Making Friends

June 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm (Life, Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , )

I know that I am not very good and making or keeping friends. I don’t know, not for sure anywhere, if this is more due to nature or nurture. I always was a quiet child. I hide a lot and when I no longer hide, I worked. I had a few friends as a child. We were mainly friends because our mothers were friends and we were all poor and had no fathers, or absent/dead fathers. We spent time together doing things with our mothers or because our mothers sent us all out to play together.

My best friend was just down the alley. Her mom was a widow. Our baby brothers were born three days apart in the same teeny, tiny hospital (less then 20 beds). Evenings the group of us, me, her, my brother, her two younger brothers, would meet in the alley after supper and play tag or hide & seek until it was bedtime. In the summer, the meat market owner’s grandchildren would join us and the cop’s kids from down the street would be part of the group when we had a cop in town that had kids around our age. I didn’t feel alone as much as a child. I had proximity to just enough socialization and when it got to be too much I would go and hide somewhere with my books and read.

I seemed to need to hide, to break off from the group more than the others ever did and I had a hard time coping with more than one friendship at a time. My friends were broken into categories. There was my BF who I hang out with the most because she and her family were closest and we had brothers in common. T, whose mother had a car and who us, my mother, brother & me, explored the countryside with. T was more of a tomboy than me and definitely more of a risk-taker. She hang with the town’s rough crowd the older we got and that scared me. She married young and was dead before she was twenty-five. M & I hung out at church, she taught me how to smoke and one summer we built a fort just outside of town. We grew apart because she started to shoplift and steal. I was too timid to spend my life scared. I find it ironic how much of my emotional life I still spend scared.

All my other childhood friends, like the cop’s kids, moved out and on.

These were friendships of proximity and likeness. They all moved on, both physically or emotionally by the time I turned thirteen.

I have trouble letting go. I get stuck in patterns; invested in staying who I am. My habits haven’t changed much over fifty years – I’m still quiet, I still read too much, and I still have trouble trying new things. I’m not sure I can explain it but if I was this sort of child now, I’d likely be diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome.

In my opinion, it’s a good thing I never was labeled thus because it forced me to learn how to step outside my comfort zone; and I still can’t say how much of who I am is just because of my nature.

I grew up poor. We were on public assistance all my childhood and there have been times as an adult, I’ve relayed on government support. I learnt young that it was best not to offer information or answer the phone. I was always worried that I would say the wrong thing and we would end up worse off then we already were. It was a childhood filled with secrets and lies and it didn’t matter if I was at my mother’s house or my father’s house. At my father’s house, we were told to never answer the phone and his lies centered on his alcoholism. Even now, I write out my phone scripts and I still like to have a plan when I’m talking to family. My eldest sister, who I’ve tried to explain this to, doesn’t really understand how stressful I find talking on the phone.

I know who I am. I’m kind of goth, quite morbid, a little artsy, a major bookworm (books are easy, books are safe) and a fan of Musicals. But most people don’t really see me; they tell me I’m strange and “cute” which really means odd and why don’t I try to fit in more (be more like them they mean).

Sometimes, I wish I could and I’m good at being inoffensive and invisible.

Maybe, too much so.

My brother-in-law has tried to set me up a few times. He’s concerned (confused) as to why I seem to spend so much time alone. The last time he was here he compared me to a Taxi, implying that i was content with being alone, because my light was off. If I wanted a fare (company), I’d advertise for such by leaving the metaphorical light on. This metaphor annoyed me and it took me months to be able to articulate why – it’s because it’s not that simple. What if you don’t know how to turn on the light? What if the light’s broken? What if this is the wrong way to advertise? For me, life always seems more complex then it does to everyone else, even the people I know care about me and want to help. If I can’t articulate this to them, how can I communicate with strangers?

It doesn’t help that, as a woman, I get men assuming I want to interact with them.

I was standing at my apartment door, last week, laden down with groceries, getting my key out, when a young man approached me. He said, excuse me and I turned thinking he wanted directions. I’m too polite. I need to learn how to ignore them. He goes on about watching me walk, doesn’t want to sound like a pervert and my mind shuts down. He finishes with, something, something, do I want to f***, and I say no and thank him for the compliment. Later, all I can think is how vulnerable I feel and scared, why didn’t I just go in and why did I thank him for basically ruining my day. Then, I think he knows where I live and what, about me, made him think that I’d say yes to an offer like that. Do I look that needy? I had a stalker, briefly, when I lived in Montreal and I don’t want another one!

This is why books are safer and why alone feels better.

I look at the few friends I do have and did have. The ones I trusted most and felt most safe around were the ones I connected with in University, in my Writer’s groups. The ones who didn’t assume the only fun, meeting places were noisy, smoky, expensive bars. The ones, like me, who need days, weeks and months, to process and articulate their thoughts; the ones who can be quiet and together, writing and talking. I don’t know how to find that here. I want a group that I can hang out with at coffee shops and write with, talk honestly with, and debate ideas with but also ones who I can be quiet with.

My friend, Avis, found this through blogging. She meets up with local bloggers and somehow finds the courage and money to travel to blog conventions. But then again, she dialogues on her blog with her readers and I do not. I love your comments and read them all but it seems silly to answer just to say “glad you understood or I agree.” I only add to conversations on my blog and others’ blogs if I feel like my comment adds to the dialogue.

I worry that I will turn out to be not too good at this social media thing either. That I will tell too much, learn too much, be too needy and just shut down completely. This is why I blog mostly anonymously, so that I’ll have an escape hatch if I need one.

I feel like, a lonely little kid, going up to strangers and begging: “will you be my friend?’

What got me going on about all of this; I can feel you wondering…

At the beginning of the month, I wrote to a friend (via Facebook. I know her in real life but she’s in another city right now pursuing her work dreams), about my upcoming trip, that I was –

“Still scared. What if I don’t fit in? What if nobody likes me?”

She answered, very truthfully, that “as for people liking you, well, I figure the less you stress about it, the better you’ll be.”

Then, she went on to try to get me to stress less by writing: “Meanwhile, I’m concerned about the ash. Stupid volcano. If you feel comfortable, I’d feel a heck of a lot better personally if I knew which flights you were on. I want to know if I need to worry about you or not, and since you don’t have nearly enough people worrying about you and I’m apparently doing it anyway (I’m on a four-times-daily minimum ash watch for your trip already!), I’d love to volunteer for the task. If you’re not comfy giving out that info, that’s fine. I just figured I need to at least ask and give you time to contemplate.” Did I mention, she understands who I am and respects that. I hope she’d say the same thing about me.

Still I stress even when I know I shouldn’t.

When I came back the first thing I wrote to her, inserted innocuously, into the middle of another message was that “I made friends on my trip :-)”

What I meant was that she was right and that though these peoples would not be forever friends, like I hope she will be and that I am capable of making friends out of strangers.

I meant that, because of her, I know how to make friends and that there are strangers out there who will “get me” if I make an effort to know them.

Her reply to my innocuous remark, made me smile –

“Tell me about your friends!!! 😀 Are they Canadian or everywhere-ian? Or Scottish? Some old lord with a manor featuring a hidden library just fall head over heals in love with you and ask you to get married and then he dies and you inherit the estate and library and it’s all awesome?” Did I mention she “gets” me?

So, even though today’s post started out to be mostly a rant, it’s ending in a much better place.

Here’s to introspection and friendships; may you have as much of both as you need.

>

> A message for a new friend, from my recent Scotland tour…

Hi Marjie, I got your Facebook invite but I’m having trouble finding you. If you’re reading this could you email me from the email you used to set up your Facebook account so I can search for you that way. Thanks.

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8 Comments

  1. Kathy said,

    Just wanting you to know that I read this~~you see, I can’t help not commenting. It seems like you should know that there is someone out here in cyberspace who is sitting in a coffee shop and writing and reading and nodding her head to what you’ve said. Even if its an inane sentence or six…I figure it makes us all feel less lonely and isolated. (Even though my daughter would agree with you totally!)

  2. solitaryspinster said,

    Thanks Kathy, your comment was just what I needed today.

    gigi

  3. Bertie said,

    Just want to let you know, like Kathy, that I’m a regular reader of your blog and that I often silently find that I like your writings. Best greetings from the Netherlands!

  4. solitaryspinster said,

    Hi Bertie,

    I went and looked at your blog. It makes me wish I could read/speak more than one language. My grandfather could speak at least four (Polish, German, Russian & English) and read at the basic level in two (German & English) of them.

    Greetings back to you 🙂

    gigi

  5. Irene said,

    Hi, this is Irene we were on the bus tour of Scotland together, you would probably remember my daughter Sarah better. It was a joy to meet you on that trip. I do think about you out in prairies, I love your idea of picking up a bookmark a day, wish I had done the same. I am also an avid reader.
    I do applaud your courage for going on that trip, and I am thankful you did speak to us and others on the bus. Remember the ice cream shop in St. Andrews, I have that pic of our bottles, yours with the union jack.
    Just thought I would pop you a note to say you did touch lives on that trip.

  6. Irene said,

    btw I think that is me getting on the bus, in your picture, I recognize my King Township Library bag… grin

    • solitaryspinster said,

      Hi Irene,

      Yes, I remember you and Sarah. I try not to use pictures with people in them because I think it is wrong to mess with other’s personal privacy.

      Neat, however, that you recognized yourself.

      • Irene said,

        Well it was my back so no one would ever recognize me, it was only the green bag that caught me eye. It was nice to see the pic, brought back some good memories.

        I thought how original since I was carrying a book bag from our local library and you caught it.

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