By Mary Lou Sanelli

We have friendships for many different reasons — to experience the best in others, to experience the best in ourselves, to find comfort, at-ease conversation, and to better understand our past, our present and definitely where we are headed next.

For many of us, this has little to do with reducing our relationships to likes, followers and e-friends. We are looking for … more. Because, after all, it’s the best feeling in the world when someone reminds us what we really, truly love in another.

For me, that means eye-to-eye face time.

I have terrific women friends. And I have James. When we discuss something important, he reminds me that there are so many different ways to perceive a situation — which, I believe, is the most generous way to carry on a conversation. “What’s on your mind, darling?” he’ll say, lowering his gaze as if he’s about to hear one of life’s most sacred secrets.

Or, you know, whatever is bothering me.

“We have to keep a little mystery going, darling. What I don’t know about you is fascinating.” We were talking about how boring it is to know too much about people, how drunk everyone is on social media, in the same way the Russians guzzled vodka.

“And look what happened to them,” I said.

The other day, while waiting in line at Whole Foods, I was chatting with the guy behind me about fruit in season, that kind of thing. Except he kept looking at his phone.

I tried to overlook it, be cool, be current, but it still felt like he was rubbing my nose in the fact that one reality is never enough. It’s like being put on hold. In the middle of a sentence, you have this sudden feeling of being canceled out, disregarded.

I took a wide detour around coming right out and asking him what is so important that he has to be in on it even as he lays produce on the conveyor belt.

That’s when his girlfriend (wife?) jumped in: “This is just how it is now.”

As if I knew nothing. (Or maybe she thought I was a cougar. Who knows?)

At any rate, she reminded me that since I do have more years behind me, I’ve attained more success, too, more independence. I can enjoy a little harmless chitchat, and, OK, a little harmless flirting, without checking in.

My flesh may be softer than theirs, but my attitude is firm: If I have faith in one thing, it’s in the way an idea, opinion or shared observation can lift us out of ourselves, create conversation that feels true and make everything around us seem more alive. And, dare I use the word, more connected.

I may very well be hoping for a miracle. But if we’re shopping in Whole Foods, we certainly are paying enough for a miracle.
So I say thank God for James, who is one of the most successful businessmen I know, yet he still knows how to leave his phone off for however long it takes.

Life may be going on at a hectic pace, but James looks into my eyes when he speaks. And by doing so, he shows me he’d never let something as big as our friendship be dwarfed by something as small as his phone.

Mary Lou Sanelli is a writer and speaker. Her newest book, A Woman Writing, is due out in September. Read more at

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