Meeting People is Easy
I find it easy to meet people,* whether through classes, events, meetups, work, family and friends, common interests, Twitter, or randomly. I have no problem being social.
I find it fairly easy to talk to people, as long as I don’t have to do general chitchat. For example, if I’m sitting next to someone at a coworking space, I can happily and interestedly ask them about what they do, and what they think of the coworking space, and their plans for that day or night or weekend. But… if I’ve been invited to a friend’s housewarming party, and I don’t know the other guests, I find it really difficult to converse with people. “How do you know the host?” might be a question… but more often than not, I drift towards something that I would rather hear their thoughts on, like, “Have you seen the movie ‘Her’? What did you think of it?” or “Do you love your job?” I have a terrible strike rate with such questioning: usually I receive short, perfunctory answers, or a heavy dose of radiating awkwardness. People don’t generally invest much of themselves in a conversation with a stranger who they might never see again. So, I’ve gradually reached the point where I avoid such gatherings, or I go and I sit quietly, or try to hang around groups of people who are conversing, so that I can listen to what they say.
~ However ~
Making Friends is Hard
Making friends is hard. I am really bad at it. Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt like everyone else can do this thing, but I never got the manual. In primary school, there were a few kids I wanted to be friends with, but I didn’t know how. In high school, I felt like I was an alien, watching everyone else make friends and form friendship groups and find boyfriends, and I didn’t know how. I remember being invited to join a group of teenagers after finishing high school – to go to an island and celebrate. We rented a hut, and had a week or so of flirting, getting to know new people, laughing, sunbathing, beers and cricket. I was so confused and feeling so alien by the end of it, that I cried in the plane on the way home, and my female friend couldn’t understand why. I said, I don’t know how to do this. I will never find a boyfriend. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t fit in. I also remember watching a couple of female friends during my university years, as they sat around a swimming pool, talking to each other about whatever was on their mind, sharing a depilatory device to get their legs smooth. That’s how female friends act, I thought. They’re so natural and comfortable with each other. They do everything together. A few times in life, other people have befriended me, and I have been so surprised. Why me? Is this a trick? What do we have in common? I’m so confused! Each time, I try to act the way that I think a friend should act… but it usually feels a bit alien.
I’m so insecure about this topic area that I let it negatively affect me. Even now, as an adult, I might meet someone several times, and think, they like me, and then the smallest thing can reverse my thinking. When we returned from Burning Man, one member from our camp sent out some nice messages, saying how much they loved meeting everyone, and how they missed them, and they didn’t include me. My instant reaction was: Ah. See, I was silly for thinking that they liked me. When I arranged to have dinner with a male friend several times and he cancelled or forgot each time, I thought: Ah. He thinks I’m nothing, so he is treating me badly. When I went on holiday with a friend and they didn’t speak to me much, I thought: Oh. They don’t like me. Oh, the insecurities!
But: Here’s the thing. I think it is really hard to make friends. I think you can bluff friendship early on, and most people do this – sometimes I try it. You know, when you are friendly enough with a person on your first meeting, and then you both want to become friends, so on your second meeting, you hug and behave very warmly towards them; maybe you compliment them, and show that you’re really eager to know them more. I think that’s super nice, and it’s perfectly natural, but it is probably bluffing friendship.
Because: I think it takes hours and hours to make friends. Like becoming competent at an instrument, or coding, or some other skill – you have to put in the hard yards. And who likes hard work? Ha! Who likes the idea that someone might not instantaneously and wholeheartedly reflect their affections, and want to be their friend? Who likes the idea that they need to clock up 1000 hours with a person before they have a true sense of familiarity with them?
An interesting subsequent theory is that people who aren’t willing to put in the hours to be your friend doesn’t necessarily want to become your friend – or, at least, they only want to be your friend on a superficial level. This is fine, of course; we can’t have hundreds of close friends, or spend 1000 hours with every person that we like. It is strange to think about, though. I have some people in my Contacts book who I would like to become friends with, and I try to grab opportunities to clock up hours with them (oh, that sounds so unfriendly and perfunctory, but I don’t mean it that way! I love being around them!), but sometimes, try as you might, the opportunities crumble and fail. Sometimes you wonder if they’re not feelin’ it – or if maybe, subconsciously, you’re not feelin’ it. Maybe you think you should want to be friends, but you don’t really wanna. Ah, people! So complex!
*Although! At Girls Club, some girls have commented, “It’s hard to meet people” – and sometimes they are new to this city, and sometimes they aren’t.