Showing Up: The Single Most Important Thing A Friend Can Do


Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of letters and seeing a lot of topics in the forums about friendship — specifically, trouble making and keeping friends. As I get older — I’ll be 37 (!) in a few days — I’ve noticed several things about friendships: they are harder to make and keep as your life fills with more responsibilities (career, spouses/partners, kids, aging parents, and a mortgage and other bills to name a few); friends’ support is more important as your life fills with more demands, challenges, and successes to celebrate; the best friends aren’t necessarily the ones you have the most fun partying with but are the ones who SHOW UP. Showing up is THE single most important thing you can do as a friend.

Show up for film premieres and plays and races and weddings. Show up for your designer friend’s fashion show and your artist friend’s gallery opening and the dinner to celebrate your friend finally getting her PhD. Go to baby showers even though they’re kind of a drag. Better yet, offer to throw one because you love your friend and this is a big deal. Go to your friend’s mother’s memorial even though it’s a two-hour drive away and it will eat up half your weekend. Go to retirement parties and milestone birthday parties and parties celebrating the end of a nasty divorce. Offer to pet-sit or babysit or house-sit. Cook casseroles and coo over new babies. Drive to airports and weddings and reunions. Drive your friend to her chemo appointment and sit with her afterward and talk to her about whatever she wants to talk about. Show up. Show up.

We all have days when the weight of our responsibilities is enough and it’s a challenge to summon the energy to meet one more demand, to show up, even for something like celebrating a friend’s success. But it’s those moments that matter the most. It’s showing up for that kind of stuff that solidifies a friendship and increases the odds of someone showing up for you when it’s your turn to celebrate or mourn or hope against hope. Because it will be your turn eventually and you will wish there was someone there for you.

For every good friend you have or good friend you want or casual friend you’d like to be closer with, budget enough of yourself to show up when it’s necessary. If there’s only so much of yourself to budget or you have people who require more than you’re willing to give, then whittle your friends down to a manageable amount (manageable for you) so that you have the time and energy to maintain quality friendships. Quality is better than quantity. And resentment is the fastest deal-breaker in friendships, so ditch the friends you resent.

Another thing I’ve learned about friendship is that you will often be surprised by who shows up for you and who doesn’t. Sometimes, the people you show up for and show up for and show up for let you down. And sometimes they show up and show up and show up and you let them down. And sometimes the people you’ve blown off or that you would blow off if given the opportunity are the first to show up for you. The key to long-lasting friendships, I think, is to weed out the ones who keep letting you down — not just once, but over and over — and to hang on to those who keep showing up, as long as they are people whose company you enjoy. The key to long-lasting friendships, particularly for the introverts who guard their personal time like it’s the last Twinkie on Earth — is to say no to enough things that don’t matter so that you have the energy and time to say yes to the stuff that does matter. Quality is better than quantity.

Be clear to your friends when stuff really matters. Obviously, you would hope most people would know that things like a wedding matters or a close loved one’s funeral matters or a milestone birthday party matters, but other things that maybe aren’t as universally meaningful or important can be overlooked and that’s when feelings are hurt and friendships are strained. So make things easier on your friends by telling them when something is important to you and if they still don’t show up and they don’t show up and they don’t show up, then MOA. Because life is too short to keep friends around just because you go back a long way and partied together when mom jeans were in style.


  1. I really love this essay. Show up. It really is as simple as that.
    It seems so many people are caught up in their own worlds and can’t be bothered to extend themselves at times.

  2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Seriously. Well said, Wendy. Well said. That recent whiney letter about the film premiere left me astounded. Its truly amazing how precious little effort so many are willing to put forth…

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      At 3:26 ET, AP-3 v. BGM-3. *But* my words (well, word) as elicited 3 likes, that’s a 3-like per word ratio, whereas your 3 likes must be shared over 31 words, which is a only 0.0968 likes per word. Ouch, sucks for you.

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        At 3:30 ET, AP-4 v. BGM-3. That’s FOUR likes per word. I’m on fire.

      2. BGM has stamina – he can use as many words as it takes to garner the likes, even though he does not appear to be asking to be liked. Also, he gets likes for comments that contain sometimes quite nasty words, so I think a likeability quotient needs to be applied to your math. For example, if you are, say, 1.25 times more inherently likeable than BGM, then your likes count for only 80% as much as his.

        Wow, relationships are so complex.

      3. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Well said. Very well said, Diablo.

      4. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        No, that’s too complicated. Let’s stick to my “likes per word” assessment which is good here. If in the future I leave a really wordy comment then we can reassess…. Sounds fair.

      5. So we’ll reassess tomorrow is what you’re saying.

      6. 😛

      7. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        25 to 9, Addie. 25 to 9…

    2. sarolabelle says:

      What letter is that? Did I miss it?

      1. Click the link in the 2nd paragraph above. It was in the forum.

  3. I love this! And I also want to extend that to family. My parents aren’t in my life anymore and one of the last breaking points was when they didn’t show up to my college graduation, which was a huge deal for me. And while I love my future inlaws, I don’t always want to take time out to drive far to their house and spend a late night there, but I still show up to their parties and brunches and I think that helps strengthen our relationship. I sacrifice a little but I get so much more out of it.

    Some of my closest and most supportive friends are people I wouldn’t have typically seen as people who would be my friends. But they support me, my passions in life, show up to things, as I do my best to do the same. And I agree that’s what matters most.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      I’m so sorry your parents did that to you! I can’t understand when family can’t put in effort for each other. My boyfriend’s parents hardly EVER visit (we’re 3.5hrs driving) even though they work less hours than both of us. Yet they always ask when he’s coming home next and if he can come to such and such family event. I just think it’s so important to be present for family events.

      1. Yeah, it bothers me when people expect you to always come to them. It should go both ways.

  4. Wait, you mean mom jeans are not in style?

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      I know you and Sue Jones rock the mom jeans like no other – you’re my favorite DW moms!

      1. Lemongrass says:


      2. You just need to put on some mom jeans and a thick mauve turtleneck and then post a pic, lemongrass. That’s how I did it.

  5. Seriously, I love this advice. It is beautiful.

  6. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    There are so many things I can take from this essay. Although I show up for the important things in my friends’ life I need to have a better attitude about it. I think I just assume I will always have lots of great friends, but reading forums around here makes me feel like I take that fact for granted. I definitely also need to be better at communicating what’s important to my friends. I have been really bummed by friends not showing up to my races, but the thing is I didn’t really tell them I cared one way or the other. I always phrase it as “oh if you are down there anyway and want to stop by I’ll be finishing around this time!” – instead I think I need to say, “I would really love it if you can make it – I’ve never had much of an audience and it would mean a lot to me”. But also leave it at that. If they don’t show up after that I plan on not taking it personally.

    1. You’re right about how you phrase it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be a burden, so I give people an easy out… “If you’re not doing anything/If you feel like it…” Sometimes, I think you need to let people know that you really care if they’re there or not.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Haha no sorry! That was not a hint at all – I don’t think I’ve even told you about either of my halfs this summer! Although now I feel really bad for not coming to your birthday party last weekend because I had to get up at 5 the next day at hike. (I have my tail between my legs – figuratively speaking)

      2. applescruffs says:

        Pssh, no worries. But we need to hang out soon! I’m going to need a mani/pedi for my brother’s wedding in a couple weeks, let’s make it happen.

  7. Awesome piece!

    I want to reiterate that it’s ok to speak up to a good friend if you’re not getting what you need. As long as you want to keep that friend. If you don’t, it will fester and you will resent that friend.

    For instance, I love birthday’s. I love everything about them. I wanted a fun gathering for my 30th. I also wanted my best friend in the world to visit me and be there. She was wishy washy about it and when I told her it was important to me and why, she came. She had a blast. And she met all my new friends. And even is she wasn’t able to come, I would have been happy telling her how I feel. It’s OK to ask for what you want/need.

    1. Yeah, I agree. It’s ok to ask for what you want and need. Also, if you know you haven’t been “showing up” for your friends, I think it’s really important to own that. Acknowledge it. Just say “I’m sorry I’ve been caught up in my own little world and haven’t been there lately.” Something like that. It goes a long way and can diffuse resentment.

  8. Well said Wendy. So often, it’s not about having great conversations together, or liking the same kind of things, it’s really about “how much energy do you both want to put in a relationship”. I had a friend who almost didn’t show up to her own birthday party (that I had organized) because she had some shopping to do. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just about having a good time around that person, it was also being able to count on her.

  9. Also, what I really like about this essay is that reminds us that while it’s important to show up for the big things (weddings, birth of children, etc) it’s equally important to show up for the “little” things like giving someone a ride to the airport or picking up the phone and calling them. Even when you’re “busy” and even when it’s inconvenient.

    1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      YES on the inconvenience thing. It seems that people can be so selfish that if something is even the slightest bit inconvenient they feel justified in saying no. And of course you can always say no, but what is a little bit of inconvenience to you if it makes someone’s life happier and easier? Isn’t that what relationships are all about? I hate that we live in a society where even the simplest favors seem like a big deal to people. I took a friend (not best friend – just casual friend) to the airport once, and had to ask to leave work a little early. It wasn’t a big deal at all, at the time I had a really flexible schedule so I just had to make up the hours later. She was over the top thankful, and it made me sad that she felt so terrible about me doing it. Why was that a big deal? It wasn’t, but we’ve set up these standards with our human interactions where no one asks anything of each other and no one expects anything, and it kind of makes me sad. I think it’s why we’ve become the social media generation that is the loneliest generation.

      1. “we’ve set up these standards with our human interactions where no one asks anything of each other and no one expects anything, and it kind of makes me sad.”
        I think that’s a really interesting point. Friends should go out of their way for one another once in a while. Friends should make an effort. Friends should be nice and kind and do another unexpected favors.
        When your friend felt so terrible that you drove her to the airport, I think that’s a prime example of how low the bar has been set on friendship.

      2. Even with my closest friends, I feel bad asking them for favors sometimes and always show excessive gratitude. When I do ask, I stress the “are you WILLING and ABLE” as in, don’t break your back trying to make this work for me. And I guess I expect the same from them, that they wouldn’t ask me to do anything that I’d have some sort of trouble doing.

        Two of my best friends just competed in a major pole dance competition in Chicago. Several of the studio girls arranged to go up and cheer them on. The only reason I had for not going was that Bear was back from his first two weeks gone for this current contract and we were aching for some time together. (They competed last year too and I missed it because I was teaching a class here in town.)

        They kicked ass and won 1st and 2nd place in their division, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and felt a little bad for not being in the crowd to cheer them on when there was no obvious “I can’t” reason. So I took them both out for drinks on Tuesday, arranged the night and paid for it, as a way of celebrating their achievements and making it up to them that I wasn’t there. So I think we’re even.

        I do tend to prioritize a lot of stuff over my friends, though, especially work, and I’m not sure why – looking back I can think of many times when I turned down invitations or didn’t show up because “I had to work” — like, it didn’t even occur to me to try to get the time off or swap shifts or something, I just saw work as an un-get-out-of-able thing. I’m not so bad with that anymore, except with my creative writing classes because I legit can’t get out of those, but I feel bad for friends I’ve blown off in the past because I “had to work.”

  10. Awesome Wendy, well said.

  11. lets_be_honest says:

    Wendy, I found a perfect birthday gift for you! Glad I remembered. I saw a commercial for a new Broadway show last night with Nina Simone’s music!

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Hey my birthday is coming! Ahem.

  12. My best friend needs to read this. She’s holding onto a friendship with one of our high school friends, who was her childhood best friend and they have a pretty extensive history. Essentially, my best friend told our “friend”‘s mom when she was drinking mouthwash to throw up her food in college, which led to the biggest fight everrrr. Then once that blew over, our “friend” took advantage of us by scheduling things but not following through, so she just wouldn’t show up to anything despite having scheduled them. Then “friend” breaks up with her significant other and asks all of us if we can help her move…when she has never stepped forward to help any of us move when we needed the help. She’s asked all of us to help her move about 4 times in the past 3 years. I’ve just avoided it.

    So essentially…I wish my best friend would just let go of the friendship and the history they have because I know she’d be a lot happier.

  13. lets_be_honest says:

    It was here I learned that just because you’ve been friends forever, doesn’t mean you should keep that friend around. Great advice.

  14. Wendy is sooo right about this. When my wedding went to hell I literally expected no one to show up. Who in their right mind was going to drive 10 hours and take 2 ferries just to get there?
    Who did? The people who love me. And I can’t ever express how much that meant to me. So, I try to be there for those few people who really, really matter. To me, that’s what caring about someone means. Even when it’s not convenient or even necessarily fun, you need to be there, because it’ll mean the world to that person.

    1. I had a tiny wedding, and invited the 25 people in the world who I loved most at the time. A friend of mine had been out drinking the night before and missed the entire ceremony. I was so pissed. He never mentioned it or apologized. Then there was the friend who has a serious fear of flying who traveled across 2 continents to make it for the wedding. Guess which of the two friends is still in my life?

      1. That sucks. People can be dicks sometimes. Something similar happened to a friend of mine- one of her “good friends” no showed to her wedding because he wanted to go to HAPPY HOUR at the beach. He never apologized, and they never spoke again.

  15. Wonderfully said. It makes me realize one of my friendships is one sided. I show up for important and daily thing. 4 AM ride in the snow to the aiport, I can do that I have 4WD! Births, Birthdays, Showers, moving, painting, etc, I can do that! But it is actually never returned. Kinda of eye opening and will let me reevaluate the importance I put on this friendship.

  16. That reminds me, I need to arrange a ride home from the airport next week. Oh BFF…

    I’m in an awkward situation now with a newer friend, someone I get along with pretty well but we’re not very close yet. She’s the girlfriend of one of my college friends. She just recently joined a burlesque troupe here in town and while I expressed congratulations and support and enthusiasm when she joined, and took her to help her find some costume stuff, I didn’t expect that she’d assume I’d be at her shows. Her first show is coming up soon and she basically thrust the tickets into my hands (which I’m expected to pay her back for) and a “see you there!” And I’m having a hell of a time finding someone to use the second ticket on, because Bear’s made it clear he’s not interested in going either. It’s not like I don’t like burlesque or don’t want to support her, but it’s in an area of town I’ve never been to and am not comfortable going alone. And I’ve been so busy lately, adding one more thing to my calendar is stressing me out.

    I’ll go this time, but I’m thinking of a way to tell her that I don’t want to be expected to be an automatic ticket sale every time she has an event. I’m a little bothered that I wasn’t *asked* but rather *assumed.* If we were BFFs already that would be one thing, but … well, it is what it is.

    1. That is kind of weird that she just assumed you’d go. Or rather, is almost forcing you to go. I think you’re right in going this time, though, especially if it’s a friendship you’d like to cultivate.
      And, I know you’re having some sort of issue w/ Bear right now, though I haven’t read everything, but why can’t he “show up” for you and join you for the show? Especially if it’s in a sketchy part of town, you’d think he’d want to make sure you’re not going there alone? Again, I don’t know exactly what the issues are that you’re dealing with, so if this is completely out of line, I apologize.

  17. This is great advice. What I needed to hear, was that if you can’t afford to show up for all your friends (or all the ones you consider “good” friends) it’s time to whittle down. I can get myself into scrapes (like this week) by overextending myself, and then I wind up ticking off (and trying to apologize) to people who honestly require a lot more effort and time than I realize (at that moment) I’m willing to put into that friendship. I’m really getting to the point where besides my family, my bf and his family, and 2 – 3 longterm, stable friends, I don’t need a ton of other people in my life. Or the others are the “just passing time,” kinds of friends. For those 2 – 3, though, I’ve dropped $1000 to attend a wedding, I’ve sat up all night in a hospital, I’ve spent an entire weekend helping them move…and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

  18. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    So true. I sometimes spread myself a little thin trying to be there for my friends all the time, but it definitely came back to me after the break up in January when my friends basically kept me alive and functioning for the first month afterward, and in the since months since.

    Be a good friend and they’ll be good to you more times than not.

    Beautifully written.

  19. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    BTW Wendy I know you kind of said “fuck it” to the SAHM article, but I am so curious to hear your thoughts. My mom was a SAHM and I can’t imagine ever being one, but sometimes that makes me sad because she was the best. Having her around was amazing. The mommy wars are crazy and although I have little interest in talking to my mom friends about diapers and the sh-shing method, I am extremely interested in I guess what you could call the sociology of motherhood. I just made that phrase up. But whatever, tell me your thoughts!

    1. Wait, say that again? You want to know about the sociology of motherhood? In tomorrow’s link round-up, I have a link to an essay about motherhood that sums up a lot of my feelings about motherhood (not specifically SAHMotherhood, but motherhood in general).

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Yeah it’s not a real thing. I invented it. But mostly I want to know everything about the decisions mothers make and how they come to it and then once they try it out how they feel about it. Like I kinda want to get my mom rum drunk and ask her if she ever regretted – even for a few minutes – being a stay at home mom, like if she missed the socialization/whatever about working. I’m sure she didn’t, but I still want to know about every persons decisions at all times. Especially when they write nice. I clearly don’t write nice. But we all have our contributions to the world.

        She was like you in that she had an “in home” job – she was a daycare provider for all the neighborhood kids. She got paid – I think the parents paid a lot less than they would have at a standard day care, but she really just loved kids so found a way to make money finger painting and making mac and cheese all day. And she was the best at it! She cooked homemade playdoh. Probably because she had to make sure it was safe to eat because one of her kids (cough cough) ate it in buckets. She was also a foster parent to 17 kids in 5 years that she obviously didn’t get paid for – but I digress.

      2. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        On the flip side I want to talk to women that continued to work (obviously the ones that were lucky enough to have the choice) and how they came to that decision – but they’re not as readily available to me.

      3. kerrycontrary says:

        You can talk to my mom. She went back to work because they needed the money (i was the 3rd child and a surprise), but it was mostly for her sanity. She got pretty depressed and unhealthy when she stayed at home. You should ask your mom, she’ll probably tell you. My mom has no shame in saying that staying at home with my brother and sister wasn’t good for her mental health. And she kept on a schedule and did a ton of activities every day, so it’s not like she needed to get out of the house more (I realize being a SAHM can be difficult even when you are very active). My mom LOVES working, I think it gives her great purpose. I don’t think she regrets staying at home with my brother and sister because you don’t get those years with your young children back…but she was a lot happier when she went back to work. BUT, my grandma pretty much filled in as my mother then. I spent all of my young childhood with her mixed with a little pre-school, and then she took care of me before/after school until I was 14. I think that’s an ideal situation when both parents work but my parents and I were really lucky to have family close by like that.

      4. applescruffs says:

        Mine regretted it. She says she was into hanging with me, but she missed working a LOT. My dad’s job moved us around a lot, and we lived in remote areas, which made it hard for her to work. My mom’s a traditional woman, but she’s been nothing but supportive of my over-education and career ambition because she didn’t get that.

      5. Mine regrets it, too. My momma has a PhD in biochemistry, but married my dad, whose job kept us moving a lot. So my mom always had a hard time finding work. She had a couple short-lived jobs, but that’s it — as soon as she’d find something for herself, we’d have to move again. My parents didn’t settle anywhere for longer than a couple years until 10 years ago. By then, my mom had been done with school for 20 years without much work experience in a field that requires you to stay up-to-date (which she obviously wasn’t). I was the second and last kid to go to college, and I think losing the only role she’d ever had — SAHM — was really rough for her. She looked into finding work, but when you’re like 50-something and haven’t worked much, who is going to hire you? She was really, really depressed for awhile, which was hard to watch. Nowadays she finds meaning in life through hobbies (she loves photography, the outdoors, yoga, hikes, and my cat (haha)) and her friendships, but she definitely regrets not working and encourages her daughters to be fiercely independent. I think never working also contributes to the ridiculous amount of resentment my parents have for one another. I’m obviously biased my the household I grew up in, but if I ever have kids, I wouldn’t want to be a SAHM unless I had some kind of work to do part-time that I could get back into when my kids are older.

      6. I kind of want to ask my boyfriend’s mom if ~she~ regrets it— or have my boyfriend ask, because he actually posed this question as a rhetorical while we were at his cousin’s new baby’s christening party last weekend (the cousin said she was taking a year off, & he was like, “That’s good. Just don’t do what my mom did, & stay home for EIGHTEEN YEARS. I wonder if she regrets that?” She had a good career working in fashion in NYC, too 😐

      7. Foster parents are usually paid by the state or agency that placed them.

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        They pay them minimally (as far as I know) to support the kids. Its not like the foster parents are getting paid and pocketing the money.

      9. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Yeah I think she got something – but it was ridiculously small. And obviously she wasn’t going to treat those kids any differently than my brother and I – so she paid for them to play youth sports and Christmas presents and just in general treated them as her own and the state obviously doesn’t fund that.

      10. My mom made home-made playdough too!!!

      11. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Must be a canadian thing.

      12. lets_be_honest says:

        Eating it isn’t. I loved that shit!

      13. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        My mom made homemade playdough. I don’t think she is Canadian.

  20. This. My closest friends live in 6 different states (and I live in a 7th). But, because of some Karma-type thing in the Universe, I have been able to “show up” for some of these women. And showing up for people I love feels wonderful.

    And when I can’t show up, I’ve at least been able to have a phone call/skype session. Because showing up virtually, for me, is better than not showing up at all.

    1. Yeah, I have friends all over the country and one of my best friends lives abroad, and when I can’t make it to something, even a text saying ‘hope your show goes well’ or somehow acknowledging what they’re doing can make a big difference. A few years ago, I couldn’t make it to a good friend’s 21st and so I skyped in and it was still pretty fun to feel like I was there.

  21. absurdfiction says:

    I almost posted this on one of the forums today, but there were already so many replies:

    Captain Awkward gets a little wordy, but I thought this was great specific advice for people whose friends are not meeting their expectations, from both sides of the situation. If you have 20 minutes to kill, it’s worth a read if this is something you’ve been struggling with.

    Wendy’s advice is much more succinct, and really gets to the heart of the matter though!

    1. I love Cap’n Awk, but sometimes my eyes start to glaze over. Wrap it up already!

      1. absurdfiction says:

        Yeah, I have to admit I only skimmed the last third of the column I just posted, haha. I guess the people who write in really need the specific advice/scripts though, and what she says is usually pretty solid.

        I am such an advice junkie, it’s pathetic!

      2. I read that as well, and it helped me when I was trying to talk to a friend who always seems dissatisfied with the amount of time we can spend together (whereas I always feel like it’s just enough time). This is always a tough one for me because I honestly have trouble reading what’s important to some people and what’s not. There are no-brainers (weddings, etc, which I have sometimes gone to great lengths to attend) but then sometimes I’m blown away when I realize that something I thought was a casual, flexible date with someone was highly important in their mind.

  22. I love this so much. This tops my lists of values. Lately I’ve been reevaluating some friendships, and I wasn’t quite clear why a few of them were nagging me so much, but this puts it into words perfectly. And though it was a romantic relationship, this was possibly the biggest deal breaker I had with my ex. He never wanted to go to anything. I actually wrote into Wendy about it when she was on TF (and the commenters all speculated he had social anxiety, which LOL. No. He was the life of the party.). And it wasn’t just for my events, but his friends and family as well. Everyone knew if they wanted him at an event, they had to go through me or he’d never show up. And when he did, people would just fall all over him because they were astonished to see him. I don’t like to bag on him too hard, bc he was a great guy in a lot of ways, but this part of him was so DOUCHEY. Even with holidays he’d refuse to confirm until literally the night before and tell me to go without him if I felt the need to RSVP a few weeks in advance. So goddamn selfish. His outlook was this, “If you don’t cater to people all the time, they won’t expect anything from you.” He may as well have been wearing a sign on his forehead that said “commitment-phobe.” And I put up with that crap for over 7 years. Ahhh hindsight.

    Whoops. THAT was quite a rant!

  23. This is such a great essay, Wendy. (And such a great comment section, everyone else.)

    I’d like to add: It’s really important to pick up the phone. When a friend calls, answer. If you can’t talk, make a plan to call them back. It’s a really easy way to show up for a friend who you can’t see all the time. Call your friends sometime. Keep in touch.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      Ugh Christy this one hits home for me. One of my best friends from college hardly ever returns my calls, and it really upsets me. I mean I’m TRYING to keep our friendship alive even though we don’t see each other much. I’ll usually call her 3 times over the span of a month and then if she can’t call me back I just don’t count on it.

      1. BriarRose says:

        YES. I have a dear friend who I’ve known since we were 12. We live in different states, so phone calls are our main way of keeping in contact. She has a serious boyfriend now, and I’m rarely able to get a hold of her. It hurts my feelings so much! After the third time in a row of calling her on a weekend (over the course of a month) and leaving a message and not getting a call back, I kind of gave up. It makes me sad that she can’t even bother to answer the phone and say hi.

      2. My one friend is like this, too. She’ll get back to me eventually, but it’s at random (like she’s not exactly calling me ~back~, more just calling me whenever the fuck she thinks of it?) When we’re actually talking about making PLANS, real plans, though, she’s good about answering, so that’s all I can ask for, I guess.

      3. My best friend from college is bad about this too and it annoys the crap out of me. I’ll call her and get a text back that says “Do you need something?” And then half the time she’ll call me (or answer a call) and be with her fiance and completely not listen to what I’m saying. One time I just stopped in the middle of a sentence and said bye, and she just said ok bye without even noticing. Now though it’s gotten past the point where I feel like I can say something so I’ve tried to accept it.

  24. So simple, but so many people just aren’t willing to give and take. I would also add that if you’re in a place where you maybe don’t have as much friend time as you’d like: be the planner. Most people don’t love setting things up because it takes work and there’s that responsibility if whatever you plan ends up being lame. But I remember a few years ago being very frustrated because my social life wasn’t nearly as active as it was in high school, college and grad school. So instead of waiting for invites, I started planning and asking people to hang out with me. Not like huge parties, but grabbing coffee or hosting a game night. People could start to reciprocate (not always, some people just aren’t good at it or don’t want to put in the effort) and then you are in control of how much social time you get.

  25. applescruffs says:

    I have a group of close friends that I met on a trip a couple years ago. We all live in different states (there are 7 of us), but so far we’ve managed to meet for reunions twice. Our next reunion is in a few months, and one of us can’t make it. I mentioned to another one how disappointed I was that she wouldn’t be there. Her response was, with all of us so spread out I didn’t think everyone making all the reunions would last that long. I was stunned, and so sad. You don’t get unlimited numbers of close friends in your life, and we were so lucky to all meet and become close the way we did. I don’t think committing to a reunion once a year is so much to ask, to at least make an effort to go. Friends matter, and showing up matters.

  26. I especially liked this line: “…budget enough of yourself to show up when it’s necessary.” That’s so true.

    I also appreciated the comment about introverts guarding their personal time like it’s the last Twinkie on Earth. I know I’m an introvert (I love being social, but only have so much energy to expend on it before I need to recharge). I keep reading those “31 1/2 Ways to Tell If You’re an Introvert” articles, as being an introvert is hot right now. So a few of the things I was like, “Nah, I don’t do that,” until I realized that I totally do.

    For example, my friend had to cancel our plans for this Saturday evening. And I’m ashamed to admit that the first thought that crossed my mind was something along the lines of, “Yes!!! Now I can stay in my pajamas all day and read!”

    (To be fair, I did go out tonight and am going out with friends on Friday and Sunday, so I’m not completely reclusive…)

    1. YESSSS.

      I’m good at showing up when it’s important. I’m terrible at showing up when it’s NOT important. Getting married? I’ll be there. Milestone birthday? I’ll bring the streamers. Coming into town for 4 hours? Let me move my schedule around you & sit in traffic for hours just to come say hi.

      But cup of coffee? Dinner? Shopping trip? Sushi on a Thursday? UGHHHHH. I spend HOURS agonizing before ultimately deciding that I’m too busy/sleepy/exhausted to go. It’s terrible. All those websites with the introvert lists — such a revelation. Every single checkpoint. (Is being an introvert so popular right now? Because I screen phone calls & panic at unexpected social functions or schedule changes. I wouldn’t want that to be popular.) It makes me a terrible casual friend — which I think makes me a terrible friend in general. I feel like a jerk … especially when I’m sitting alone, in complete relief, instead of being ON all the time. Sometimes I think I have some kind of social anxiety problem, but when I’m out (and it’s well-planned in advance, no surprises, & I have a way to leave if I need to), I am social & fun & happy that I went out in the first place. Shrugs.

  27. temperance says:

    This is something that I really struggle with, honestly. I live in the Philly suburbs by choice, and a lot of my friends are total city snobs and can’t imagine willingly coming to the ‘burbs. It’s hard because my husband and I have a social life HERE, too, and I end up blowing off my city friends more than I would like to admit because it’s so much easier for my husband and I to hang out at home and walk to a local bar rather than dealing with the 1hr each way commute on SEPTA.

    1. Have we ever actually discussed where you live? I”m in Chester County. If you’re around there, we should do a Philly ‘burbs meetup 🙂

      Also, I feel you on taking the train into the city. I do it every freaking day for work, and the thought of doing it again on the weekends drives me crazy!!

  28. If I can toot my own horn for a minute – I feel like I’m a really good friend! And my friends are awesome! I’ve said before that most of my friendships have lasted for 10+ years. We’ve all moved around a lot, but distance and time have never proven to be a deterrent in staying friends.

    Of course I’ve shown up for all their showers, weddings, bachelorette parties, and births – no matter how far I had to travel. I can’t imagine not doing that. My friend’s daughter has CF so I always go visit her daughter in the hospital when she is there. I make sure to show up for the CF walk every year too. Every time I am in my home town, I reach out to all of them and try to hang out. If they can’t come out, I’ll go to their house and hang out with their kids, even if I’d rather be “out.” And I’m finally making close friends in St. Louis, too. I keep in touch with my Vegas friends as much as I can. And I know that my friends will “show up” for me if I ever need them to, although I don’t have much going on in my life right now. One of my friends drove to St. Louis just to help me move into a new apartment! She has a lot going on in her life so that was kinda a big deal. Sometimes I spend a weekend at home alone with nothing to do, and I bitch that I have “no friends” but now I’m really starting to consider myself lucky.

  29. Avatar photo shanshantastic says:

    That letter and this post came at the perfect time.

    Wednesday night we went to my in-laws for a joint birthday taco night for my father-in-law and me. While we were sitting in the living room opening presents, we started discussing my best friend’s baby shower in October and my MIL mentioned she couldn’t make it because that’s the weekend they’re driving to Frankenmuth.

    My SIL responded, “So I guess that means you’re missing my race…” She’s running about 30 minutes away on that Sunday. It was the first I heard about it but from the tone of her voice I knew she had brought it up to her mom and that she was SERIOUSLY hurt that they weren’t going to be there. MIL explained that the only other weekend in October they had was my BIL’s birthday weekend…but he’s going to be out of state with his boyfriend so I don’t know why they don’t just change their plans.

    At any rate, I can’t control other people. Except Brian. He’s totally going with me to watch his sister run, even if it is at 7:30 in the morning. I was glad to have that other discussion fresh in my mind because I was able to hear the words she didn’t say: “I want the support. I want someone to be there cheering me on.” And I’m glad that we can step up and be there for her.

    I’ve been lucky so far to have friends that will drop everything and be there for me, and I’m going to try harder to be that kind of friend in return.

    1. We had a running sidebar going on in the forums, but I wanted to say that your SIL will be thrilled that you will be there. It made all the difference with my last race to know that I had friends and family (my in-laws came!) waiting for me at the finish line.

      1. Avatar photo shanshantastic says:

        That was my big takeaway from the discussion, and it’ll be great to show her that we love and support her.

  30. starpattern says:

    This is so important. Loved this essay, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day, and it is good to be reminded.

    I admit to being kind of stingy with my week nights when it comes to things like drinks and dinner because wow, a lot of the time I am sleep deprived, my yard needs to be mowed, supper is not going to cook itself, and I need to exercise occasionally. However, I find that it is really easy for me to carve out time/move mountains to show up for things like weddings, babies, birthdays, even races sometimes (your first tri, half, marathon, etc. I’m totally there!) It is not hard for me to roll out of bed at 3am to drive my friend to the airport. It is not hard to guiltlessly thrust party food prep duty on my boyfriend because my closest friend’s BIL just had a medical emergency and they need somebody to go check on his house while everyone else is at the hospital. Anyway, that’s how I know which friends I truly value – when I want to do that stuff for them, and they want to do that stuff for me, and we are all grateful to one another for the support. I love my friends. <3

  31. JunieJunie says:

    Coming out of lurking to thank you Wendy for a great essay. This is an issue I’ve been thinking alot about. What I’ve been dealing with lately is friends and family members who seem to resent attending what should be infrequent fun, social events like camping trips and picnics. At this point in my life, I’m trying to adopt the mindset of-I’d rather spend my time with people who really want to be here rather than with people who begrudginly show up. If spending an afternoon drinking at a park is such a hassle, don’t do it, more beer for the rest of us!

  32. Wendy's Dad says:

    Wait! What? I just saw this. Who the hell are you talking about when you mention “aging parents”?

  33. I agree with this article. But, I have a situation for a friend, almost a brother, and an equally valued cousin. Their respective weddings are directly adjacent, one the day before the next. One is in the states and another outside the country. How does one choose which to show up to in a situation like this?? It’s killing me!! All opinions welcome.

  34. Hi Wendy,

    I know you wrote this a while ago, but I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten it. I keep it in mind especially because I am an introverted person and I hate leaving the house for social events. But I really want to be a good friend, so I’ve continuously been making an effort to SHOW UP.

    I thought of this letter today while I was freezing my toes off, standing in a snowbank for the burial of my best friend’s father. She told me not to feel obligated to come, especially because I didn’t know her dad. But I didn’t know how else to be a good friend, how else I could be there for her during such a shitty time. So I thought of this letter, and I showed up and stood in the snow with her. And she thanked me so much for being there and told me how much it meant to her. And I was glad that at least being there to hold her hand was something.

    Thanks for writing this Wendy, because it’s helping me to continue to grow and strive to be a better person and a better friend.

  35. I had a friend who took, took, took and never gave. Talking to her was useless. She never learned how to be a friend and I’m too old to teach her.

    1. Same here. I’m an introvert but always show up for my friends (now ex-friends) and even offered to help them. Some took & took but never gave and treated me like an idiot for being too nice. Some too self-absorbed or too drama queen to give a dame about other people. One of them I listened to her venting about her boyfriend for almost 3 hours on the phone and helped her with feedbacks but she couldn’t even listen to me for 5 minutes because she was too busy scrolling her facebook on her phone.

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