No Friends Friends
Published on 02 March 2016
You want to buy a house? Go to the bank. Meet with a mortgage adviser. You want to travel the world? Go to the travel agent. You want to start a family? Go to the doctor. The doctor will give you advice like, 'Buy Folic Acid from the chemist' and 'Put all the condoms in the bin'. You want to own a dog? Go to the dog home. The kennel keeper will introduce you to the perfect pet then they will tell you what it likes to eat, how often you need to exercise it and where to buy the best shit bags. That's how it works. There are people and places to turn to for advice on how to make good, sensible life decisions and help you gather the things you've decided you need for a happy life.
Later, you tell your friends about how, at your meeting at the bank, the mortgage advisor told you, (you were horrified), that you can't afford the house you want (the one with the front door vestibule and enough ceiling height to build a mezzanine lounge) because you've only saved a deposit of £600 and that you don't have a stable enough income to be eligible for a mortgage anyway - and then your friend will tell you that when she went to the bank with the bagged coins from her coin jar the other day, the teller told her there was a bagged coin deposit limit of £15 and she had £40 in bagged coins and was fucking raging that she wasn't allowed to put her own money in her own bank account - even if it was in 2ps. What does that matter? And then you all agree that managing finances is a minefield and that banks are a ludicrous way to live in this day and age. Another friend chimes in and announces to the group that she's thrown all the condoms in the bin and someone else wasn't listening properly because she was looking at Instagram and instead of responding to the condoms-in-the-bin news, starts a different conversation about picking up puppy poop in the park and being surprised by how good the shit bags the kennel keeper recommended really are.
Whether you're chatting over Big Life, Little Life or all the in-between life, chances are, you're chatting it over with your friends. You know your friends are important. You couldn't function happily without them. Some of your friends have even been in your life since you were little - way before all this adult mortgage/Folic Acid/whatever bullshit became a thing. But where did your friends come from? How did they become your friends? What makes them your friends? Did you seek help from The Friends Centre? Did you pick up some literature from the Friendship Advisory Service entitled, 'How To Make Friends & Keep Them?' And how do you make sure they're always there, the friends? And how do you make sure you're always there for them? And what happens if nobody's there for anybody for whatever reason, and you need to make some new friends? Do you pop along to The Bank of Friends and apply to withdraw some extra ones? What if you don't realise you need to make some new friends for ages and then you're 36 and worried you probably can't now, because, thinking about it, you never really learned how to make friends properly and you don't know the rules? And surely, if you really have to consciously think about making friends, there's probably something wrong with you because no one, as far as you can tell, ever does that.
Now, I'm not being dismissive of how difficult it can be to make friends as a child. I remember. It was really difficult - but making friends as a grown-up is especially hard because, well, for one thing, by the time you realise that making friends as a grown-up is hard, you're already a grown-up and you're already a bit lonely. Like so many things in life, you don't realise you don't actually know how to do something until, unexpectedly, you need to do it. I feel the same about making friends as I do about hoover maintenance. I've watched my mother fix the hoover many, many times. Sure, it looks easy enough. You might assume through repetition alone, I'd've picked up the basics over the years. But whenever the hoover breaks, it becomes apparent that is simply not true and equally apparent that I am afraid of the hoover. Likewise, I've watched other people make friends. I've watched other people make friends with me, for goodness sake. Sure, it looks easy enough. You might assume I've picked up the basics over the years. But now, when it comes to making some new friends, it seems that's simply not true. The basics of being the befriended, I feel slightly more comfortable with, but the basics of being a friendship initiator or a befriend-ER allude me. It has also become apparent that I am afraid of other people and group social situations.
And so this project is all about friendship, the importance of pals and the complexities of initiating new friendships as an adult. It's called No Friends Friends. I will reflect on how much I love and cherish my existing friends, I'll demonstrate how lucky I am to have a bunch of people around me who bother to listen and sound enthusiastic when I say things like, 'I'm thinking about doing this artsy project about friendship called Friends No Friends' or 'Do you want me to play a song on the recorder for you?' and I will talk a fair bit about how easily being anxious and nervous can be misconstrued as being anti-social or a bit of a dick. I will conduct some weird friendship experiments and attempt to learn the basics of being a friendship initiator. There'll be stories and photos and little videos and a podcast radio show thing.