How to Stave off Loneliness

Melissa and I had a fight yesterday. We have this fight once or twice a month. Someone who neither of us knows well will ask Melissa something about me just out of an odd curiosity about my life. Something stupid, like, What's Penelope doing for Thanksgiving?

It's stupid, yes, but I think it's even more stupid that Melissa answers. So I tell her don't talk to anyone about me. I don't want her to be a source of Penelope information. I just want her to be a friend.

You will notice this is very hypocritical of me. But I don't care. I make the rule anyway: No talking about me. Ever.

Then she thinks everything is an exception. Like, telling her co-worker what it's like sitting across from me while I make up dialogue that she is not saying.

So I say, “I'm not talking to you anymore. You're a terrible friend.”

She says, “I am not a terrible friend. I have really good intentions.”

“Okay. You're a retarded friend. You don't understand boundaries.”

“I'm trying. And you see everything black and white and it's not.”

“Do you think that when Jennifer Aniston's friend tells the National Enquirer where Jennifer’s eating then her friend just says, oh sorry, I'm trying.”

“Are you crazy? You are not Jennifer Aniston.”

“I'm making a point.”

“No. You're not. You're sounding crazy.”

“Well, so are you. We should just not be friends. I don't even need any friends.”

“Call me back when you are not angry.”

“Okay.”

Then I call back in ten minutes. But the truth is, I don't really like having friends. I don't like that friends are as much trouble as a boyfriend but they don't go down on you.

Still, I don't want to end up being a crazy person. Did you see Grey Gardens? I worry a lot that I'll end up like them. Has anyone said that Big Edie and Little Edie have Asperger's? I am diagnosing them right now. I'm not even going to google it to see if I'm alone in this theory because I know I'm right.

Anyway, I worry that if I don't take steps to be normal in friendships then I'll end up like them.

Loneliness is a serious matter. It's a medical condition. New York Magazine ran an article about loneliness about two years ago. I'm going to quote liberally from it, so I'd better link to it now: Is Urban Loneliness a Myth? by Jennifer Senior (one of my favorite journalists). She writes: “Studies show that loneliness is associated with morning surges in cortisol, the stress hormone, and increased vascular resistance, which results in higher blood pressure. They also show the lonely drink more, exercise less, get divorced more often, and have more family estrangement and run-ins with the neighbors. And they're fatter.”

I read that, more than a year ago, and then I started paying attention to how people avoid loneliness.

1. Get a friend at work. Or leave.

Friendship is one of the key factors that make the difference between a bad job and a good job. This research comes from a huge poll from Gallup. Tom Rath, the Gallup pollster who puts data into bestselling books, wrote Vital Friends, which, in a nutshell is about how it's nearly impossible to hate your job if you have a friend at work.

I have found this to be true. You could have that nagging feeling that the work is not right for you—maybe you'd be better suited in another field—but you will not dread going to work if a friend is there for you.

2. Pick a location that does not feel lonely.

Loneliness isn't about objective matters, like whether we live alone. It's about subjective matters, like whether we feel alone, according to Senior. And loneliness, it turns out, is relative. If you live in a town full of single people, you feel less alone than if your town is full of married people.

If you are not married but your friends are, a city is better because it trades on weak ties, according to Stanford University professor Mark Granovetter, in his essay The Strength of Weak Ties.

Weak ties provide a lot of value in our lives. They are, for example, much better for helping us find jobs because they offer us diversity and breadth. The same goes for love. Think about it: if you're single, you already know all your friends' single friends. It's your acquaintance's single friends you don't know.

3. Learn rules for friendship, and then bend them to suit you.
One of the most interesting things about Aspergers, I think, is that the need for friendship is very low. It's there, for sure. People with Aspergers want a friend. But they pretty much want just one. So they spend a lot of time searching for that friend and then don't let the friend go. People with Asperger's are extremely loyal, but you couldn't call us clingy because our need for alone time is so high. (A common marriage for two people with Aspergers is two separate bedrooms so they can have maximum alone time. Knowing the person is next door is often enough.)

I am like this, for the most part. So I'm fascinated by how other people have their friendships. I have had to study the rules of making friends to make sure I have some. (Michelle Winner wrote a great book about these rules.)

For example, I used to have a schedule of when to call people, because friends call friends. But it tired me out. I ended up picking friends who don't use the phone.

Then I had a schedule of when to visit friends. Because friends hang out together. But instead, I found myself focusing on friends who were out of town. It was an easy solution.

I know I'm not the only person who is confused by the ideas of friendship. I had a friend who was a call girl, and she did only a minimum of seven days with a client. Her specialty was going on business trips with men who could not get their wife to come with him on the trip because she had to stay home with the kids. I asked my friend if it was just crazy, nonstop sex for a week, and how was that not exhausting. She said the week-long trips were the best type of clients because, “Mostly, the guys just wanted a friend.”

Posted in Networking, Self-management
87 comments on “How to Stave off Loneliness
  1. Mara says:

    Wow. I don’t have Asperger’s, but I feel exactly like you about friends. I’m not quite sure what the definition of a friend is, but I don’t feel like I have any friends, just acquaintances. Yes, I guess I am lonely, but I just don’t have the time (or maybe energy….or maybe desire) to cultivate a relationship of any kind.

  2. TR says:

    I wonder if loneliness has also fueled the rise of Facebook.  It is nice to be able to communicate with
    people but not have to worry about the social awkwardness

    I do envy your ability to fight with friends when they annoy
    you and still be friends.  That is skill I have
    yet to master

  3. Tulio says:

    Great tips. Let me give you some now. I have a lot of friends and really good ones (since I was 10): Having a schedule to call and meet friends is not friendship, it’s work. And it won’t work. Take it by the ear, when ever you feel like calling or visiting (because it probably makes sense then), keep it balanced (like every thing in life) and it will work out. Throw away your books about friendship – again it isn’t work – your friends (real ones) will guide you through by telling you (some times it’s by signals) what they like and don’t.

  4. Becon says:

    “Then I call back in ten minutes. But the truth is, I don't really like
    having friends. I don't like that friends are as much trouble as a
    boyfriend but they don't go down on you.”

    Ya… I don’t think most men describe their friendships that way. Female friendships are much much closer to intimate relationships* than male friendships. My friendships never require that much work.

    *Even my intimate relationships would be marginally more casual if I could get away with it. Unfortunately I like dating women and most demand very high levels of attention. Women are the common denominator.

  5. Harriet May says:

    I mostly don’t get friendship either.  I spent all of high school kissing boys that my friends liked, which is not a good way to strengthen female bonds.  Then I spent all of college crying because my then-boyfriend was my only friend.  Now my now-boyfriend works 14 hour days and sometimes doesn’t take his days off, so I’m left to try and think of things to say to the people in the dog park.  I think it would be nice to have a bunch of sitcom friends, where there’s exactly six of you and you hang out every evening in one apartment, but then I remember I’m not cut out for that level of intensity.  I guess I’m just glad that I live in a city, and took up the solitary sport of running so that I won’t get fat.

  6. Ren says:

    I used to develop friendships for specific problems (i.e., I’d have a friend that would help me get through my current break-up, then stop hanging around with them when I no longer needed them for that).  Now I sort my friends into categories – like one friend is my emotional go-to gal, one is my business one, and one is my current fun to hang out with friend.  That way my needs are fullfilled, but I don’t have to spend too much time with one person talking about things that don’t interest me.  Cold, I know, but it works…

  7. Jean Gogolin says:

    Two comments.

    The first: “You will not dread
    going to work if a friend is there for you” is not always true. I once had a boss who was so sadistic that even having good friends there did not help. I brought a grievance against the boss and left. (I won the grievance, but of course the boss left with a big enough package that he has an apartment in Paris. C’est la vie.  See “Margin Call.”)

    The second. Making a rule that Melissa can not talk about you to anyone while you talk about her to thousands goes a bit beyond hypocrisy.

    Nonetheless, I like your blog because it’s always provocative.

  8. Irving Podolsky says:

    Friends… Someday I’m going to write a blog post of my own about this topic, and then the few remaining “friends” I do have, will disappear. Which is fine with me, cuz those few  “Friends,” I wouldn’t trust to help me, nor would they be at more door at three in the morning.

    Besides my wife, I don’t have a best friend; a male best friend, a brother type best friend. Always wanted one, couldn’t find one. Actually I’ve had a few for like, three months, and then some falling out would happen, which meant they weren’t real best friends to begin with, cuz what took us apart wasn’t that big a deal.

    And here’s my BIGGEST RANT!

    I hate “friends” who are always promising to get together and don’t make it happen. I hate “friends” who break promises. I hate “friends” who lie. Because real friends keep promises and don’t lie. And so the faux friends I have, get told off by me when they become insincere, and then they go away, which is why I don’t have many “weak” friends either.

    But that must be me. Other people have friends. But I don’t know what kind of friends they are. Maybe superficial friendships are all they want.

    Bottom line, I’m just not accepting BS anymore. It’s a way of making my little world more honest. And it’s got a very small population.

    Irv

    • Chloe says:

      To keep friendships I’ve had to learn to not be quite so picky in my definition of “friend”. 

      Friends do let you down. Friends do get busy with their lives and forget about you for awhile. Friends come and friends go, but I’ve found few people have ever really had it out for me. Learning to be tolerant and forgiving of others has helped me maintain some relationships that have ended up being good ones that I would have missed out on if I’d been too narrow-minded.

      • Irving Podolsky says:

        I can’t disagree with you, Chloe. Tolerance is an incredible virtue. YOU are probably a great friend!

        Irv

  9. Perry says:

    Okay, no fair!  You changed out the picture ’cause we could see Melissa’s “undergarments” and your belly button!

    • Anonymous says:

      I thought I really liked the picture, but then I realized that I see the photos on my blog so much, that I only want happy ones there. Looking at us feuding fifty times in a week is no fun. So I swapped out the photos.

      Melissa actually took the photo — by holding her camera up high or something. Here is is, for posterity’s sake:

      http://static.brazencareerist.com/pblog/m-p-latenight2-blogsize.jpg

      Penelope

      • Perry says:

        Thanks!  I was just yanking your chain.  The pic almost looked like, “Oh dear, we’ve got the vapors.”

      • Diana says:

        ha! lucky for me I get the post via email, which has the original picture, and I can go to the blog for the new one. oh…oops…I think I must be pretending you’re my friend… more on that in my later reply.

  10. Sebastiaan de Ridder says:

    Hi Penelope, thanks for the tip about Michelle Garcia’s rulebook for making friends. I want to ask you: Which book about social rules has helped and influenced you the most?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s Michelle Winner. And I have read a bunch of her books. Sometimes I think I should be her advertising firm or something, because I love her books so much. But if I were her ad agency it would put so much pressure on me to have the great skills I read about in the books. And I’m not sure I’m there…

      To be honest, everyone in my family read them – my sons and me and then the Farmer heard us reading them outloud and then he read them, too. They are so helpful not just to the person trying to learn the rules but to people trying to teach the rules.

      Penelope

      • L (another lisa) says:

        Don’t forget the Garcia.  Michelle Garcia Winner.  I have never heard her name used in conversation without the Garcia.  Garcia is always included.  Her books are excellent.

  11. Sadya says:

    I think sitcoms such as FRIENDS etc. have some how set the expectations that friends come on hordes and stick together no matter what life choices they make. Its also set us to expect that unless we are not feeling like the ‘friends’ they show on TV, we do not have fulfilling friendships. There’s a really good videopost/video reply on this topic by J.Maureen, she’s this hip blogger who runs Generationmeh.com who I got to know of from brazen careerist. Cant find the link though.

  12. pfj says:

    Loneliness begets more loneliness:
    http://www.livescience.com/5930-loneliness-spreads-virus.html
    – – – – – –
    Loneliness and gender differences regarding “internalizing” vs. “externalizing:
    http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/abn-ofp-eaton.pdf
    – – – – – –

    People are becoming more isolated:
    “Meta-Analysis of Interventions to Reduce Loneliness”
    http://psr.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/08/16/1088868310377394.abstract

    And is there any place more isolated than a farm, as winter approaches and then all through the winter?

    • Anonymous says:

      Love the links. Thanks.  It’s weird about the farm in the winter. We are snowed in a lot. So if the marriage is good, then being snowed in is cozy. And if the marriage is bad, being snowed in is hell.

      There was a part of that New York magazine article that talked about marriage. That bad marriages create serious loneliness.

      Penelope

      • TR says:

        My wife and I used to live in a small town about two hours north of Madison and we had a lot of fun being snowed in.  Most of my best memories of us come from that time.  Of course we didn’t have kids at that point so we could stay up till 2am without worrying about getting woken up at 6am by a hungry child.  Of course it was just as bad if we were fighting….

  13. Beckyandrus53 says:

    I agree that loneliness is something that everyone experiences from time to time. I think much can be learned from loneliness. But I do not think it is a medical condition. I think it is something that one works through or moves through. The “Medical” Industry and “Big Pharma” would and does like just about “everything” to be classified as a “medical condition.” Because this then gives them a license to sell you a drug for your “medical” conditon, instead of learning to move through it on your own.
    If you think about it. What makes a condition a “medical” condition? Well the answer is: Anything they have a drug for. ‘Madison Avenue’ has actually stated, ‘Give us a drug and we will create a medical condition that can be treated with it!’
    Your suggestions are Fantastic here and actually prove my point that loneliness is not so much a medical condition as a condition we can all work our way through!

  14. Beckyandrus53 says:

    I agree that loneliness is something that everyone experiences from time to time. I think much can be learned from loneliness. But I do not think it is a medical condition. I think it is something that one works through or moves through. The “Medical” Industry and “Big Pharma” would and does like just about “everything” to be classified as a “medical condition.” Because this then gives them a license to sell you a drug for your “medical” conditon, instead of learning to move through it on your own.
    If you think about it. What makes a condition a “medical” condition? Well the answer is: Anything they have a drug for. ‘Madison Avenue’ has actually stated, ‘Give us a drug and we will create a medical condition that can be treated with it!’
    Your suggestions are Fantastic here and actually prove my point that loneliness is not so much a medical condition as a condition we can all work our way through!

    • GUEST says:

      Believe me, “Big Pharma” does not need everything to be a medical condition.  We have our hands full trying to find drugs to treat Alzheimers, Cancer, AIDS and other real medical conditions.

    • Jim C. says:

      It’s not just Big Pharma and the medical industry that try to turn every problem into a medical disorder.  I suspect a lot of it comes from the education lobby and the tort lawyers.
      Example: ADD and HADD.  Teachers don’t like to deal with boys (it’s almost always boys) who won’t sit still and/or can’t concentrate.  Education administrators LOVE to have more kids in Special Education programs, because it gives them bigger budgets and a chance to hire more SpecEd teachers.  And tort lawyers have a chance to file discrimination suits.  (This student vandalized the campus?  The college can’t expel him, because he’s been on Ritalin since he was eight!  I know — I’ve seen it where I was teaching.)
      New “disorders” are a gold mine for all these groups, including but not limited to the Pharmaceutical companies and the doctors.

      • Beckyandrus53 says:

        Right. You know when I was growing up I never heard of Special Education. Now just about every teacher you talk to teaches Special Education. Something went wayyyyy wrong somewhere over the years. And I suspect it is due to the improper diets for kids, drugs and vaccinations that are pushed on kids. That is why I recommended the video to Penelope above. At the turn of the 20th Century they knew the cure for all disease: Having a balanced pH. Having a correct pH means you cannot get sick. Drugs are never a cure for anything. Drugs always do damage to the liver. Why not build up the immune system by having the perfect pH? Its not easy in todays world but i is the way to go. Here’s that video again: You do need to subscribe to Dr Mercola’s Natural Health Website to see the film. [Its free to watch till Nov 5]L http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/30/the-greater-good.aspx?e_cid=20111030_SNL_Art_1  

  15. J.D. says:

    There have been times when I had no friends. Well, I did have friends, but I made no effort and neither did they. It IS work to have friends. So I like to keep my friendships to a minimum. I have one very close friend (my girlfriend), a couple of people I text or message on a regular basis (but see only every so often) and everyone else I communicate occasionally on Facebook. It’s just easier to not have to worry about scheduling your time.

  16. TwisterB says:

    Is it bad that I fantasize about a marriage where I have the apartment across the hall from my husband?

  17. Guest says:

    Hi Penelope, thanks for the tip about Michelle Garcia’s rulebook for making friends. I want to ask you: Which book about social rules has helped or influenced you the most? (I’m sorry I had to post this question again, I did not log in)

  18. Terri says:

    I think there is a difference between having a friend at work and having a friend that works for you. The latter becomes more complicated and often engenders that Madonna-entourage as friend thing. I just think you have to be careful when you’re signing the paycheck for your friend.

  19. Ellen says:

    Reading Penelope Trunk posts is almost a guilty pleasure. I have no tolerance for really mean people in *real* life. So I’m transfixed by looking at who/what I want to avoid. Abusive words are more painful than wounds. My experience says that you never have to put up with them to be successful. When you encounter them in life or at work, it’s easy to walk away. Still, Penelope Trunk is a fascinating force.

  20. Ellen says:

    Reading Penelope Trunk posts is almost a guilty pleasure. I have no tolerance for really mean people in *real* life. So I’m transfixed by looking at who/what I want to avoid. Abusive words are more painful than wounds. My experience says that you never have to put up with them to be successful. When you encounter them in life or at work, it’s easy to walk away. Still, Penelope Trunk is a fascinating force.

  21. Deena McClusky says:

    Much of what you say and do drives me absolutely nuts, and yet I keep coming  back for more because you say things like this:  “I don't like that friends are as much trouble as a
    boyfriend but they don't go down on you.” It’s odd that your lack of a filter is both annoying and endearing.

    • Metube777 says:

      I’m not sure Penelope doesn’t have a filter inasmuch as she enjoys saying inappropriate things as it begets her attention and makes her appear ‘different’…i.e. attention, again.  Plus, shock-value is interesting and holds our attention.  Personally, I love that you love attention Penelope for if you didn’t you wouldn’t write such interesting, thought-provoking, shocking things, instead you would fade into the oblivion of ‘normal’ – or appearing to be as it seems many people try to mimic.

    • Metube777 says:

      I’m not sure Penelope doesn’t have a filter inasmuch as she enjoys saying inappropriate things as it begets her attention and makes her appear ‘different’…i.e. attention, again.  Plus, shock-value is interesting and holds our attention.  Personally, I love that you love attention Penelope for if you didn’t you wouldn’t write such interesting, thought-provoking, shocking things, instead you would fade into the oblivion of ‘normal’ – or appearing to be as it seems many people try to mimic.

  22. brenhna says:

    Penelope,  This kind of post is what makes you great.  I’m not gonna say you aren’t cray-cray, but I mean really, who else just comes out and says how hard it is to have friendships?  And how many of us wish that we could just add ourselves into the sitcom Friends and never have to be lonely again?   Do you consider the Farmer to be your ‘best’ friend?

  23. Amy Ebert Haggerty says:

    I so loved this post. I have recently been talking to my therapist about how I do not have many friends. I feel I end up putting much more into the relationship than I get out. So, I stopped putting all that effort into them and guess what? I hardly ever see them any more. 

    I just do not have the time to maintain a friendship right now. I see others posting photos on Facebook and they are all having a good time and I think to myself that it would have been nice if someone asked me to go out. Then I think, they have a newborn? How do they have the time to meet all their friends for drinks and dinner?

    The older I get the more confused I get about friendship. I guess I just do not have what it takes to have a long lasting fulfilling friendship.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey Amy.  Here are some thoughts for your consideration.

      You don’t need to give away parts of yourself in order to get friendship.  You just have to want to share something you care about with someone who cares about the same things.  Friendship is about connecting over similar challenges and successes – you don’t have to “be there” for someone else all the time in order to have a friend.

      It sounds like you’re doing some reevaluation and that some of your old friendships didn’t serve you well.  Have your own priorities changes?  If so, can you seek out new people with similar interests?

      Also, here’s just a little experiment for your: pause your facebook account.  Take one week and pull yourself off the screen.  Replace that time with something you’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try. Tell one person who you trust what you’re doing. Hell, you can tell me if you’d like, i’ll listen.

  24. StephenC says:

    Nice to see you back to yourself.

  25. Brittany says:

    Have you seen the movie Mary and Max?  It is about frienship and one of the characters has Asperberger’s.  Great film.  http://www.maryandmax.com/ 

    • ama says:

      I just saw that recently–so moving, and a great movie about loneliness too! The way they use the Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly to score the last scene is just heart-wrenching.

  26. Marian Schembari says:

    I feel like you wrote this while living in my brain. I have a job I love simply because the people here are incredible. They’re kind and fun to be around and friendly. I live in a city I don’t particularly like and I’m as far from my family as humanely possible (I live in New Zealand). That makes me hugely lonely and homesick, but I’m trying incredibly hard to live with fun people and go to events near my house and it’s generally working. It’s an effort, but one that’s well worth it in the end.

  27. Roberta says:

    That is why I live in a city. When I feel lonely, I just walk out my front door. I don’t have to talk to anyone or anything. Just walk around, see people, go home and voila, loneliness gone.

  28. Mark Wiehenstroer says:

    There’s more than one definition of friend in the dictionary. So I think the one you’re referring to here is – A person you know well and regard with affection and trust. Those are the ones to hold onto because really they’re few and far between. You don’t have to call on them on any set schedule. They’re there for you whenever and for whatever, come hell or high water.

  29. Mark Wiehenstroer says:

    There’s more than one definition of friend in the dictionary. So I think the one you’re referring to here is – A person you know well and regard with affection and trust. Those are the ones to hold onto because really they’re few and far between. You don’t have to call on them on any set schedule. They’re there for you whenever and for whatever, come hell or high water.

  30. Rachel says:

    I really loved this “blog post”, but I have to say it was a major distraction to my work day. 

    I’m working on a theory in my head.  It’s a theory I’ve been ruminating over the past several weeks, and I know it’s not all there, but I wanted to share the beginning of it now.

    My theory is that the closest of people actually don’t need boundaries.  Boundaries are so constrictive and why make rules when there’s already too many anyways?  But I’m trying to figure out what you need instead of boundaries, because you can’t take something away without putting something in its place.  So my belief is that the qualities of closeness – understanding each other, loving each other, respecting each other (and so much more), those are the things that help move and guide us in our actions towards our friends.   Well, even though this idea is incomplete at best, I think I have to go.  Or I will be fighting with my closest friend over who’s making dinner.

    • Jean Gogolin says:

      Rachel, why do you think it’s a given that “you can’t take something away without putting something in its place”?  Why can’t we take something away that’s IN the way? 

      • brenhna says:

        Jean, Don’t you find this to be true?  Even with a habit you cannot just take it away without replacing with something that satisfies that void.

  31. Chris K says:

    Friendship is evolutionary, I think.  The shape of a particular friendship changes as much as we change individually.  You bond–then you create distance–in cycles. You put your family first and you expect your friends to understand and not insist upon being your top priority.
    You move away and cannot do lunch. Your friendship gets “generic” on facebook or other social media ways of communicating. You have your friendship style which changes over time with new circumstances. No blame, is there?

    Loneliness, to me, is feeling that no one identifies with you. No one shares your values, or your interpretation of life (worldview?). No one is listening. No one believes in you nor encourages you.

     Everything else is a temporary inconvenience.

  32. Diana says:

    1. I do not get friendships either, just like I don’t get dating. I was lucky to find a guy who didnt like the head games either and we got married.
    2. I dont have any friends. Not one. I used to have my husband as a friend but after a couple of decades that is starting to drop to the curb, too.
    3. when facebook came along, i was happy to finally at least feel like i had a few friends. While other people are posting pictures of themslves with their friends, I’m posting pictures of plants. sometimes animals.
    4. i lke that their are books on this, and I’m surprised I havent thought of checking for them already. I’ll be surfing amazon tonite.
    5. I dont doubt all of the studies that say loneliness is bad for your health. But you know what? We were born alone, we’re going to die alone. That said, I hold out hope for the in-between.

  33. Beckyandrus53 says:

    Hi Penelope, The following video might be very eye opening or you might already know about it. You can view this movie for free until Nov 5. You have to subscribe to Dr Mercola’s Website to view movie: Worse than Bad Advice – This Can Lead to Seizures, Paralysis, Blindness, andDeath    
    Revealed – the fear, hype, and politics that have polarized this debate, and the sad stories of youth whose lives are cut short, or changed forever from doing the norm. See this documentary for free today – so your circle of loved ones might be spared from the worst…

  34. redrock says:

    this is the saddest most depressing comment section I have ever read. I am not a big socializer, but friends are good for the soul. Some are friends for a few minutes, a chance encounter of sharing, some are friends for a few years. Friends don’t use each other but they can rely on each other. They are not there to do your bidding or accept your every whim, or take verbal abuse or have to share all your views. They touch part of your inner being, and sometimes this changes and stops and sometimes you find friends in unexpected places. Friends are the social fabric, the glue that keeps us together as society. 

  35. Beckyandrus53 says:

     The greatest friends you will ever make are the ones you make on the way to attaining really huge and great goals in your life. Find a really huge goal. Join an organization that pushes and challenges you to be the very best you can be. That pushes you to serve others: Huge goals put you around the Very Best People on the Planet! Friends are a bi-product of pursuing the best goals in life.

    • ama says:

      I’ve always wondered why I’m so close to people I went to college with and have done summer art training programs with, but forget my co-workers almost instantly after leaving a job; your theory is really helpful in explaining that.

    • Chloe says:

      I like this idea.

  36. Bill says:

    What a wonderful suprise!

  37. Jennifer Hearst says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/opinion/mona-simpsons-eulogy-for-steve-jobs.html?pagewanted=all

    Would anyone ever say any of that about Penelope Trunk? Probably not.

  38. Oli Tilleard says:

    I’ve long been saying that I don’t think American society is geared toward strong families or friendships.  We are a country of rugged individualism and all of our interactions have become fabricated and transactional. Social interaction doesn’t happen organically anymore. (e.g. I’ll pencil you in at this time, a week in advance, to meet at this place, and you’ll have to drive 15 miles down the long stretch of Middle American high way that separates you and me).

    I long for a social culture in which interaction happens without having to schedule it in.  I want to move to a small village in Italy or Latin America where children still play outside and there is still a town square around which to gather.

  39. Beth says:

    Penelope – STOP saying the r-word. STOP. 
    It is offensive and should not be used.  You are using it in a derogatory manner, not like how you tried to defend its use in the post describing the Farmers emotional incompetence. 

    • Muenchow1 says:

      Beth,
          I encountered the Italian version of the “r” word at the age of three while learning new sheet music . It means to play progressively slower. It is a completely accurate description of my innate disability to keep up with my peers socially.
          My AQ is 31, one short of Autism Spectrum Disorder and far from the norm of 16. I have been borderline “progressively slower” my whole life, and have to spend extra time alone doing homework to keep up to speed with my regular friends.
      It isn’t useful to demand a fat guy be called “big boned” or an ugly guy be considered “appearance challenged” It’s a prohibition that makes it hard to communicate efficiently, and discourages linguistic innovation and evolution.

    • Muenchow1 says:

      Beth,
          I encountered the Italian version of the “r” word at the age of three while learning new sheet music . It means to play progressively slower. It is a completely accurate description of my innate disability to keep up with my peers socially.
          My AQ is 31, one short of Autism Spectrum Disorder and far from the norm of 16. I have been borderline “progressively slower” my whole life, and have to spend extra time alone doing homework to keep up to speed with my regular friends.
      It isn’t useful to demand a fat guy be called “big boned” or an ugly guy be considered “appearance challenged” It’s a prohibition that makes it hard to communicate efficiently, and discourages linguistic innovation and evolution.

  40. Gib Wallis says:

    Penelope, both versions of the photo make me think that you and Melissa look like sisters. Or that you have turned her into your Mini Me. Both seem cute.

    I’m an ENFP, so I have a different view about rules. I don’t think having a hard and fast rule that you announce to someone is really so great, unless you want to get into meta-fights regularly about who’s making more rules or even whether the other person can make rules and all that (which you seem to already be at).

    For myself, I try to be aware of the stuff that makes me pull back or stop enjoying a friendship as well as the stuff that makes me feel closer to someone and enjoy the time better. Then, the tough part for me is articulating that to the other person. I suspect for you it would be the other way around.

    Whenever I hear someone talking about how much they fight with a friend — or whenever I notice someone mostly complains about a friend — I start thinking maybe they shouldn’t be friends or they should make it a project to get along with people better and learn to be fast to forgive and slow to take umbrage.

    Fighting with a friend can feel very isolating. I think it’s worse than fighting with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe because they don’t go down on you? So there’s no make up sex if you fight with your friends.

  41. Chloe says:

    After watching my mother die alone and friendless (Well, she wasn’t alone since I was there), I realized just how important friendship is.

    Raised as a military brat long before FB or social media, I was used to making close friends for a school year or two and then moving away and never, ever seeing them again. This pattern followed me into adult life.

    Thank God for the internet. I now have friends that I’ve known for years. The downside is that part of the upside of moving around a lot is that I could change every few years. Most people don’t really understand how that isn’t crazy.

    Friendship is work for me, but it is so important that it is worth the time and the trouble.

  42. Bradley Gutting says:

    The first mistake anyone can make is allowing any external forces, be it society in general, or specific individuals, to determine what s/he should find important. What matters most to you, it so happens, is entirely up to you. It’s a conscious choice that requires considerable effort and it’s likely different for everyone, assuming they bother to do the work. 

    With the wild spread of social media, I think people have created this exaggerated notion that you not only should have a lot of friends, but that you should be doing really fun things with them all the time and photographing every last moment, and posting it, to communicate to everyone else that you’re a socially desirable commodity. Etc.Well, no. I think having social contact is important; there’s much to recommend sharing things with someone, giving of yourself and allowing others to give to you. Additionally, the natural tension that exists between two people can lead to paths and discoveries and feelings you may not otherwise encounter.But that’s entirely different than arbitrarily having “lots of really great friends” or a group to call on when Saturday night rolls around. I’ve seen and been part of friendships that are totally fake, those interactions that have the veneer of a legit relationship but a flimsy core.I’m also pretty sure that if you view everyone else in the world as a tool/item/device that can fulfill various needs you might have, that you’re going to be totally hosed in the long run. Because I think that real loneliness is depending on ANYONE in any way to do anything for you. And that includes “going down on you” or listening to your troubles. If you can fill your own voids, I’d wager you’ll have much healthier, inspired relationships and interactions with others.

    • Chris K says:

      Yes, Bradley G, you have said it elegantly: that we must believe that we have everything we need already within us; and (corollary) we must learn to pull our own strings.

      In our worst times, then, we may feel lonely or even unloved. But we KNOW we are lovable and capable, and thus we suspend our loneliness, knowing we are just waiting for the cycle to come ’round again.

      • Bradley Gutting says:

        Well said, Chris. Of course, this is always a lot easier said than done. On a good day, it’s easy to sit back and claim that you realize all these things and put it all in order. The reality is, most of the time you have to work at it. With practice, I think it becomes a little more natural, but over time I think you can ingrain in yourself a more “realistic” outlook.

  43. Brooke Farmer says:

    I wish that I was friends with your call girl friend because I have a ridiculous fascination with sex workers and wonder sometimes if I would have been able to reconcile the idea of becoming one if I had not instead become a mother. 

    Sometimes friendships feel a lot like work. Those are the times I lock my front door and turn off my phone for a week or so and hide out. 

  44. Brooke Farmer says:

    I wish that I was friends with your call girl friend because I have a ridiculous fascination with sex workers and wonder sometimes if I would have been able to reconcile the idea of becoming one if I had not instead become a mother. 

    Sometimes friendships feel a lot like work. Those are the times I lock my front door and turn off my phone for a week or so and hide out. 

  45. perry says:

    Something I’ve noticed over many years of adulthood is that competitive & narcissistic people don’t seem to have quality friendships. The more you are “trying” to have/be a friend, the less likely you’ll be successful. Happiness in life is being your genuine self; let it all hang out. 

  46. Wag More says:

    adrienne, you look so pretty and realaxed. great picture. sam here, from jim’s class. i’m a dog walker now. and i live with my mom. and a 14 week old puppy named bodhi lolo. i am wag more on fb with puppy pic profile pic. miss you often. love. 

  47. Wag More says:

    adrienne, it’s sam, from jim’s class. and gene’s store. i think of you often. you look beautiful and happy. long, strange trip it’s been. i’m a dog walker now and live with my mom. i don’t think penelope trunk would approve. i hope you do. farm looks gorgeous too. i am on fb as wag more…love, samantha scully

  48. Phonecharger7 says:

    myopic lens and reading glasses except) easy identification method for, can be in sight sunglasses, through the lens Terminal Cablesobservation distant targets, such as window frame or frame, etc, and then move up and down the glasses before and after,Coiled Cable lens targets within view should not oscillation and wavy deformation.

  49. Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot says:

    Hi P,

    If friends are trouble then they’re not really friends. Just a pain in the bum.

    But we all have some friends who are a pain in the bum and we put up with them anyway because of shared history or certain problems they have. Or maybe there are other benefits to being friends with them apart from the one you mention!

    Does it help stave off loneliness to know that loneliness is normal? I think so.

    But what about the effects when your friends are people you’ve never actually met, just other bloggers, commenters and tweeters whose stories resonate with you?

    Does that reduce loneliness or amplify it?

  50. Jerome Imhoff says:

    Great blog…I enjoy your writing

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