Sunday, 3 March 2019

You know you make me want to shout...

Hubbie sent me a message reminding me of all the things I'd done that made him laugh this week. Then yesterday we co-presented a radio show - live. We chatted, laughed and generally enjoyed each other's company. It reminded me that despite all the dramas and tension that comes with being married and parenting and the general hustle and bustle of life, we are friends. Proper make you laugh until you wet yourself (just me ?) friends. 

Last night we went to a gig. An incredible gig. The front man of the band is shouty, anarchic and hilarious. It was in a tiny venue in Hubbie's hometown and we had a few hours of childfree proper let-yourself-go fun together. At one point we were all crouched on the floor of the venue with the lead singer (well not me, you know not with these knees !) and he was regaling us all with a story. He had us all in the palm of his hand as he was playing up the fact that he was from a local town and his brother was in the crowd. I can honestly say it was a brilliant night. 

Sometimes I wonder what people who are friends with someone like that think of them. I mean he can enthralling a room full of fans, but what's he like as a mate ? Is he that one who can sometimes be a bit much if you see him often ? You know that friend who always talks a good game and is charming and fun and the life of the party ? The one who makes you laugh until your face hurts and your sides ache and it feels like the moment should never end ? The same person reminds you of all the times you’ve been ridiculous and you have shared jokes and embarrassments from your years of friendship. The one you would drop everything to see ? 

Do you find (as I do) that they are also the one who will cancel at short notice with little or no explanation. So often that now you don’t even expect them to turn up so you always pencil things in as there is a more than 50% chance they just won’t turn up. In fact it’s so unlikely they will be there that you are tempted to be sarcastic and say, “Oh you’re looking forward to it are you ? Like I was when we made that arrangement last time that you cancelled at the last minute ?” They're the one who is the first to say, "I’ll do it – count me in - sounds fun." When you asked if they wanted to take part in an event and you kept putting off signing up just in case - well you know what they're like. But you don't want to be unfair. Then the friend gets on your case, “I’ve signed up for it – have you ?” and you do only to find out that they can’t make it after all and you're left to do it alone. Not for the first time.

Or the time you were supposed to go to a gig or a show and you didn't hear back from them for ages and when you finally got a reply it was, "Oh yeah I can't make it now. I've got something on," All casual like they didn't just make other plans and leave you in the lurch. Well at least you got a response that time, Not like when they just didn't respond and you were left waiting outside the venue calling to see if they were still coming. Eventually realising that it wasn't going to happen and being so worried and upset that you just went home.
The friendship looks so very different from the two sides. The friend is all about outcomes, “We saw each other in the end didn’t we ? That was fun.” And you’re more about the process which was more painful than it needed to be. You have to do certain things in order to meet, arrange childcare, sort out transport / travel and decide how is safest to get home if it’s going to be late. The friend is non-committal right to the last. You say, “let me know what you want to do,” and they don’t respond - being a free spirit and all that. Then you get a text message the night before - or the morning you’re supposed to meet - saying, “so you still on for tomorrow / today ?” You want to yell, “of course I am !! We agreed this. It’s you I’m waiting on. I am already committed.” You don’t say any of that. You politely agree that you will be there. Then panic that this might be like that time when they just didn’t turn up. Or the time they did, but stormed off because you had become so anxious in the build up to meeting that you said something to them. Or maybe they will just cancel at the last minute again and make it your fault for being surly. You want to say, “Why is it ok for you to be selfish and thoughtless, but unfair of me to call you on it ? How am I the bad guy here ?” Of course you don’t.

Friends are the family we choose. The ones who we love even though we don’t have to. Just like family though there will come a time when we notice how uneven it is. How the effort expended outweighs the reward. How the much mooted get-together becomes soured by the messing about, the inability to value your time or feelings. The realisation that to this friend you are not really worthy of respect. This fuels anxiety. It makes being a friend so difficult. You wouldn’t do this to someone you care about. They are not you though.
Ok so when they are suffering you go to them and are 'present,' because that is your way of supporting. When you want a hug or need the same support they take themselves away and give you space. It's not how you would do it and it's not what you want, but you are not them. That doesn't make them wrong, any more than it makes you wrong. It's where the definitions of friendship differ for you both. When you are sad you might want closeness, but they think it's best to leave you be.
So do you accept that is just how they are ? Do you continue to martyr yourself for some non-existent recognition ? Maybe choose to protect yourself by responding in kind ? No that won't work as that would only add guilt to the mix. Maybe just stop feeling bad about the friend and try to preserve the friendship ? It might be that they are tolerating you too. It may not be a priority for them to see you. It is possible they think they are doing you a favour by cancelling or not turning up if they think you're not going to want to see them. 

Just as one day you realise that a relationship isn't working any more and you would be better not being in it, sometimes we grow out of friendships. It takes a lot for me to let anyone new into my friendship group. I have friends I have known for a long, long time and they've been through a lot with me. I have also been through stuff with them. I trust and love my friends. I am fiercely loyal. To be frank I don't need any more of them. 

As we grow older and life does it's thing I am being more selective about who I make time for. The friend who works abroad and when she is around for a few days checks in with me to see if we can meet up. Who picks up gifts for my kids from all her travels - and actually likes to see them. Then there is the friend who tells me it's perfectly fine if I just want to rant or not say anything at all. I will send a random text message with no explanation at all and she responds perfectly. She just gets me. A friend who has come to meet me at short notice so he could give me a hug because I was having the crappiest day - now that is a great friend. 

Not everyone makes the cut. 

To be honest I bet the lead singer of the band is a pretty awesome friend. Even if he's not at least he's an excellent entertainer. 

Ready Art Brut ? 

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