I don’t have a lot of friends. That’s embarrassing to admit

I don’t drink, and alcohol is the lubricant of every Irish social interaction

The ‘Friends’ cast: role models in the friendship game or setting an impossible standard?

The ‘Friends’ cast: role models in the friendship game or setting an impossible standard?

 

I know it is taboo as an adult to say you don’t have a lot of friends, if only because it is embarrassing to admit. If you have not developed a sturdy net of social connections by your 30s, there is a sort of taint on you; a kind of maudlin aspect that suggests there might be something wrong with you.

Perhaps you had friends once, but you murdered them all and they are stuffed and arranged in your garden shed in an exact replica of Leonardo’s Last Supper, or maybe you’re just a crap friend. The sort of person who borrows money and never pays it back, or who puts their shoed feet on other people’s cream sofas while remarking on the asymmetry of their children’s faces.

If you don’t go to pubs, you don’t expand your existing friend network organically

 I am not a serial murderer, nor a serial borrower, nor a witless twit who doesn’t respect the property or loved ones of others. I am perfectly willing to admire a handsome baby when one is presented to me for inspection with parental trills of “Isn’t he lovely?” I am also willing to lie on meeting a less than aesthetically charming one, even if his little eyes appear to be situated directly on the bridge of his nose and he has a decidedly stoatish expression. I understand how manners work, and many is the baby who grows into its face to make a very fetching adult.

 It isn’t precisely obvious how many friendships, and of what types, make for a healthy adulthood, but if there were a number in the ether, I likely wouldn’t be able to meet it. There are numerous explanations for this – as the child of an alcoholic, social skills came to me late. Visitors were discouraged and money was absent, so there wasn’t much in the way of interaction with those outside my family, and at school I always felt quite conspicuous.

I worked my way rather brutally through these social inadequacies at university, and just about got to a point of basic competence upon leaving, at which point everyone seemed to have made their friends.

I don’t drink, and alcohol is the lubricant of every Irish social interaction. If you don’t go to pubs, you don’t expand your existing friend network organically. So many of my friends have emigrated – anyone in their 20s during the economic crash saw friends they love and value cross a stretch of water to make life somewhere else. In the ensuing years, the friendship drifts away or diminishes.

All of these reasons provide valid context for not having many friends – and all of them are inane excuses.

 Now I find myself in London, which is brimming with people, so many of whom seem to be in a frightful rush and absolutely sure that every stranger is in fact a serial killer. They sit on the Tube playing “eye contact is lava” with one another and willing themselves into solipsism. I have so many acquaintances and colleagues towards whom I feel very fond, but how, in adulthood, do we nudge an acquaintanceship into friendship?

These things are divided along gender lines, also.

Individuals will always differ, but typically, men develop friendships through shared interests. For women to bond, we usually need more and diverse verbal communication as well as shared experience, and any kind of friendship is easier to spark and develop when you are younger, with fewer commitments and responsibilities and more opportunities to try new things. After all, so much of good friendship is recalling past incidents while cradling your intestines as though they may fall out from laughter. “Remember the time you dressed as a cat for Halloween, and Sarah’s cat Wendell savagely attacked you the moment you came into the house?” – and so on.

 There is an alchemy to forging new friendships, based on mutual good timing, a willingness to face the possibility of rejection, possession of an open heart, and maintenance of the belief that there is good in others. In a frantic city of strangers who often don’t prioritise respect, this can be difficult to remember. It is never too late, however, to make new friends – we just have to go out into the world to find them, because that is precisely where they’ll be.

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