There was a day just a few years ago when I said to myself “I have a fair number of Jewish friends” and realised immediately that was no longer true. I had a fair number of Jewish friends between 1960 and 2000, through school and work. But that number dropped off toward the end of that period. I also mentally corrected myself in an online discussion while thinking “Of course I have gay and lesbian friends. Half a dozen of ‘em,” and realised no, that was true from 1972 – 1995, and after that, only two, really. Since Mike retired, none anymore.
We do gravitate to similarity, though that can take many forms. Our work friends may look different than our social friends. Our old friends may look different in another way. Generally, our closest friends have been married couples with children near the ages of our own. It makes visiting much easier when everyone has some counterpart. At work, most people hang very much with their department, and I am a commented-on exception to that. In the cafeteria, the doctors sit together, the social workers sit together, nurses, rehab, administration, housekeeping – everyone sits together. There is a further tendency to congregate by age: older nurses with older nurses, younger housekeepers with younger housekeepers. These two together seem to trump country of origin. The young Korean medical students do not even seem to exchange greetings with the older Korean nurses – ditto for the ex-Yugoslavs. Even I, connected all over the place, tend to gravitate to males over 50 when socialising at work, though department doesn’t matter so much. The other Christians at work also get more of my mental attention.
In a similar line of thinking, I recall going to my children’s sporting events and gravitating to the other Dads. Does anyone socialise with the 15 year-olds just because they’re the same race, if there is an adult of any race nearby? Seriously? Moms or grandparents would be the fallback plan. Kids get greetings, a few sentences, and a pat on the back. When the ages are similar, I notice people do segregate by race socially. But age is stronger.
I thought of myself as having fundamentalist friends, but that too gradually ebbed as my children finished at Christian schools. A fair number of evangelicals have fundie tendencies, but the full-out version? 1975-1995. We all have seasons of friends. As my need to keep children also entertained is evaporating, and my social life is increasingly conducted online, I think the next season will highlight new similarities with people. Not that we ever know where such things are going.