Friends are great, right? You can have a laugh with them and confide in them your most intimate secrets. You can trust them to be there to support and comfort you and of course you’d do the same for them. That goes without saying.
We make friends throughout all the stages of life and, sadly, we lose them too. If you’re like me it’s through not phoning or losing their address or simply being so busy that the only time your mind rests enough to think, “I must phone so and and so,” you’re driving or in bed late at night and it’s not the right time to call. Friendship needs investment of time and emotional space and many of us simply don’t have time for that when our lives are so crowded with everything else.
My original intense shyness and too many adverse experiences when I was younger often made it difficult for me to bond and start friendships but luckily I seem largely to have grown of out most of my social awkwardness, though it does return from time to time in the form of an intense fear of rejection.
When you have children, though, you’re thrown together with fellow mums and carers at nursery or primary school and there’s your ready-made social network right there.
It is harder for men, though, both at work and if they are carers of children. It used to be that a dad doing the school pick up would be largely shut out from female conversations, though I have seen that change over time, and of course, work relationships are often so adversarial that’s it’s difficult to know how far you can trust colleagues who are also your friends.
Even close friendships do evolve with us over time, though. I have loads and loads of people I know and like but only a few very close friends and it would seem that, now we no longer have children at the same school most of us seem to be drifting inexorably apart. At times I wonder with some of my old friends, exactly how much we have on common, how much we ever had in common. I find myself silently disagreeing with almost everything one friend says, and I can feel her lips pursed in silent disapproval whenever we meet, without even looking at her. And yet, we’re grown-ups. We can manage the situation reasonably well.
Luckily I have made new friends to replace the old worn-out ones at places like dog class and choir. I do find myself wondering from time to time whether I continue going to dog class purely for the socialisation, for the canines and myself.
I do wonder about the young people, though. MsDD, for instance, has bags more self-confidence than I did at her age and, not being particularly a girly girl, has usually had more male friends than female ones. This was fine until quite recently when, for reasons too arcane to be repeated here, one of her closest friends suddenly decided that he would fall out with her. By all accounts he seems to be going through quite a “difficult” phase and, because he wields power in the group, he seems to have taken most of her erstwhile mates with him. When he was away this week, they were all friendly again but as soon as he returned from a jaunt overseas off they went and left her. My heart aches for her. A year ago yesterday at Open Day she went back to the home of one of the boys with her whole gang and played video games and hung out with them. Now she is out in the cold. One of the group even called her their Yoko Ono, which is, I think, a terrible thing to say. Through no fault of her own she finds that she has lost most of her closest friends and it’s heartbreaking to watch. That feeling of being dumped doesn’t get better with age, I find.
So she spends more time with her other close friends but finds it difficult to accept it when they’re not quite on the same page as her in some of their attitudes. MsDD is perhaps rather more progressive in her outlook than even some of her pretty right-on, liberal friends and she finds it hard to accept when their attitudes are perhaps not quite as open-minded as hers. I’ve tried telling her that people evolve and grow at different rates and that often people find it hard to empathise conceptually if they’ve never encountered discrimination and prejudice themselves but I don’t think she agrees with me.
We do all need friends. I am hoping my Boywonder over there on the other side of the Atlantic is finally making some new social contacts. There is, after all, much more to life at University than study. He’s not a hard drinking party animal, though, and I think it’s often harder for someone in their late teens to make friendships if they’re not keen on drinking and clubbing and roistering and doistering.
Recently I find myself blessed with my Twitter friends. They are real friendships, despite what some people might say, and I derive a lot of pleasure and comfort from them. A quick dip into Twitter can relieve the stress of a day, especially for someone like me who spends most of my time alone. Twitter might be convenience friendship but it’s no less valuable for all that.
It is funny, how the definition of friendship has changed over time. Maybe a reassessment of what’s important from time to time is a good thing. What do you think?