When I first came to London, I was studying for my MA in creative writing. I was living close enough to campus that I was around people my age every day. But as soon as I finished school and moved into a new flat, things got harder. Sure, those solid friends I made were great, but they also were international students like myself. So when the school year ended, many moved back to their home countries. I, the little rebel that I am, decided that I wanted to stay a bit longer.
But I am in uncharted waters now. I’m living in a city on my own. And I only leave my house to go to work, grocery shop, or take the bins out every Wednesday morning. Yes, I do have the tendency to be a bit awkward. If you asked me if I spent 2/3rds of a party I went to two weeks ago in a corner drinking by myself awkwardly until the only person I knew arrived, I would say yes. Yes this has happened.
Picture this: me, dressed up in fancy dress–no beat-up Converse low-tops in sight–surrounded by people that A) are older than me, and B) all know each other in some way or another. I, however, knew no one. Causing the pathetic drinking alone in a corner. How else was I supposed to cope? Talk to these people? Aha, no way. I think the bar is calling me. It is times like these when I really believe that I just might have what it takes to be an English convert. If I can’t do something, just drink away the issue. ALCOHOL ALWAYS HELPS! I would also say that as soon as my friend did arrive, it was like a light switch flicked on and I became social. I was laughing, talking, enjoying people’s company. See, I thought to myself, you can be a social butterfly… with the assistance of booze and ONE FRIEND.
I talked to my mom about this, and my lack of human interaction. I was trying to explain to her my problem. Right now, I am working as a personal assistant for an entrepreneur. This means that my office is his flat. My co-workers are his iMac and filing cabinet. And yes, that file cabinet and I have become quite close over the past few weeks, but I cannot take it to the pub with me. I can’t be awkward and weird. Come on, I have to draw a limit somewhere. I was telling my mom how statistics show that you are more likely to both make friends and meet your future spouse at your work.
“Well,” she joked. “Maybe you can marry your boss.” Which then made me explain to her that A) he is older than she is, and B) already dating someone. So, nope, we are not going to have THAT kind of work relationship. Also, I don’t… do… that…? Because of morals and things.
“I need to make friends!” I shouted at my mother through Skype. “I am in a nice part of London, and I pass a great pub every day, but I can’t go in!”
“Why not?” unbeknownst to her, I am incapable of initiating conversation with strangers. And when I do, they’re super dorky jokes. Like when I get into an elevator that immediately becomes crowded, I’ll look at the guy next to me and say, “Thank god we all know each other, or else this would be really uncomfortable.” That’s my thing. Those are my jokes. And actually, you can’t say those types of things in London because English men and women hate small talk and become super self-conscious. Can’t make friends that way. “Go to the pub!” She was shouting back at me. “Get a pint! Watch the football match! Start yelling at the telly” (I should also note that whenever I Skype my mom, she always says some English wordism and tries to imitate the accent. Instead, she just sounds kinda drunk.) “About the teams! ‘Oh, I hate that team!’ ‘You hate that team too?’ ‘Ah football!'”
I just stared blankly at her. “No, Mom. That’s not gonna work.” The idea of pretending to like a sport–that I actually do like, just don’t follow a league/team/player/whatever–to make friends sounded sad. Worse than not having friends at all. And I could picture myself going into this pub, getting a pint, and just sitting there, awkwardly, waiting for it all to be over. I would have my headphones on and a book on the table because that’s the kind of loner I can be. “Well that’s your problem, Allie. You would have to take your headphones off.”
But then I would have to actually talk to people. Ick.
She tried to give me more advice on where to meet friends. One great tip of hers was, and I kid you not, “You should join a choir!” Join a choir! That’s when I lost it. I began laughing hysterically. I pictured myself in the long robes, standing in front of a crowd of people singing some show tune or Ave Maria or whatever people in choirs sing. No, that wasn’t going to work. “Maybe you can join a gym?” she immediately threw out to distract me from her enthusiastic choir option. “That’s where your cousin met her husband.” My cousin and her husband are also in the best shape I have ever seen. I, on the other hand, consider playing Temple Run during my commute strenuous activity.
Why don’t they make a book on how to make friends after college? It would be a best-seller. Everyone needs friends. Are there any classes on how to meet people? Lectures? Newsletters? Anything? Cause if I go through another week with only interacting with the same three people, I might scream. I mean, yeah, I hate talking to new people and interacting with others, but it’s kind of necessary. And when I am already with friends, I can interact without being completely hopeless. I need like a friend wingman. Do they make those?
So yeah, my mom gave me homework for this week.
My homework assignment is to make friends.
And I am going to fail.