Suzanne O’Sullivan’s book is called It’s All In Your Head and recent events have made me think friendship is a lot like that. There’s Jack and Elizabeth (all the names are changed) with whom I briefly stayed and we seemed to get on well, writing to each other for some months until Elizabeth, having said she didn’t like computers, got hold of my email from a mutual friend and suddenly emailed me. So I replied the same way – and have never heard another word. Or Annette who said we must go to a particularly touted theatrical event and then vanished, to reappear five months later, ready to talk, really talk rather than “chat” (a four letter word if ever I heard one) only to disappear again for another several months, wondering in an email this week, why I haven’t proposed myself for a visit up country ? And Henry whom I have known for years, together with his wife. They have been more than kind to me but I am left wondering if it was not as I thought it was, a mark of special appreciation. I thought they were generous to me but they scatter that largesse and maybe I just made more fuss about it than some of the other beneficiaries. Weird.
I don’t think I am just saying “What about me ?” I know that other people have lives and things happen and I have known for many years that I am a demanding friend. I don’t think my demands are extraordinary but then – I wouldn’t would I? I like continuum. I like to hear from my friends regularly – not on a schedule like every Tuesday at 10.00 but for us to settle into a social scheme which varies accordingly to mutual agreement – so, this one four times most weeks, that one twice, Marguerite by email on Sundays (she doesn’t like the phone), my son roughly every two or three weeks and even as I write this I am aware that there are two sides to friendship, yours and mine, plus all the other bits that reflect from what you might call the prism of personality.
I have a friend who is having the worst year of her life – out of work so short of money, which has brought her face to face with all sorts of other issues she’s rather not have to confront. Three biopsies later, she has been spared cancer: the rest has yet to be resolved.
There is Dora who is a true solitary, an actor/linguist/writer and you just enjoy what you get when you get it because she is that way anyway and work has made her more so. When you get her time, you get 200 per cent. While Heba, who put her first degree behind her in order to specialise in surgery, lived on tuppence and worked dramatically hard, never sends more than one email or makes one call so we can’t build anything. There is no ongoing exchange. Every time we speak, it’s catch up and recitative ie I tell you , you tell me, nowhere to go. Bear in mind this is all conventional exchange not Fffffacebook, Instagram, Snapchat, “I’ve got thousands following me/friends with me”. Right.
(It’s unlikely that I will enjoy it but I have just ordered Sex, Likes and Social Media by Allison Havey and Deana Puccio because I welcomed the notion of somebody being down to earth in the face of kids and their screens.)
I am indebted to the two therapists I know socially, from whom I don’t hear often but always with benefit. I will owe David and Andrew for the rest of my life for the comfort of the group and the movies we watch every six weeks or so. I hear from Wal often and his partner Heath less, sometimes when it is clear none of us has anything to say but the contact is kept. And in fact it was Heath who gave me pause when I declined to go to a lecture with Henry – don’t know the speaker, don’t like the venue, felt we knew each other well enough that I could courteously refuse. “It’s not what you do” said Heath quietly” you put up with that to see whoever it is.” It has bothered me ever since he said it. Is this the price of like ?