(Originally written May 25, 2006 on my old blog.)
At some time in my early 20s, I sacrificed quality for quantity when it came to friendships. I had been a loner and a misfit in my childhood and teens, with only a handfull of misfit friends. If these misfit friends were out of town over the summer, for example, then I would have no one to hang out with.
Now, because of my weird family situation with my half-brother and half-sister only staying with us for the summer and then leaving, I grew up thinking that I just wasn’t interesting enough to be around. People always had more important or more interesting things to do (I know, I know, it’s irrational but I was a kid for cryin’ out loud and until I was about 8, I didn’t even know that they had a different father than me because divorce and re-marriage was the taboo-est of taboo topics in my household). This, combined with my status as a misfit with only a few misfit friends and the fact that American kids in the states picked on me for being French Canadian, then the French Canadian kids picked on me for being “English”, led to my longing to be . . .not popular, but well liked by more than a hand-full of misfits!
So in my 20s I became that well-liked person with a wide social network. By a couple of years ago, I could count on a variety of people to go to parties with. I even had a reasonable network of fuck friends. But – and I realised this only last year – I had very few people with whom I could have rich, deep conversations with. I had very few people that I actually enjoyed spending time one-on-one with, just hanging out, watching a video, whatever. I had very few people that I could call up just to say “hi” and talk about whatever had gone on that week in each others lives. When I realised this, I became sadder than I had been at the loss of my partner of 8 years. I felt empty at the realisation that there was no one out there that would call me up just to talk or just to hang out with me.
But what made it difficult to bear was not any feeling of rejection. I had dealt with the whole childhood trauma of thinking no one wanted to hang out with me – that was one positive benefit of enlarging my social circle: finding out that I was, in fact, likeable and fun to be around. What made it difficult to bear was that this was all of my own doing. In going after a large social network to make sure that I was NEVER, EVER bored and all alone (because at one time I thought that being all alone for more than one hour was the worst thing ever – really, it was because I was scared – still am a bit, but can deal with the can of worms that gets opened when I have to have a Nancy-to-Nancy talk with myself), I lost the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with having a few close friends that stick by you and that genuinely care about you.
I had forgotten how even idle chat with a good friend can be so uplifting. How even mundane gestures, such as passing someone a cup of tea or ruffling someone’s hair, can mean so much between *friends* with a capital F. How amiable silence can be so fulfilling.
Lately, I’ve been downsizing my social network. Not that I’m not willing to make new friends – I always am! But more like I make the effort to connect on a deeper level with a few people that inspire me and make me feel good when I’m around them. People that make me feel accepted for who I am. People that get me and who I get, and who I want to get more. People that have interesting things to say and interesting ideas and insight. People that take pleasure in simple things and are willing to share that pleasure.
What inspired this stream of consciousness thing on friendship? Something really simple. Chatting on Yahoo with my friend who lives in NY state (and who will be up in MTL this weekend – YAY!); as we’re signing off, she wrote: “À bientôt . . .et bonne nuit.” See you soon and good night. Nothing extraordinary but because I’ve gotten to know her better over the past few months and know that she is a beautiful, warm and affectionate individual, I could feel the tenderness with which she utters these simple little phrases. And it made me realise that I’m getting back on track when I can regain that old fuzzy feeling of having fantastic friends and NOT just a social circle of fellow party-goers.
This realisation was really great to have at the end of a day of PMSing and feeling that my life was just one problem after another. Thanks my friend!