My Friendship Bus is... Full
By Sassica Francis-Bruce
don't know about you, but I rarely see my friends. At least, not the ones who live in the same city as me. I used to see one of my good friends all the time when she lived in New York and came to Los Angeles on business, but now that she lives here I'll be lucky to see her once every couple of months. We email sometimes, text daily and leave tons of messages on each others cell phones. All my L.A. friends are great at finding some space in their schedule, making plans, confirming them and then canceling last minute due to different sorts of emergencies: working late, just got a facial peel and can't go out into the sun or be exposed to anything that might reflect sun, an allergy to pollen desensitized and can't go outside for 25 hours, appointment with eyebrow waxer just opened up and she is going to Barbados for two weeks and I won't be able to see her before she leaves if I don't go now.
Just getting someone on the phone takes an enormous amount of effort. Most phone calls go to voicemail, even when I'm returning a call I just missed. It seems that if I don't pick up the moment someone calls, I've missed the fleeting opportunity. If I'm lucky enough that they pick up it is usually followed immediately with a "I can't talk right now..." which perplexes me because why pick up the phone if you can't talk? Angelenos are obsessed with giving off the impression that they are "unavailable." Seeing someone in person seems to be the final option of friendship when all other methods have been worn out so much that if you continue going along the same path you risk no longer having a friendship to avoid. This, of course, is an L.A. thing and a behavior I might not have noticed, much less perceived as a problem, if it was my hometown.
I'm not from here and I don't mean that in the way people from Long Beach think they don't live in L.A. I'm really not from here. I grew up in Australia, but have been living in L.A. for 14 years, long enough to expect flakiness in relationships, but not long enough to accept it. I've lived in many cities throughout the U.S., as well as London, Florence and Vancouver and there is nowhere more flakey than Los Angeles.
Why is that so? Do we have too many friends, are we trying to fit too much in, or are all the ways of communicating making us simultaneously more busy and less reachable? But really, we are never too busy to do what we want: never too busy to see our boyfriends or drive around the block 12 times to find a space directly in front of Starbucks for our coffee fix and then wait in line for 20 minutes for our specialty drink (while texting someone saying how busy we are).
I used to think people's lives were too full, but now I believe Angelenos are hermits and the way this anti-socialness manifests itself is in an inability to make a commitment to anything. They already have so many chores they "have" to do in their lives and at work that the last thing they want to do is commit to something else, especially in their personal time. Commitment to even the most basic of things, such as meeting at a certain time and place, has become rare. Angelenos always want to keep their options open in case they are offered something better. People RSVP to birthday parties and movie screenings and don't show. They think about how they will get there, traffic, who will watch the kids and all the logistics until they are so exhausted that they don't feel like going anymore.
Personally, I was taught to show up for things that I said I was coming to, regardless of how I felt. It was only Ok to cancel if an emergency came up (no, tickets to Death Cab for Cutie does not qualify) and even then you apologize profusely, as though you could have done something to prevent the emergency from occurring.
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