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Single Friends and Stability

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I answered an email today that made me think about friendships. I have a number of friends who are Single and probably always will be Single. And this means they have a lot of time for their friends, and their friends--particularly the Single or childless ones--have a lot of time for them.

Singles often worry about not being a priority in other people's lives--although presumably they rank somewhere in the affections of their family members--but I can tell you that my Single friends are top priority with me. (Well, top after B.A.) This is probably because I don't have children, but even if I did have children, I would certainly want adult friends to talk to after a long day or week of shrieking and baby talk.

The North American reluctance to have friends much younger or much older than oneself strikes me as foolish and shortsighted. I did not realize now normative it was for me until I spent a summer in Germany and discovered that 20 year old boys were happy to hang out with 30-something me. I was happy but troubled enough to talk it over with a fellow foreign student, a priest, and he told me that's how Europeans are. And how awesome is that?

B.A. and I recently had two Canadian Trid girls to stay, and they were astonished that our set acted as if we were all the same age. That said, we were all of us over 23. It's not like there were any children around, or teenagers who should not have been downing the Tesco plonk we guzzle by the bottle or listening to our endless thoughts on the O'Brien scandal.

What gives the multi-generational set stability are the Elders, as we over-39s have been for convenience called. We Elders have deep, deep roots in the community, and although we go on holiday, we come back to our homes.  The younger members, especially the foreign students, leave Edinburgh on holiday or permanently, but they eventually come back, if only for a visit. Foreign students who return to their old haunts (e.g. Toronto) sometimes discover that everything has changed and their old friends have dispersed and moved on, or have no time for them. This isn't likely to happen with us Elders, for we are old and stable. Our sentimental young can fly free confident in the knowledge that as long as the Elders live, we will be up for a drink and a chat.

As a thirty-something Single, I found myself with a lot of twenty-something Single friends. I put this down to the fact that I was were twenty-something Singles are, i.e. grad school, and that we had the same lifestyle: Catholic, no kids, feverishly studying, longing to party, wondering where The One was. But, of course, I expected and hoped my twenty-something friends would get married because that's what they wanted to do. My surprise when I got engaged (age 37) before some of them did! And then I ran off to the UK. How very unstable and unreliable of me. Fortunately, I had a reputation for mad pranks and surprising behaviour. My friend Lily's summation of B.A. was, "I'm so thankful. I was worried he'd be too normal."

But now I am definitely old and stable and set in my ways, and even if I did have a baby, the walls of the Historical House are super-thick, so he or she could wail away comfortably in his or her room while the rest of us guzzled Tesco plonk in the dining-room.

What I am saying here is that if you are a twenty-five year old Single, of course most of your friends are going to get married and go. And therefore you must not put all your friendship eggs in the youth basket. You should go out of your way to be friendly to interesting and interested older married couples whose children have flown the nest, or to middle-aged couples who haven't had children, or to older Singles who love being Single but are also sociable. It is especially helpful, I think, to make friends with Catholic Singles who honestly enjoy their Catholic Single way of life and live it to the hilt.

You can also set down roots yourself as you grow older, and become a sort of bird house for younger Singles to visit occasionally as they flit about in their unstable, adventurous, youthful way. I adore the younger members of my set, but I am rooted in reality and realize that they have a lot of flitting to do before they settle down, and they are very likely to settle somewhere else. This is not as painful for me (age 39++) as it might be for you, not only because I have B.A. (a very big because), but because I know I have older friends who simply aren't going anywhere. Well, the grave, I suppose, but there's no need to worry about that quite yet.