I Need Friends

I don’t know how to have friends.

I gew up alone. I was home-schooled from birth, in a tiny house in the middle of the woods, out of sight of the nearest neighbors. It could only be reached by driving up a mile of treacherous, rutted gravel driveway. Everyone else I knew lived at least a half-hours drive away. My only playmates as a child were two neighbor kids who lived within walking distance. I would see my church friends on Sundays and my home-schooled friends at occasional home-school group meetings. If I was lucky, I’d get to spend Sunday afternoon with one of my church friends. But I was always on the outside, even with them, because I only saw them once a week at most. I shared none of the common daily experiences that other kids shared at school and playing at neighborhood playgrounds.

When other kids were in junior high I was coping with my parent’s divorce, and my dad’s subsequent emotional implosion, alone. We moved into town during that period, but I was too removed in experience, interests, and emotion to develop any signifigant peer relationships outside of church youth group activities. I eventually became a leader in the youth group, which made sense; my faith was what kept me together, and I was never “one of the guys” anyway. When I went out on weekends I went out with my mom (I was living with my dad).

My lifelong attraction to freaks and outsiders first manifested in my early to mid teens. Mark, a “troubled” church friend who’s family treated him like shit, became my best friend. He was a hyperactive cut-up, a loser, a walking catastrophe, an emotional mess, and I came to love him dearly. He stayed with us when his parents were out of town, and sometimes when they were in town. Although our contact was often sporadic, I think he was the closest thing I ever had to a best friend like other people have best friends – we hung out, stayed up late talking or playing video games or listening to music, I listened to his troubles, he taught me to love roller coasters, we had midnight water gun battles. He drove me up the wall quite often, and I would have done anything for him.

His dad finally got sick of his mom and blew his own brains out with a shotgun. A couple months later Mark was driving with a friend and showing off one of his guns. He put it to his head, said “see, it’s not loaded”, and pulled the trigger. Whether intentionally or not, he was wrong.

I would go to church camps and retreats, and usually wound up hanging out with the “freaks”. I made strong connections with some beautiful, beautiful people. I’d get addresses, and there would be long hugs and teary farewells, and I would try to stay and touch, but long-distance relationships are always hard to maintain. The spaces between letters or emails inevitably get longer and longer until you lose touch completely. Sometimes

Once I went to a retreat of sorts and really fell apart emotionally. The group of freaks I had naturally fallen in with gathered around to support me, and I told them what I really needed was just to have some friends. One girl actually said to me: “I’ll be your friend” – probably the first time I’d ever heard those words.

A few weeks later she was dead in a car wreck.

When other kids were in high school I was taking community college classes. Community colleges, ironically enough, don’t have the kind of community that I understand 4-year colleges have. I didn’t make any lasting friendships there.

I did make one lasting friend while I was at the college. A friend introduced me to a girl she thought I’d like. We hit it off, and spent hours online, on the phone, and in real life just talking and talking. Then, out of the blue, her dad decreed that she was not allowed to see me or contact me anymore. We had never been anything more than friends. After awhile we regained sporadic contact, and hers is one of the few friendships that I’ve actually maintained.

When I was 18 I moved out of my dad’s house and started working full time at the same place I still work now. I lead a more or less reclusive existance. It was actually one of the most peaceful times in my life, because for the first time I had a safe, controlled environment that I could find refuge in. But I was terribly lonely.

In 2000 I discovered the Christian Goth community, both online and in real life at the Cornerstone music festival. For the first time in my life I got a chance to hang out with some people my age I genuinely felt comfortable with. But I only had a short space of time to spend with them. I made several friendships that have lasted though, and I made more friends on the xnetgoth online community.

Then I met avivahg, and in whirlwind fashion she quickly became my wife. For a couple years my universe contracted to contain my new family and nothing more. I lost touch with what few real-life friends I had. We moved to PA, at least 45 minutes away from anyone we knew locally.

As a result of all that history, I am deeply deeply introverted and painfully shy. I know that a lot of people say that, but I feel that most of the people who say it have social advantages I don’t share. I have never been “one of the guys”. I have never had a group of
people, at any time in my life, who I hung out with. I have never had friends I’d see frequently. At most I have a few people I manage to see monthly or so. I have lived the vast majority of my life cut off from human contact. I don’t know the first thing about being friends.

Now for the first time in my life I’m starting to actually put forth effort to meet new people. I’ve been going to clubs in Baltimore relatively often, and slowly meeting the regulars. I’m starting to feel a little confidence that people actually like me. But I am singularly unprepared for this undertaking. I don’t know how to meet people. I don’t know what to say. I can’t make small talk. I never know what to ask people about themselves. I don’t know how to move from seeing people in a periodic social context like a club, to seeing them at other times, or when that is appropriate. I don’t feel like I have things in common with the people I meet. I feel terribly uninteresting – my life basically consists of working, sleeping, and sometimes clubbing. I’m intimidated, and usually at a loss for words. I’m so. fucking. boring. And while I accept that there are people who like seeing me from time to time, I’m scared that I’m just not interesting enough for them to want to get to know me personally.

For the first time I really want to find out what it’s like to have people to hang out with. I want to have people I can call up and say “hey, what are you doing this weekend?”. I want to actually have someone else I can call if the first person I call turns out to be busy. I want people I can talk philosophy with at 1AM when I can’t sleep, and who I can meet for lunch in Towson over my lunch break. I want to have hiking buddies and people to go to art museums and plays with. I understand that normal people have friendships like that, and I want it too.

Please don’t be offended if you are one of the people I already do this kind of thing with… I’m terribly grateful for the friends I do have, I just want to need at least two hands to count up my local friends.

I’m tired of being a recluse, and I don’t need to be one for my own safety anymore. I want to learn to be social. The time has come, but I need help.

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39 Comments

  1. It’s very difficult to carry on conversations and get to know people at clubs. Do you have a Goffee (goth coffee) night in your area? If not, why not start one, and promote it on the local/regional goth mailing lists in your area? I’ve made alot of friends via this channel. We do clothing swaps, hand out flyers for shows and invitations for parties, and heck, I sell alot of Avon there these days 🙂 Something to consider – “Build it, and they will come.”

    1. Ugh… I’m not a promoter by nature. I’m good at being a behind-the-scenes guy for that sort of thing, but that’s about it. It’s kind of chicken-and-egg – I’m not social enough to begin to be able to hype something like that.

      1. You have any extroverted friends that might want to pick up the plan and run with it?

        1. Nope 🙁

          1. What about shooting an email generica to a the local netgoth list saying something to the effect of, “A few of us are meeting up for coffee @8:00 PM, Joe’s Cafe, 100 Java Lane, on Thursday, 6/17. Please join us if you dare….”

            That’s what the Boston peeps do 🙂

  2. You and I both have it rough dear! You find it difficult to start conversations, but you do! I find it difficult to start conversations and more often than not I don’t. You’re “boring” and you married a “boring” girl who is occasionally a drama-queen.

    I suffer with you on this.

    BTW, you have a lunch break?

    1. BTW, you have a lunch break?

      Theoretically. But most often I choose to eat at my desk and come home earlier.

  3. Re: HELLO!

    Thank you 🙂 I will more than likely take you up on those offers.

    Thanks again for a great time Sunday.

  4. It’s a little bit funny….

    I feel like I could copy and paste whole sections of your entry into *my* LJ.

    Relationships, how to initiate, build and maintain them, are skills beyond my grasp. Jules is superb at it, hence we have a long marriage and many social contacts, but I only manage to surf on the wave of social energy she generates.

    I’d be happy to befriend you IRL, just be prepared for long silent pauses where we both look at each other and shrug cause we have no clue. :>)

    1. Re: It’s a little bit funny….

      You strike me as someone that I could sit with in silence, drinking guinness and watching the world go by, and not feel the least bit uncomfortable doing it. That’s one of the reasons I like you so much 🙂

  5. I don’t think either of you are boring, or for that matter particularly shy but maybe thats just around me? Maybe you’re only shy in larger social groups. You guys could also definetly call me if you want to hang out sometime. Especially for hiking yay hiking. I don’t really call because I don’t know when you guys are busy. I have lots of free time now what with school being out and only working part time for the next couple of weeks.

    1. I don’t really call because I don’t know when you guys are busy.

      That’s what the answering machine is for. You call, if we’re busy you leave a message. When we’re un-busy we call you back. If you’re busy then, we start the cycle over until we finally meet. 🙂

      But we’re more social in smaller settings. On a larger scale Avdi is much more social than I. I tend to be more of a recluse. I desperately want to talk to people but I open my mouth and nothing comes out. Just a cavernous emptiness. This is in club settings, or in groups larger than 4. One-on-one I tend to be more relaxed, but even then that’s not always the case.

      1. I hate answering machines

        I don’t know what it is about answerting machines but I really hate leaving messages. I can only ever leave a message if I know ahead of time I’m going to have to leave on and even then I kind of freak out and don’t leave very good messages. We don’t even own an answering machine either.

        1. Re: I hate answering machines

          “Hi! This is Kim. My number is… Gimme a call. Bye.” That’s all ya gotta say.

  6. i’m here when you are ready to visit the New England land…

    =)

  7. Every time I made a good friend/group of friends near the end of each school year my parents would switch schools on me. Then I’d be the quiet girl again in the corner and would have to start the process again. By the time I was in high school I just started seeking out other quiet corner people who were bad conversationalists and sat with them every day until we found something to talk about. We were fast friends in a week. Now I too am riding on the social wave of the husband. I feel awkward, but somehow over time the nodding and smiling turns into something more. You are starting out well. Something I have learned is that when normal people meet each other a phone number is entered into the cel phone and a next meeting time is arranged. You have to be specific and you have to call them a couple days later. Don’t feel weird about it because their phones are always ringing and they like it when you call. Soon you will have a full schedule. This has been attained through watching a social person over the years, not by concrete experience on my end. But then I like to be alone most of the time and he shares his friends with me on the weekends.

    1. Hmm. I’m beginning to get the idea that a cell phone is an essential social accessory these days.

      1. You know, that’s what Mike did when we bugged him for contact info – put our phone # in his cell phone. (“Stacey & Oz” LOL!)

        Oh, btw, do you know where Tony’s contact info went? I’ve been wanting to email him. Or call…

        Somebody send me a female friend!!!!!!!!! Okay, I know, Kim, you’re a female, but I mean more! I want more! …Makes me sound like I’m never satisfied. There are just some things a girl cannot talk about with a guy. Gah! Anyway, I digress.

  8. I literally had no friends growing up. I spent a lot of time alone and was very socially ackward. You’re doing a lot better than I did when I was your age.

  9. well

    I certainly feel like that gives a bit of detail to the concept of who you are, and I admire your willingness to post it all. I have entries that personal but they are locked under a group very small and wellknown to me.

    I am often up at 1AM since I am still recovering from surgery, and feel sure between philosophy and literature I’d have something to offer by way of distraction.

    I wish I had set my selfabsorption aside long enough to introduce myself to you guys at ascension. i dont know many people here closely but the ones i do are exceptional and a few happen to be holding social events soon. 🙁

  10. Ugh, I have such issues trusting people that I very rarely and always reluctantly let myself become emotionally attached to people. I can relate to you not having many friends. I feel that way a lot. Which is probably why I’m sitting here at my computer instead of worrying about what I’m doing tonight.

    Anyway, I’m not that far from you and and I’d like to get to know you two better cause you seem like truly interesting people. I know I’m “the weirdo” from OKCupid, but if you’d ever be interested in hanging out, feel free to ask. I don’t have a car and I can’t drive, but I’m sure something could work out. I have a cell phone. The number’s in my AIM profile. Feel free to call me, you both!

    1. hey psycheague

      just wanted to say ive enjoyed (and often agreed with) many of your comments on avdis and avivihags journal. also i saw on your info you go to dickinson. i dont rem the name of the hall, but in one building with three huge antique windows and an upper balcony that isnt quite flush against the second level, one of the windows is slightly different. It had to be replaced because I broke it accidently while attending classes there *holds elbow and arm up to the screen* the scars right there. boy were they pissed… 😛

      1. Re: hey psycheague

        Was it Baird-McClintock? That was my freshman dorm. ;c) Dorm or academic building? This is way too funny to me.

        I’m impressed that I’ve found another Dickinsonian. We are few and far between, mostly because everyone who can transfers out. ^_~

        1. Re: hey psycheague

          it was academic, at the time it was the building for foreign languages but may not still be now. and i cant properly claim myself as a dickonsonian, i was there as part of a program dickinson agreed to host. my only claims to fame there are breaking their antique window and meeting an at-the-time famous redskin player bc it was their summer training camp then.

          1. Re: hey psycheague

            It was probably Bosler, then, because that’s the building I’m often in as a French minor / former French major. ;c)

    2. God, see, this is one of the problems I have with meeting people. I don’t think of you as “the wierdo from OKCupid”, I think of you as I do a lot of people I’d like to get to know better – as potentially too cool for me, and likely to be uninterested in getting to know me as any more than an online friend.

      It’s nice to know the voices in my head are lying, at least in your case. I’d love to hang sometime. Thanks for responding, I’ll look up your number. And then someday maybe I’ll have the guts to call… 😉

      1. Haha, one thing I’m not is “too cool.” I’m the geekiest, childish, dorkiest person I know. ;c)

        And you don’t need guts to call. I’m really very nice, despite what I say. :cp

  11. i could transplant lots of what has been said here into my journal. least it’s good to know i am not the only one!

    living out in the boonies makes it just that much harder for me to get to know people. on top of being shy and well, me…yeah…it’s an uphill battle.

    btw, i am an insomnia. Evililtig is almost always on aim.
    =^_^=

    1. No, living out in the boonies, or even out in a small town, does NOT help.

    2. At the risk of sounding childish…

      Can I be your friend too?

  12. Wow. All those convos we’ve had on Xnet about the nature of “Online Relationships” and the reality/falsehood of the net/e-forums make ~much more~ sense now that I’ve read this. I can’t say I truly relate, but now I understand you a little better.

  13. Argh! I don’t know whether to scream or cry. Or maybe both. Because this definitely makes me want to do that!

    You are about the most interesting person I’ve EVER known. You should know that. I only write about the interesting ones, so if you make it into my literature, you’ve either made me royally angry or I was so attached to you that I needed to disentangle myself on paper. Or perhaps both.

    You say you are shy, you say you don’t know what to say to people, how to make small talk. I want you to remember some of those hour-long conversations we had for a minute. We could hardly catch out breath, we were trying so hard to get everything out, because we’d finally found another human being who could understand what we were feeling. I always hated hanging up. And you say you have nothing to talk about! Do you remember how you would send/read me your poetry? There was one poem I recall in particular, it was about you waking up to bloody sheets, but it was incredibly well-written and I was certainly awed by it. And you can’t make small talk, you say. Well, maybe I can’t either. And maybe there are plenty of people in this world who can’t. Who says small talk is that important? Who says you always have to know exactly what to say? There are some people you will just feel comfortable around – so comfortable that the need to always be on top of things will go away.

    You are an intellectual, Avdi. You are so far beyond the narrow, every-day environment of people who are just out there to be social butterflies that of COURSE you’re not going to always know what to say in a chatty situation – because more often than not, situations like that are completely EMPTY! I’m GLAD that you aren’t a social butterfly, I’m GLAD that you’re introverted, you know why? Because they’re fake, and it makes you REAL! If you had known what to say all the time, if you were never awkward, what would you have gained from it? Maybe the ability to come off as smooth all the time. But you certainly wouldn’t have gotten my affection or made such a lasting impression on me as you did. Because I’m awkward, I’m shy, and I always put my foot in my mouth. And it takes one to know one!!

    As a matter of fact, if you’d always known what to say, you wouldn’t be a conflicted goth. And you wouldn’t have gotten to know any other conflicting goths. So you have your own inhibitions to thank that you know ANY of us at all.

    “Hers is one of the few friendships that I’ve actually maintained,” you say. I’m not sure if it was you maintaining it, as much as it was just me continuing to stick around. But it doesn’t matter. I’m perfectly willing to go to extreme lengths for people I consider worth the trouble. So I’m here, and I’m fiercely loyal to you. But I really can’t live only on my memories.

    1. I appreciate what you are saying. I have an urge though to be all things to all people. Not that I want to be best at everything, but I like to be able to be at least somewhat comfortable dipping into all cultures, and in any situation. I have no illusions about becoming a social butterfly. All I want to do is to be able to mimic one for short periods, enough to be polite and to meet people I otherwise might have missed. A social moth, as it were. Instead of a social cicada.

      I apologize for my wording regarding our friendship – you are right, I haven’t done nearly enough to maintain it. That’s actually one of the points I meant to make in this post, but never got around to. Not only do I suck at making friends, I suck even more at keeeping them. I want to be a better friend, so you don’t have to live only on memories.

  14. out of place? maybe. who knows.

    so im just gonna say this much.
    i’ve only met you guys a few times and i don’t even know if i have any sort of allowance to be making comments in you lj, esp. after a post like that, but im going to anyhow (i’ve been told from time to time that im an asshole). i think you are both jah kool and while i am only an accessory (although i really prefer to be called arm candy) to someone you both know at this point and i think all the times that i’ve met you guys, i’ve made an ass of myself or been affected by something that has screwed with my sense of being, but i would love to play sometime! (i like to think that i am stuck in 2nd grade sometimes so ‘play’ is my own *special* term for hang out or get together, which the adults commonly use…) and if you wouldn’t mind minimul babysitting in some situations (i am the anti-goth.) i go anywhere, do anything. i also have a tendency to be shy but i counter that by making an ass out of myself and trying to pretend that im not shy.
    i really hope i haven’t rubbed either of you the wrong way any of the times that i’ve met you and i apologize for my lack of prescence saturday but i was having some issues.
    i propose a dinner thing get together or something small and quaint with food and beverage (preferably alcoholic, but not necessarily)
    but um, so i’ll post my cell phone number here i guess…is that safe, who fucking knows?!? im sure it is.
    410-533-5142
    but feel free to call anytime.
    i don’t mind driving by the way. i drive over an hour to work everyday, anything over 4 hours in the car at once is a long trip.
    if things are well organized, i can probably bring C.
    her schedule is fucking nuts.
    *you guys should totally come down for a play this summer! if i have to go, im taking someone with me. not that i don’t enjoy them, i do…i just like company.*
    so, yeah…
    anytime really

    (wow, i rambled…that was supposed to be short…)

    1. Re: out of place? maybe. who knows.

      I intend to reply to this at greater length, but right now I just have time for this: you are always welcome to comment on my journal, and I was thrilled to see you had.

    2. Re: out of place? maybe. who knows.

      On every occasion we’ve met, you’ve impressed me as much more than arm-candy. I’d like to get to know you better, and and tickled that you want to get to know us!

      i propose a dinner thing get together or something small and quaint with food and beverage (preferably alcoholic, but not necessarily)

      That sounds splendid! I concur, preferably alcoholic 😀

      1. Re: out of place? maybe. who knows.

        I’ll bring the food (do you mind vegetarian or seafood?), the liquor and the Avdi, you bring yourself and C. if possible. We’ll have a ball! ..oh, wait. I’m showing my age again. I meant, “We’ll have a blast!”

        1. Re: out of place? maybe. who knows.

          fabulous, its on then.
          actually, i am a little anal about my eating habits and with you all being purists, that suits me just fine. i don’t do caffiene, i don’t do many processed sugars, i try to avoid pasturized products, pork (not for any real specific reason, i just don’t like it so much…although a good pork loin is always good or pulled pork bbq…ok obviously there are exceptions.) anyhow, i was veg for a long time and then vegan for a brief stint but couldn’t deal without cheese. i also cooked for over 4 years at 5 star restaurant and im italian, so if you need a sous chef or whatever let me know, and i don’t mind bringing stuff up. i work right by a whole foods. so whatever is good, if you guys like to cook out maybe we could do some marinated portabello kabob’s or something like that…i mean tis the season for grilling, but really whatever is good.
          yeah, definetly get in touch and let me know when is good for you all.
          the next two weekends im actually busy, (going to the beach with C this weekend and a cookout at meyers on monday and next weekend from june 3rd thru the 7th im going down to orlando on vacation for gay day at disney world/land, whichever one is in florida.)
          and i insist on bringing something other than myself and C, i may have been raised on a farm, but i was raised with manners!
          so what can i bring???

          1. Re: out of place? maybe. who knows.

            No caffeine, except that found in green tea and chocolate.
            Only raw sugar is used here. Or honey, or maple syrup. Again, raw.
            Generally no land or air animal meat is found in this house except on rare occasion, so pork will not be found here.
            Where seafood is concerned I do *not* keep kosher. I love my scallops, shrimp, crab (so long as I do not have to open it myself), catfish!
            I couldn’t deal without either cheese, seafood nor honey! Therefore I don’t think my being vegan will ever happen.
            I figured you were Italian. Don’t ask me how. It was just something I knew.
            You worked at a 5 star restaurant? And you’re bald-ish? OMG, you’re hot! (C. hang on to this one!!) However, I’m very territorial about my kitchen. It may take lots of coaxing from Avdi to get me to share.
            In Orlando it is Disney World. I used to take the kids there every winter for Christmas/birthdays Their birthdays are in Dec & Feb, so the Christmas thing allowed me to hit both at once. They were young yet then. They just enjoyed going. Helped that we lived only an hour away back then.
            What to bring? Ugh! Can I get back to you on that? Flowers, perhaps? I don’t know. Let me think about it.
            Oh, and grilling sounds great! We’ll have to invest in a new grill as ours, the one that came with the house, finally gave way and collapsed.
            We’re gone the 3rd thru the 7th of June too. The weekend following, I think, we’re free.

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