The Friend Collector
I recently wondered aloud on Facebook about the nature of making friends as an adult. There are services to assist with this terrible (first-world) problem, that’s how challenging a task it is, apparently. I’m not sure what dating is like in the online era, but I imagine that friendship dates are about eleventy billion times more awkward and depressing, honestly.
I mourn the loss of the deep childhood friendships I had. Remember the feeling of loving a bestie so much you wanted to hang out with them every single day? Remember running into their arms for hugs at school, and calling them as soon as you got home just to talk about whatever was listed in the TV Guide? Remember sleepovers and parties and secrets and the sheer joy of laughing until you couldn’t breathe?
It’s not that I don’t have friends. I have many. I have varying degrees of friendship, though, and most are acquaintances who probably have no idea what my favourite food is, or couldn’t be bothered to check in if I caught the plague. I have plenty of friends online who are closer to me than many in real life, too. And of course, there are a small number who are very close, and to whom I confide secrets, laugh riotously, and allow them to see my house in its usual messy state, and my face before 9am. They’re few and far between, and I guess I’ve dug this divide all by myself.
I have a friend who seems to have a thousand friends, each one more special than the last. In her presence, I am her favourite person in the world, just as is everyone else in her presence. She knows how to make people feel like they’re her everything. All thousand friends. Part of my is jealous of her fine collection of friends. Thousands of friends on Facebook, tagged in everyone’s photos, smiles, smiles everywhere, always someone to go for supper and drinks with, she’s an auntie to everyone’s child.
My children have no aunties. Nobody plays a regular role in their childhood but family. Nobody who knows my past is very involved in my present. I do keep in touch with a few childhood friends, but we’ve lost the deep relationships we used to have. And the friends who I do maintain friendships with live so far away, it makes it hard to get together.
I know all the sayings. Quality over quantity. I curate friendships, not collect them. Blah, blah, blah. It all sounds like sour grapes, though. Is this some social media friendship FOMO? Are those thousands of friends sort of like the photos of perfect homes, perfect children, and perfect lives we see on friends’ feeds? All just a carefully crafted illusion?
If I reflect on myself (which you know I often because I’m obsessive like that), I see someone who is overly critical and picky about the people I spend time with. I can’t seem to look past annoying spouses, irritating traits or differences of opinion in certain areas. I can’t channel my inner Elsa and let it go, if you know what I mean. I invest my emotions deeply in relationships and I feel like I’ve already done that so many times (remember the friend who ended a two decade friendship via email with me because I sucked at using the phone?) that I really can’t be bothered to do it anymore. And I’ve alienated enough people by calling them an acquaintance (instead of a friend) than I can count, too.
I don’t have the patience to date friends to decide with whom I click, and really, isn’t friendship so fickle? There’s no investment in the future of friendship. Don’t get along? Unfriend, unfollow and stop texting. That’s it. It’s so easy, people flow in and out of lives without concern.
And ok, so even when you do meet someone new, then there’s the awkward nature of progressing a friendship. How do I get from, “Hi, nice to meet you” to, “Hey, want to go for coffee alone with me sometime?” without seeming completely creepy? Sometimes I bite the bullet, but more often than not I assume their friendship Rolodex is already full and move on.
And then there’s this: I’m not a very good friend, I guess. I don’t call people on the phone (but I do like email!). I never know when I’m overstepping or trying too hard when I offer up gestures of kindness. Am I desperate? Did I say something stupid? I ask to hang out with friends but you know, everyone’s “so busy” (myself included) that months fly by and suddenly I’m writing whiny blog posts about my lack of a social life.
So here we are. If you think this is awkward to read, imagine what I’m like in real life? No wonder I have so few friends.
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