The Friendship Massacre
You are in your twenties. Each day you’re finding out more about how you are. You have more people to please than before. You accumulated friends like you accumulated expensive vintage dresses. A dream career to follow. You have a bit more growing up to do.
Basically, reaching this crazily busy age is a “like a friendship massacre. There is blood all over the walls” described by my writing hero Ryan O’Connell. He’s right you know. You cannot do everything you are doing and keep all of those friends you’ve accumulated from the last twenty years. It’s physically and literally impossible. Sometimes you don’t actually “throw them out” you just “forget to wear them”. Or they forget you.
And I’m glad he plucked up the courage to say it. Because it’s true. When you start working in a strenuous, emotionally-draining job, especially one you love, time is suddenly way more precious. The weeks are long and busy; with a tiny slither of light that is used as one’s “spare time”. I’ve never been very good at Maths but what I do know is that you can’t fit a square into a triangle. Some things just won’t fit, however hard you may try. We only see the people we really have time for. And ironically the average person has 157 Facebook Friends in the UK.
I have a really vivid memory of being on holiday in Portugal, very young. At a restaurant I remember asking my Mum about one of her friends, who had two daughters the same age as me who I’d “made friends with” years prior (aka cut the hair off some Barbie dolls together, the stuff 6-years-old do to “bond”). I asked her why we didn’t see them anymore. My Mum replied that they lived very very far away and that they weren’t as good friends anymore. I remember being mortified. Being at school at the time, constantly surrounded by hundreds of friends every day I was baffled at how you could just casually not see someone anymore. At school, we never ever thought we’d ever be separated. Ever.
You don’t just lose friends, little-me would think to myself. Friends don’t just “come and go”.
Except they do.
Now, I get it. You can have friends for a month, a year, two years, three years, because at the time you had lots in common and it was all rosy. When I think of friends I’ve made over the years, from school, university, work, it’s fair to say only a few really stick. It’s like when you throw pasta on the wall to check it’s cooked. Only a few will stay without falling sloppily to the ground. It’s half chance, half deep-rooted connection that your best friends with stay with you until the bitter end. It’s rare that friends also stick with you when you discover your different hobbies and beliefs.
You all get taken down very different paths, and yet expected to enjoy chatting for 3 hours on the phone every night. Lucy Mangan’s piece in this week’s Stylist was interesting; she said “when you first get married, you often find yourself gravitating towards your married friends”. This must happen when babies hit the scene too. How depressing.
Sometimes you will be disappointed by friends who “you’ve known forever” but cannot see past their own reflection. Some will get boyfriends and go way past the excusable “honeymoon period” into just plain laziness to socialise, and some will have different, random priorities that you just couldn’t have predicted.
We all know that there are different types of friends. There’s the:
a) Best friends are just there all the time. You never leave each other alone.
b) Mates that you love and will always be on any party invite list
c) Coffee once a month friends who you both wish you saw more of
d) Brand new mates who you are excited about getting to know
e) People who get in touch when they want something
f) The-Ghosts-Of-Friendship Past who only say “happy birthday” on your Facebook wall
g) People who you bump into who say “let’s do coffee” and you know you NEVER will
Being the social animal that I am. I like having friends and I like meeting new people. I love chatting to people at any time of the day, and going out and doing things. Weirdly, I’ve become more introverted over the years (picking a Sunday afternoon in my pyjamas over going to the pub) but all in all, I adore people. But, since moving to London and getting immersed in my job and having proper grown-up “responsibilities” I couldn’t help feel like my friends were dropping like flies.
One of my favourite writers Ryan O’Connell wrote about the whole friendship thing in his twenties in Vice: “When I entered my twenties and the post-collegiate workplace, however, I was introduced to a variety of different definitions of what it meant to be someone’s friend. Apparently, being a friend now means meeting someone for drinks from 5:00 PM to 6:15 PM, or only seeing someone at night when you go to a party and get drunk and hold hands all night, acting like the best friends you will never be or maybe being nice to someone who you don’t like but have to keep around for professional reasons, whatever the fuck THAT means.”
What is that about? Friends suddenly being free for “ten minutes after work, sorry babe!”, or “I’ll pencil you for 26th July 2015” when you’ve quite clearly stated you’re having a nervous breakdown.
However, I’ve had an epiphany recently. And epiphanies take time.
I’m actually pleased that a job and a “busy life” filter out the good, bad and the ugly of the friendship world. A friend is NOT someone who shoves their busy diary in your face and “squeezes” you in. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, not really, who were the better friends. Or who would actually be there for me when I needed them. That was when our lives revolved around drinks and parties, of course you were inundated with socialising and group nights out. Everyone was free AT ALL TIMES.
But realising the rubbish ones are is hard. Losing a friend is hard. Ryan also calls this out in his piece: “We expect dating to be hard, we expect getting your dream job to be far-fetched, but what we don’t count on is having our friends no longer make sense to us. They were supposed to be the easy part.” It’s like a break-up except you can’t appear to be too upset. You both move on. You have so many private jokes you can longer share with them. They get a new best friend and put it all over Facebook. You feel like you’re whole relationship was a lie. When you’re young you give so much more to your friends than a boyfriend, you invite them everywhere, stay up all night crying with them, succumbing to peer pressure with them. It’s a properly “earnt” friendship. It’s exhausting.
But, now, post-massacre, I’m glad that at the end of it all, that through the mystical strange world of being a 20-something and “figuring it out”, I’m happy that this natural friendship cull happened. Quality over quantity is genuinely better, for me, anyway.
The people that I meant to stay with you, will stay with you. And I’m so lucky to have them. Even if it’s still a frigging nightmare to book holidays off work all at the same time.
Image source: @girllostincity Instagram
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