friendship

'I'm in my mid-forties and I've never had a best friend. I feel like the only one.'

Listen to this story being read by Adrienne Tam, here.


Having now reached my mid-forties, I am still plagued by a pervasive question that I've yet to resolve... whether I'm ever going to have a best friend. 

Is this a mid-life crisis, existential angst, or self-indulgent, immature pondering more suited to my teenage daughters?

This question has rattled around the back of my mind for years. It has been on my to-do-list, along with finding a hobby, reading more books (or even just one book will do), and starting an exercise regime I'm likely to stick to. 

It's like having a tiny stone stuck inside your shoe. You can get on with things and hardly give it a second thought when life is busy and distracting, but in the stillness, when I sit with my thoughts, that tiny piece of gravel feels like an all-encompassing boulder grating against my toe.

Watch: The signs of social anxiety. Story continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

While they blame social media and Instagram in particular for portraying filtered, unrealistic body goals for young women, there is a similar narrative regarding female friendship. 

My feed is littered with images of female bonding experiences, girl's nights out and milestone birthday getaways with '20 of her closest friends'. Intellectually I know that much of this is curated and performative - the need to document one's life as a social butterfly for the benefit of others. But still it grates.

As a child, I was unfazed by the Disney princess storyline with the obligatory prince in waiting. What spoke to me were stories about female friendships, secret passcodes between besties and endless sleepovers. As an empath, I yearned for a deep connection with a friend where conversations could be had with just an eye-roll or a giggle about a private joke. Unfortunately, I haven't felt that bond since I was 12 years old.

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At this stage of my life, having not felt truly connected to anyone other than my partner or immediate family, I clandestinely Googled 'do you really need a best friend?' The embarrassment I'd feel if anyone I knew saw this! 

I tell myself that as an introvert, I'm perfectly fine on my own. I have mostly accepted the fact that I sit on the periphery of friendship groups. But what does it take to be in someone's inner circle?

Despite my best efforts to be engaging, easygoing and having a good sense of humour, I know I'm only on the 'B' list for many of my friends. There's not much I can do to change this. Mum always said there was a lid for every pot. Personally, I always seem to have an unequal amount of Tupperware lids and containers, and that's a first world problem I'm yet to solve.

I'd be lying if I said I can live this way indefinitely. Perhaps it's a discomfort I'll need to learn to accept.

Unfortunately, this insecurity has meant I've held on to at least one friendship where there were undoubtedly more withdrawals from my friendship bank than deposits. I've allowed myself to be treated less than I deserve for the sake of not causing tension and resulting in a break-up. I feel like a fraud counselling my daughters as they navigate their own friendship dilemmas. I'm hardly an oracle on the topic.

I have to admit that I secretly loved the lockdowns. They suspended this form of social anxiety, the need to fit in with a group and pressure to find a place somewhere. I knew everyone was at home. I wasn't missing out on anything.

So on the days I feel inclined to, it's me who starts a call or text to my few friends (acquaintances, I guess). We have the surface level discussion. I might complain about the weather, we discuss how the weeks just fly and then they tell me how busy things are. Then we say our goodbyes with empty promises to catch up for a coffee, and we carry on with our days. 

That night I might see that friend tagged in another mutual friend's post at a girl's dinner that I wasn't invited to.

I guess this is playground politics for adults. I switch off my phone and sigh.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Canva.

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