The Friends and Family Plan

Written by Rina Risper

People don’t trust new acquaintances enough to make them friends and old friends move away.  Do I sound bitter?  Well, I am.

It seems that all of the really great people that I know are moving away. It took me years to find these friends and I will have lost six in one year.  I am grieving miserably.

Moving Away

I had a great friend who moved to New York recently.  I cannot tell you how much I miss him.  Both my husband, Frank and I relied on Omar to stop by, tickle the children and tell us about his extended Jamaican family in the States and beyond.  The thing we loved most about Omar was that he was always on top of his game and he smiled while being the best he could be.  I truly miss him.  He just passed the bar in New York and called to let us know.  I was so overwhelmed that he would  include us in that circle.  I wanted to make dinner for him and his wife but he is too far away.  I will think about him as I visit family in New York, but know that I will be too busy to see him.

Another one of my friends, Paula, was transferred to an auto job far away.  When she told me that she was moving away I got a big lump in my throat.  The kind you get when you are watching an extremely powerful and sad movie.  She is the only friend that  I would actually get out a pen and a piece of paper to write a letter to.

I feel so Victorian when I spend time with her talking about vegetables and gardening.  My garden is not growing too well because I have no one else who is interested in seeing how big my tomatoes are.  I’m going to miss her.  The lump is still there and it has not melted.

In the news article, Lynn Smith – Lovin, who teaches at Duke University, said that Americans confide less in friends and more in their families.  She added that the change is not good for our society because relationships with friends create safety nets, lead to more civic and political involvement than those who are just involved with the family.

I agree with her, yet I know that friendships are a different type of family relationship.  I cannot imagine my life living close to my mother. Because the fact is that I don’t.  I have never had the experience so I can’t imagine it.

She lives thousands of miles away yet I talk to her every day. Maybe the reason why we’ve become more dependent on our families is because they live so far away and you just need someone to complain to  or just vent.

When you live close to family members you easily become the occassional babysitter, get involved in petty arguments about family issues or become the cheap restaurant because family just stops by and dig in the refrigerator.

Do Tell Everything on National Television

The study also showed that people with whom Americans can discuss matters important to them dropped by nearly one-third, from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004.

The study revealed was that Americans do not respect confidentiality.  People will tell your business if you aren’t careful.  We’re not taking advantage of beautiful people who can be
friends.  The study also said those who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent.

The survey found that both family and non-family confidants dropped, with the loss greatest in non-family connections.

I can see how friendships are shrinking.  We live in a society of sensationalists.  We have Maury, Jerry, Dr. Phil, Dr. Ruth and a whole other host of individuals who are happy to put your problems on television. If you don’t tell anyone no one will know.

I have a friend who talks so much about other people that she doesn’t realize that confidentiality is important and that she is not truly a friend anymore but someone to watch. Which I do intently.  I really like her though, I guess sometimes you just need to exercise more caution with those with the “Ralph Kramden Blabbermouth Syndrome.”  They’re the people who tell other people’s business and sometime embellish it so that it sounds more scandalous than it actually is.

For those who do not know, Ralph Kramden is a character on “The Honeymooners”.  It probably has been in syndication since the late 1950’s. (Cedric the Entertainer played Ralph Kramden in the 2005 movie “The Honeymooners” and Jackie Gleason played the character in the original series.  For the really challenged people, it was on during the “I Love Lucy” era.)

Last week I taught a class entitled, "I can express myself" for over 200 teenagers in Atlanta, Georgia.  The most profound issue that they had about writing was possibly disclosing information about themselves.  They said that they didn’t want anyone to be able to use it against them, which means that their circle of friends were small.

We talked about self disclosure in poetry and writing.  When I told them about pen names they became more comfortable with writing down what they were thinking instead of being concerned about what someone was thinking about their content.

The Friends and Family Plan

Times are changing and superficial relationships are just that.  But there are real friends out there to be had.  They are the ones who you will call when you can’t reach your spouse and you have a flat tire.  They are the ones who will laugh because they can’t change it themselves either.  But most importantly, they will be the ones who will come to you and wait with you while the “tire changer” finally rescues the both of you.  It will give you something to laugh about when you really have to hold each other’s hand.

Sometimes there is no one else to talk to even about the small things, like the fact that mango and papaya are on sale at Kroger that week.  Start calling your friends and have a party.  Not just a barbecue but a dinner party.  If you only have one a year that is better than none.  Call a friend that you have not seen in a while and ask them for coffee.

Friends Wanted Ads

In a few years, I will have the “Friends Wanted Ads” in the paper. A typical one will read:

“Looking for a real friend.

Qualifications: Married or single, but doesn’t like married men (especially my husband) has to be fun, energetic, have great communication skills and most IMPORTANTLY…. knows how to maintain confidentiality and loves to shoe shop.


This friend will hear my deepest secrets
This friend will always know that I will say what I think
This friend will tell me when she thinks I am wrong and why
This friend should understand that I will make mistakes and learn from them
This friend will be a hand holder, especially when no one thinks I’m human
There will be no competition in this friendship.
Should be bilingual, understanding the Rina Risper secret language.
Well, I use my hands a  lot and I make weird faces.
Should be prepared to receive great recipes from me that can whipped together in 30 minutes.
I also would love to tell you about my culture and hope that you would do the same.”

Any responders?

Rina Risper