Gift of New Friends

Being the first in a series of every day posts to mark Être ou Avoir’s first year.

The topic of friendship in current times has previously received a brief introduction on this blog. An event on Friday night created a new point of discussion within this topic. I was brought to a birthday party as a gift. A friend of a colleague was having a 30th birthday party, and he asked all the invitees to bring a specific gift. He insisted that they not get junk he would never use, no knick-knacks that might be good for a laugh and nothing more, no meaningless consumer products. Instead, he asked people to bring him a new shiny new friend.

When I was first approached about being a gift at a birthday party I had some of the initial reservations that might materialize in anyone’s mind. However, once I was assured there was no physical or intimate sacrifice required I was quite intrigued by the concept. While the current trend appears to be adding more facebook friends, myspace connections, or search for the next relationship with the computer as a mediator, this birthday celebration was about adding friends in person. Even though I had never heard of this concept before, it seemed refreshingly balanced and made great sense. We learn more about ourselves when we take on real life interactions, meet new people and try to present ourselves as who we really are in real time, who we really want to be, and without the constant editing, manufacturing, and glossing over that is online profiles. I think it is safe to say that from a domestic social standpoint – thus, excluding any of my adventures abroad, and the times I have started at a new school or job – I have not met more new people in a single night than I did on Friday. It was a lesson in myself I had not had in a while. With no prejudgments and given a blank canvas on which to present one’s self, it is amazing how one can struggle between being the person who is comfortable, and being the person one wants to be. Happily, for me at least, I was not concerned with what I have (avoir) or what I do. Gladly, I was not forced to speak about what I “do” too often, as the group of people were interesting enough, and respectful enough to not linger on traditional topics of first-time conversation. Also, trying to avoid hypocrisy, I also made sure to never ask others what they “do”. Thus, when asked if Friday night was more about Être or was it more about Avoir, I can say with a smile that it was almost all about being. I smile because when meeting people for the first time I firmly believe there should be little in the way of having, and the focus should be on being.

It remains to be seen if Friday was a one-time connection with a host of people, or whether longer lasting connections will arise. Subtle feelings of a sports team try-out no doubt linger when one is presented as a shiny new friend. Yet, I can say with confidence, it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and encourage more people to try on some level. In fact, I hope to give it a try one day as the gift receiver.

Thanks to AS for taking me as the gift, and thanks to R for having the birthday. Kudos to both, and everyone there, for being involved in an event structured around creating an environment of inclusion and avoiding prejudgment: good stuff!

Let’s also call this the second installment on ramblings regarding balanced friendship as I try to arrange my thoughts and write a piece on the topic that isn’t complete drivel.

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