The problem with making new friends

I am not a good candidate for a friend, if you’re looking. I can never go out because I am always working the next day, or have an essay due in, or a sick animal, or existential angst, or have been up since 4 am. If you are having a crisis and need support after 7 pm I have probably unplugged the phone. If you need to be picked up after surgery or want to have lunch, I am probably at work. I’m pretty good as a virtual friend, though – quick to participate (especially if you live in the northern hemisphere, and are dabbling on facebook late at night) and obsessive about answering my emails (unless you are related to me, in which case, I’ll see you eventually). I don’t put up photos of kittens on facebook too often, and I attempt to be original, when possible.

I’ve been thinking about friendship this week. Partly this is because we are in The Month From Hell, the month when, three years in a row, I had friends inconsiderately die on me, leaving me short of many of the important commodities of my social life. Partly it is because my virtual friend L posted the following status, and it sounded so hideously familiar:
‘Making friends as an adult is the most awkward nerve racking thing… I get all weird and try and bribe/ impress them into thinking I’m nice, fun and have my life together… And this is me having an existential crisis whilst staring deeply into a bowl of fresh chocolate’.

I’m not sure if we lose the ability to form friendships because we get more protective or more discerning as we get older. Possibly it’s a little of both. Obligations take over, some people have families and can’t come out and play anymore, some have jobs that preclude them providing us with entertainment, some people (ok, probably just me) have irretrievably set their body-clock for anti-social hours. It does give me more reading time, though.
Also, we’re more aware of our tolerance (or lack of it) of others quirks, and more likely to be sober, at least some of the time. No more of those friendships from our twenties, when someone who moved in the same circles and didn’t vote Liberal was probably considered a friend. We have standards. It makes the courtship process a bit more fraught. We’ve decided what we don’t want from those around us, but I, at least, am not entirely sure that I have fully considered what I do want from friends these days. Probably by the time I work it out, the requirements will have changed, again. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the process that is currently working for me – befriending the library staff and relying on my long-term friends to widen my social circle by picking out entertaining partners.

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