I read this article by Doree Shafrir the other day about her failed attempts to start and join book clubs and her eventual acceptance of the fact that, as the title says, “Not Everyone is Meant to Have a Book Club.” Along the way, Shafrir describes some emotional states that spoke to me, albeit about things other than book clubs:
I know other women in Los Angeles who are in book clubs. Many of them have been in these book clubs for years, and they mention them casually to me, in a way that makes me embarrassed at how much I want them to ask me to join. Because of course I could never ask to be invited to join a book club; it’s like asking someone point-blank if you can be friends. And who does that? Sad, desperate, lonely people. Right? I have friends in LA, I remind myself, I have friends whom I love and am close with, but I’ve never really been a joiner or had a long-standing group of friends I did everything with, and when I have, it’s been circumstantial: a few women who all just broke up with their boyfriends, say. Groups of friends can be overwhelming; I prefer hanging out with people one on one, or at most, there can be three of us. So I guess my longing for a book club is just part of that most human of paradoxes: not really wanting to be a member of the club, but wanting to be asked. (emphasis mine)
Maybe, after all this time, I've finally grown to view my "failure" at not being in a book club as something that I'm not necessarily proud of, but I'm not ashamed of either.
This human paradox and feelings of not-pride-but-not-shame remind me of something that I struggle with -- the fact that I’m pretty introverted and private and therefore don’t have a massive group of very close (or, as Anne Shirley would say, “bosom”) friends that I hang out with/keep up with all the time.
The closest I ever came to this was in college, when hanging out and having deep discussions took almost zero effort. But if I don’t live in the same place as my friends (and by place I mean building), it takes a lot of energy and working through social anxiety for me to reach out to others.
This isn’t to say that I don’t know and love a lot of people; I do, and I usually find I can pick up right where I left off whenever I do occasionally catch up with an old friend. But I feel guilty because of the “occasionally” part of it. If I were a really good friend, I think, wouldn’t I be sharing my life with them all the time? Or, even more sinisterly, if people really love me, shouldn’t they want to be sharing with me all the time?
I've found that I like the idea of being the kind of person who has a ton of really close friends, who’s part of regular group texts with people besides her sisters, who goes shopping in groups, but I don’t actually want to have a ton of really close friends. This is not only because the work of keeping up with them on a regular basis is exhausting for me. I’m also just not the kind of person who needs to share everything with everyone, and I honestly like doing a lot of things by myself.
But mostly, I think I want to be that kind of person because it means lots of people would be seeking out my company on a regular basis, and therefore I would seemingly have more value. It would make me feel better about myself. My presence would be constantly “invited.” But that’s a selfish perspective and the furthest thing from what real friendship is.
So while I’ll try to stay in better touch with old friends and make sure I’m in healthy relationships with people around me now, I’m not going to try to change myself into the extrovert I’m not. I’ll have my few regular bosom friends and know that that’s enough.