with friends like these
postscript: Jody makes a good point that a good number of the comments on this article are depressing, but I did find at least a few thoughtful ones, such as this:
What a fascinating article. It was a pleasure to read simply for the writer’s gifted command of the English language – but the content also provided much food for thought in my view.
As a single man, I feel as though I can identify with some of Petronella’s experience. The issue of ‘fairweather friends’ is a particularly pertinent one: and one certainly doesn’t need to be single to have had experience of this phenomenon. Though when one is single and friendships are one’s main source of emotional intimacy, the discovery that a friend is of the fairweather variety can be particularly painful and disappointing.
Yes, there are individuals and couples who choose their friends on the basis of their potential to enhance their own wealth or social status. But people who select friends in this way can never provide the kind of genuine all-weather friendship and intimacy that most of us need, particularly the ‘singles’ among us who don’t have a partner for emotional security. True friends are rare, and we usually don’t find out who they are until a crisis happens. Superficial, fairweather friendships are a waste of time and energy that one could be investing in real communication and connection with people who are capable of true friendship.
Alas, these days, I hardly see or speak to my best friend, who is married with children and a busy job, simply because he is understandably so busy with his job and family, and when he isn’t, he is close to exhausted. When we do meet up, he always wishes to include his family. His wife and children are delightful, but I do miss the opportunity for our one-to-one conversations over a bottle of wine. There is no reciprocal, nurturing friendship there any more, but I hope it will be rekindled once the children are older.
In some quarters of our society, there is a disparaging attitude towards single people, and particularly unmarried women without children. The key thing in my view is for single people to try to get their need for emotional intimacy met by making genuine friendships with people who do not regard friends as means to economic and social ends. This also entails oneself being prepared to be an all-weather friend to others, and committing to trying to meet one’s friends’ needs.
The economic points Petronella makes also strike me as valid. How a single person is supposed to live on £65 per week Job Seekers’ Allowance, I have no idea.
Single people will probably always find themselves on the fringes of society, I imagine. But there is then the opportunity to connect with other people on the fringes, and hopefully build a community of friends who are there through thick or thin.