Monday, May 27, 2013

Friendships and the Difficulties of Getting Older

The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

I came a little late to the game, in that I didn't read the book until 2008 or 2009.  However, I absorbed it in one sitting at a café and turned it over and restarted the from the beginning when I reached the end.  It was beautiful and real and spoke to a specific time and place in my life.

Everything I do is late, and the time in my life this spoke to is no exception.  I tell people I'm emotionally immature, and that may no longer be true - though it definitely once was.  I didn't have a close group of friends in high school.  The first time I felt accepted by a group was when I was twenty-three and had moved back to Michigan from Rochester, NY. 

I began hanging out at a local donut shop, and the regulars there began feeling (to me) like family.  They were musicians and actors and writers.  Most of them had known each other since high school, and were great at telling stories about their adventures, as well as going on new ones.  I was enchanted.

After only a year or so of having a great crowd of friends and acquaintances, the donut shop became non-smoking (which was fine by me, though not the rest of the clientele), and people stopped showing up every night.

Then, I moved a couple of hours away. 

I thought my friends would be traumatized, but life continued.  It was time to find new friends.

I was a little older, no wiser, and there were some great coffee houses around.  During the 90's until about 2004 all a person had to do was find the right coffee house and not be afraid to say something glib to someone who looked like they were having fun.

That's what I, and my best friend, did.  Soon enough, we were once again surrounded by friendly people who made us feel like we were home. 

Then, the coffee houses closed.  MySpace replaced LiveJournal and was in turn replaced by Facebook, which replaced real interactions.  Suddenly, you had to have friends to make friends.

Luckily, I was rolling in friendship.  Those that I'd carried from the coffee shops had bred like paperclips (remember - you never need to actually buy paperclips.  Just make sure you have two, and they'll multiply themselves).

For a few years, this large group of friends sustained itself.  Eventually, the weight of bruised feelings and small betrayals broke it up, and people went their separate and lonely ways.

So, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  The biggest thing I pulled from it was the importance of friendships.  I nearly wept at the evoked memories of times out with friends.  People who knew me at my best and worst, in various states of consciousness and annoyance, and people I knew similarly.

I tried making new friends - really!  I put an ad on Craigslist under strictly platonic.

BTW - people do not understand the meaning of platonic.

I had some email conversations that seemed to go well.  I even had a couple of meetings.  Either I didn't click with them or they didn't like me.  Regardless, it didn't turn into anything.

I also tried coffee shops and bars.  It always just ended up being my husband and I hanging out together.  Occasionally, we'd hang out with one of his friends - who were polite! - but I'd normally end up shut out of the conversation, with my head in my iPad.

Then, the movie.  The movie was so well done and captured the feeling of the book, if not the line-by-line accuracy.  Of course, it was directed by the author.

I came home from that movie and wrote an impassioned apology to all of my old friends for either burning bridges or letting our connection fall by the wayside.  The responses were amazing.

We tried for a few months to renew our connections, and we were able to have conversations like time hadn't even passed.

But, life - you know?  A month would pass, and we wouldn't see each other.  One or the other of us would rather go to bed early or spend some time at home instead of getting together.

So, what is it about getting older that makes you less sociable?  I see this in almost everyone I know, but it wasn't always like this.  My mother had an active social life when I was a kid, and she was in her 40's.  Is it a conscious decision, a compromise of your home life, a natural talent?

I'm not willing to become a home-body without a fight.  I'm going to have friends like family in my midlife.  I'm going to keep making new memories with people instead of just living in the old.

I'm going to try.