I try not to have friends. That is, I have friends, real, proper ones who came to my wedding and whom I meet for coffee sometimes and take great pleasure in catching up with. What I try not to have are Friends. The Sex and the City ones. The ones you share everything with. The ones who know you better than you know yourself and who will always be there for you and who are more important than any man...you know the ones.
It's the fault, really, of SATC, for establishing, over the past ten years, a Tyranny of Friendship. Nowadays no girl would dare call herself a woman unless she has at least two incredibly close pals she can share everything with, who know her better than she knows herself etc etc. Everyone must have slightly differing, while instantly definable, characteristics, and nothing, no hell, no high water, and certainly no man must ever come between these you're-like-my-sisters. Not to have a guaranteed spot on the Girls' Night Out is to be the Bridget Jones of the new millennium. Forget finding the perfect boyfriend - do you have the perfect Friends?
And yet...really? Really?
For a start, no friend is more important than a man. A man, unless you're taking the One Night Only Train, is your future, your wedding, your kids, your grandkids, the hand resting on yours fifty years from now. Any man, right from day one, has the potential to be the most important relationship in your life. Now, I'm not saying you should break prior commitments with friends just to see your boyfriend. That's a rude thing to do to anyone. But any friend who thinks you should side with them over your bloke just because they're your Friend, and, you know, friendship is, like, what really matters, or who accuses you of 'ditching' them to spend time with your man is a Friend, but, actually, no friend. A Friend expects utter loyalty, but a friend knows you have priorities that, ultimately, won't involve them.
Also, I don't want someone to know me better than I know myself. There's very little point in Me if someone else knows me better than I do. It reduces me to the level of a character in their lives. If the whirling, constantly evolving and complex marvel that is Me can fit in my entirety inside some else's head then I'm a great deal smaller and less interesting than I think I am. And I'm not. So there.
Nor do I want to share everything. I don't even share everything with my husband. He has an annoying habit of always surprising me in a moment of quiet with a sudden rabbit-burst of "what are you thinking?". He does it because his head falls empty without constant stimuli and he covets my inner world. On principle, I refuse to answer, on the grounds that one day I may be thinking of something private and if I set the precedent of answering truthfully every time then I'd get in a pickle and try to lie badly and then he'd know and be hurt. And if I don't tell HIM everything, you can bet your bottom dollar I won't be spilling it all to YOU, my Friend.
And it's not just groups of Friends. The individual, the Best Friend, is all of the above intensified to the power of a thousand. The Best Friend has no-one in their lives who is more important than You. That was hard for me even before I had a baby.
So I try to steer clear, because these things only make you happy on TV, and the reality is a twisty mess of group dynamics and worrying about who's offended whom this week. Instead I restrict my relationships to actual friends. People I'm not overly important to but can still spend enjoyable time with. I keep it casual. My husband is the only person I need that close.
BUT. See, Annikki's coming round tomorrow with her baby to play with me and Milly. I spent this afternoon making soup, hoping that it would be a soup she would like. We talk, not just about our lives but about ideas. Tomorrow we're going to compare Upstairs Downstairs to Downton Abbey. Last night we were inventing our own acronyms and texting them to each other. I keep feeling the urge to tell her things. You know, things from Inside My Head. And when she reads this she won't get upset or offended or worry that I don't really like her, she'll just laugh. More than that, she'll UNDERSTAND...
...like she knows me...better than I know myself...
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Location:Why I Don't Want Any Friends