Friends, Socialising and Age
This post was inspired by a Tweet on this subject matter. What a topic to explore. Naturally I can’t cover everything I’d like to say. For example people’s definition of friends and friendship may vary with age. Different generations can see common subjects very differently. Then of course there’s the still ongoing debate about whether online friendships are comparable to those in the real world. And there’s also the common experience that age impacts heavily upon our social circles. People get jobs, settle down into relationships and have families. In today’s modern world there are now numerous different permutations of this but the net result is the same. There comes a point where through no fault of your own, you can find yourself without a circle of close friends, like you had as a teenager. This then raises the issue of what do you do if you’d like to do more socialising and meet more people. Because often in later life, a lot of the traditional places and opportunities to meet people, such as work or school, are no longer available. And then there is another matter that some people such as myself face, which is my own “particular” nature. Simply having a pulse and the ability to form a sentence does not necessarily guarantee you being my next bosom buddy.
At the age of 51, I find that my circle of friends has reduced over time. Several have emigrated to the US and although we maintain a Facebook Group to stay in touch, it is naturally not the same. Those that remain in the UK have moved further away and we catch up two or three times a year. There is no criticism or blame to be found in this situation, it is simply a fact of life. Having given up full time work to become a carer has also meant that I no longer have work colleagues and the social network that employment can provide. Furthermore, being a self-sufficient individual I do not consider this situation to be a tragedy. However, I do get bored from time to time and crave company on occasions. Mrs Peril (as my partner is referred to on this site) and I try to do social things together and we enjoy these activities when we do. However, at times we would both like to share our respective individual interests with others of a like mind. In my case it would be films and creative writing. So to address these I need to find activities or a group in my local area that can facilitate these hobbies.
Now I am fortunate to live in the south east of one of the most diverse and populace cities in Europe. London certainly doesn’t lack clubs, meeting and social gatherings. So it’ not as difficult to track down a suitable social activity here as it would be in a more rural area. However, finding the right activity is only half the problem solved. You’ve then got to actually go, put on a friendly face and meet people. You may be fortunate to find a great bunch of people and quickly make friends or you may find yourself sitting with people who you struggle to get on with. I think young people try to get on with others a lot more than people of my age. I can remember when I was at college going out with some friends, meeting up with further mutual acquaintances and so the social group expanded. As you get older, I believe we become more risk averse, more cynical and generally less easy going, despite what some people may say. Making friends becomes a little more of a chore because we have learned not to just take things on face value. Plus being sociable can require a lot of energy. Noisy, crowded pubs and generally busy environments can make meeting and greeting people a more taxing experience.
Now I want to address a foible of my own personality that further complicates the process of meeting and making new friends for me. I have never been a particularly easy-going person. I am picky, orderly and I do not suffer fools gladly. Rather than paint a psychological profile of myself as a sociopath, let’s just say that I’m not a fan of light weight small talk nor the superficial. Hence, I may not make friends as easily as others. Let’s also be honest with each other. People usually move in social groups broadly similar to themselves. It is nice to know a wide variety of people but are you are not really going to have close friends who hold totally contrary views, ethics and beliefs to your own. As a carer I seldom meet people of a comparable age to myself, because they are all at work during the day when I’m out doing chores. Most of my minor social interactions are with seniors. I like many of those I talk to but the relationships go no further due to diametrically differing world views and outlooks.
Finally, here’s a minor point but it does have a degree of bearing on the matter. I listen to a lot of podcasts by the likes of Robin Ince, Brian Cox, Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I like scholarly discussions; I like nuanced and measured thinking. Raconteurs’ such as Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig are fascinating and amusing. The clinical debating skills of the likes of James O’Brien and Laura Kuenssberg are enviable and engaging. But all these things really skew my expectations. As a result I often find myself at social gatherings, staring into the middle distance with glazed eyes as someone bends my ear about their new car or their “in-depth and analysis” of the major political questions of the day. The lack of witty reposts and puckish epigrams, along with the dearth of anecdotes about Peter Cushing are my cross to bear. But joking aside, I am inadvertently setting the bar very high?
Culture, social etiquette and notions of society are changing and changing fast. Social interaction is already a difficult sea to navigate and the partisan, tribal nature of modern-day life seems to be making it harder. There are times when I look back at my youth and miss its inherent simplicity. Friendship back then seemed to be based on very simple shared “values”. If you liked Thunderbirds, Action Man and then after 1977, Star Wars, then finding a kindred spirit was easy. I think that’s why I enjoy my writing so much. In many ways it is a modern equivalent of that. As to the future I shall strive to widen my social circle and see if I can find some new friends. As I said earlier, I am not a broken man at present due to the lack of company, but it would be nice at times to talk about the decapitation scene at the beginning of The Exterminator, why “the dog” scene in The Fly II breaks my heart and Takeshi’s Castle, with people who also really dig that shit. Let’s see if I can make that happen.