Today I had a major realization. Though I’m proud of the many difficult and painful obstacles I’ve overcome in my thirty+ years on this earth, there is one particular theme I haven’t quite mastered: making and keeping friends.
I often still feel inside like that little girl, sitting on the bumper of my mum’s Subaru, aware of the neighborhood children playing nearby but avoiding direct eye contact with them, hoping they’d one day, magically, invite me to play along with them.
After all, I had so much to share. Perhaps I’d just read a fascinating portion of the Encyclopedia and was brimming with facts about the magnetic fields of the sun. Wouldn’t they be absolutely captivated? Or what about the newest dog breed additions to the American Kennel Club? Surely they’d be intrigued.
“Hey you! Do you want to play with us?” I’d imagine them saying—a fantasy image reflective of an old Disney film or possibly a television commercial for a horrid sugary fruit juice substitute. I believed if I imagined this benevolent invitation enough in my mind, it would eventually occur.
Yet I knew then I was never interested in kickball or flag football or tag of any sort. I had no interest in being loud and obnoxious or causing trouble. But I knew I wasn’t particularly pleased with sitting alone all the time.
Today, I’m much the same. I have no interest in drinking, partying, or being surrounded by large gatherings of people. Smaller gatherings around a theme such as dinner, board games, or charity work are fun. I’d rather drink tea, read books, listen to the ocean, walk in nature, travel, play with my dogs, or enjoy quality, one-on-one time with the few I am lucky enough to be close with.
For those of us who fall on the introspective side of things, chit-chat is not an option. It is a bloody waste of time, it’s senseless, and creates a challenging obstacle course when making a daring attempt to get to know another being. Yes, I know . . . it’s been abnormally hot out lately and there are guys making a hell of a lot of money running back and forth on wooden floors throwing round objects into netted hoops. What does that have to do with you and me and where we fit into this world? How will we know if we are worth each other’s time when we spend the first fifteen minutes of meeting discussing mindless, heartless, gutless non-topics? And oftentimes that brief fifteen-minute encounter is a solitary one, so I‘d just assume get down to business straight away and forego all the nonsense.
Who are you?
And I’ve tried. I really have. When I’ve attempted to try on for size this chit-chat business, I end up with a mouthful of blah and have no idea how to counteract the near nuclear disaster of what may have slipped out. For instance, today I was volunteering at my local Humane Society. Another volunteer had announced she’d be adopting one of the long-term residents of the shelter that day and after the rest of us celebrated this exciting news with yays and smiles, I decided to attempt to start a conversation with the woman. Though I wanted to ask what breed the dog was, the dog’s age, and inquire about its background and temperament, I assumed that enthusiastic line of questioning might not be appropriate after only knowing the woman for all of two minutes (I wouldn’t fancy being perceived a know-it-all). I thought I’d try chit-chat. The jumbled words that escaped my mouth made me want to sink into a hole in the ground and hide until everyone went home and I could return to my car unharmed.
And then she avoided me the rest of the afternoon.
I couldn’t cease silently repeating what I had uttered, and silently attempting better options in my mind of what I could have said.
There are many potential friends I’ve met through my husband, or through work, or via the long-term friend I’ve managed to keep since childhood. I maybe found these people interesting or incredibly kind or possibly even somewhat like-minded and added them as ‘friends’ on a social networking site in an attempt to keep in touch and maybe foster a real friendship, an attempt at broadening the circle and having fulfilling conversations. Nine times out of ten my attempts to reach out or check in have gone unanswered.
Maybe they are all excessively busy people. Intelligent people typically are.
Or . . .
Am I overzealous? Am I overwhelming? Am I simply too much for people? Do the women find me odd or un-relatable? Do the men find me inappropriate or think I’m flirting? Surely I mustn’t be completely repulsive. My personal line of self-questioning has greatly matured from ‘Am I too ugly?’ but I had to admit to myself today that it is still present. And I want to not care. And I want to not be bothered. And sometimes I’m not, really. And I wonder how many others are out there feeling like the little girl sitting on the Subaru station wagon bumper without the slightest clue as to how to make a valuable, permanent, thriving connection, even at thirty-eight.