I haven’t shied away from my friendship boundaries in a fair bit. Some of y’all may have noticed. In fact, I’d gotten so immediate with them, I’d been so thorough with their application and their strict necessity, that I was fully stunned when a reasonably close friend did not stand by me on an issue I thought was a clear and relatively unfettered choice.
Solidarity in friendships is a weird arena. A lot of folks like to toe the neutrality line. In fact, this is what I assume most folks do until I stumble into a friendship where all of a sudden we don’t. Where someone fucks up, and your friend hears three words of it and is promptly seventeen shades of FUCK that guy and FUCK that nonsense, not because that guy has committed a categorical wrong, but because you are a categorical right in their life and fuck anything that shits on you. One of my closest friends told me, relatively early on in our time, “Like she and I get along fine, and I maybe don’t even disagree with her but fuck that, just because I’ll have your back. Like that’s just how that goes.”
It changed my life. I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I dislike the neutrality line. I don’t want my toe anythefuckwhere near it. Not all things are a ‘fuck that’ situation, but respecting my friend’s feelings is an always situation, and if that person sits in your life with all of your trust, then taking care not to disdain it is the very least I can do.
I wrote (forever ago) about how our inability to distinguish between disagreeing and being hurtful was hampering our ability to discern fact from fiction. (I’m relatively certain I did not phrase it that way at all. I’m maybe also certain that wasn’t even the point of what I wrote way back smushytimes. Whatever, hush.) The neutrality method, to me, pushes a similar sort of dishonesty with regards to how we see our friends. It is diminishing to my friend that is hurt. It is either false to the hurt friend or to the hurting friend, depending on how you play the neutral zone. It’s fraught unless all friendships involved are tangential and casual, and the hurt is minimal.
The solidarity method does not have issues in the honesty realm, but it involves trusting my friend enough to allow them to draw the line for me. It means, they, not I, get to decide what cuts them so deeply that solidarity is warranted. It means they, not I, get to pick which occasions for solidarity are the ones that really count. It is a relinquishment of power and choice, and it won’t be there without a certain kind of trust. It is fraught unless the commitment to it is an easy, repercussion-free, option, or the need for it is so obvious and clear cut that there is no hesitation.
I’ve also written about how trust often factors oddly for me in relationships, mainly in that I am somehow abundantly stingy with it. And where it factors in the solidarity gauntlet holds true to the glittering stinginess that is apparent everywhere else in my rolodex of shenanigans: the depth of my lean towards folks who are incapable of returning the reach is stunted from the moment I’m out there, empty handed and bewildered. Does it mean I won’t show up for this sort? Probably not. But it does mean that I won’t care if they’re not there for me. Because while they blithely sat it out, both trust and care were voided. The right that was this friend in my life no longer exists.