A reflection on connection (on the occasion of my 50th birthday)

Today I turn 50. A milestone birthday and, pre-pandemic, one that many friends celebrated with blowout parties. For the longest time, I thought I’d do something similarly big, almost like a wedding party, with dozens of guests, food, drinks, music, games, everything.

I am not. There are many reasons, but high among them—what if I gave a big party and no one came?

I think this goes beyond typical host anxiety or sad sack “nobody likes me.” For a while now, I’ve witnessed that people just aren’t showing up for one another. I attend outings organized by friends, and am dispirited by the low turnout.

Yes, the pandemic is still out there, but considering the myriad mitigations (vaccines, boosters, masking, outside events, rapid tests, ventilation), it’s a weaker and weaker justification.

I do think the pandemic has triggered a kind of insular, isolationist, solipsism in many. In developing resourcefulness in making the most of our time alone, we’ve created comforting cocoons that we don’t want to leave.

Showing up for our friends takes time and effort, and it seems many have made the calculation that such work is not worth the outcome.

Showing up for our friends also might mean shifting our schedules. People calendar their lives with busy-ness, activities to stave off boredom or uncertainty. This scheduling ends up taking precedence over spontaneous or one-off connections with friends.

I recognize this isn’t always the case. People have very real commitments, and shouldn’t be expected to cater to the whims of others. But I suspect that if folks took time to reflect, their time could be freer than they realize.

Anyway, Instead of putting all my eggs into a blowout party basket, I’m leaning into this fractured reality. I’m celebrating my 50th year in ‘slow motion,’ with a series of hangouts, dates, excursions that may last a month, or even more. Shit, if it all works out, this may become a template for living the rest of my life.

Friends don’t loan friends money — they give it

An unfortunate circumstance of life is when your friends get into money trouble. As a friend, you feel an obligation to support. But money is a crazy sensitive subject, and getting involved risks that friendship.

I don’t remember the context in which it came up, but I do remember that, as a child, I talked to my parents about loaning money to someone (maybe they had a friend who I knew needed money? maybe I had a friend who asked me for a loan?). And something they said stuck with me my whole life: friends don’t loan money to friends — they give it. If you get it back, great, and if not, that’s okay, too.

I hadn’t thought much about it until recently. And I wouldn’t be writing about it except I’ve seen a huge rift, a chasm cleave through a community of friends (where sides have been chosen and all kinds of other drama), and that chasm was caused by a friend loaning another friend money (it’s more complicated than that, but this will suffice). I don’t want others to be hurt the way that I have (and that’s as a by-stander to this situation).

True friendship cannot be conditional. If conditions are set up in order to maintain the relationship, it’s no longer a friendship. It’s an arrangement.

One friend might think they’re doing another a favor by loaning them money. “Isn’t it big of me to help my friend when they are struggling by spotting them some money?”


Because, if that struggling friend takes you up on that offer, you’ve now created a condition, specifically a shift in the power dynamic between the two friends. And that, by it’s very nature, is no longer a friendship.

If you cannot simply give someone the money they need, you shouldn’t give it at all — you’re under no obligation to financially support your friends. (And if you’re that struggling friend, no matter how hard it is, do not accept a loan from a friend. It will not be worth it.) If you can give someone the money, great, but only do so if you can do it and then immediately forget about it.