A friendly word or two

Friend – it’s a simple enough word, but what it conveys means such different things to different people and in different situations.

Take Facebook, for example. There, the word ‘friend’ simply means someone who you know, to all intents and purposes.

I’m not saying I don’t like anyone among my Facebook friends (god forbid, I’m that shallow), just that it’s an odd way of expressing people who you have connected to.

I would say I can count my ‘real’ friends on the fingers of two hands at most. That’s to say the people who I care about the most and, I think, who care similarly back.

I’ve known them all for a number of years now and while the frequency with which I’ve seen some of them has waxed and waned, they’ve been there.

The funny thing is, having kids changes so much. My social life has pretty much vanished. Not only for financial reasons, but because I don’t enjoy going out and about as much, either.

I’d much prefer to come home and give my little girl her bath, than head into Soho and a (now thankfully smoke-free) pub, even if I am meeting friends.

It’s bad enough that five miles in London feels like 50 miles elsewhere, such is the transport nightmare on occasion. But also everyone else’s lives always seem more complicated or busy than your own.

Some friends have to be booked months in advance and then you find the appointment can be cancelled at the drop of a hat.

And ironically, as you get older, new friends are even more difficult to cultivate. It takes time to develop a friendship – something that, as priorities and responsibilities pile up, is more tricky to find.

While the benefits of kids are numerous, they also bring new challenges that you don’t expect.

Yes, the nappies, sleepless nights and tightening belts are inevitable, but I didn’t expect the isolation that comes with a reduced social life and disappearance from other people’s lives.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m walking through a tunnel with the odd window or door leading off. These openings are on a timelock and open for a short period of time, which allows me a glimpse of a life I used to lead, before slamming shut leaving me back in the semi-darkness of the tunnel.

There is a light at the end, but I’m not really sure when I’ll get there. Hopefully, to cheesily paraphrase the Beatles, I’ll get by with a little help.

How to rile friends and alienate them forever*

The answer to the title of this post is, of course, have kids!

Spotted this great piece on Monday at work and then Clair reminded me of it in her post.

The thrust of the article (if you can’t be arsed to read the link) is that having kids really shows up the cracks in your relationships with your friends, especially if they are childless.

The point being, the child-free friends don’t get why their friends have a complete life and personality change once they’ve sprogged.

Meanwhile, those couples now weighed down with nappy-changing, bath-times, sleep routines, etc get riled when their childless friends can’t or won’t do what they used to do.

I know I’ve been guilty of putting my kids above my friendships in certain cases, but I’m well aware that in a few years, my daughters won’t want anything to do with ‘boring old dad’, so I may as well enjoy the time I have with them now.

Equally, while I’m not arrogant enough to think that ‘you don’t get it, if you don’t have kids’, there are certain things that are impossible to empathise with if you don’t have a rugrat.

The thing is, everyone takes to parenting differently, and everyone’s children are very different and throw up their own individual set of challenges.

And most of us don’t really change that much – it’s just that there’s another person (at least) to think about when we make decisions about, well, pretty much everything.

Funnily enough, I think it’s possible easier to keep your up with childless friends, if you are in the suburbs and don’t live in London. There’s something about the sprawling metropolis that makes any journey longer than a mile seem like such a schlep.

Anyway, to those childless friends of mine out there, I haven’t totally forgotten about you and I still care. I guess I’m just tired and far less interesting than I used to be!

* Apologies to Toby Young

‘Remove as friend’ – the ultimate social snub?

I discovered today that I have been the recipient of the ultimate social networking snub – someone who was previously my Facebook ‘friend’ has removed me from his roster.

I found this out by total accident, when I saw this person’s name in a list of someone else’s friends and it told me I could ‘Add to friends’.

Clearly, this person isn’t one of my bestest pals ever – in fact, I simply used to work with this person and, as with most work colleagues, added him automatically.

Now, he’s obviously decided, given that we no longer work together, to remove me from his list.

I’m not quite sure how to take this – obviously, I could feel distressed and look into my soul to try to work out what I could have done to offend him.

Then again, given that I always thought he was a bit weird, I think I’m more likely to take the view that it’s no big deal.

From a wider perspective, though, this could well be the new way to ‘dump’ a friend. Forget all the hard work of not taking their calls, or ignoring their emails. Simple remove them on Facebook. That way, you don’t have to put up with their inane (and yes, I include my own witterings) updates and what they’ve added or taken away.

Of course, you could of course, simply block their updates and keep them in your list of friends. That’s possibly a far moer underhand, but less contentious move.