I’ve Never Been Very Good At The Whole Friendship Thing.

Far too long ago, my virtual friend and blogger, Michelle Weaver from Pinky Poinker nominated me for a blogging award. To fulfil the award I needed to tell my readers several things about myself that they might not know already.

 

I’m pretty candid on this blog so most of you know most of my sordid secrets but one topic I do shy away from are my thoughts on friendships.

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden
Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

I’ve never been very good at the whole friendship thing.

 

 

 

Then I stumbled across this quote from Meryl Streep this week, and it summed up exactly how I feel at this moment in my life, about how my relationships with friends and my tolerances in life have changed with middle age. I couldn’t have verbalised it more succinctly myself.

 

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”

 

It might be argued that Meryl has far more reason to feel arrogant about her lot than I do with mine, but like her, I can’t be assed with things that I take no pleasure from these days. In the past I’ve tried to attract friends through wining and dining them and pretending to be much more fun than I am, but I’ve come to realise that faking it doesn’t cultivate long-term friendships and many abuse that strategy anyway.

 

Which is how I’ve reached this point in my life where I’m finally brave enough to accept that if people don’t like me, I won’t slink away with my pride in pieces – we are all very different as people, have come from very different nurtures and developed very different nuances to our personalities and sometimes they simply don’t gel. It’s not that I don’t care, but I don’t want to waste any more time trying to please people who don’t have a natural connection with me – because a forged connection cannot be sustained anyway.

 

Italiano: Stella di Meryl Streep sulla Hollywo...
Italiano: Stella di Meryl Streep sulla Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles (California) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like Meryl, I am drawn to intelligent people – that is to people I can learn from whether that is intellectual intelligence or emotional intelligence. They certainly don’t have to be academically brilliant. But I won’t tolerate arrogance of any sort either. I have always despised competition and confrontation and nothing makes me put my runners on faster than feeling that friends are competing with me or if I feel a pressure to compete with them.

 

I am absolutely the worst friend you could have, in many ways. My few close friends will vouch for that.  I forget birthdays, I am crap at being thoughtful and I never phone anyone unless it is an emergency or I need something from them. But I won’t ever let my friends down either. I am loyal to the point of stupidity, like a puppy dog, and it takes a lot to push me away as a friend. However, once that trust is broken, I will walk away and never come back.

 

I tire of people who only talk about themselves and never ask questions about me or mine, or who make assumptions about how I think when they know nothing about my skeletons. And I am super-sensitive to negativity because it wields a power over me that can drag me down into the reeds below until I can’t breathe, which is why I try to avoid it these days. Like Meryl, I judge people on their reaction to animals and the way they treat and talk about their friends.

 

In a nutshell, I don’t ‘suffer fools’, and that’s probably why I’ve never been very good at the whole friendship thing.

 

Teenage Friendships and The Role Of Food

Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) penalty kick in the H...
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) penalty kick in the Heieneken Cup (Photo credit: Sum_of_Marc)

Kurt has had a best friend for a while now.

 

 

 

He got to know him at the performing arts school he started at last year, just before the unfortunate series of events that led to the gaping hole in his classroom wall which escalated another fresh start at another new school this year. Those security cameras can be a bitch.

 

 

 

Apparently the school still hasn’t mended that hole in the wall, in spite of them demanding vast sums of hush money from us to pay for the damage, so that the good name of our son would not be tarnished.

 

 

 

One day we will laugh at these things. *reaches for medication*

 

 

 

Anyway, Kurt’s friend is a tall, rugby-playing, actor-type friend who physically and mentally is the complete antithesis of our son. And yet, mysteriously, they have made a connection.

 

 

 

They share an obvious passion for performance and playing the fool and they laugh at each other’s silly, sixteen year old boy-humour which mostly seems to involve farting. But what I find particularly endearing about their relationship is that this boy is not afraid to challenge Kurt and tell him when he thinks when he has crossed a line. And Kurt actually listens to him.

 

 

 

On a personal level, the second best thing about this boy, (which makes me sound uncharacteristically like Martha Stewart), is that he has a healthy appetite for food, and because his mum lives far away in Queensland, he has virtually taken permanent weekend residency at our house; so I get to feed him a lot.

 

 

 

Rather like the ducks they feed to make foie gras.

 

 

 

I’d like to pretend and say that the attraction of staying at our house lies with my home cooking, but alas, I’d obviously be talking out of my ass.

 

 

 

Yet in spite of the fact that I have never served up a home-made apple pie or rice pudding, this boy demolishes everything I put in front of him without complaint. Unlike my son who has no interest in food and makes every mealtime the equivalent of going ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

 

American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, ...
American cultural icons, apple pie, baseball, and the American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend that this boy is also my son and that I did something right. I would never exchange Kurt for this boy, because I know that Kurt has been sent to me for many reasons. My son may not eat anything with onions or cheese in it but he makes me laugh out loud at the quirkiness of his humor and swell with pride when he sings to me, and secretly I do suspect that there is some measure of genius within him.

 

 

 

But most importantly, I love him unconditionally and it seems that the more chaos he creates in our lives, the more I love him that little bit more, (although obviously, I would never tell him that).

 

 

 

But the way kids treat their parents is often different to how they behave with their friends’ parents. Just as I am certain that when Kurt and NC are at their friends’ houses, they remember their Ps and Qs, I know for a fact that when Kurt goes to this boy‘s house, he and the dad always have a massive jamming session together.

 

 

 

And so, when Kurt’s friend finishes every leftover from my fridge that I offer him with that big, goofy, appreciative grin and a ‘thank you, Mrs Simmonds,’ I’m ashamed to admit that my heart skips a few beats.

 

 

 

A little appreciation goes a long way.

 

 

 

There used to be a kids television programme in the UK called Swap Shop where you swapped a toy for something else you wanted. Sometimes I wonder if we could borrow Kurt’s friend for special events and do a sort of teenage swap for events like the school parents evening, which is looming perilously closer in my calendar; or when we have to visit family. Kurt’s friend’s parents could borrow Kurt for the end of term music show or if they needed some contraband.

 

 

 

Kurt told me that the other day his friend asked him if he thought he was my favourite of Kurt’s friends and I found myself blushing.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Seven Year Itch

Terrace Houses
Terrace Houses

So, we are leaving the Beaches in search of streets paved with gold (and no doubt littered with syringes) in the Big Smoke. The choice is one of circumstance, not because we are in any way unhappy here, which makes it emotionally harder.

For me.

I would be lying if I didn’t mention that, of course, when we held our annual Christmas drinks last Sunday, the old man was rubbing his hands with glee in the secret knowledge that none of our guests realised that this was actually a drinks/farewell party, as well as a seasonal jolly.

I’ve mentioned the old man’s social anxiety (here), which dovetails rather nicely with my propensity for itchy feet. We have to have nurtured this five to seven year ‘flight’ plan during our over-extended marriage. We move, we settle, we make friends and then we f*ck off to pastures new. It is a behavior that sates my need for adventure and impulsivity and the old man’s need for anonymity….for a precious short time. It is possibly the singular most important factor for keeping our marriage just shy of the ‘green mould’ stage, (apart from secret passion for Macdonalds).

And each time we decide to move (and even though I have generally precipitated it), when the decision has been approved and the lease signed, and I finally consider the consequences of the impulsivity of my rash behavior and throw my hands in the air and have one of my prima donna hissy fits about not having any friends AGAIN, (and no doubt rant and wail about how absolutely hopeless the old man is in cultivating friends and how I simply don’t have the energy this time to go through the whole faking rigmarole another time), he just smiles knowingly.

And rubs his hands with glee, again. Because he knows that for a while he will have his safe little lost unit of four, depending on him again. No new faces = no stress in his world, other than the stress of having to listen to me despair every Saturday night about how boring he is and how we have become nomads with no mates, and how will I cope?

This will be a tough one, this move. This house was supposed to be our last before we retired to our palatial penthouse apartment in Palm Beach once the rock star has earned his fortune and repaid his debts; the house with the in-built coffee machine, customized sofas and matching remote controlled reclining armchairs.

The old man, in an uncharacteristically benevolent mood, has promised me new sofas from Domayne if our existing ones don’t fit through the dolls house doors of our new terraced rental and promised to take me to the cinema once a month to counterbalance our new status of social outcasts.

Terrace Houses courtesy of Bjarte Sorensen at www.flickr.com

Middle-Aged Girl Crush

Remember that ‘lightbulb’ moment I described, two or three posts ago, the one about not having to spend time with people who are as interesting as watching paint dry, once you’re middle-aged and cantankerous courageous enough to know better? I still stand by that principle, but where I’ve come a little unstuck recently, is the bit about not faking it anymore to make new friends. That’s bollocks!

Allow me to eat my words and regurgitate them for you in a more succinct way. And in future, please ignore any misguided detour on my part towards inspirational rambling because it’s not who I am. Sometimes the hormones or the age thing f*ck with my head and I have the desire to  grow up and appear intelligent.  I obviously fake it as a blogger as well as a friend.

You see, I’ve met someone. And I’m as strung out about it as a bitch on heat. This might even be my first middle-aged girl crush, because in spite of all that mature, newly-discovered wisdom about ‘pruning the tree’ that I spouted on about in the other post, I’ve fallen foul of my own, retrospectively, ill-founded advice, sold my social soul to the devil, and found myself in the embarrassing situation of needing social acceptance again.

To be honest, I would drink my own urine if I thought it would help me remove the feeling of neediness that I feel in the presence of this person. I’m usually the strong controlling type, not some blathering sychophant.

The problem is, a ‘potential’ bestie has walked into my life, (which as you know is as rare as cheap flights in school holidays), so I’m back in the saddle, whoring for friendship. Because, as we all know, soul mates just don’t walk into your life every day. I’m mentally back in Loserville High, being tortured in the playground, grovelling for acceptance.

We recently met for lattes. I obviously feigned the whole aloof thing, ‘treating her mean’, pretending that it was lucky that I had found a ‘window’ for us to meet, (when in reality, I had been religiously checking for her texts on an hourly basis). When she finally walked into the cafe, it took all my self control not to launch my full bodyweight at her and lick her face with gratitude for actually turning up.

I realized that I needed to impress her, this new and exciting BFF, in the presence of whom I felt completely so not worthy and extremely inadequate. (Mainly because she’s much funnier than me, and prettier; so by rights I should hate her. And did I mention that she’s also socially way out of my league, knowing all these fancy-scmancy, knobby-sounding social-climbers (I’m sure) who are probably half way up their own arses and who I would never get on with even if she did take pity and invite us to one of her swanky dinner parties? And I’d obviously have to leave the old man at home, because I’m sure they wouldn’t serve beefburgers).

I ordered a skim so she’d think I was healthy and fashionably organic; she had full-fat because she’s just so frigging comfortable in her own skin (bee-atch).

And then things started to go wrong. ‘Faking it’ has a limited shelf-life.

An hour into my repertoire of wit, to demonstrate just how freaking AMAZING I really am, my best fake awesomeness suddenly began to wilt with my energy, (embarrassingly if I’m honest), and the old fugly-girl-in-the-playground fear grew that I was about to say something quite boring, (or even worse, RUN OUT OF CONVERSATION completely). The pressure was frankly worse than trying to come up with a punchy line on Twitter.

And I realized that I had made a social faux-pas, in that I hadn’t asked her about ‘her’ AT ALL, and although she was looking politely on, I could tell she was disappointed in the real me, (whoever that is?). I hadn’t listened or made her feel important. Epic fail. I had let myself down, and I had let Dale Carnegie down. My conversation had been all about ‘awesome me’, who turned out to be not quite so awesome.

And as my fake confidence shattered into a hundred pieces, she began to fill my pregnant pauses; awkwardly.

And I had another lightbulb moment. And I realised that friendship needs to be on an equal footing, not living in someone’s shadow. And hero-worship is the most fragile platform on which to build it.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis

Caffe Latte – The Maling Room courtesy of avlxyz at www.flickr.com

Trimming The Bush (Of Friendship)

There comes a moment in every girl’s life where the necessity arises to trim her bush. I am, of course, alluding to pruning the tree of friendship.

‘Trimming’ only becomes possible once you gain the wisdom, the life experience, (and bloody mindedness   that makes you do something that irrational without truly considering the consequences), to fully appreciate the true value of friendship. (Or, if you truly don’t give a f..k what anyone thinks of you).

Because although meeting people and making friends, on the surface might look as simple as choosing a new phone, securing life-long friends is much more problematic. Sometimes your initial intuition is right about people, and you luck out and make the right choice, sometimes you get distracted by clever packaging, and end up having to prune them from the tree.

You see true friends are about as rare as celibate Catholic priests, which is why the quest for long-term friendship can be a life-long chore.

The quest usually begins in the uneven playing field of high school (like you don’t have enough on your mind!), where focus is generally directed towards ‘Survivor’ style skills and the formation of alliances, which may or may not ultimately evolve into real friendships, with time. Your main mission is to ‘fit in’; academic education ranks a poor second.

The difficulties of ‘acceptance’ into high school’s microcosm of society has never fundamentally changed. The social hierarchy in my childrens’ school, replicates my own high school hell, although these days the pressure to be popular is further compounded by the demands of social media platforms. ‘Social ranking’ is now determined by the number of ‘likes’ on your Facebook page, where once it was determined by the quantity of food in your lunchbox.

Of course, if you do make it into the lions den, (aka the ‘popular’ crowd), high school is a breeze. Most of us don’t. We either sink or swim, (or like me, frantically doggy-paddle, all the while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible).

Unfortunately, high school will never celebrate ‘difference’. While the stereotypical ‘populars’ preen (and prematurely shag and imbibe), the ‘losers’ quietly run the slower race, much like the tortoise in Aesop’s Fable.

And if the underdogs are astute, and invest their time (spent hiding from the bullies in the toilets and library), wisely, there is every chance of them empowering themselves with enough knowledge and skill to develop into intellectually more superior human beings than the ‘pretties’ they leave behind to their mirrors and adulation.

They will end up the winners, ultimately, when they discover that talent and integrity are the valued currency in the real world, (unless you’re Lara Bingle of course). Much like the tortoise did. Because the tortoise’s confidence grew out of the stupidity of the hare. And when the race had finished, the tortoise probably downed a few schooners and rolled a few joints with his nerdy mates at the RSL, and became much more chillaxed in his approach to socialization.

And what were the rest of us doing while the hares and the tortoises were sparring?

We were ‘faking it to make it’ of course, like all good fence-sitters. And some of us are guilty of ‘faking it’ beyond the walls of high school too. We gather ‘friends’ like superfluous Qantas frequent flyer points, although we have very little intention of flying anywhere with them.

Until that magic ‘lightbulb moment’, that happens when you just get too tired to fit everyone in and Masterchef suddenly becomes more appealing than hitting the town. When you have that epiphany and realise that no, you don’t actually have to be friends with people you have nothing in common with, want to spend time with or actually even like.

And with that epiphany (that stems partly from maturity and partly from that grouchy middle-age intolerance that makes us moan about absolutely everything), comes the bravery to prune the tree, that has grown so out of control it’s hanging over next door’s pool. And that trim gives you the respite to focus on the people who count in your life, because you’ve finally identified them (with all that wisdom and sh.t).

You’ll know that I’m no gardener if you read my post ‘The Definition of Lazy’. So you might be asking WTF all this crap about trees and bushes and sh.t is really about?

Well, it’s about life being too short, and too precious to waste, and ‘faking it’.

Apparently removing dead wood encourages new growth.

‘There comes a point in your life when you realize who really matters, who never did, and who always will.’ Unknown

Best Friends Forever by Speccywoo courtesy of Flickr.com