I have absolutely zero social life in this city right now. I am not really lamenting this. It eliminates a lot of stress from my life, to be honest.
My husband and I first moved to this city in 2013. After a time of unemployment for both of us and getting to a point of utter desperation, we both managed to get something lined up here, and things seemed to fall into place for us to come here in other ways, even though it was never somewhere we had previously aspired to live and we didn’t know anyone here. Feeling like we had no other option at the time, this is where we ended up.
My job here ended up not going well (surprise surprise). On several occasions I had to e-mail the woman who had previously held my position (she had been fired abruptly and had not had the opportunity to tie up loose ends, leaving a lot for me to have to figure out) and when, after six months, she found out I too had been fired (in a nutshell, for back-answering my boss during my six-month performance review), she, probably feeling an affinity with me since we’d both been fired by the same man from the same position, invited me to go out for coffee with her and another woman I knew from work.
The coffee outing (I don’t actually drink coffee, but that’s what it’s called regardless, isn’t it? Going out for coffee?) turned out to be a surprisingly validating social experience for me. It’s not often I can say that. Both of these women are writers, one in her spare time outside of work and the other having moved on to a staff position at a magazine after getting fired from her office job, so we talked about writing and various ideas we had. Sometimes when I talk about these things, people’s eyes glaze over, but these women were interested and engaged. And I was interested and engaged in their ideas too. How rare! And when they asked how my job search was coming along, I told them about an awkward interview I’d had and then I confessed that I actually wanted to be at home. That was my real heart’s desire: To stay home and read books and maybe write or take online courses or pursue other personal projects. But I confessed I was worried about money.
They completely validated my desire to stay home! Most people do not. Most people treat me like it’s disgraceful to want to stay home. Being Christians, these women even told me that if I wanted to stay at home, I should do that and let God worry about the finances. No one had ever told me that before. I suppose it’s always nice when people tell us what we want to hear, isn’t it? For what it’s worth, they turned out to be right. While money is tight, it is no tighter now than when I was working, because I wasn’t earning very much and I tend to spend a lot more when I’m working, on transportation, office clothes, convenience foods because I end up too exhausted to cook, useless impulse purchases because I get too exhausted and overstimulated to practice my usual restraint, and medications, because the exhaustion and stress of being in the workforce, as well my poorer diet at those times, causes all my health issues to flare up. But I digress.
The social engagement didn’t go off completely without a hitch though. At one point they started talking and laughing about something that happened on a TV show I hadn’t seen. Understanding that it was a funny anecdote, I laughed along, only for one of them to turn to me and ask, “Have you seen it?” I then had to confess that I hadn’t. Busted! What a tool, huh? I was mortified, and still think about it sometimes, even though it was relatively minor.
Anyway, they invited me out for coffee with them again, but that time I was ill with nausea and… ahem… bathroom issues (not out of the ordinary for me, but some days are worse than others) so I declined. I legitimately was ill, but perhaps they thought I was making an excuse, and after that it was like the ball was in my court, and even though I had enjoyed being with them, I just never got in touch again.
The thing really holding me back was the fact that I don’t have a car. When they invited me out, it was their idea and one of them offered to come pick me up. But I didn’t know how to initiate an outing and then say, oh, but you’ll have to pick me up, okay? It just seemed to create this imbalance, and I didn’t want to come across like a user or a taker or whatever you call it. (I was accused of that once before, over twenty years ago, and I never want to be again, so it’s something I am very conscious of.) And it’s not like I could afford to treat them to make up for it.
I just didn’t know how to initiate under these circumstances, so I didn’t.
Then there was this guy I met on Twitter. He’s a little younger than us and is a local pastor of a small church, and we had great conversations online. He invited my husband and I out for coffee a couple of times, and then it progressed to having dinner at his home with his family. We got along fairly well, but then he pushed for us to attend his church and we declined, explaining that we don’t have a car and bus service is so drastically reduced on Sundays that we can’t feasibly get there and back. He said, “I’m sure I can arrange for someone to give you a ride every week.” But we explained that we weren’t comfortable with that, partly because there might be some weeks we wouldn’t want to go (especially with my health issues), and we would feel awkward cancelling and making excuses in those cases. And we explained this is not a temporary situation. Unless our situation dramatically changes we do not envision getting a car, so we would be an ongoing drain on whoever volunteered. (At our previous church, someone had even generously offered to lend us a car until we bought one, but we didn’t intend to buy one, so we thought we would have come across as taking advantage of them. Not to mention the fact that we would still have had to pay for insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, and parking, which is not something we can commit to in our current situation.)
So anyway, we never heard from him again, and it became apparent that he didn’t really want to be friends with us, he was just trying to recruit us to his church. It is always so disappointing when you think someone likes you, but it turns out they have an ulterior motive.
So all that was in 2014, and I have not had any real social life in this city since. Both sets of parents have come to visit us here, and one of my long-time friends is coming here from another city to visit us next month, which I’m really looking forward to, but generally my life is void of in-person social contact, other than clerks in stores and whatnot, but that doesn’t really count.
For the most part, I don’t mind. When it does bother me, it’s more the idea of it that bothers me than the actual day-to-day experience of it. Like, “Yikes, we don’t have any friends; we’re all alone here. What if something happened? There’s no one we could call.” But I also kind of love the fact that I don’t have anyone trying to get me to go places when I don’t want to and making demands on my time, which I never feel like I have enough of, even though I’m not working now. I love that I never find myself in awkward social situations, where I’ve made a fool out of myself and ruminate on it endlessly afterward. I love that I don’t find myself in positions where I have to explain myself and my various quirks and the health issues that affect my life. Life is so peaceful now, and I need that.
This is one of those things that makes the person who shall remain nameless think there’s something seriously wrong with me. Who doesn’t even want friends? Once when this person was visiting, I got a phone call from one of my long-time friends in another city, and afterward the person who shall remain nameless said, “Oh, I’m so relieved you got a phone call from a friend. I do worry about you not having friends!” I just stared at the person, kind of shocked, not understanding why anyone would be thinking such things about me. If I’m not unhappy, what’s the problem?
My husband also hasn’t made any real friends here. There are people he’s friendly with at work, but no one he sees outside of work. Somehow that’s okay though. The pressure always seems to be on me, not on him, as if it’s the woman’s responsibility to make a social life for both members of a couple or something. I don’t understand that. But I don’t understand a lot of things about how people think.