I’ve been thinking about my friends a lot this week.
Now I generally float through life thinking of myself as an antisocial person. The closest thing I have to a gang of mates consists of my brothers, their partners and the fiancé. And in that I’m very lucky. At the end of August my mum is renting a big house in Wales that we’ll all be staying in together in for at least a few nights and I’m hugely excited. The antisocial thing extends to horrible self-doubt and I’m genuinely thrilled over and over when my eldest stepbrother invites me to his mates-only 30th Birthday, when my brothers girlfriend wants to meet me for afternoon tea, when my stepbrothers girlfriend expresses enthusiasm about attending my hen do. I’m not sure where it stems from but I often feel like they have to include me and so they do but frankly, it’d be easy for them not to and the turn out for my 28th Birthday surely cements the fact they see me as one of them.
I have it in my head that I struggle to make friends but this week I had lunch with my friend Helen who I worked with in my last job. We kept in touch and although our schedules can be tough to reconcile we both make an effort. Next week I’m visiting my friend Stef who I met online and who invited me to live with her in Brunei when I was heading East as my life was falling apart in 2008 (I’m visiting her at her London base!)
There is no logic to this lack confidence when it comes to friends. Ex work colleagues don’t keep in touch if they don’t like you. Strangers don’t offer their spare bedroom if you’re a repulsive person. In August I’m going to Durham to meet my former PhD supervisor to discuss my future academic career and I’ve extended the visit to last a week in order to visit my mum, have afternoon tea with her and my brothers girlfriend (who will be my maid of honour), see my ace friends J and Samantha whose wedding I recently attended and then stay with my Grandad and see my mate fab Trev. Oh and my friend Simon recently got in touch to ask when the fiancé and I next wanted to do dinner (that’s booked for the end of August).
I have friends!
The issue clearly lies with me. I’m uncomfortable admitting I need help and feel that expressing a desire for something from someone puts them in an awkward position. I hate making the first move. I met my friend Samantha in a university seminar that was agonisingly dull. We found ourselves seated together and she made me laugh but we were in different departments and unlikely to see each other again. I awkwardly asked her for coffee and she agreed. We sat talking for four hours and haven’t stopped talking in over four years.
Put like that I’m actually quite brave. If I meet a kindred spirit I tend to pursue them but I struggle enormously and even when friendships are well established I eternally wonder why people are my friends. I guess I’ve had more than my share of friendships go sour but as I’ve become more discerning, I’ve been able to recognise what doesn’t work for me.
I’m not a girls girl. Not that I don’t have girlfriends, I have quite a lot. But they are all one on one friendships. Female cliques and I are a very bad mix. I am terrible at female politics. My female friends are also utterly brilliant. I don’t mean to downplay my male friends but the girls are all very smart and very funny. The guys I’m less judgemental of perhaps. And I’ve always spent time with groups of lads. From my time in Basketball to my recent karting trip, I’m happy as the token girl sitting back and listening to boys get technical. I like that I can talk or not and nobody minds. Men seem more able to take you at face value.
The nicest thing about my friends is that I have the girls to get hormonal towards (Jelly is my go to girl for all things relationship and parenting) and the boys to help with useful solutions. Take my car getting slashed last week. I got lots of support but crucially the boys told me to get some duct tape on the roof to get it watertight asap.
But ultimately where I’m luckiest is that I fell in love with my best friend and the fiancé is so great that when I’m upset he asks me whether I want Mars or Venus (as in men are from, women are from) and gives the support I want/need. And makes me tea/pours me wine and gives me cuddles/stuff that doesn’t need putting explicitly but puts a smile on my face and leaves me relaxed.
I’m trying to focus on that. The fiancé is a lovely man. He’s kind and loyal while being enough of a twat that he doesn’t irritate me by being like some character out of a bad romantic comedy. Truly he can be a full on idiot and I’ve had to ban him from using the phrase “sweating like a rapist” around my mother. Anyway, if someone as fantastic as him can love me then maybe I should allow for my friends liking me.
After all, can so many fun, bright brilliant people be wrong?