Sunlit Water

November 20, 2006

Call Me

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 11:29 pm

When I was in high school I used to call my friends a lot.  I would call someone and ask what they were doing, and they’d answer that they were hanging out somewhere, so I’d go there and hang out and do what everyone else was doing and it was fine.  Then my friends gradually became more and more difficult to contact.  I would call, but they weren’t home.  Or if they had cell phones, they would answer them less and less consistently.  I kept trying, but I started to get frustrated with it all.  Clearly they were still calling each other and hanging out, but I wasn’t part of the loop.  Eventually I just gave up on calling entirely and began going out and driving around for hours hoping to find someone I knew.  I would drive by their houses to see if their lights were on (they usually weren’t).  I would go to places they frequented to see if they were there (they usually weren’t).  Most nights I would eventually come home feeling lonely and defeated.

It’s not that they stopped liking me, I don’t think; on the rare occasions when I did run into them they were friendly and we hung out like we used to.  It’s just that they never even thought about me.  I wasn’t important to them the way they were to me.  I didn’t add anything when people were hanging out.  I wasn’t any fun.

I’ve since stopped caring about those friends entirely.  When I come home for vacations I don’t even bother to try to get in touch with them.  They have my number; if they want to see me they can call me.  They never have.

In fact, they never did.  I can count on one hand the number of times in high school that one of my friends called me up out of the blue to ask what I was doing (there were two such times).  Again, it’s not that they didn’t like me, it’s just that they didn’t care.

I’m starting to see the same dynamic now with my college friends.  I’ve gradually drifted apart from the group I initially fell in with freshman year; we never had all that much in common, we just happened to live together in the dorm.  My roommates are the only people from that group that I still see regularly, and I don’t hang out with them very often.

I do have closer friends now, mainly fellow linguistics majors and people from the humor magazine.  I get along great with them, and both groups have occasional parties and other social events that I enjoy a great deal.  And yet, they never try to get in touch with me just to hang out or do something either.  It’s not really a big deal, since I see them all the time anyway, but I find the dynamic worrying.  I don’t know if I’ll lose touch with them after I graduate the way I’ve lost touch with my high school friends (probably not), but I do kind of wonder what it is about me that consistently keeps people from seeking out my company.



  1. NO NO NO NO NO! You have this very wrong, and you need to know now. Here is the truth, and this has been very hard for me to understand. You ready?:

    Very few people ever call to arrange plans. The ones who do? They make plans with everyone, and all are welcome. Everybody else does not go to effort to make plans.

    I am one of the ones who arranges things. I call people to invite them for dinner; I get lots of people in the same room to play games; I call people to see if they want to go read in the same cafe. I do this shit all the time. Every couple of years, I’ll get pissed that no one else does this. I’ll resolve to stop, and wait to see how long it takes for those losers to call me for a change. They don’t. They simply do not. I got all hurt about that, until I realized that they aren’t calling the other cooler people to make plans. They aren’t calling anyone*. People who aren’t arrangers do not make plans. They watch TV or something instead of making plans. But, they are thrilled to be invited to things.

    If there isn’t an arranger in the crowd, sometimes people will do things because they happened to talk about something in person. But Teo, this is soooo not about you, or unique to you. They are not making plans with everyone but you. They are not making any plans.

    If you want to be included in shit, find the arranger and be useful to her. I can always use help, and while I’ll invite anyone I think of that day, I’ll always invite someone who calls me forty minutes before it starts to ask if I need any last thing from the store.

    *This gets worse when everyone is coupled up, because then they really do not make plans.

    Comment by Megan — November 20, 2006 @ 11:45 pm |Reply

  2. Listen to Megan, Teo. She’s totally right.

    Also, it’s easy to fall into the “if they really liked me, they’d remember to call” way of thinking but so many times plans aren’t made by deciding “who do I like best? I’ll call them” but by “who immediately comes to mind” or “who just happens to be nearby”. It takes work to keep in touch and to keep those relationships afloat so that you immediately come to mind when people plan things and so that you are in a position to be around when people go by proximity/convenience.

    Comment by Becks — November 20, 2006 @ 11:55 pm |Reply

  3. I dunno, guys. I mean, I’m sure you’re right and all, but that just means I’m not one of the people who immediately comes to mind when the arranger (whoever that is) makes plans. Which is pretty much what I was thinking.

    Comment by teofilo — November 20, 2006 @ 11:59 pm |Reply

  4. Although you have made me realize that worrying about this in regard to my current group of friends is silly. So thanks for that; it’s very reassuring.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:06 am |Reply

  5. I think the difference is that you see “who immediately comes to mind” as a judgement of coolness or how much they want to hang out with you when really it’s probably more their lazy minds thinking of who they’ve seen most recently.

    Which is a good thing! If you weren’t coming to mind immediately because you weren’t cool enough or they didn’t like you that would be a lot harder to change. If you just aren’t coming to mind because of lazy brains equating “who immediately comes to mind” with “who have I seen/talked to in the last X days”, you can change that by making an effort to stay in touch. It makes sense that you feel closer with the people in your major and who work for the magazine because you see them more often and thus are fresh in their minds when plans are made.

    It may not seem fair but the onus of keeping the connection alive seems to fall on the person who went away — whether “away” means going to another school, moving off campus, etc.

    Comment by Becks — November 21, 2006 @ 12:07 am |Reply

  6. Wow, this is a rich vein for me. There’s a good chance you’ll see all of this again on my blog soon. You want to know who I call to arrange that fun trip to the park, where we play catch and then have a picnic? Here it goes, in order:

    When he lived in town, my best friend, ’cause everything is funner with him.
    The two or three people that always show up to things, because I can trust that I’ll get numbers that way.
    People specific to the activity, ’cause they live near the park or play board games or mentioned that they want to do group yoga.
    Whoever I ran into that day at the gym or co-op or pick-up.

    I swear, that’s it. That is the entire way I parse it. Not about cooler people, although I will slightly favor people I can trust to participate and not be snotty about whatever boardgame we choose.

    You want to be called? Be best friends with the arranger or be consistent about showing up and participating. Two or three rejections, and I’ll move on to the next person who might be neat. If you are also useful, you are IN.

    The arranger is whomever is willing to have things happen at her house. (I know a couple men arrangers, but many more women arrangers, and, incidentally, when we get together, we talk shop about planning things. Also, we sometimes do little head nods and eye contact to acknowledge a well run event.) That girl. She invited everyone over the first week of school, and she checks dorm rooms before you go down to dinner to see if people are around. She thinks of things to do, and wants people to do them with and sends out group emails. She wants help, or at least bodies in the room, and would freakin’ love to be invited to stuff for a change.

    Comment by Megan — November 21, 2006 @ 12:14 am |Reply

  7. No, I’m specifically not thinking of it as a measure of coolness or how much they wanted to hang out with me. I’m saying pretty much the same thing you are, I think, I just don’t see how I could have stayed in closer touch with these people than I did (I saw them every fucking day in school, for example). And, like I said, I called them all the time.

    Now, of course, we’ve drifted apart and I’m sure the dynamics you’re talking about are going on, but that’s an effect rather than a cause of the estrangement. And at this point I really don’t care. I only go home twice a year and spend as little time there as possible.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:15 am |Reply

  8. Megan, the events you’re talking about sound way, way more organized than the events I’m talking about. I’m talking about stuff like hanging out at someone’s house playing videogames. And in high school, not college; as I mentioned, this isn’t really a problem for me now.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:18 am |Reply

  9. I don’t know about your high school estrangement, hon. When that happened to me in sixth grade and junior high, there was a malicious instigator. But I think that is mostly girls at that age.

    Comment by Megan — November 21, 2006 @ 12:21 am |Reply

  10. 9: Fair enough, but my high school estrangement is the topic of this post. These comments have been helpful in convincing me that it isn’t as important to my life now as I thought it was.

    This is all probably kind of silly to worry about. That Unfogged thread just made me sad with all the people complaining about how people never call, and I was like “but I did call! a lot! and no one answered! wtf?”

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:27 am |Reply

  11. See and your post made me sad too, ’cause that sucks. I’ve had that feeling, and it is awful. This is why sad movies are completely unnecessary.

    Comment by Megan — November 21, 2006 @ 12:32 am |Reply

  12. Yeah, it sucked at the time, but it wasn’t really malicious and I think your explanation is accurate; for whatever reason, I just wasn’t one of the people who came to mind when these guys were making plans. Water under the bridge, in any case. I could always contact them if I wanted to. I’m sure they’d like to see me.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:38 am |Reply

  13. I’m sure they were all like, that teo, if only he watched the WB, we’d call him.

    I am totally one of those arranger people.

    Comment by ac — November 21, 2006 @ 12:46 am |Reply

  14. Yeah, that must have been it. If only I’d watched more Roswell with my sister. God that was a terrible show. (See, I’m not totally ignorant of the WB.)

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 12:49 am |Reply

  15. I agree with Becks and Megan, pretty much. The way I forcibly transformed myself into a sociable person after college was pretty much to call a few of my friends a bunch of nights and to see what they were doing. Which often led to me saying, “Hey, let’s go shoot pool.” And the whoever I ran into factor is big; which is complicated because, if you don’t have plans with people you may not leave the house and then you won’t run into them (and vice versa).

    Comment by Matt Weiner — November 21, 2006 @ 10:27 am |Reply

  16. On the other hand, if your friends tend to be really busy, you might find yourself suggesting having dinner or seeing a movie or something and then, sometime around a week from the first Thursday after you started the process, you all finally go out and do something.

    Just thought I’d be as positive and optimistic as everyone else.

    Comment by eb — November 21, 2006 @ 12:36 pm |Reply

  17. Roswell was a terrible show. On the other hand, Katherine Heigl.

    Teo, your high school angst rings true for me, because I’m so pathetic that if my friends went even a few days without calling me, I’d be positive that they didn’t like me anymore and were all off having fun without me, but of course I couldn’t call THEM since, see above, they didn’t like me anymore. I’m a bit less insecure nowadays, although as Megan pointed out in #1, having coupled up means that I’m much less likely to make social plans these days. I’m working on changing that.

    Comment by mrh — November 21, 2006 @ 2:20 pm |Reply

  18. I actually went on strike from trying to make plans with three of my college friends when I was around 22 and we were all living in NY, because I was tired of the asymmetric effort. Two eventually called me, and the third became an ex friend, and even though I hadn’t planned it that way, I realized, retrospectively, I was glad, because the ridiculous “she doesn’t love me enough!” feedback loops were only one among many of the little dramas that made our friendship unpleasant.

    Comment by Tia — November 21, 2006 @ 2:33 pm |Reply

  19. I once stopped making plans with a flaky friend who I thought was blowing me off and happened to come across her later in an apologetic mood. She said she’d felt terrible about being such a huge flake and we got into a habit of having breakfast together once a week. And, for about a year, we became inseparable, mostly through her efforts. Then she flaked out again. Made that year seem very sweet and poignant.

    Comment by ac — November 21, 2006 @ 5:03 pm |Reply

  20. A lot of it, I think, is just people being stupid about “is that person available/would they want to hang out?” I have one friend that I call all the time, and that’s because he a) lives 5 blocks from me and b) pretty much always says yes whenever I ask him to come hang out with me. I know he’s bored, lonely, and that we have an awesome time together, so he’s pretty much always up for hanging out unless he’s actually with someone else, or something. I have another friend who lives probably 5 miles away (which is a lot, in the city) and I call her more rarely, not because I enjoy her less (in fact, I always have a fantastic time with her) but because I think “does she really want to come all the way up to my neighborhood? Do I want to go all the way down there? Fuck it.” Then I have friend #3, who lives even closer than friend #1, but I call her less, because when I do, she’s frequently like “oh, I’m doing [some lame thing] with [boyfriend].” There are two things she could do to make this less annoying to me (it’s particularly annoying because whenever she’s single, she and I are, like, attached at the hip): 1) invite me occasionally to hang with her and her bf 2) when I call her to hang out, if she can’t, suggest another soon time when she is available. That’s one of the things I think that greatly contributes to the frequency with which I call friend #1: when I do call him and he’s busy, he always says “Oh, I am having dinner with [girl], but I’ll call you when I’m done,” or “I’ve got a dinner with my professor tonight, but let’s have breakfast in the morning.” I get the impression that he’s like this with most of our other friends, too, so the story is, if you’re up for anything, people are going to be more likely to call.

    I don’t even know if I like this comment. I’m not trying to say that it’s your fault, teo, especially because I think what Megan says is exactly right. But do you think it’s possible you give off the air of having a structured/busy life such that people just think “oh, teo’s probably busy” or “teo wouldn’t want to do this, he’s probably got something else going on” before they even pick up the phone? I know I occasionally give off this impression, I must have had this exact same conversation with five different people:
    person: Dude, we should hang out more! How come you never call me?!
    me: I do, occasionally. How come you never call me?
    person: Well, I dunno. I guess I just assume you’re busy, what with [boyfriend], [other friends], and all the eight million other things you’re doing.
    me: Sometimes I’m busy, but other times, like last weekend, I wasn’t doing shit. You can pick up the phone.

    So I think you have to understand the extent to which people make assumptions before they ever call. When you’re the arranger, like I am, it’s even worse, because people know you make calls when you feel like hanging out, so they think that if you’re not calling them, you must be off doing something way more exciting with way better people. I can not emphasize how much I hate this.

    I hereby resolve that people shouldn’t wait for other people to call, ever, when it comes to friendship. For example, I saw a friend yesterday and we discussed my going over to her place today to watch The L-Word on OnDemand and eat leftovers. Now, it’s 2 pm, and she hasn’t called me. I’m going to call her when I finish this comment, but I bet if I didn’t, I would go the whole day without getting a call from her, even though I’m sure she would enjoy it if I came over; she seemed quite enthusiastic about it yesterday. But she would assume that my lack of calling would mean I had changed my mind, or was doing something better, and then I will see her on Monday and she would say “I thought you were going to come over on Friday!” See, this whole thing is bullshit. People need to pick up the damn telephone. Anyway, with that, I have a phone call to make.

    Comment by m. leblanc — November 24, 2006 @ 2:53 pm |Reply

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