Is Friendship Over-Rated?
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."
I read someone on Twitter today saying that her only friends are her girlfriend and her mother. It felt a bit strange reading that because I have sort of given up on friendship, and it is hard to imagine that other people are running around having friendships when I have so completely given up on it. It feels like something that belongs to another era, but maybe it is just another era of my life. Maybe many people have abundant social lives, and I simply do not.
An Eccentric Compliment
Years ago, when my mother was still alive, I remember her telling me that I am eccentric. I took it as a compliment. In retrospect I am not certain that she meant it as one, but, either way, I don’t know another way of being in the world. I can act and pretend, but even when I do, I can tell from people’s responses to me that I am not quite emulating “normality,” whatever that is, to an extent that makes me seem truly “normal.”
Part of the problem, if it is a problem, is the way that I look (fat) and dress. I wear beautiful, flowing batik blouses from Indonesia. I suppose the other issue is that I have a tendency to tell the truth. That might sound like a positive, and I certainly see it as one, but it is apparently so unusual as to mark me eccentric, or, at the very least, weird.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
It is exhausting dealing with the array of responses to my just behaving in a way that seems normal to me. If someone asks me a question, and it is not personal, I will usually just tell them the truth. One example from years ago: I wanted to purchase a bathing suit. This was before you could easily buy clothing online. I went to the only store in the city that sells my size. The sales lady was helpful in gathering all three styles that they sold in my size.
They were very expensive. They were also exceptionally ugly. However, I like to swim, and I feel that, fat or not, I have a right to enjoy swimming. It is healthy and it feels good. So, I tried on these three horrible bathing suits, and I selected the one that was the least hideous. None of them were practical. They showed too much cleavage for my taste. They were basically just awful. The one I chose had a band around the stomach that was literally called a “tummy slimmer.” I cannot begin to explain how ridiculous that is on a woman my size. Do the swimsuit manufacturers think fat women are stupid or that we don’t own mirrors?
I handed the least offensive bathing suit to the sales lady. She said, “Is that the one you like best?” I said, “No. That is the one I am settling for because I hate it least.” She looked at me as though I had grown a new head. Is that really such a weird thing for me to say? Obviously.
However, I could not handle saying how nice this awful bathing suit was. First, I had to pay a lot of money for it. I was disappointed with it, and I would have to wear it. I did not see why I also had to be complimentary about the damned thing. Fortunately, now I pay way too much money for much nicer bathing suits that I purchase online.
However, I find that these weird interactions with people are a nearly constant part of leaving my home. I used to run a meetup group that had over 1000 members in it. I remember many people saying to me, “You are so refreshingly honest,” and it made me feel strange because I was putting on an act. That was not the honest, true me at all. That was me on my best behaviour, trying to be nice to people.
I think one reason I let go of the idea of having a group of friends was depression. When I was honest with my supposed friends about what I was going through with my mental health, what I found was that I had fewer and fewer friends. Prior to my difficulties with depression, I used to throw parties and have lot of people over. I really cared about these people deeply, and I was under the delusion that it was mutual.
It’s Depressed. Run!
When depression raised its ugly head in my life and I was honest about this with people I thought were my friends, a few of them explained to me that I was “too negative,” and that they had to cut off contact. Others simply disappeared. When I see those public service commercials that tell you not to keep your depression to yourself, to make sure you tell your friends what is going on with you, I literally laugh out loud. It’s hilarious because, although I am not sure whether that advice would work for anyone, I know it would not work for me.
As well as the “friends” who decided I was too negative or who simply disappeared as a result of my illness, I have had the honour of being completely betrayed by a few people. Maybe that is a normal human experience. It probably is, but I really don’t like it. One lady pretended to be my friend and then imitated my entire business model and became a business competitor, for example. Let’s not even discuss romantic partners. That would be a book.
Good Friends are Rare
I do not believe that I am unlucky or that my experiences are unique. I think that some people manage to find good friends, but that is rare. I used to have a co-worker. Let’s call her Shannon. Shannon had a friend whose husband owned a construction company. Shannon needed a job at one point, and she had a lot of experience working reception. The husband needed a receptionist. Well, not only did her “friend” not help her get a job, but she literally told her husband not to hire Shannon because Shannon was pretty, and her “friend” was insecure.
When I hear stories like that, I think that a lot of people keep people around as “friends” who really are not friends at all. It makes me wonder what a friend is. That certainly does not meet my definition of a friend.
I think that some people are able to hold people at arm’s length or to compartmentalize, and it is probably easier for people like that to have friends. I tend to get very close to one or two people. I have gotten to the point that I feel pretty fed up with most people.
Why I am Not a Fan of Friendship
Here are the issues I have with most people that preclude friendship:
- I have one or two acquaintances who I like a lot, but they talk trash about their other friends. Why would I trust them if they are talking trash about people who are supposedly their friends? I cannot tell that person anything in confidence. I mean, I can, but it would be stupid of me because I know I will be the subject of their conversation with the next “friend.”
- I had a friend for a while when I was very lonely who lied constantly. I am not great at detecting lies, but she made it easy because the frequency and severity of her lying was so high that I would have had to be a complete moron not to notice.
- I had a friend who was happy to let me do things for him, but never, ever reciprocated. I don’t keep score. That’s not what friendship is about. However, if one person is always doing things for the other while the other does nothing, unless the one doing nothing is deathly ill or something, there is a problem.
- I have my own issues. For example, I have very little energy. I only want to spend my energy with people who either bring me joy, to whom I think I am bringing joy, or who I think are fun to be around. Alternately, I am happy to spend time with a friend who is ill, but only if I think this is a friend who might reciprocate. The reciprocation is not necessary, but the idea that they might one day reciprocate if they are able to do so is important. The point behind it is not that I get something back, but that this person cares about me. I have thrown away a lot of time and effort on people who proved that they don’t care about me, and that is a waste in my opinion.
- If someone is very superficial or narrow-minded, I find it hard to be friends with that person. This might seem obvious, but there are a lot of superficial and narrow-minded individuals out there with seemingly no shortage of buddies.
Honest and Popular Just Don’t Go Hand in Hand…
I don’t see popularity as a positive thing. I don’t necessarily see it as a negative thing, but I have known popular people and people who were terribly unpopular. In fact, I have been both popular and unpopular at different points in my life. In my experience, neither makes you a good or bad person. However, having bunches of friends can be exhausting without value.
I really think it was having so many people walk away from me when I became depressed that changed my view on friendship. I valued and loved the people I called friends before that point. Learning that they honestly and truly did not mind whether I was living in a dark pit of despair as long as I didn’t bug them with it – well, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but it was an important life lesson.
I make an effort to be kind and compassionate whenever I can. These are things I believe in. However, I don’t believe in wasting my kindness and compassion on people who don’t care about me. Instead, I focus on family (and my family is lovable if a bit crazy at times).
At this point I would say that my only real friend is my partner. This is not ideal because, you know, people. Partners. They make mistakes and disappoint you. It is better not to have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. However, it is challenging because I love and trust my partner.
Maybe my real reason for not wanting to find more friends is partly cowardice. I have been betrayed, and I am quite fed up with it. My own company is fine most of the time. When it is not, I spend time with my partner, my cats, and some acquaintances. However, at this point in my life, it’s not that I don’t have friends. One could say that. However, it’s really that I don’t want friends. I have been exhausted by people and I am so extremely tired of it.
Also, it is not easy to make friends after a certain age. How much time and effort do I want to put into an enterprise that feels doomed? That might sound negative, but I see it as a positive. We only have a finite amount of time and energy. How much of it do I want to spend smiling and nodding? Or arguing about something that I see as obvious? Or feeling devastated because my being myself was “too negative,” or too something else?
I think a lot of the problem is that most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, and integrity into being good friends. Does that statement apply to me also? I don’t think so. I think I have been willing to invest time, energy, and integrity in the people I cared about. However, I have become considerably jaded about people as the years have gone by. I feel badly about it, but it happened.
Honestly, it’s much easier to prefer the company of cats.