Fifteen Minute Friendship

Thursday, 20 August 2009

I left work at 5.45 tonight. Ran out of puff. The only problem leaving work at that time is the sardine-packed train that lugs into Flagstaff at 5.59.

"Gee, look at all that nice space up there," I commented when I climbed on, about the middle of the carriage that stood free of bodies while we were all squashed up in the doorways. The people who could move into the middle, don't. Presumably they are worried that they won't be able to get off at their station in time if they move several paces to the middle of the carriage. I honestly don't know. Maybe it's not their problem. But it really gives me the shits.

The blonde women next to me nodded and groaned in agreement. The dark haired woman next to me made some other comment and the woman to her left piped in and soon we were having a bit of a chat, you know? It's amazing how friendly people can be when they are given permission to be. Sometimes I think that's what it's all about. That we all want to reach out to each other and connect and nobody sort of knows if they're allowed to do that anymore or what the rules are, because these days connecting is optional when it actually needs to be forced. This is our scary freedom now.

I think of cultures in the past, that people must have been very much more conscious of how much we need each other. No faux connection. No keeping up with people via blogs and tweets and facebook profiles. If you wanted to see someone, you would have to ... well, go and see them. Or conversely, maybe we're more conscious now of how much we need each other, and how difficult it is becoming to connect.

Seriously, the older you get the harder it is to form friendships. I used to look at older people when I was a teenager and say, "Never, no way will I be like you." I was far too enamoured with my friendships, with the security and love and warmth. I didn't understand how older people would be willing to give that up and live so much in their isolation, with their Saturday nights with their televisions and their pets and their partners.

Welcome to older life Susie Q :) Just without the partner *sigh*

It is so much harder now to form friendships! I would be interested to have straw polled my four 15 minute friends to see how difficult they find it to reach out to others? I fancied I could see loneliness in a few eyes.

I fancy I can see loneliness in everyone's eyes.

And so we chatted for several stops and it was nice and we laughed about being new best friends. And then we got to Middle Footscray and a whole lot of people got out and then the relationship broke up now that we had more space. One of the girls moved off to talk with her fellow workmate, the blonde woman ventured over into the other corner, and me and one of the other women stood near each other looking out the window. And I couldn't think of anything to say. Just clammed up.

It's hard being shy and insecure and outgoing at the same time because you seem like Bobcat Goldthwaite. People say things to me that show me they think I am capable, that I know what I'm doing. People ask me for advice and I can see in their eyes that they think I know. I have authority. This is the problem with being outgoing because sometimes I don't know and sometimes I feel shy.

So I could see this other woman looking at me, as if she was waiting for me to say something. And I don't blame her because I was the one to climb on a train and start a conversation going with a whole lot of people who didn't know each other and then now I was standing there looking out the window feeling clammed. Weird. I got tongue-tied making small talk with someone on a train.

When I climbed off I forced myself to look back and smile and we all smiled goodbye at each other. If I was 20, I probably would have exchanged phone numbers with them. These days I feel so butterfly stomached I can barely muster up the guts to smile at a couple of strangers that I shared a train ride and a bit of conversation with.

Bit sad, isn't it! It gets harder when you get older. Someone get me a knitting group.


  1. ah suzie--i totally get all of this. the tongue-tied and outgoing. the clamming up. the desire for connection. in fact, i really want to post an entry today because i miss connection with my bloggy friends, but i feel restless, tongue-tied and silent. i have so much to say and nothing at all. hmmm. maybe that's my entry? knitting? not so sure about that one. xoxo

  2. there's a funky old pub in melb somewhere that holds knitting activist parties...I saw a report on TV about it ... looks like a hoot, hosted by two zany ladies and full of interesting people, including men...

    perhaps knitting is like having coffee, or a beer, a social lubricant, something to do with your hands, and a common purpose or shared experience, and the conversation and friendship evolve from there

    perhaps knitting...

  3. Yes, I get the tongue-tied bit as well. In fact I can echo what lucy says word for word.

    Incidentally we're unusually gutsy on London tubes about people not moving. Someone will always call out in a commanding voice "please move along in the middle there". I've even done it myself and I'm the most conflict-averse person you can imagine!

  4. Lucy - it's sort of heartening to know that other people get it, even though I *know* that other people get it :) That restless feeling is so uncomfortable, I am feeling it myself today. Mine is strange, it always comes with greater levels of fatigue, which I am feeling around about now. I do not know if it is an emotional or a physical restlessness. I wonder if our restlessness is not too a transitional restlessness, along with what you wrote on your lovely post about your father? I think we underestimate the change we must go through to enter into the next season, and we are coming up to the fall/spring equinox so maybe that's partly it.

    Kel - knitting activist parties, haha. Cute :) I absolutely agree that it is a social lubricant. I feel the need these days for a social lubricant. I'm not *really* sure that knitting is the thing but yes, something undemanding. I do think the way women of other cultures get together to do meaningless chores and make a sort of a party out of it is sadly lacking in our culture.

    Tess - oooh, hooray for you for calling out. I did it once, several months ago, and lo, the people did move. People respond terribly well to an authority-laden voice, but my knees knocked together all the way home that I had done it, haha :) Isn't it funny, that feeling of it being a conflict to ask an entire group of people to do something that they should just bloody well do anyway? It's terribly scary. I spose it's like public speaking :)


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