I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. I have a friend who, during an earlier phase of our friendship, would close their emails with “Your tenuous friend.” This simultaneously amused, reassured, and unsettled me.
That I was amused by their closing has to do with similarities in our sense of humor: we both love irony, paradox, and can even see humor in the tenuousness of life itself.
That they signed as “friend” was reassuring because I have harbored doubts about my worthiness as a friend since childhood. As children, we all have doubts about friendship because in that stage of life friendship is naturally tenuous—your friend today may ignore you tomorrow or even become your enemy. In that stage, we are just beginners but as we grow older most of us learn that we deserve to have good friends upon whom we can rely. This understanding is a natural by-product of healthy self-esteem: I am worthy of good friends, and I am a good friend. That they signed as friend told me that I am moving into a more adult sphere where I am willing to trust my friends and to be trustworthy to them.
That I was unsettled by having a “tenuous” friend also had to do with my feelings of unworthiness from childhood. Why can’t they just sign “Your friend,” instead of reminding me of my insecurities? Well, let me tell you something: if they had signed it “Your friend,” that would have unsettled me, too.