Monday, October 16, 2006

Friends

“When we're incomplete, we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on - serial polygamy - until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.” Tom Robbins
I spent a year or two (when I first moved to London), being quite lonely. I enjoyed seeing my sister and her husband, but they weren't quite up to the late night bar sessions and clubs I was interested in, and in fairness to them, there’s only so much of a drunk younger sister anyone can take. I don't know why, but I just found it incredibly hard to make friends outside of work, and so I spent a lot (a lot) of time on my own - going to movies, walks in the park, staying home watching Sunset Beach omnibuses, and expanding my waistline with comfort eating. Part of my inability in those first two years to truly settle into London life, had a lot to do with not really having a social life. I found colleagues happy to go out with me for a beer straight after work, but less so inclined to want to socialise on the weekends. This may also have had a lot to do with the fact that I worked in advertising, and we worked such long and late hours during the week, that when the weekend came, we’d had quite enough of each other.

When I met Robert who is an outgoing and magnanimous chap, I like to joke I not only got a boyfriend, but inherited about 120 friends. It was wonderful – suddenly there were all these people in my life; people to have a beer with, to discuss films with, to shop with, to go out with. A lot of the girls in the group also went on to become independent friends of mine, because we made a point to see each other more, and I guess there's always the love of shoes in common.

Having had the friendless experience, one of my greatest pleasures has therefore become introducing people, as well as many failed matchmaking attempts, but generally just getting people together and seeing what happens. We have parties or some sort of social gathering, and people meet, and the next thing I hear they're doing stuff together, and a lot of the time, these people have gone on to become friends independently of me. This has never been an issue for me, nor do I think it ever will be. I retain my friendships with them, but sometimes their friendship with each other, based on whatever commonality, is a much closer and deeper one than with me. As much as I live in a fantasy world most of the time, I am not quite as misguided as to believe that I possess the ability to meet everyone’s emotional, intellectual, and entertainment needs – and god knows the alternative sounds like way too much pressure.

Which takes me to my next point: There is no such thing as friend stealing. If you introduce two people, they treat you like crap, never talk to you again, and go on a cross-Europe lesbian motorcycling trip together, then sure, you have a beef. But still, at the end of the day, you have no claim over people, and it's certainly none of your business who they choose to socialise with. Ultimately, I am always incredibly flattered when I introduce people who go on to enjoy each others company. That's an indication that I have a fine choice when it comes to the people in my life. And more so, our friends tend to be a lot like us - outgoing and extrovert, and it's inevitable that there will be someone they will hit it off with and have something in common with other than you.

To have a beef with someone for ‘stealing’ a friend of yours is like saying: “You are more likeable, popular, interesting and better company than I am,” - because how else do you explain the theft? I mean, that person has to be doing something to lure those people away? And unless they are a supreme master of (tireless) deception, it’s more likely the case that they are likable enough that people enjoy their company, which is probably the reason you are friends with them yourself. And you in turn must be pretty likeable for them to be friends with you.

This whole thing sounds absurd as I write it, and I think that’s pretty much because it is. You have to have an open hand and an open heart when it comes to people, and life in general. God knows I have met some wonderful people through friends, and I have made a fair few introductions myself, and I think this is a wonderful thing. If you are that insecure about your friendships, it’s likely you doubt your ability to be a good friend to people and to keep that relationship, and you shouldn’t. Chances are if you are that shit at the job, that friendship would have or will end of it's own accord, with or without the help of a so-called friend stealer.

People are not possessions – and the irony is you are more likely to increase your popularity, gain more friends, and be viewed as a generous and magnanimous person if you are happy to introduce and share your friends, than if you guard your relationships jealously. And even more importantly, life is far too short for any of this to be an issue in the first place .

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