Being a raving slut, (sorry I mean extrovert) has always been one of my predominant innate features. Easy to talk to, friendly, kind, warm and polite. Even when they have B.O, I smile, breathe in; hold my breath, I remain friendly.
When I evaluated this later in life, I realised I am actually an introvert with excellent extrovert skills. People have a tough time believing I am shy and do not like attention. I get embarrassed from any sort of attention but I do my best to suppress it and no one notices. I then become coy and friendly in the bid to hide this feature.
You see friendships are based on choice. You choose to be friends with a person. It’s different from being a sibling to someone or a parent to a child. Choice is borne of freewill. The ability to make a decision to form a close loving bond with someone who you may have identified shares the same visions, possess the same values or at least have similar interests as yours –is choice.
I have acquired so many friends, companions, acquaintances over my lifetime. Living in 3 different countries, attended about 6 different schools, worked in nearly 10 different organisations, belonging to countless social and community based groups. Sometimes I cannot keep up.
When I turned 30, one of the things mum said to me was ‘you need to start profiling your friendships’. It didn’t make so much sense then as much as I agreed with her 100% because I interpreted this as a mental chore and I couldn’t be arsed about it. It suddenly became easier to maintain those mad friendships than to sit down, reflect and evaluate who my real friends are. That didn’t last forever, I can now count how many true good friends I have.
But as time and motion evolve, and as people age, or as mid-life crisis sets in, friendships change. The most challenging times being when people have reached the young adult status (25-40). When we were kids, school and friendships couldn’t go un-associated with. Our lives in school, college, university were hugely dependant on having friends because of the natural social and cultural aspects of being a student.
When we get to that stage where we move cities, have and move jobs, get married, have children, care for our elderly parents, a sick child, become diplomats, executives, own businesses, whatever tends to have more demands on our time, everything changes. Everything.
It all becomes about expectations. The expectations of our friends’ idea of where a friendship stands.
Before we even identify the status of these expectations, there are different types of friends. I am sure we have friends we call and confide in for different reasons- could be sex life, work, finance or career, friends we can open up about family issues, the ones who reprimand us and call us out, those who tell us what we want to hear, those who are mother hen figures and motivate us, those who give you the fun-factor, the ones you enjoy listening to etc
But I have categorised these into 3 types:
- Friends we truly love who can go a thousand miles for us- they are the ones who are like brothers or sisters to us, we depend on them for most things or share a lot with them about us. A lot of childhood friends are likely to fall into this category.
- Friends who share the same interests and hobbies as us and are great for the fun-factor. They have a good laugh; they get the quirky side of you but may not necessarily be interested in some or all of your values, your life issues and all that jazz. It’s very shallow, no deep stuff please? They are good friends you call when you are having a bad day and simply need them to cheer you up, they would have a glass of wine with you and cheer you up without even having to hear what caused the bad day.
- Then you have friends you acquire from different social groups, the ones you have known perhaps under 5 years. Your kids are friends with their kids, you attend the same local church, mosque, a patient group, a music class, an event and most often are work colleagues. These friends are most likely to maintain long term friendships with us as the friendship does not feel time-trapped and we tend to be ‘killing two birds with one stone’ here as the case may be. Being a work colleague and a friend is easy, it’s convenient. You get to see them almost every day. They can offer each other some emotional support and have a drink or coffee in the process. They are aware of the ‘now’, your current mood.
So the first two categories are friends likely to sometimes demand more time and effort from a friendship because time and motion is an attributing factor that perhaps has created a sort of distance between you two that it becomes a chore to put a time in the diary and have a proper catch up and because it is easier to call off an appointment with a friend than to cancel on the kids swimming classes, or accompany your elderly parents for a hospital appointment, you put off that drink/catch up.
With time, there is some sort of distance, you drift, sometimes there is resentment, and your life is in a place where you are constantly trying to catch up. How can you keep these friends happy?
So the question is ‘are friends best maintained when we are really young and when we are really old’? Is that time when we are building our lives, families, careers, society often in competition with friendships? Are we so time-constraint that we recognise maintaining friendships is often a burden we could do away with?
Is Facebook one way of knowing what everyone is up to since even a mere WhatsApp chat can be so difficult to have because you dread the next question “when are we catching up”?
Is silence a fair way to just say to your friends, I love you, you are special to me, I wish I could be more present in your life but I have more important odds I am up against at the moment.
Do middle age circumstances negate our friendships? Are we managing the expectations that come with friendships? Do friendships begin to develop inferior and superiority complexes as they evolve?
I do not know the answers but I am sure that the few ‘TRUE’ friends I currently have do not moan about having not caught up in 6 months. The moment we meet, whether it’s been 6 months, a year or 5, everything is as it should be. Laughter, food, fun, dance, drinks, emotional support and ultimately love.