I make a scratchy, wool sweater sort of friend. At first, I seem warm and cuddly, but then, repeat exposure to me tends to chafe. Because of my innate awkwardness with people, I tend to be loud, irritating and intrusive. (Think ‘Brillo pad’.) While I like people in general, the reverse isn’t always true.
In case you question my certitude, allow me to admit I recently stood up a friend (accidentally, I am sooo sorry) with whom I had made a play date because I overbooked my day and then completely forgot to call and cancel when it turned out I wouldn’t make it. I hate this when people do it to me. My paranoid brain says, “They are doing it to be hurtful, mean or vindictive, etc…” and I wallow in self-pity. (Always attractive.) I haven’t had the courage to call and apologize because I am so embarrassed by my self-directed stupidity.
True, deep-lasting bonds are very difficult for me to maintain. I would say my complicated life separates me from people, but it is also my poor choices that make close interactions nigh on impossible. I find friendship so exhausting that it almost seems like more work than it is worth. (Because that is how I value friendship—in terms of what it brings me. Nice, no?) I am not sure what kind of person this makes me. On gray, emotionally-draining days I would say I am isolated and lonely. On bright, energetic days I am capable and eager to face the world ready to make plans and get out there and commune with my fellow man. I am the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of friends.
Does everybody have the capacity to make friends, or are some of us born loners?* (I keep reading that as ‘losers’, what does that say about my ego?) Do our oddities pass us beyond the standard deviation into the far end of a social bell curve? (Cue howling wolves.)
I ask the above questions because I recently learned that someone did not like me. (I know. Shocker!) I got a copy of an email by accident of someone stating, basically, that I wasn’t liked for such and such reason. (Yep, I’m going to be vague here. I have some dignity.) I try to look at the inadvertent awareness objectively, “Well, everybody is irritating sometime. Not everybody is going to like you.” But, it still stings when your suspicions are confirmed. Perhaps if people were more honest more often I’d be a better person. Or, conversely, more of a hermit than I already am.
I look back over the years and I see a trail of lost friendships—some due to separation and different choices in life, others due to changing attitudes or personalities that worked in childhood not jibing as we became adults. But, the loss of each star in the small constellation of friends I have managed to maintain is painful. Each time I am reminded that I have unlikable qualities as a human being. Each cut opens old wounds that never quite heal.
I am trying to adopt a sense of “self-differentiation”. I have always been too dependent upon the opinion of others. (Middle child syndrome. Can I get a Whoot Whoot from my over-eager, people-pleasing buddies?) Self-differentiation has become a goal whereby I am no longer chained to the desire to please others or find validation from their opinions. Sounds great, right? But, how do I balance not caring about what other people think with learning which of my behaviors cause people to hate me? (Bring on the circular reasoning.) How many friends do I have to lose in order to grow into a better me?
I have no magic mirror to reveal my flaws; and, I am too much of a coward to send out a survey polling my likability. (Please grade on a scale from ten to zero, where ten is “Box of Kittens Lovable” to zero, “Box of Butchered Kittens Horrible”, exactly how repellant am I?) How much of me do I need to change so I can pretend people like ‘me’? I have no pithy answer. No universal truth that rings a bell of closure on this article. Instead, I ask: Are some people just not built for friendship?
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