Keeping the friend list tidy with my yearly little-black-book ritual

(<a href=''>c_73</a>/Big Stock Photo)

(c_73/Big Stock Photo)

It’s not the New Year’s resolutions that preoccupy me this time of year. I make resolutions daily. The true measure of the losses and gains I have made in the last 12 months is in the ritual of filling my new little black book at year’s end.

It’s not merely a social thing: It feels like a sociological textbook in the making — or a personal journal in code. There’s always the issue of which friends to drop. Which have faded to such a degree that I actually must scratch them out of my life? Who still holds joy, or, at least, hope? There are those I want there just as a memory, as if I were carrying a photo album.

When I was single, a quarter of a century ago, male and female friends received different treatment in my book. I reserved a page in the back for those new men whom I wasn’t sure I wanted in my permanent section. They didn’t get transferred to the alphabetized section until and unless they truly became significant. Years ago, I was delighted to discover that a male friend of mine did the same thing with opposite-sex acquaintances. Of the seven men on my back page in ’92, the year I met my husband, he’s the only one made it to the alphabetized section in ’93.

A single woman friend once confessed that, when she was lonely, she’d just look through all the pages in her address book to see who popped out as right for that moment’s mood. Little black books are not only practical, they’re therapeutic. Dial-A-Friend often beats playing with the TV remote control for something entertaining.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

When I married, my little black book took on new characteristics. The entire “O” page was devoted only to my husband’s family, all of whose last names start with O. Additions and deletions were frequent as marriages and divorces occurred. Opening to that page in my little black book seems to elicit more emotions than any other!

Family and friends keep my heart alive, but of course there are others in my little black book who hold my life together. The addition and deletion of people tending to different parts of my physical and mental being are every bit as complex as deciding which friends to drop. Some people may even list more doctors than friends in their book.

A whole page is devoted just to my husband’s doctors. Never mind alphabetical order, I need to have them all easily accessible under “F” for his nickname — Fuzzy. How much easier it is to make those calls with the affectionate reminder of that name!

This year I sadly have to drop one friend who died. But what about the relationships that have died. Do I remove them? Or keep them as a reminder? If so, under what letter? M for “memorial”? L for “life lessons”? N for “New Year’s resolutions”?

And the back page is still a challenge. It’s still for “tentatives.” But now, it’s the doctors I’m experimenting with, or home repair people I’m exploring. Both of these lists seem to be increasing as I age. This year, of the eight on this page, only three are certain to remain.

Spring cleaning is actually a much easier ritual than filling out this little black book each new year. Just give those old clothes to people in need, or outgrown clutter to the thrift shop. Someone’s bound to profit. Dropping someone from my little black book is more loaded. But, alas, this recycling must occur yearly for me at this time, just as spring must in its season. Surely my discards are old standards in someone else’s little black book.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal