washing a fork over a sink

There’s something strange about friendship.

I used to think, in the ignorance of youth, that it wasn’t possible to be true friends with someone unless there were common interests and beliefs. I used to think that there could be cooperation between such people, but not true friendship. As a result, I shied away from people a lot . . . in fact, all the time . . . since it’s impossible to meet someone who has all the same interests and opinions as you. So I didn’t think I had any real friends.

But why did I want a friend like that, anyway? Only a clone of myself could be my friend? But even identical twins are different from each other.

One thing I love about the novel Indelicacy, by Amina Cain, is its depiction of friendship. The protagonist is a writer: and she has a true artistic spirit. She is relieved and unendingly grateful when she forges a friendship with another artist: a dancer. They connect and have a mutual appreciation of each other’s art.

But the protagonist has another great friend, who’s equally important to her. Here’s how Cain describes one of their early interactions:

“I didn’t talk about writing at all. She continued to tell me the things she wanted, that she had seen in the shops.”

There seem to be no common interests or beliefs between these two women. These are just two people who happen to work at the same place. One wants to be a writer and has nontraditional ideas. The other is traditional and wants a husband and nice clothes.

But something strange happens when the two women meet at the protagonist’s home:

“Though we had dirtied only a few dishes, . . . Antoinette insisted on washing them before she went. It was sweet and I began to love her then.”

Loving her two different friends carries the protagonist through the novel. She loves them equally, though her interactions with each of them are different. And that’s okay.

It’s okay in my present life, too. It’s wonderful to have friends who are similar to you, along with friends who are different from you. The important thing is to find something to appreciate and cherish in the other person, just as the other person finds something to appreciate and cherish in you.

Now, as to the question of how to make a friend?

Easy: do someone’s dishes. Or appreciate the dishes that someone does for you. And don’t get hung up on whether you and your new friend are exactly the same.

Because you’re not. And that’s okay.

Have you done someone’s dishes lately (literally or metaphorically)? Have you appreciated the dishes someone did for you (literally or metaphorically)?

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