Words that sink me

bottom of ocean, smashed sea urchin shell, mados fish

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.



12 thoughts on “Words that sink me

  1. A Quiet Week

    In our family, everyone is so odd that I think they would be shocked if I did socialize. My mother would actually admonish me for too much socializing!

    This comes in part from my immediate family cutting ties with anyone who was too socially demanding. Since I seem nice in social settings, I get invites that stress me to the core. Why on earth would I want to sit in a noisy coffee house and chat when I could be drawing on a map or organizing the basement.

    Quiet alone time is a blessing. And so is the internet. The voices it brings to my head are sweetly silent and patient. I never have to work up the nerve to converse when I feel emotionally exhausted.

    I wish you the happiest, silent, thought filled birthday a girl could have! 🙂


    1. Mados

      Thank you Lori!

      ‘Socialise’ can mean so many different things… and it should. I think the people who think they can define what a normal social life is and isn’t define it too rigidly.

      You socialise when you focus on your son, husband and cat; even when it is just from time to time or you just have them around you. You socialise when you interact with people online and belong to online communities (like you do!). The Internet is liberating because it allows to socialise in solitude! 😉


  2. shobavish

    Belated happy birthday, Mados! Hope you had the kind of birthday that was meaningful to you.:-)

    There are always different perspectives on how someone should celebrate something and friends/socialising is a part of it. I’m happy for you that you have figured out what makes you happy!


  3. the howler and me

    Hey there, happy birthday 🙂
    I whole-heartedly agree with you. I have people I call friends, but for the most part – it is me and my howler. I enjoy it, I need it. Socialization isn’t needed. “Going Out” isn’t necessary. Small talk is painful.

    Many times I have grand ideas of leaving the house to get a coffee at the coffee shop in town, but I end up not going because I really don’t want to have to interact with anyone.


    1. Mados

      Thank you for your comment:-)

      I think that spending time with your dog is socialisation:-) Just the kind you prefer, perfectly valid although it doesn’t live up to the stereotypes about what socialisation needs to be.

      I don’t mind interacting with people as such, and it can be very nice & inspiring. It is just that noisy, chatty groups of people who want to interact all the time (like at dinners and parties) and look right into someone else’s face all the time are too much of an overload, and I don’t enjoy that… I find it quite stressful and sometimes traumatic. So I wouldn’t do that to celebrate anything, because a celebration is supposed to be a nice experience.


    1. Mados

      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like a perfect way to celebrate 18th and 20th birthdays. We seem to be on the same wavelength on that point (my impression from reading your blog), so I was not surprised that you can relate to this post:-)



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