Making The Call

Ever since doing my yearlong search, I find that my visits to New York City are filled with realizations about friendship. If my time in Chicago is a case study in budding relationships—how they form, what makes them thrive, what to do when they aren’t working out—then my trips to New York give lifer friendships, the ones you’ve had for a decade or more, the same treatment.

Over the past five days I’ve been in New York, I’ve realized that one of the things I love about longstanding friendships is the fact that you can call each other out on stuff. My oldest friends know everything about me—the good, the bad, the crazy—and I know they love me anyway. So when Sara calls me out on acting like an insecure loon, for example, I laugh and realize she’s right. I don’t get offended or embarrassed.

I’ve seen it happen over and over this weekend. Someone behaves in a way that is characteristically silly, and her pals acknowledge it—sometimes teasing, other times more constructively. Of course it’s a fine line. No one wants to be friends with someone who is constantly correcting her, but I like having BFFs who hold me accountable. I want a friend who will honestly tell me when I’m right and when I’m wrong.

Plus, it’s funny. When I’m at dinner and one girl makes a comment about a guy she’s dating and her BFF says “that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You’re nuts,” that makes me laugh.

With new friends, call outs usually don’t happen. For a couple of reasons. First (and this actually makes the case for new friendships), we act like the best versions of ourselves with friends we don’t know as well. We try not to unleash the crazy. With new friends, we’re “on,” and that means we’re quite focused and conscious of how we’re behaving. With old friends, we’re so relaxed and so ourselves that sometimes we let our less-than-best selves show. I don’t mean our mean sides or anything… just the full picture. No one is perfect, and with old friends we don’t try to be.

Second of all, even if we do act wacky with new friends, we’re probably not yet at the place to call it out. If Sara told me I was going off the deep end, or somehow acting inappropriately, I’d take a good look at my behavior and likely try to change it. If someone new said as much, I’d probably go first to hurt/embarrassed/defensive.

I’ve seen it over and over this weekend. With me, with others, with groups of BFFs.

What do you think? Do you agree the act of “calling out” is the difference between old friends and new? I wonder how long a friendship needs to last before the call-outs start. Thoughts?

New Yorkers! I’ll be reading from MWF Seeking BFF tonight at The Half King (23rd & 10th) at 7 pm. I’d love to see you there. [Chicagoans: Thursday at The Book Cellar is next. Save the date!]


Filed under The Search

7 responses to “Making The Call

  1. This is a great post and it’s so true. I have a lot of long-timer friends because we’ve lived in the same town now for over 20 years. But I also have a lot of new friends, because I started my own business about 9 months ago and have to go out and network a lot, so have made many new friends. I can call out any of my old friends at any time, but it’s been 9 months with a lot of new friends and I can’t think of one yet, even though some of us have gotten pretty close, who I would call out yet without at least some trepidation. However, I can already tell which new friends I am getting close enough to that someday soon, they will transfer into the “calling out” friendship roster.

  2. Rose

    Maybe my friends are different, but I can’t think of an example of “calling out” between my friends that hasn’t been seen as critical and starting a fight. Maybe we’ve never gotten to that left of comfortableness, but pointing out someone’s flaws, has always started fights or created hurt feelings. I suppose in depends on what your calling someone out about. I think its important to be honest with your friends, but I often find people can be overly critical of their friends once they get comfortable with each other.

    Still a good post though.

  3. Ana

    I agree with Rose that it can be tricky. It’s one thing to joke around “you’re being crazy!”, quite another to actually tell a friend that she is making a real mistake, or that her thoughts/feelings about a serious matter are not correct. While I cherish that kind of closeness, and would definitely want to be called out by my friends, I admit that it can still sting. And I’ve seen friendships fall apart because one person felt obligated to tell the truth, and the other just could not handle it. For me, though, I’d rather hear it from a friend than from a stranger…or worse, learn the hard way through unfortunate consequences. I would appreciate the honesty and recognize that it’s not easy for the truth-teller, either.

  4. I agree with Rose and Ana that I don’t know how much “calling out” I really do even with my oldest friends, but at the same time I know what you mean. I would say instead that I feel more able to disagree with my oldest friends about things like religion and politics or even to have those kinds of conversations in the first place. I have finally made a friend who lives near us and I find myself wishing we still weren’t in the “new friend” stage because I feel like I have to watch myself around her–I know she is more conservative (politically and religiously) than I am, which is fine because we are similar in a lot of other ways, but I don’t feel like I can completely be myself around her because I don’t yet know how she will react to some of my beliefs.

  5. I want to agree with you, and I think that mostly this is true. I think in the cases where you have really connected with friends, and kept that connection going for years and years, without any “break” in that connection. My older friends and I don’t really have this type of relationship. I wish I had friends with who I could be more honest, without the fear of retaliation (not sure if this is the right work to use here…), and who I know would do the same for me. Those that have been around for years don’t live close by any longer, and our relationships have changed because of that. We can still pick up where we left off if we see one another, but for most that type of honesty is not there. I think you should treasure those – they are rare, and definitely diamonds!

  6. Karen

    I knew a person (thought she was my friend) who did not appreciate my caring and honestly and thought I should just support her in whatever she did, no matter what. Our friendship did not survive because I think part of a solid, real friendship is being honest and caring…not fake and agreeable all the time. Yes, calilng out is a good thing when you love someone!

  7. Trina

    Just started reading your blog, and I love it. Ok, that’s out of the way 🙂 I think it depends on the person. I have old friends with whom I feel comfortable bestowing a call-out, no question. I also have old friends who are either very sensitive or just not ready to hear the truth and I typically spare them my thoughts. (It’s interesting to know that I’m not as close to these friends.) I have a relatively new friend of two years who I feel comfortable calling-out, and a new friend of three months who I wouldn’t dream of calling-out. So, again, I really think it depends on the friend and their personality/ability to deal with constructive criticism and feedback.

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