This past weekend I headed back to a hotbed of friendship: High School. The ten-year reunion was a great success. Good friends, good drinks, maybe even good food—I wouldn’t know since the salmon skewers were gone by the time I figured out where they were hiding. I got to spend quality time with BFFs and play catch up with those I-like-you-when-I-see-you-but-let’s-not-pretend-we’ll-keep-in-touch-the-rest-of-the-year pals.
When the evening was over, I didn’t find myself reminiscing about lifelong friendships. Instead, I couldn’t stop thinking about a very specific type of relationship. That which, for these purposes, shall hereby be deemed the Vacuum Friendship.
You know the kind I’m talking about. Those friendships that work perfectly in a very specific setting (say, high school) but out in the free world would never survive.
Vacuum friends emerge on vacations, in the office, at support groups, anywhere. In high school I had a wonderful VF on my basketball team. We were good buddies during the winter sports season, and though we were friendly enough the rest of the year, there wasn’t much to talk about when we couldn’t complain about our coach or talk strategy for an upcoming game.
It’s like that episode of Seinfeld when George and Elaine have nothing to say to each other when Jerry’s not around. Their relationship thrived only in the Jerry vacuum.
Going back to high school really brings these relationships to light. Sheltered by the same walls that nurtured friendships in their infancy, conversation flows as if no time has passed. But as soon as you step off school property, there’s nothing more to say.
And then there are those vacuum friendships that you really want to work outside their little Petri dishes, but they just don’t. So what do you do? Adjust? Mature? Move on? Nah. You bring the vacuum with you. I have a buddy from high school I feel incredibly close to, though over the years I’ve realized that ours is a high school friendship. When we see each other even now, ten years later, no matter where we are, we revert back to the teenagers we were. It’s a very specific relationship, consisting mostly of teasing and acting juvenile. But when the big things happen—weddings, funerals—we’re there for each other. And I don’t mind it so much, until I find myself, an entire decade older, wondering if he’s going to throw my backpack in the garbage can because, you know, that’s what we do.
There’s nothing wrong with a vacuum friendship, as long as you recognize it as such. Sure it’s circumstantial, but that doesn’t make the relationship any less comforting. How fun it was, as a child, to anticipate the reunion with a summer vacation friend. Or, today, to know those 10 miles along the lake will at least afford ample time with the running group pal. Or even to travel back in time a bit, because old friendships sometimes turn you back into the girl you were then, as opposed to the adult you are now.
Do you have any vacuum friendships? Do you find yourself reverting to specific version of yourself when you see old friends? Do you embrace these situational relationships or feel like real friendships should survive in any setting?