On friendship, and the lack of it

I thought long and hard about writing this post. There are some subjects that it’s difficult to get into without sounding self-pitying, and that’s really not what I want. But in the end I decided just to do it anyway.

I don’t really have any friends around here.

This is not a plea for sympathy or a desperate attempt to fish for compliments. It’s just a simple statement of fact – so please, no comments along the lines of “I’m sure that’s not true”.
It’s not like I’m a total recluse or anything. I actually know quite a few people, and I could probably manage to get at least one or two people to come out with me any night of the week. But someone to go out for a drink/coffee or to see aconcert with isn’t really a friend. Not a close friend anyway… so maybe what I should have said was I don’t have any close friends. I’m ok with that most of the time, but occasionally it gets to me. Especially when I’m feeling down or something and need someone to talk to, and there’s only Jan. Not really practical when I need to talk about Jan. And, of course, it puts a huge burden on him as well, having to be both my boyfriend and my sole confident, and knowing that he has to help because there’s noone else I can turn to. And of course, that all leads to the question of who I’m going to turn to when (and yes, I mean when) he leaves me. I used to have friends, back in England. Not many, admittedly – and quite a few people who I thought were friends at uni got to the end of final year then said “Now I’m never going to have to see you again I can tell you: I never actually liked you”. Charming.  But I had friends. I can’t really talk to them anymore though, now that I’ve been living abroad for almost six years and we’ve grown apart. They’re all going on with their lives, while I’m here, standing still. And how can I tell someone who’s recently married and floating on cloud nine that my boyfriend doesn’t want to marry me, or confide in a new mother who’s just finished describing how wonderful being a parent is that I’m currently busy trying to convince myself that I don’t actually want children so that I won’t be disappointed when I never do. Especially when it’s the first time in years that I’ve actually spoken to those people.

What I need to do is get out there and make new friends – preferably with people who are in the same situation as me. The last thing I need is more friends with babies, so I can torture myself by looking at all their photos. The only question is… how? I know it’s partially  my fault I don’t have that many friends. I’ve never been particularly good at making them, and the times I have managed it I’ve no idea how it happened! I’m usually quite shy, so in social situations where I don’t know anybody I’ll either be too quiet and nervous (making people think I’m either bored or antisocial) or I’ll overcompensate and say too much, which of course people don’t like either, so they’ll go away thinking “Does she ever shut up? You can’t get a word in edgeways!”. I am also an expert at saying the wrong thing, which doesn’t help. Something that seemed ok when it was inside my head ends up sounding really wrong once it’s out there for everyone to hear. It takes a very special kind of person to still want to know me in spite of all that! So the making friends thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have been working on my social skills, and I think I have improved… but not enough. Not even close to enough. So where does that leave me?