There's a new book out this week from bestselling memoirist and funny lady Julie Klam, and this one diverges a bit from her two recent books, You Had Me at Bark and Love at First Woof. For one, it's about human friendships, not interspecies ones. In particular, it's about those special human relationships we get to choose: not our families, not our children, not even our spouses or girlfriends or boyfriends, but our plain old yet very important friends. Interestingly, though it's a topic close to our lives, it's not a topic that's gotten a lot of love in recent years of publishing. Friendkeeping—subtitled "A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can't Live Without"—from Riverhead Books, was inspired by Klam's comparison of friendship to bridges, particularly the George Washington Bridge, which she was stopped on at the time the book idea came to her. The subtext is, if you don't take care of these things, they will fall down. She added, in a conversation with The Atlantic Wire, "I wanted to examine relationships with someone who doesn't pee on my rug." Now, at 46, she says, "I'm at this time in my life when my parents are getting older, and there are things that have gotten tougher. I really need my friends."
This is a sentiment that resonated strongly with me. While our friends are some of the most important people we have in our lives, our friends are also the ones we're always giving short shrift to. We have to work instead of meeting them for drinks; we postpone plans because we're tired or just don't feel up to it; we go on dates with relative strangers instead of dinners with them; we cancel over and over again, sometimes. While we manage to get up and go to our jobs and walk the dog or feed the cat every day, taking care of the daily business of life, we do not give the same time and energy to our friends. Would that we could, of course, but also, they understand, unlike children or bosses or our significant others. If they don't understand, often, we drop them. A recent piece in the New York Times addressed how hard it is to meet and make and keep new friends in middle age, and you could make the point that with everything else we have to manage as grown-up people, some bridges inevitably just aren't going to get tended. Klam explains, though, that without those bridges, we are sad folks indeed—going nowhere good, as it were.