When we moved here, one of the things I dreaded was making friends. They’re such an overhead of time and money: the phone calls, the constant demands for reassurance, the endless thoughtful birthday presents (I mean how many birthdays can one person have?), the three hour lunches . . .
I meant to say: I dreaded the process of MEETING people.
The circle of friends we had in Dubai were in many ways the closest thing we had to family. I miss them every day. Now we have to start all over again.
Making friends gets harder as you get older. You look for deeper qualities than an extensive wardrobe to pilfer borrow from, your boyfriends being best mates, a frothy sense of humour, or whether someone will talk to you. Admittedly, I am still drawn to people who talk to me; but these days I prefer a sense of humour that’s crisp and refreshingly dry. As for our partners being best friends? Well, all that indicates is both of us has dubious taste.
Not only is it harder; the process itself takes longer. Teenage friendships were so easy:-
“Yeah thanks. My boyfriend is SUCH a jerk. You’re my best friend.”
“I know! I feel like I’ve known you forever, instead of, like, six minutes.”
Now, with benefit of hindsight and a dash of maturity, I know it takes years. The potential of a new relationship sparkles, but nothing surpasses the lustre of an enduring friendship.
Of course, the effort is worth it. It’s just . . . well . . . why can’t friends just spring into your life fully formed? How long does it take to learn the in-jokes, for goodness’ sake? If you trust me, I’ll trust you. There. Any freaky character traits you want to share? No, me neither.
Ok, I know, I know, I KNOW. *kicks sofa*
I was flattered by the number of people who assumed Husband and I would have no problem Making Friends, that there would be so many hopeful applicants we would have to hold auditions every Wednesday and beat them off with a stick.
The only thing we’ve been beating off is mosquitoes.
Much of this has to do with where we’ve chosen to live. We will move to South Island within two years, so there is not the same imperative to meet people. Socialising is complicated by a half hour drive to civilisation and Husband working evenings.
My first attempt at procuring a friend was an abject failure. At the Christopher Howard Seminar, I met John and Yvette. Many of the attendants I sincerely hoped I’d never come across again – especially if I were alone and unarmed – but John and Yvette were different.
For a start, John’s ‘cynic shield’ (as one woman described my attitude) rivalled mine. He refused to partake in the hyper high-fiving, so I high-fived Yvette across him and occasionally high-fived the upside of his head when he wasn’t getting the message.
Afterwards, Yvette asked for my phone number and we exchanged contact details.
“I have a FRIEND!” I crowed to Husband. “We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a lovely friend? No? I do. Bet you wish you had a friend. We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a etc.”
For the rest of the week, I seized upon every opportunity – and even made up a few – to remind Husband about MY FRIEND and how great she was and how I was really looking forward to lunch.
The day before lunch, Yvette called to say she couldn’t make it for a reason which, at the time, sounded entirely genuine (washing her cat).
“What’s up?” said Husband as I mooched around the living room moodily dodging advancing dust bunnies.
“My er, friend postponed lunch to next week.”
“Never mind, baby,” said Husband soothingly. “She’s probably just busy.”
During the week, my self-confidence returned and I promoted Yvette from Erfriend back to My Friend. I also stepped up the guerrilla tactics, sneaking up on Husband unawares and shouting: “My friend!” into his ear.
I’m sure you can see exactly where this is going.
Yes. She cancelled again (Christmas shopping).
“What a cow,” said Husband, instead of: “Where’s your buddy now, huh? Ha ha HA! Niamhie No Mates! Niamhie No Mates!”
The compassion is all part of his long-term devious scheme to drive me over the edge.
“Maybe you should advertise for a friend on Trademe,” he suggested.
“What? Like: ‘Friend: low reserve, very loyal, never returns books, no funny stuff?’”
In the end, we didn’t have to. Last time we were in South Island, we learned that Husband’s college mate’s brother lives just down the road from us (that being about 8km).
The first time we met MarkJ, we went around to his place. We wondered whether we had got the right house – the entire place was dark – but rang the doorbell anyway. There was a bang, followed by a mechanical hum; then the garage door groaned up and it was like that scene in ET – you know where the aliens stop by to pick up ET and you wonder what’s going to come out of the spacecraft?
When the garage door opened fully it was still pitch black, and I don’t know about Husband but I was holding my breath. Then the light blared on and there was MarkJ perfectly framed in the doorway.
It was possibly the most dramatic greeting I’ve ever experienced. Subsequent meetings can only suffer in comparison, but each has been full of chat, frequently entertaining, and often freaky. MarkJ is a multi-talented, all-purpose friend: he can conduct simultaneous conversations with Husband about cars while discoursing the nature of solitude with me. We will see much more of him.
Some time ago, our Dubai-based buddy JohnM sent an email to me and Shelley, a friend of Sylvia’s living in Devonport on the North Shore. It said:-
Niamh, meet Shelley.
Shelley, meet Niamh.
So we did. Husband got bored around the two hour point and went to – ok, I’m not sure where because I didn’t notice him leave – but Shelley and I talked for another hour and a half and could have kept going.
Last weekend, we met her husband Greg who is almost as nice (Shelley’s Irish. It’s an unfair advantage, I know), and daughter Victoria. They are an awesome family.
And finally, can we claim John and Haze as new friends? John is less grumpy having left Dubai, and Haze less dusty, so it’s almost like they’re different people.