My new friend?
I have been set to wondering why a new acquaintance of mine, a woman not far off my own age, and who seemed so promising as a new friend – isn’t. I met her shortly after I moved in here and everything seemed right – she lives nearby, she’s creative, she’s clever, she has a lovely house and garden, we have mutual friends (it turns out) and – like me – she is single – though unlike me she is a widow and a reluctant single – while I, nowadays, am used to being on my own – and sometimes – quite often I’m almost ashamed to say (for it is so alien to our view of how society should be ordered) I relish it.
We have met four times now – all on very social occasions – the first time after a local gathering when she showed some friends and me around her lovely house after we’d been introduced by someone who thought we would like to see such a beautiful old place, and they were right. It was a very brief meeting but we all thought it was very kind of her. The second time we met was shortly after that when I had a small ice-breaking gathering of local friends and a couple of new ones – my neighbours – including said woman. By this time I had virtually no kitchen and was about to embark on a massive building drive so it was all a bit ad hoc. But that little gathering went off fine. She connected with everyone and left cheerily enough – though I hadn’t spent much time talking to her because you don’t at things like that – too busy making sure people slurp and chew to hunker down for conversation.
The next occasion was at our mutual friends’ place for supper and that seemed fine too – though I didn’t feel I’d got to know her very much better but – well – it was among a group of people and you can’t one-to-one-it very easily in gatherings like that. The last occasion – and with a very long gap between during which my entire house was rendered up to builders and I was left with nothing but a standpipe and a loo and more dirt that you can shake a telegraph pole at, was in her garden for a drink and meet-up of some neighbours of hers one evening. And it was there, sitting in this idyllic garden, sipping Prosecco (of course) and trying not to dribble bits of canape all over myself (with no kitchen you therefore have no washing machine and it pays to be very careful) that I realised I was bored stiff, fed-up with cold food (no cooker at home) and exhausted from dealing with builders – what was I doing sitting here with dust in my hair, grit in my ears, and making polite conversation about the Olympics? What? And why – since this woman does not work – had she not produced dinner in her fabulous house with its wonderful kitchen and marvellous dining room and beautiful china, napery and glass? So maybe some of my restraint in the possibilities of our friendship is to do with resentment at not being fed hot food? Could it be that simple and that silly? I had, after all, suggested that we should nip off one night for supper in one of the many ethnic places around here – but nothing had come of it.
Last night I put this to the friends who were with me when I met her first, and who met her at my drinks gathering, and who gave the subsequent supper party where we met her again. Was I simply being resentful and misjudging her? And they said that they, too, had not really warmed to her in the end. Odd, I thought, since on paper she’s perfect for all of us. But at least it wasn’t only me getting miffed about not being given a hot dinner. The three of us couldn’t – quite – put our finger on the cause of this flatness. And then – when I got home later that night – pondering the woman and why I felt so unengaged – I realised. Or I think I realised – it’s the only solution I can come up with for why. I think it is because she doesn’t seem to have any sense of humour – and – more particularly – she doesn’t seem to have the capacity to laugh at herself and I find that capacity to be one of the most endearing things about good friends. Yes – I think I’m almost sure – she seems to take herself very seriously – and that is a big barrier.
Humour – surely – is the mortar that holds us all together? It doesn’t mean flippancy – of course there are times when things are no laughing matter – that’s a given – you always respect and understand that. But there are times – quite a few of them – when the only solution to getting through life is to laugh at it, and to laugh at oneself caught up in the middle of it. And so far my new acquaintance hasn’t shown a great line in humour. I hope she will but I think she won’t. I shall try my favourite Tommy Cooper joke on her next time we meet – and if she doesn’t laugh – it’s curtains.