My family & the friends questions
Every time around this time of year, which is my birthday, I feel dragged down into a sense of implied failure that I don’t endorse; but which affects me anyway. That isn’t because it is my birthday. It is because of all the well intentioned remarks and questions I get from my family abroad in emails, facebook messages and basically upon any contact with them, along the lines of:
- I hope you are enjoying your birthday with good friends.
- So, I suppose you’ll be going out for dinner with your friends?
- How was your party/dinner? [surprised tone:] You staid home? Why??? Don’t people usually go out and celebrate their [x]’s birthday?
(Typical standard questions asked by my mother and a variety of maternal aunties)
The questions are awkward because I hardly have any friends according to their definition, and I don’t like dinners and parties and rarely go out. I suspect it is their way to say that they don’t think I am a looser; that they think I do have friends and do go out and party. However, I don’t think I am a looser anyway, even if I don’t live up to their idea of a normal social life, so their hopefulness insults me.
Definition of friends
The definition of friends, as implied by my family’s inquiries, is: people who are not family but who behave in a family-like manner guided by certain unwritten friendship conventions; who come to visit relatively often and/or vice versa, and who can be drummed together for parties and dinners without it being too awkward.
I do have friends and I appreciate friendships. However I don’t see them often (some hardly at all), so while I call them friends, and while I am respectful and interested in understanding them, I don’t think they live up to the friendship criteria as implied by the birthday remarks.
My best friend ever is my husband, but he doesn’t count because he is my husband. My second best friends are our dogs, but they don’t count because they are dogs. Nevertheless, these relationships make my life fun & interesting every day. The play and banter at home meets my social needs, whether it is my birthday or any other day. What is wrong with that?
I can’t say that I’m eager to drag myself through the frustrations, stress and uncertainty of meeting new people in stressing surroundings such as parties or dinners when I don’t need them, and when most of the things I like to do can be pursued in solitude anyway (or in good company without direct interaction). I don’t need people I don’t care about to drain my attention and interrupt me with mindless chat about pointless topics.
OK I am not stupid; I do know that it is super important to network and socialise in order to be helped by others and to be made aware of opportunities (such as job opportunities). I don’t deny that.
I just say: amount of social activity doesn’t correlate with amount of happiness (at least not for everybody), and amount of solitaire time doesn’t correlate with broken-ness. It is OK to be self-entertaining. It is OK to be a largely solitaire person. It is OK to get lost in fascinating worlds and loose track of time for a while; even when missing out on social so called opportunities. It is just a natural trade off.