Cut the friend fat

How do you save a dying friendship?

That question’s been on my mind a lot lately.

C. and I have been friends for more than a decade now, but in the last few years, I’ve felt the friendship’s faded and crumbled, staggered and stumbled, leaving me to wonder, countless times: save it, or let it die with dignity?

It’s not an easy choice.

At one point, C. was a huge and significant part of my life—the first person I went to after a horrible breakup, the first person I laughed with over an inside joke.

She was a road-trip companion, a borrower of clothes and a keeper of secrets.

Then, at one point, we both moved on, setting down roots in new cities. The physical distance created the first chink in the force field of our friendship.

I blame myself for that. E-mail can be superficial, and I’m not a big fan of long telephone conversations; they never feel like a true substitute for face time.

Still, we tried to keep up with the occasional weekend visit—shopping, food, talking—but slowly the conversations seemed to slip, the topics turned more superficial, the secrets were kept secret.

Then came a point last summer when I realized that not only did we no longer have much in common, we also no longer seemed to connect even over a shared respect for what the other held dear.

When we talked, it felt as though there were always two conversations happening at once—mine and hers—and rarely did the two intersect.

Maybe it was just that, having endured a recent job layoff, I worried about money even as she made more money than ever.

I hate to think that money—or the lack thereof—would come between us, but she never asked about my new job or other pursuits, and I felt detached from her talk of long vacations, expensive new clothes and fancy restaurants.

I’ve contemplated the act of giving up the friendship—not making plans, not making an effort to call, not worrying about conversations—but even though something tells me that’s likely the most practical option, I can’t seem to let go.

Not in this era of disposable friendships, anyway. Not when I have hundreds of Facebook friends but fewer than a dozen with whom I’d actually hang out, much less share confidences.

I don’t make friends easily—oh, I’m great at forging acquaintances, but bona fide friendships that foster solid connections, meaningful conversations and deep trust? They mean the world to me, but don’t come easy.

I thought about that last week when Jimmy Kimmel announced he was creating a new “national” holiday: Unfriend Day.

It’s time “cut the friend fat from your life,” the late-night TV talk-show host said.

“Remember five years ago when no one had Facebook, and you didn’t know what the guy you took high-school biology with was having for lunch? Remember how that was fine? Let’s go back to that.”

I’m not ready to actually “unfriend” anyone—if anything, I need to just learn to spend less time on Facebook and more time face to face with actual people.

And, I realize, I’m not ready to unfriend C.

There are friendships cultivated on sites such as Facebook—built on lighthearted connections, sustained by whimsical comments and endless lurking. And then there are friendships forged out of real-life endeavors: adventure and fun; trials, tribulations and heartbreak. Friendships that, as with any meaningful relationship, must weather the good, the bad and even the boring.

I don’t know to fix this friendship, but I do know it’s not easily replaced, not easily replicated. It may be flawed, but in this age of insubstantial Internet connections, that just makes it all the more important.