on why starting friendships is like a home entrywayChristine Kang
Six-and-a-half years ago my husband Marcus and I were preparing to move from Trinidad & Tobago to Houston, Texas and we were in the throes of house-buying. Actually, Marcus was in the throes of changing jobs and employers, so I was the one charged with buying the house. “I don’t care what you choose,” my English husband said. “It just has to have an entryway.”
“What are you talking about?” I responded, not understanding. “Of course it’s going to have an entryway. How else would you get into the house?”
“No, not a doorway,” he explained. “An entryway. Like a proper entryway. So that when people come to the door, they don’t just come right into the living room. American houses all have those open plan rooms, where you just walk right into the house. I don’t want that. I want an entryway, a room where I can decide who gets to come in.”
Marcus was adamant about this, and since he so rarely puts his foot down on things, I took it to heart. I flew to Houston alone for a house-hunting trip, and saw 30 homes in one day; easy to do, when in several instances I could veto the house before we’d set foot in the doorway. “Nope, we can’t have this one,” I’d say to our long-suffering realtor, Jean. “Marcus says it has to have an entryway. There’s no entryway in this house.”
“You know, I never really did like him,” Jean would drawl in her heavily-Southern accent, winking the entire time. (I’ve known Jean since I was a teenager, and have always loved her wicked sense of humour.) Eventually, Jean and I narrowed our prospects down to 5 houses (all of which had entryways for Marcus, and other amenities for our daughter and me). We took Marcus to see them a week later, when he joined me in Houston. And from there, it quickly became apparent that the house we currently live in was the perfect one for our family.
It’s funny, but in a lot of ways our feelings about the entryway are almost metaphors for the ways Marcus and I enter into new relationships. It could be cultural, I suppose: in my case, when I meet someone new, I’m immediately open — come! Have some rum! Let’s hang out! This is, I think, a very American (and actually, Trinidadian) way to begin a relationship, and the friendships I have with some of the most important people in my life started this way. However, sometimes it becomes apparent that I have nothing in common with a new acquaintance — and then, well, we just naturally drift apart. It’s never personal, of course, and always very mutual: we continue to wish each other well, we’re just not close. I’m like the front door that opens into the living room: welcome, and come in, but this doesn’t mean that you get to move in. As a result, I have a wide circle of acquaintances, but only a few tried-and-true friends.
Marcus, however, is very different, and much more like the formal entryway: he meets someone warmly and is always very friendly, but it doesn’t mean that he’s automatically his friend — it takes a few more evaluations, a few more encounters, and some time for him to warm up to the person. But once he has, Marcus is never going anywhere. He’ll fully open up, and allow the person in. Marcus doesn’t have as large as a social circle as I do, but his friends are friends for life — and the number of people he counts on as his nearest and dearest outnumber mine considerably, and more often than not, have been his friends since childhood.
Incidentally, I don’t think that there’s a right way or a wrong way to enter into a friendship; I think some of it is cultural, some of it is personality, extraversion, introversion, all that. But since buying this house, I’ve often wondered if the requirement of an entryway (or the indifference thereto) is indicative of how the people in the home enter into relationships. I’ve also noticed that over time, I’m becoming more like Marcus — it could be just that having now been married for over a decade, he’s won me over to his way of thinking, but I also suspect that it has something to do with social media: Facebook and other sites like it feel a bit too much like a lack of an entryway (in a welcome-come-in-and-here-take-the-television sort of way). But maybe not.
So I’m curious: how do you approach friendships? Is it like an open-plan house, where you immediately make friends, or are you more guarded, like a proper entryway?