While proofreading it last year, one of my Passports story “checkers” had noticed the novel’s “friendships” undertone, and told me:
These girls are so close and fond of each other….
It was excellent she caught that, because I framed that deliberately. It applies to men too. Friends as central in our lives is an important theme I wanted to explore in the novel(s).
I aimed to subtly emphasize friendships between those raised as only children, or with much older, or emotionally distant – or difficult – siblings. For them, their closest support may come from friends and not from similar age relatives:
I have two brothers,” Isabelle shared with him. “They are about twenty years older than me. Not a surprise. My parents are much older.”
“I’m an only child. It isn’t easy. When I was little, I always wished for a brother or sister,” James said. “I’d have even taken one twenty years older.”
“My best friend Virginie is an only child,” Isabelle added. “And the way her mother is so young, they are like friends often.” She laughed lightly. “Sometimes I envy her.”
In our real lives, relatives may let us down big time. In comparison, friends – and I don’t mean those 952 Facebook friends, but friends who’d pick you up at the airport in the middle of the night – are often closer than family. They are because you are brought together by common interests, experiences and life outlooks, and not by accident of blood and (often someone else’s) marriage.
Above all, there is this difference. Friendship can never be taken for granted in the manner of a familial relationship. However, when it comes to relatives, you’re supposed to put up with just about anything.
A decade ago, after years of s-it stirring with us, a relative spoiling for a fight finally led us into a place where we felt we had to draw a line. That has naturally created knock on issues for us. Since then, other family wearyingly insist that everyone should just hug, sing Kumbaya, and all would be happy happy happy.
And why? Because, we are incessantly lectured, we are “family.”
“Oh, how long will this go on?” go the moanings. “I’m sure she didn’t really mean it. We should look forward, not back.”
The excuses for relatives’ appalling behavior are endless. Yet if our line was so “unreasonable,” I do wonder what the line is? If a relation, say, threatens you with a knife, are you allowed, perhaps, maybe to be a tad put out about that?
Would anyone with an ounce of self-respect ever keep around a friend who is a threatening, scheming, pompous ingrate? A nasty individual with whom you have zero in common? Someone who sees you only in terms of what you do for her/ him?
Of course not. But even with relatives like that, it’s still commonly demanded you smile at them over a lunch table. You are supposed to pretend you love them even if you despise them.
That’s absurd. Give me my dear friends over some so-called “family” any day of the week. It’s no contest.
Hmmmmmm. I’ve just realized. This post is aiming to make a wider literary point based partly on my own experience. I hope it doesn’t qualify as a “personal moan!” ;-)