Last night I went to dinner with some old friends — former colleagues from my Capitol Hill Days.
We’ve known each other for well over 30 years now, and we’ve celebrated each other’s birthdays for all those years.
I once asked Doug if he would like to join us for one of these dinners.
“No!” He emphatically replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because it wouldn’t be fun. It would be like hanging out with you and your high school friends and having no idea what you’re talking about.”
Oh, the high school friends…
He brings them up often because he felt so out-of-place when they came to visit.
Trying to be the perfect host, he barbecued a great dinner, and tried to engage everyone in good conversation.
It didn’t take long until he felt squeezed out of the group or felt like he’d missed the punch lines of all the jokes.
He slowly faded out of the room, recognizing that he couldn’t be an active participant in our girly gabfest.
When my high school friends get together, we don’t finish each other’s sentences like they say good friends do.
We don’t even use sentences.
A simple word makes us hysterical with laughter.
Take the word, “popcorn.”
That innocent word can get everyone laughing until tears are coming out of our eyes and we can hardly breathe.
The word “popcorn” is all we need to remember a hilarious story about a friend of ours who went on a date in high school and had a memorable experience with a box of popcorn.
When I get together with my Capitol Hill friends, it’s the same kinds of conversations.
Someone twitches their shoulder and we can’t stop laughing, but to explain to someone why a shoulder twitch is funny is impossible.
An orange peel, the mention of certain Greek words, or certain renditions of the Happy Birthday song can bring on more laughter.
I understand why Doug doesn’t want to be part of these events, but I was still surprised by his blunt refusal.
When I told my friends about how Doug didn’t want to join us, one of them said, “Would you want to join us if you were him? Why would anyone want to join us?”
Why would anyone else want to join us?
It’s like starting a movie when it’s half over, and spending the rest of the movie trying to figure out what’s going on.
But, aren’t these the best kinds of friends — the ones that share a kind of familial language and a level of intimacy that comes from years of shared experiences and memories?
These are the friendships we earn over entire lifetimes, and our silly little stories help cement the relationships.
Just thinking about these friends and our stories can make us happy.
A lot f research has been done on friends and they all show that the better quality relationships we have, the more likely we are to be happy.
In Doug’s family, the mere mention of the song, “Reading a Book is Fun to Do” sends his family into fits of laughter, which then reminds them of more silly memories. When he is with his friend Scott, one of them just has to start the story about piling students into a van to take them camping, and they bust up laughing.
These kinds of conversations and simple word cues symbolize the strands of life we enjoy with other people.
We weave more strands every time we get together and invest in these important relationships.
I wonder if these fragmented conversations and word prompts mean more than we realize.
I wonder if they are the comfortable, superficial props that sustain our most enduring, durable, and treasured friendships.