Friendships give me an endless source of fascination. No two are ever the same, and we all accept the balance of friendship as the norm, even when the balance seems strange.
I’m not very good at keeping friends. I like solitude- something a lot of people struggle to accept. A few people have asked me if I’m lonely, but I’m really not. My favourite things to do are done better when one is alone- I like to read, to write, to listen to music and to watch films.
I’m also very bad in large social situations. One on one contact is preferable for me. I do get invited to birthday parties and barbeques and things like that but I rarely go along. I never know what to say to people or how to say it, and I usually plant myself in a corner and talk to one person all night. This may make me seem stand-offish and rude, whereas in fact it merely comes from a total lack of self confidence and a fear of upsetting people.
I am lucky enough to have a few close friends. Me and my friend C have what I refer to as a “rubber band” relationship. We don’t see each other or talk for weeks and months on end and then we suddenly collide back together and live in each others pockets for a while. I never feel any anger or remorse for the times we haven’t spoken, and I don’t think she does either. We pick up exactly where we left off, usually on exactly the same seam of chatter. We find the same things funny and we know a lot of the same people. We feed each other gossip and news. I am shocked to note that we have been friends for 11 years. This connection runs deep with us, and I know whenever I see her that we will at some point return to talking about our mad teenage years.
I love C for all the reasons she doesn’t like herself, which is extremely weird. I like the fact that she is completely mentally unhinged and delicate, and prone to getting upset about absolutely nothing. I like her bald sense of humour, and the fact that she will laugh about absolutely anything. She’s had a very rough year but she still laughs about it. Humour is her tool and her weapon and she will use it against anything. I like that she doesn’t want to settle for an ordinary life. I like that she is not the friend who pats you on the back and says “it’s going to be okay”, she is the friend who smashes a beer bottle on the table and says “this is everything but okay”. Her anger and passion for life takes my breath away. She is the original angry girl, and as bitter and twisted as me.
R is completely the opposite, and that’s the reason I love her. R is sunny and good-natured, candy floss in human form. She is constantly smiling, constantly laughing. She has an enormous circle of highly interchangeable friends that I can barely keep up with, and is something of a social butterfly who seems to be out every night. She has flashes of anger and dark humour that contradict her sunny disposition and forcefully happy nature, and when she does this it always shocks me and makes me laugh. Maternal instinct oozes from every pore on her body. She is very family orientated, and her Pollyanna outlook on life is touching and adorable, although I certainly wouldn’t say she was naïve. I met R when we were in the sixth form together and it was probably the quickest I’ve ever fallen for someone in a friendship sense. I met her and I loved her- it was that quick. We probably look very odd together when we go out for dinner, a sunny beautiful happy girl with caramel coloured bubble curls and a penchant for wearing florals, and me, her sullen, pale and moody companion who always wears black. We’ve been friends for 7 years now, and I will never forget the summer after college when we both did nothing except lay on a towel in her back garden getting drunk. It was heaven, and a true testament to friendship.
N is another girl I probably shouldn’t be friends with. She laughed like a drain when I told her when we first met that she probably would have beaten me up and stolen my lunch if we met at school. N is a bronzed Amazonian goddess who dresses like a bad teenager- she loves neon colours and tacky gold jewellery. On anyone except her it would look a state but she somehow carries it off. She has a face like a surly china doll- big pouty lips with a very deep cupid bow and huge dark brown eyes framed with enormous lashes. She never walks; she marches, and always has her huge talon like nails painted in eye-watering colours. When you first meet her, you will be intimidated, as she is very confrontational, very blunt, and swears like a sailor. She drives like a lunatic and plays her music so loud it makes my chest ache. Underneath this hardcore bad girl exterior, she has a soft little heart and is actually very delicate. People don’t worry about upsetting her because of her tough exterior, when actually; she is very easily upset and is one of the most empathetic people I have ever met. Me and N met at a job I worked at in 2006, and we have been firm friends ever since. She comes over quite often for tea and sympathy, and I will sometimes go with her to feed her shopping addiction.
One thing I will never understand about N is why she preservers with her best friend. I have met this girl and personally think she is an absolute nightmare. She is the stereotypical female friend who is constantly having man trouble or fighting with someone, and N has to wade in and pick up the pieces. She isn’t very kind to her, and I was so shocked when she came over for tea a few weeks ago and burbled out the whole story of what had been happening to her. I listened and then asked what her friend thought and she told me she doesn’t really talk to her about anything because it’s always about her. I can’t understand why you would wish to stay friends with someone like this, but then who could casually throw 12 years of friendship away and not mourn the loss? I am not really in a position to judge but I am constantly baffled, and only roll my eyes when she’s not looking over the next tale of “what my friend did next”.
P is my closest male friend. I can see from here that a few of you are wiggling your eyebrows but I firmly assure you, he is a friend. I don’t want to say he’s like a brother because that sounds a bit odd, he’s just another friend and the fact that he is male doesn’t really have anything to do with it. He is a very complex man and that’s why I love him- to quote the film Shrek, he is like an onion and he does have layers. His top layer is entirely male, he lives his life as “I love them and leave them, I exist only to party and get drunk” but actually, he is always hopelessly self-analysing and wondering why he does things the way he does. His personality swings without warning from swaggering arrogance to trembling self-doubt. He is an endless stream of strange contradiction, which may sound irritating but is in reality hopelessly endearing and fascinating. He is unusually bright, very funny, sarcastic and rude. He used to be a feckless friend who was always letting me down by cancelling dates at the last minute or ditching me to hang out with other friends, but he’s come a long way since then, and I can’t ever imagine us not being friends.
I often do this whenever I feel down- I think about my friends and all the reasons I love them. I do love them, because I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Our friendships are all a series of cheques and balances- I will always be there for them and they will always be there for me. There are days where I think I can’t be bothered to go out and meet them or have them come over, and I know I have let them all down at some point in time, said something thoughtless or maybe even really hurt them. It is hard when they are suffering- it can be trying and difficult to listen to them talk about the sadness in their lives- that someone close to them has passed away, that they are having an affair or have made a huge mistake at work. But it isn’t about me, it is about them. I can say with unfaltering hope they’d do the same for me. It should really be that simple- if you love me I’ll love you back. Life really isn’t like that and we all say and do things we know we shouldn’t. It is hard for me particularly as I prefer to be at home and I prefer to be alone, but I get as much back from my friendships as I put in. I know how fortunate I am.
Having said that, there are some people out there who don’t deserve your friendship any longer. There does have to come a point in every relationship where you need to ask yourself in the strongest terms if you are actually gaining anything from it. Do you really enjoy their company or just tolerate it? I have ended a number of friendships for various reasons- masking horrible things as “I just tell you the truth” where in reality you’re just being rude and hurtful. One friend in particular I had to let go as I simply couldn’t stand to see what she was doing to her husband. That’s a very long story for another time.
Take a little time to thank and remember your friends, we are so lucky to have them. They have been my sounding board, my voice of reason. They have dried my tears, they make me laugh when I didn’t think I could, made me see light at the end of the tunnel, and informed me as politely as they could that my green fringe was a very poor idea. I need them and I can only hope they need me too.