Friday, 4 February 2011

It took me a long term to learn

I had friends. Does that sound strange?
Do most people just assume that people they know and like are friends? I have never assumed any such thing. Why should I?
As a small child I had very little opportunity to mix with other children. Certainly I never remember playing with anyone other than a child over the back fence - and that was only on the occasions my mother was childminding. I never went to play there.
My brother and I played in our backyard or rode our tricycles up and down the lane at the side. There were some huge concrete pipes there for a long time. We could stand upright in them and rode up and down them listening to the echoes bounce off the sides. The echoes were our companions.
When we moved and I started school I was definitely the odd one out. I read a lot. The other children could not yet read. I found friends in books. We kept on moving. I kept on reading. My mother did not allow us to invite children home to play or us to go to their homes (because that would mean inviting them back).
I never felt comfortable in anyone else's house. I was much too self conscious. I still feel that way. Perhaps you need to grow up going in and out of other houses to learn to feel comfortable about visiting other people. Does it help you grow less self conscious as well?
Even when I left school I did not believe I had friends. Circumstances were such that I did not have an opportunity to mix with my fellow teacher training students on a social basis.
I do not drive. I have never owned a car. That also limits social life style. You do not "hop in the car" and head off to socialise.
So friendships came slowly to me and they are still slightly awkward affairs. I envy those people who feel they can just 'phone someone and suggest they meet for coffee, go out to a film, drop in for a cup of tea etc. On the other hand when someone 'phoned and asked if I would like a ride to somewhere we both needed to be on a very hot Saturday afternoon I was perhaps unduly pleased. It was unexpected. I was pleased that someone should actually bother to think about me. I made very sure I said thankyou too. Yes, she has to be a friend. That is the sort of thing friends do - or I think it is.
I think it might be why I have not actively gone seeking "friends" and "followers" on the internet. I would rather people found me and thought "might be interesting". I follow others I think "might be interesting" - and most of them are very interesting. I think I might like them if I met them.
What I want to know though is when does liking someone you meet become friendship? When do they remain acquaintances? How in the heck do I know if I am welcome? There are no answers to any of that but I also wonder if other people feel the same way.
What I do know is that everyone needs a social support network.


Rachel Fenton said...

Cat - I have many similar incidents/memories from childhood, and beyond. I find it near impossible to say more than an awkward hullo to people I see every week at my daughter's swim training, for example. The people who become friends tend to be the ones who recognise my shyness for what it is and don't take offense if I don't seek them out at a shared social venue - usually I am "blinded" by my shyness - I simply cannot look at people for long enough to pick out the friendly faces! I can, however, give off an air of confidence and this always comes across as aloofness! So friendships are slow travelling liners on my social sea! I'll always be learning!

Anonymous said...

I believe very strongly that there is a sort of emotional blackmail involved in the modern insistence on friendship and socializing
It's interesting that the recent "fly on the wall"TV programmes on spiritual retreats, the need to be silent ans reflective, have been so popular. Perhaps the tide has turned
My family didn't live in a "dropping-in area either - our doors were never locked, but no-one ever "walked in" My sister spent most of her time at other people's houses, but i steadfastly refused all invitations to "one to one" socializing. I knew that i had absolutely nothing in common with the people who invited me. My father was solidly behind me about this, my mother was too busy trying to keep on top pf the practicalities running of a huge divided house and its tenants to follow up on the people I offended in this way
One odd result of this was that at one point in our lives it was the absolute conviction of some people (this has emerged in later life) that I was in some way the favourite child, whereas in practice i was the one who had to help with the chores and run the errands, because my sister was never there - a strange "favouritism"
Anyway, there's no doubt in these times that it's my sister's behaviour that would be regarded as normal, and mine as eccentric - whereas I'd stick out for the right of everyone, child or adult, to choose whether or not to to "socilaize" , without it being turned into a "guilt trip"

Scrimcat said...

Hmm this has definitely made me think. I have always been envious of people who make friendships easily. I was always a bit of a nerd and was never part of the cool crowd. You end up being stuck with the other "oddballs" none of whom you would have chosen as a friend.
It does linger on into adulthood even though I no longer spend my whole life with my nose in a book.
I can manage a chat at the school gate with the other Mums but I am not automatically invited back for coffee as others are.

Jayne said...

Interesting post, Cat, and very honest. We all need a social support network, that is so true. I’ll have a bash at answering even though, as you rightly say, there are no real answers. I think acquaintances start first, and friendship begins when you both realise you always have a lot to say in the moments you meet, so you arrange to meet up outside of whatever brings you together as acquaintances. Then friendship continues if you both stay interested and sort of delighted in each other, enough to each go the extra mile sometimes if you feel they need you. I think there is sort of a plunge, a trust issue, with making friends, a sort of ‘jump in and see what happens’ when you invite people into your life. But it really depends on being your own friend first – this is very important.

Ann said...

I do not make friends easily either. When I was young I often wondered if I was imposing on people. I have a tendency to have a few friends but they are very close friends. I am not an acquaintance friend type of person. I always envied my sister, who could walk into a crowded room and everyone was/is instantly drawn to her. I stand propping up the wall, debating what I should say! And I totally understand where you are coming from with followers. I am always amazed when someone new follows my blog, and wonder what I did wrong when I lose a follower. I think there are many of us out there, you are not alone.

catdownunder said...

Oh - just purrowled back in to see if there were any comments and find a bunch of like-minded individuals.
I wonder if what many people consider "friendship" is merely "acquaintanceship" and whether it falls apart under stress?
I am also sure people think of writers as sociable sort of people - after all writers are supposed to be good with words. Why would they not have something to say on every occasion?! The reality is that writing is very lonely occupation!