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Today, I've realised that there is a pent-up demand for being able to stop being friends with someone. During my commute to work, I'd idly posted a Facebook status update about how friendships should be like contracts that are subject to renewal. Every year, say, both parties in a friendship should be allowed to renew their agreement or let it lapse. Like how your business has a retainer with an ad agency, you know? They do a good job and people buy your widgets, sure you renew their contract and all is well. They sneak a phallic image into your publicity material for teething rusks, and their ass is out on the street.
To my surprise, that post received an astoundingly enthusiastic response from almost all of my 32 Facebook friends. So, out there right now I imagine, are vast multitudes of people logjammed in plodding or toxic friendships that they have either outgrown or unwittingly sunken into, desperate to leave.
The assumption that all friendships should be life-long or indefinite in nature is flawed. To begin with, we don't actively "choose" our friends as much as we'd like to think we do. Our childhood friends, the bosomest of our bosom buddies, for example, became our friends when we were so young and stupid that no one would trust us to drive or handle a gun (except in America). I dare wager that if some of you met one of your childhood friends as a grown man today instead, you wouldn't be friends.
Other friends that you end up making later on in life are more circumstantial ones. They are your friends through the most artificial of commonalities - same workplace, same motorcycle, same age of kids - all of which have nothing to do with whether you genuinely like the very fibre of the other person's being.
At the very heart of the matter, friendships should be treated like romantic relationships. You like each other initially, you spend a little more time together, and then you discover that they aren't really your type - they have an odd facial tic, a crippling dependance on Mommy, a Facebook addiction, etc. After awhile, you should be able to send your newly made friend a text to say: Sorry, this isn't workng out, we should see other people. You should be able to break up with your friend, just like you break up with a romantic partner
But there is no social structure for that, and barring a nasty and protracted blow-up that ends all contact, most people stay on in unhappy friendships. They grit their teeth through lunches, roll their eyes silently on the phone and then go home and complain to their spouse about the friend in question.
So, an annually renewable Friendship Contract is what we need. Partially plagiarising my post on Facebook, here's a form you may use for future friendships. You're welcome.
Non-renewal of Friendship Agreement, dated this day Jan 16, 2015
1.1 Non-renewal: We regret to inform you that we will not be renewing your tiresome acquaintance (commenced Jan 16, 2014 when we met in Zumba class through my neighbour's sister's cousin). The reasons for the non-renewal include but are not limited to: *an expiry on things held in common/what was awesome about you initially is now really annoying/incessant and unvarying conversation about your children (*delete where not applicable) . (For a detailed listing of your flaws, shortcomings and poor fashion sense, see Appendix A)
1.2 Facebook friendship: Our Facebook friendship will be renewed for an additional 3 (three) months, during which you will continue to have access to my status updates, photos and notes. Access is contingent upon your refraining on commenting, passive-aggressively 'liking' posts (sincere 'liking' is exempted) and tagging me in photos/status updates. We reserve the right for immediate Facebook friendship termination in the event that you invite us to play Pirate King or any game ending with the subfix '-ville'. This Facebook friendship is subject to a quarterly review. Notice of Facebook termination will not be provided, but will be evident from when you can no longer see what I did in Cancun this summer (it was awesome, btw)
1.3 Future contact: Upon your acknowledgement of receipt of this agreeement, all contact via phone, email and any and all social networks are to cease within 24 hours. No correspondence will be reciprocated, so those two blue ticks on Whatsapp? They mean nothing in your case.
1.4 Custody of social circles: Priority of claim on mutual friends will be split according to who made the friendship first. Individuals who have been friends with me for longer than they have been friends with you are statutorily required to no longer invite you to gatherings including but not limited to: weddings, luncheons and book club meetings. You will continue to receive invitations to children's birthday parties, because those are a force unto themselves anyway.
1.5 Real-life encounters: In large social settings where both parties have been invited, the extent of interaction will be limited to a friendly nod and a "Hello". This agreement has no provision for small talk, so please refrain from asking "How are you?". You know how much I hate that.
Dated this day, Jan 16, 2015