Monday, November 04, 2013

Making Friends

AOG, Madrid

It was easy (ish) as a kid, a teen, even in your early 20s…but now?


I remember one of the first things I ever learned about myself, and it came straight out of my mother’s mouth.

If he doesn’t have any friends, he is not going to do well in school.”

Was she right?

Well, ever since she told me this around the time I was seven, I have been fighting with her insight.

Does having friends ensure that you do well in school?

How about work?

Does having friends at work help or hinder your experience? And your output?

Of course, as a child, most- if not all- of your friends were the people you went to school with. A child has a very limited exposure to many social situations and is completely dependent upon parents to socialize to a large extent.

As you grow older, the bulk of your friends is still school-dependent, but, depending on your social interests (among other factors) you find that you have made a few friends outside of school. Maybe you joined a club, or you made a good friend during the summer.

Things like that.

Then comes University, or College, and, again, your social experience is still the main provider of friendships.

And then, one day, in your early, mid or late 20s, when you find yourself at your first jobs, your friends from youth are mostly gone and in their place are other people. People that, if you are “lucky”, have things in common with you.

Or, if you are “lucky”, have nothing in common with you, but you still enjoy each other’s company.

But then you get older. And your life changes. And you change.

But, if you are “lucky”, you still need people you like around you.

You need friends.

But those social networks which provided you with them, and enemies too -lest we forget- are no longer there.

With age you realize that making friends is now a bit more difficult. You realize that you can’t talk to people much younger than yourself because, well, because they all talk crap at that age. Just like you did. Or didn’t.

Now to that mix, add a spoonfull of ‘relocating to another country’ and half a liter of ‘doing it again in your late 30s’ plus a pinch of ‘and your partner lives in another city’.

Now…would you like fries with that?

Yes, moving to another country is as exciting as it is daunting. I now live in Spain. People here are very friendly, but in Spain, as anywhere else on this planet, most people have lived where they live most of their life. Their friends from most of their life are still here, and they are probably well-stocked in that area.

And here comes you, trying to enter that hallowed circle of friendship.

How does one do that? How do you penetrate someone’s circle of friends successfully.
Well, never mind that, my basic question is: how do you make friends later in life?

I have no idea.

If there’s a formula, I never chanced upon it.

I’ve been in Spain for seven years now, and, yes, I have some friends here and there.
Some of my friends happen to live in Barcelona, where my partner lives and, yes, most of these started out by being my partner’s friends, not mine. I am their friend by association, but friend nonetheless.

And here in Madrid I have some friends too, which I have fought over tooth and nail to make.

Some from my Masters, some from a social group, some I met through other friends, some others I met in French class. Some I just met on the street, and many are just expats (and no, not mostly British).

I cherish every one of them, but still I seek more friends. Like-minded people, not just people I have something, or a lot of things, in common with, but people who are like me.
Yes, it may sound ridiculous, but finding people like you is one of the most important things in life.

And what are people like you like?

Well, they are however you wish to define that, but basically, they are like you.

They are like the kind of people you say things like ‘people like you and I’ to.

Those people.

Like you.

So, just last week, through the power of the Internet and a dash of facebook, I met somebody I’d like to be friends with, but probably won’t be.

And she is the reason why this got written in the first place.

Let me tell you about this.

Last week, facebook advertised a page aimed at expats living in Spain who had things they wanted to get rid of, or sell. A sort of second-hand notice board for foreigners in the country.

Basically, if you came to Madrid to live 5 years ago, and you are going back home, you have to sell those Ikea bookshelves and CD collection which only you like. Plus your books.

You may end up throwing it all away, but now, thanks to the magic of the internet and the powers of facebook, your stuff can become someone else’s stuff.

So, there I was on the page, scrolling down to see what was there, hoping to find something I may like. And there it was: somebody was selling a surround sound system for €50.00

Me and another ‘user’ began to badger the owner of the product for a couple of days. One could come, one could not; then it rained; and it was sunny; then I was stuck in the office; and the other one seemed to pull out of the race, blah blah blah.

In the end I was the lucky one.

I went to her place, met her, her husband, and her baby. And really liked her.

After the whole transaction (I am now the proud owner of a Yamaha surround sound system for an incredible price and the cost of a cab ride home) was over, I went home thinking to myself, so… how would I go about befriending this nice person?

The usual fears and anxieties crept in.

She may think I’m a psycho. Or weird. Or any other number of social inequities may pop up in the equation.

Should I say something? Keep quiet?

Is she even in the market for a new friend?

A couple of years younger than I, and a mother, she may have no room or desire for new friends.

What should I do? Tell her I’d like to be her friend? Just move on?

If she were American, this process would be rather easy, but she is British, and as with all things UK, there are social procedures, nuances, and a myriad of unnavigable venues one should keep in mind so as not to make one big fat faux pas… and scare her off.

Age, in this respect, is beginning to be slightly burdensome.

Or perhaps not so much age but rather a clear, easy-to-follow,lack of befriending protocols.