Friday, 5 February 2016

Friendless in the Fifties..

I have no friends.
Okay, a few.  Like a handful. Like a handful with a couple of fingers missing.
86 on facebook, 3 of whom cross over to real life, more or less, and some colleagues.
My eldest daughter tells me not to worry that most people have only seven significant people in their life and the rest are just padding.
But I don't have seven, I say, slightly panicked.  I mean, I'm padded, god so well padded with acquaintances and half-friends, and pseudo friends, and people I once had dinner with, or met, or knew, or still kind of know, or know someone who knows someone, or holidayed with, or spoke to at a party that I could fill a hall with people I waved at once across a room, but though I can anecdotally chat about Ed Balls and Phillip Roth and Salman Rushdie and The House of Parliament Dining Room and Gordon Ramsay, it's all just bullshit, true bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless.  The significant seven are real, or would be if I had them...
Yes you do have seven people, think of it - four kids, Dad, Juliano, Maria...  The girl says.
Oh god, my seven significants consist of four people I gave birth to, one I was married to who left me for another woman, my current partner and my dear friend Maria who lives half the time in Brazil and who I see maybe once a fortnight when she's here, and who communicates with me by What's App.
Kill Me Now.
Or rather don't, because nobody would come to the funeral.
I'm dubious about my daughter's maths as, of the four kids, even she hasn't returned my last two phone calls and we haven't spoken for maybe two weeks.  One of my sons may have emigrated to another country and forgotten to tell me as I haven't heard from him since Christmas.  I don't even bother calling him now as he never answers, and my texts and emails are ignored.  I think he loves me, but joined at the heart compadres we are not - or maybe we are, we just don't talk.  And my husband, well we met last week, but haven't heard since and he has a new partner and an 18 month old baby, so can't think I'm high on the list of priorities except when he's urging me to kick one of the kids out (two of them live with me so do get to count as significant, albeit by default) so I can sell the house and give him half.  A bit of self interest in that friendship maybe?
So am I unloveable, unlikeable, unfriendly, antisocial?
Maybe, hope not, no, a bit.
For the years of my marriage I was sure both of the first descriptions were true.  Not because my husband made me feel those things, but rather that he made me feel that he loved me DESPITE them being somewhat true.  My current partner, when asked why he hung around after the sex became routine, said 'because I like you'.  Gosh.  There's a novelty.  I realised that this was one of the first time anyone had said those three little words to me.  I've heard love many times from many men, like it's a toy currency you can wave about but not really spend, but 'liking' is a rarer commodity, and one I've never been blessed with.
Is it a parental thing.  Absolutely.  My parents, lovely people though they were, could criticize for Britain, and show disapproval like they were up for a Bafta for it.  I never felt they liked me.  Not whining about it, just saying.  They tolerated me.  The loved me despite (see the trend here?) my many perceived character flaws which they often pointed out, sometimes adding that I should see a psychiatrist.  Being a kid in our house was akin to madness.
So I've kept that feeling with me for life, internalised it, nurtured it, and projected it on to anyone who'll have me, or not as the case may be.
The nice thing about age is that it has finally allowed me, not to shelve the feeling, but not to give a fuck about who likes me or not, even though I admit I just start from the point that nobody does, or won't once they get to know me, but who cares?  I've got cats instead.  One of them doesn't like me much either, but she's a temperamental diva who shuns everyone, so I'm not special. The others sit on my knee and purr.  When I get really low I think I'll get a dog too, 24/7 total approval adoration and tail wags - what's not to like.
But do two cats and a virtual dog count as significant beings in one's life?
Judging by the number of both species on facebook, I'd say they probably do.
But that still leaves me short of friends.
I truly don't mind that much.  I think that some people have the gift of making friends and I'm just one of those who doesn't.  I can get along with people well enough in the day to day, and when I meet people, I often warm to them and  enjoy speaking to them. I can talk to most people happily and with pleasure.   But as I get older I find I have become more and more reclusive.  I think - shall I have people for dinner?  And decide, immediately, nah.  Can't be bothered.  I'd have to cook.  I'd have to think of things to say.  And - this IS an absolute truth in my life, they NEVER ask me back, so what is the point?  I don't want to be the one-sided friend that much if it involves two hours of competitive cookery and a lot of washing up.  I've done enough of that in the last thirty odd years.  It's not the making friends I find difficult (well not so difficult) - it's the keeping them.  Two of the people I liked most in the world at the time dropped me.  Dumped by a friend.   Ooooh, not one for the CV when you're shopping around for new ones.  Others drift away because of natural atrophy, and some I've dropped because things change and I just find I have nothing in common with them any more.  Another pleasure age brings is that I find myself less interested in putting up with nonsense.  Time is too precious to hang out with people who make you feel bad about yourself, or who you just don't find uplifting.  And I'm also more guarded, more cautious, less generous, less interested.
Still, doesn't it stick in the craw a wee bit when you see other people just gather friends around them, to retain the devotion of others while being total bitches/arses/tools, but you get left off their Christmas card list?  It does me, but only momentarily.  The people I do have in my life I am grateful for, and they are few, but good.  There may not be seven of them, but they will turn up for me if I need them.  Yes, some are related to me, and have to turn up out of duty, but that's what families are for.   To ensure you still have a 'person' when the rest of the world thinks you're a pain in the arse.