Written by Siân Bevan

Lifestyle

Pedigree chums

Why don’t adult friends come with a user’s manual, asks Siân Bevan.

hands sorting jigsaw pieces
Making friends when you’re a grown-up is weird. There are so many obstacles: where do you meet them? How do you awkwardly approach them and ask if they’d like to be your pal? What happens when they find out about your disgusting habits?

Then, once you’ve found a chum, there’s getting over how different it is from the friendships you form at school. There are always pieces missing and that’s something I still find awkward and uncomfortable sometimes.

When you’re a kid, most of the time you know pretty much everything about your friends. You’re quite likely to have met some of their family (“OMG does your mam let you drink Coke?”), you know what they do during the day (sit next to you writing notes) and what their favourite colour is.

Your lives are similar and ingrained and you have reference points that are familiar and smell like your school. It means even a minor kid argument can be devastating, but it’s also the kind of love that twines around your legs and makes you feel stronger and more sure of your place in the world. It also means not having friends at school can make you feel like the loneliest moon in the universe.

“It’s my own fault that the gaps in my understanding of my favourite humans remain unplugged but, I’m pretty sure, I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

As an adult, friends can take a few different forms. There are the ones I see at comedy gigs, who I know from the shape of their banter. There are the ones I’ve worked with, some of whom I’ve spent so much time with, they’re like family and I miss them like my favourite coat.

Some are friends because circumstances regularly throw us together and, although it would feel bizarre and naked to ever meet up for tea one-on-one, we like chatting and hug when we see each other. Some are the ones who I tell when I’m sad or angry. Some are ones to whom I always say I’m fine.

But the odd thing for me is the massive gaps in information you have with most friends you make as an adult. Unless it specifically comes up in conversation, you can see someone regularly and genuinely love them, but not be super-sure if their parents are alive or dead. You don’t know whether this is the life they imagined when they were kids. You might not know if they had a good childhood, where they consider ‘home’ or how many times they’ve had their heart broken.

In many ways – many, many ways – I’m a shitty friend. I have good chat but no time, and spare time is usually spent recharging my internal battery in my flat with an expression best explained with the emoji :-|. When I go socialising, it’s usually to have a nice time, or to go and see something or it’s part of work or it’s an occasion like someone’s birthday or divorce or they told me there was cake. It’s my own fault that the gaps in my understanding of my favourite humans remain unplugged but, I’m pretty sure, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I’ve started telling my friends I love them. And I do: I love the bits of them that I know and I love their mysteries but I wish they all came with a handbook so I knew where their heart scars come from and what made them laugh like a twat when they were 21. I wish some of them knew how much I liked them, even though I don’t see them much and we only talk about what’s happening right now. Like grown-ups.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I should quiz them more. Sod it, it’s weird anyway, I may as well make it factually accurate. Although all handbooks containing a potted history of any potential friend would be gratefully received.

@sianbevan

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Written by Siân Bevan

Siân is a writer, performer, creator of joyful things and sometimes she tries to explain things to young people. She’s a mainly vegan feminist who loves elephants, is scared of the dark and likes stories most of all.