The friend zone

No I’m not planning on talking about the perils of being put into the ‘not an object of lust’ category by someone who most definitely is lusted after by you. (And is also hopefully not an object; I would still like to meet the person who married a wall and ask them some searching questions.) I want to talk about that area of your life, that time in your ‘oh so busy’ schedule, that social media habit dedicated to keeping up with your friends.

Vast quantities of print media and cyberspace is dedicated to a very particular kind of relationship – a romantic one. How to find a partner, how to keep a partner, what to do when said partner cheats/has a revolting toenail clippings all over the floor habit, how to move on from one fuckwit partner and find someone more gorgeous, kind (and hopefully better hygiene habits). There’s also plenty out there for dealing with family problems. There’s also lots of advice and focus out there on family relationships – what to do when your teenager turns emo and only interacts with you in the form of yelling or tortured haikus about how life is so confusing and you just don’t understand their pain. Curiously the nuts and bolts of friendships are rarely given such air time or as celebrated.

I guess on one level, there’s an element of school playground paranoia around the topic – what sad loser doesn’t know how to make and keep friends, especially by the time they’re an adult? Also, there’s a level of – well the relationship that is the most important for everyone is finding their mystical ‘other half’. So why think about it or discuss it?

Well bullshit to all that. The friend relationship is a complex beast. Especially as you start getting older. People move away from university and home and meet new people and suddenly there’s the danger of the friction about who is the most important friend – the one who remembers when you locked yourself into a toilet cubicle in reception and cried because you couldn’t work out how to get out (turning locks the other way clearly was beyond 5 year old me)  or the one who escorted you home after you had too many jaeger bombs at a work drink’s event and fell down a flight of stairs and sprained your arm in your eagerness to get to the basement dance floor and rave (read: dance like a drunk Tigger) to some top tunes (aka something by a 90s boy band)?

In fact, how do you even make new friends when you’re a grown up and not at school or uni? I do loads of hobbies, I frequently go out to bars etc and I count on one hand the number of new meaningful friends I’ve made through those means since moving to that melting pot that is London. I mean if someone just started chatting to me in the British Museum on one of my many visits about why they like a particular object, I’d probably just assume they had escaped from a mental health unit. London makes you all trusting and friendly like that.

There is of course work – work is the new structure giver in your life as an adult that forces you to come into contact with new people. (Until someone invents a career where you just have to eat pizza and drink wine with friends.). And work friends are a whole new ball game. How much should you entrust to work friends? Do you actually have that much to talk about when not bitching about the office – is the state of HR in your company a bond that will last when you are pensioners cutting up the sidewalk with your zimmer frames? I have some lovely friends I’ve made through work and others I suspect I won’t be chatting that much with once that job link is severed. (But who are still very lovely and fun, I feel I should add.) Are people equipped to recognise the friendship for what it is and be guarded with personal information or move on when suddenly X person you thought was a good mate actually isn’t because now you don’t share a water cooler? (I suck at the being guarded part, particularly when drunk – aka, had a glass of wine – I’ll answer most personal questions then.)

And then there’s the whole business of nurturing friendships – not forgetting it’s a give and take agreement, not just a take, take, take one. And bothering to keep in contact. One of my biggest frustrations I’ve found in recent years are friends who don’t instigate anything – whether it’s a conversation or arranging a meet-up. But are very happy to chat/come along when someone else has done the work of instigating that. So it’s not malicious, it’s just thoughtless. Which in some ways, is worse, because the latter implies you don’t even enter into their thought process without prompting.

Life is busy – forging careers, finding the one person you want to spend your life with, keeping fit, making time for your family etc are all valid ways to spend your time and it’s easy to let friendships and the business of making/cementing friendships get left by the wayside. And it shouldn’t, because friends are amazing. I love my friends so much and I wanted to write an ode to how great they are and make me feel. Unfortunately I suck at odes, so here’s a much more-millennial friendly listicle (a non-exhaustive one I should add) as to why friends are awesome and friendships should be given just as much thought as other relationships, especially those with sexy-time involved.

  • For starters, friends precede and often will be around much longer than aforementioned people you wish to bump private parts with. Don’t be stupid and neglect them because who else will drag you away on a weekend to the Cotswolds and patiently do a 20 mile round bike trip with you to the UK’s only crocodile zoo in 30 degree heat to get over a boy?
  • No one can take you down a much needed peg or two like someone who remembers when you thought pasta, dolmio sauce and cocktail sausages all mixed together was the height of culinary sophistication. And they will. Because that’s what good friends do. Your sexy time partner on the other hand, in their desire for a quiet life and to be able to skulk out to the pub with their mates in peace is more unlikely to risk enraging you.
  • Presumably you share some interests. That’s why you are friends. Whether that’s Prosecco. Cute animals. Or Wagamamma’s chocolate fudge cake dessert. It’s important to keep people around who will share your excitement of pettings zoos/Wagamammas/going to the pub because doing things you like on your own all the time isn’t as fun.
  • Beautiful variety. Different people with different thoughts and perspectives. So much more interesting than spending your time wrapped up with one person.
  • Life can be one mad ‘to do’ list sometimes dictated by a busy calendar. And when your calendar isn’t so busy, society dictates you’re probably a loser. I had forgotten this, but there are honestly few things as refreshing for a stressed brain, than just sitting down with some people who make you laugh, and talking crap and just being silly. Schedule in more group silly time people, it’s good for you.

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