On the Subject of Friendship


Moving to a new country can be tough. In my situation, it was from one extreme to the next: moving out of my parents’ house to another damn continent. Not only that, but changing from a spoilt, sheltered princess to being pretty much the sole earner in a living situation that had a tendency towards general instability. I left all the support, care and community I had to start over in a new country, with new people and a new culture.

It’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that not only did I have no support, but I felt that the process to get settled here was made unnecessary difficult. I don’t just mean the immigration process itself, but the human aspect of what I had hoped for. I had nobody to turn to for advice on important things like tax filing, health insurance, and job markets, or minor, everyday things like what dishwasher detergent to buy (everything is different here!). I felt so pathetically alone every single day.

So I was happy when I started to make some friends here. None of them were work-based, because nobody seemed to socialize at my first job. It was Corporate Cubicle City. These friends were local people, met through a mutual friend or two. These nice, lovely people would take an interest in me, and would make plans, exchange numbers, add me on Facebook, etc. Suddenly I noticed that, instead of sitting home alone worrying that I wasn’t fitting in here, I had a social calendar that actually involved real people and not the latest episode of a TV show. I was going hiking with people, going shopping with people, attending summer evening wine parties with people, and just going to bars and movies with people.

And then I realized that a lot of those social events were just a one-time thing. I or they would suggest plans to meet up at another time, and they would delay or blow me off. Or I would say hello to them in the street and they would either ignore me or brusquely dismiss my greeting.  I’m not sure what I did wrong in those scenarios, but it still hurts. Maybe they felt sorry for me and were just throwing me a bone. It’s my own fault for being so (internally) overzealous about new friendships, because I genuinely thought that was how they were supposed to work.

The truth is that when people get older, they stop making room for new people in their lives. For the most part, people have established groups of friends with shared histories and in-jokes.  I have been lucky to find a great set of friends who don’t believe that’s true, but in the back of my head, I worry when they’ll tire of me and put our friendship out to pasture.

Much like Facebook friends. I guess I’m one of those rare beasts that genuinely uses Facebook to communicate with people. So when some people on my list tire of me and decide to actually remove me, I can’t help but take it personally (especially when they still share several mutual friends).

It’s like someone looked at me and decided, “Yeah, I’d be OK with removing this person from my life forever. They have nothing to offer me.” It’s so much more humiliating when you continue to see these people in public. And then they actually try to talk to you like they hadn’t decided that your friendship just wasn’t worth hanging on to. What am I supposed to do with that? How am I not supposed to feel rejected?

My only female friends are back home in England. Being a girl and having mostly/only male friends looks weird and wrong to people. I have online camaraderie with some women here in Salem, and that’s fine; I’m happy to get to know people that way, because some of us are introverts some of the time, or I imagine that they are just really busy. But there are times when I want to log off when I’m reminded that I’m merely an “online” friend and not a “I am seen in public with you” friend.

I’m not even asking for the frighteningly-clique-y, clingy, exclusive, spouse-like female mate-ships  that frequently clog up my news feed (“I saw this and thought of you, BFF, so I bought if for you, yay happy times!!!!11”). No-one has ever called me their best friend. I was never hit on by men, so I expect my female friendship requests to be unrequited, too. Obviously I’m doing something wrong here, or there’s something wrong about me. I just wish I could figure out what it was so I could change it.

Maybe it would be easier if I just tried to date someone. Nobody wants friends anymore.