The Friend Famine
You know, it sucks to feel like a freak, but in this day and age the solitary animal is becoming an increasingly rare species. As our culture stagnates, worshiping the extroverted youth in all its myriad obnoxious guises, those of us familiar with social insecurity find ourselves marginalized and reviled as we-
Fuck it. Let's get down to brass tax here: I'm not very good at meeting people.
Recently I took a tally of my friends, and after disregarding those who live inside my head, I was more than a little perturbed to discover that I had less mates than a trekkie mouth-breather with visible leprosy. What had happened I wondered? Where had all those high-school acquaintances -once so eager to indulge my shameless need for attention- drifted off to?
Then I remembered that two years ago I’d decided to unceremoniously sever contact with anything possessed of a pulse and spinal cord, and had crawled under a duvet until I was almost thrown out of university. Clearly taking social cues from Saint Francis of Assisi had not paid off. For one thing, I hadn’t even learned how to talk to animals, apart from my dogs; a character trait which is a prerequisite to loneliness anyway. I reflected upon the choices I had made. "Oh Callum" I thought with a jovial chuckle, "You really are a gigantic twat aren't you?"
I concurred with myself. Heartily.
Since I left school, I’ve been through three years of higher education, two failed relationships, three minimum-wage jobs, three cars and a partridge in a pear tree, and I’ve haven’t found a single long term friend to save myself, which is concerning, because on the inevitable day the SWAT team breaks down my door, I might need them to.
It doesn’t make any sense. I'm easy-on-the-eyes, loyal, supportive, stimulating conversation. I always put on deodorant, avoid racy jokes, wear unoffensive clothes, all that sort of thing. At the risk of making this post sound like a desperate resume, (which I suppose, in a way, it kinda is) what I’m trying to say is that I'm a reasonably pleasant guy ... probably.
This is an interim of social isolation I’ve dubbed: ‘The Friend Famine’ because when you’re blogging about being lonely, you might as well throw dignity out with the bathwater and take up solitaire and crying professionally. Maybe, just maybe Dear Reader, you’ve experienced something like it at one time or another. You know the feeling you get when you wear your best suit to go for a ‘quick pint’ with someone? That’s the insidious Friend Famine at work right there. Have you ever made a facebook event and had a panic attack shortly after because it’s taken half an hour to receive one sad little ‘maybe?’ Yeah, you’ve got a Friend Famine on your hands pal. Have you ever tried to organize a party and given up halfway through because you remember that the only person you can comfortably chat with already lives with you? Uhuh? Really?
No, no wait.
I’m gonna stop you right there.
In one of my frequent moments of introspection, I managed to dissect The Friend Famine into three component parts:
Listen, before I get too whiny, let’s get one thing straight: my standard of living is, by comparison with the majority, fucking opulent. I have no illusions about this. I am your poor little rich boy safe in his cosy little first world nest. But I’m inhabiting a society which provides me with instant gratification almost all of the time. If I want a hot caffeinated beverage, I can have one almost immediately, choosing from one of the many franchised coffee outlets western Europe has in place of a working economy.
And that’s just the start. We have websites like tumblr and YouTube and Twitter to fulfill our every entertainment need. If I want to find a blog that deals exclusively in GIFS of dogs wearing hats, I’ll find five in less than a minute through Google. I don’t need to think about what I’m doing. It’s not a problem for me. It’s there. My atrophied attention span means that I’ll tire of it by the late afternoon, but I’ll have been satisfied in the short term, without any effort or imagination on my part. I can order anything I want from Amazon or Ebay, and if I’m prepared to pay extra, that coveted item can arrive by the very next day. It’ll be on my doorstep before I can work out why I want it! Bread and Circuses to the nth degree.
Perhaps then my frustration with meeting people is that I can’t have the person I want here and now. If I wanted a girlfriend or a new flatmate or whatever, I’d have to go through the whole rigmarole of speaking to a host of different folk, and whittling them down one by one to a select few like I’m a fucking ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ judge, and then I’d have to remember their names, and all their likes and dislikes and where they live, and at any moment they might just get bored of me and fuck off, which hardly seems worth it. Whether it be a platonic friendship or an intimate love, in life relationships are like beautiful works of art. They require a lot of time and a lot of hard work, and maybe I simply no longer have the patience for it.
I have a lot of issues with depression, anxiety, self-criticism and other fun things, which makes presenting myself as a vibrant and intriguing personality a bit of a challenge. When meeting new people I can often come across as self-deprecating to the point of masochism. Imagine being confronted by a stranger, and thinking “Oh fuck: somebody new! They might be a vicious, spiteful bully! Better punch myself in the gut and make fun of my posture before they do!” That is not a logical thought for a person to have, and it is not a stellar first impression.
Of course there’s always the risk I might go too far the other way. I mean, people lap up confidence right? At least, I’ve heard this from a reputable source. So if I just act self-assured then people will take my word for it, and I’ll be up to my tits in charism before you can say Ferris Bueller.
Of course I have honestly never been confident or self-assured in my entire life, and so any attempt to act like this comes across like the most shallow, swaggering parody of narcissistic wankery you’ve ever seen in your life. A bit like Perez Hilton, but with even less irony. At the drop of the hat I’ll fluff some shit about my triple digit IQ or unparalleled wit and charm, over-compensating for the pride that’s second nature to the well-adjusted. It’s method-acting something I’ve never really experienced before, so naturally my attempts to embody the non-anxious ideal fall short of the mark.
I’m Completely Out Of Touch With Reality:
There’s a reason why conversations with a grandparent can be fucking tedious; it’s because neither of you has a single identifiable point of reference to bridge the the yawning generational gap: ergo you end up repeating the same dull anecdotes you’ve been parroting for two decades, before one of you makes a hasty excuse to leave and pisses off. I’m aware that my fellow vertebrates and I have many things in common: hair, skin, blood and bone etc. Yet beyond that ... I’m at a loss man, I really am. I’ve no idea how people go about their lives; how they think or act on a day-to-day basis or whatever. It’s a fucking mystery to me. And as for popular culture, you got me. Everything is either trending on the Twittersphere, or a reality TV show, or a sitcom so low-brow it’s actually written by chimps. I can’t even talk about the stuff I actually enjoy, because I watched or talked about most of it with my ex-girlfriend, and I twinge with misery every time I think of them, and, by association, her. And even if I’m talking about something, about four seconds in I’ll get bored of what I’m talking about and ... just ...
... tail ...
... away ... sorry where was I?
Either that or I’ll get on to something which really fascinates me, like quantum immortality, or swing music, or literature, dogs, cooking, waistcoats or cheese, and I’ll go on and on and on and on and on and on and ON about whatever it is at such an intimidating length that my interlocutor will assume I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum and sprint for the nearest exit. Again this makes the whole system of social dialogue somewhat irksome.
So there we have it. Am I fucked? Who knows. I have been taking some time out to try and meet people recently, but there are days when it feels like it’s just useless. I think a good thing to try and do in my situation is to totally displace yourself, regard your own being as though you were a character; in that way introspection becomes observation, and objectivity is easier to achieve. I’m sure I’m not the only introvert out there, riddled with self-doubt, but all-in-all I think I’d prefer a culture that treated these traits as simple traits, as opposed to weird abnormalities.
(This week I’ve been reading Charlotte ‘brooding’ Bronte’s classic brooding gothic proto-feminist broodfest ‘Jane Eyre’, and I’ve been surprised to find myself actually quite liking the eponymous protagonist and her manic-depressive, gypsy-impersonating, lunatic-abusing, Byronic hunk-of-a-man Mr Rochester. He broods. There’s brooding. It’s a thing they do.)
|(And it looks a little something like this:)|