couple of times a year. But I also count my daughter and my sister as amongst my closest friends and I have lots of friends in the next circle out. But the relationships which have shaped me most are those with my children, my parents and my husband. Not my friends. They are hugely important to me but they have not changed and shaped me as my family have. Just me?

  3. I found many of my erstwhile friends actually liked my charming ex-husband, or at least chose him when the time came. My best friend and I have been close for 25 years. But other than that, no, for me it has been the men in my life, and my children, that have been central. I love friends, I love talking to women, but I wouldn't agree with the quotation.

  4. It depends how deep (or long :-)) love or friendships are.
    I am very close with my parents and family and they shaped me most. My mother ( I am close with my father too but he is very ill for a long time, we could talk but couldn't share some outdoor activities as before),my son,my niece,my uncle....-they are my closest friends
    But my real friends,some of them from very early years of my life, are also very important to me and they play a important role in my life.
    But,than,there is a whole space in friendship and relations and a word friend is used for different intensities of friendship (well,I could not express myself as I would like here :-),sorry,I miss precise words)
    It seems cold and insensitive to call people acquaintances,when they are more than that-but than I believe that you could not have a lot of real,close friends
    And I don't think that you have to share absolutely everything in your life with even the closest friends. But,yes,they and relationships influenced me in a lot of ways-I agree!

  5. I agree with most of the previous commenters . Parents , sisters yes but after a long marriage which took place in my young formative years , it is my husband who has really influenced me , I like to think we have influenced each other & grown together . I enjoy my friends & the company of women but don't agree with the comment that love doesn't influence you - how can it not ?
    Wendy in York

  6. Friendship with women has been a topic I'm mentally dissecting as I grow older. I agree with the highlighted passage- that sense of "there's someone else who thinks like I do" gave me the courage to explore writing, traveling, an advanced degree. Without family and friends, I don't think I would have done these.
    Now, as I'm evolving into another stage of life, I wonder what the impact of new and different friends will be.

  7. There are friends from way back who live far away, so we meet only at great intervals, but shared memories and experiences create a feeling of closeness. And there are the friends among my colleagues (many of them younger than I am) who influence my everyday life as long as it is still determined by work. So I agree with the quote above in that my friends have shaped me (and are still doing so), but I cannot limit this obervation to female friends.
    I also find it hard to distinguish so sharply between love and friendship. There are some ex-lovers turned into close, reliable friends. There is the woman friend who shared her flat with me and my son for seven years. She saw him grow and turned into the second most important adult in his life. We live in different cities now, but we feel like family.

  8. I don't believe that friends make us who we are. Friends deepen what we are - they affirm us, hold us accountable and don't (usually) come with the baggage that family brings to relationship. Even old friends seem to bring little in the way of old issues, grudges etc. That said, and keeping in mind that my closest relationship outside of family is with a woman I met 30 years ago and with whom I have been in constant touch ever since, across continents, meeting regularly every year - I have learned more from family and been formed by those that I love far more than by friends, no matter how dear. Over the past 18 months I have learned an enormous amount about real courage and commitment from my son. I have learned about love enduring through change and pain from my parents. I learned just as much, from my family, about what I did NOT want to do or be.

  9. I think love (or the lack of it) does, exactly, 'make us who we are'. And that love is not confined to love for a sexual partner. If we are lucky enough to be loved and loving child, grandchild and sibling, as I was, those loves will shape us forever.

    Loving a partner, over a long time, will also hugely shape our lives. I cannot speak to loving one's own children, as I have none. But obviously, it is transformative for many people.

    The role of friends can be, and has for me, been hugely formative and has also shaped my life. I have friends whom I love and other friends to whom I would not probably apply that verb - although such chopping and analysis of relationships can be awkward. But both categories of friends are important.

    So friends - yes - enormously important and supportive and life-forming - but love (or, for some, its tragic lack) seems absolutely basic to who you are.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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