…but keep the old,
the new are silver
the old are gold”
My mum had a sampler with this on it hanging in her kitchen for years. Rather ironically she is no longer in touch with the person who made it for her – despite 20+ years of friendship they simply drifted apart as their lives moved on and their circumstances changed and they finally had nothing left in common. Which just goes to show how hard it is to hang onto your nearest and dearest BFFs in the first place. Add in a few thousand miles and it gets really tough.
I’ve already known most of my BFFs for 20 years, which is frankly terrifying, that we are all that old, or that we were all that young once upon a time – I’m not sure which. The majority of our other halves have all been hanging around for over a decade too, and are part of a huge family that shifts and grows over time, making new connections and cementing old ones. We are sprinkled around the home counties, strewn around the world – the US, South Africa, Spain, Dubai…we come and go from our global adventures, but wherever we go and whatever we do, amazingly for a group of around 30 people, we always manage to feel close. How close, and to whom, changes year on year as our situations and locations change too. And how often we log into Facebook. But I know I could pick up the phone to any one of them, any one at all – and if I was in trouble somehow they would help.
So what is it that makes these friendships last? History, humour, habit…I suspect probably a bit of all of the above. And a whole lot of love. Of course there are other, newer friends whom I love dearly too. It is possible to make new friends because of course, if you know them for long enough, they become old friends too.
So why, why, why is it so damn difficult for me to form lasting friendships in Dubai?
I blame it on me. After all, I don’t really like people. I’m quite fussy about who I spend time with and completely judgemental from the off, so I tend to knock potential friendships on the head before they’ve even had a chance if I don’t think the person quite fits the bill. And I’ve been told I can be a tad intimidating, which is never a good ice breaker… So it’s probably me. But in that case how come I managed to make and keep all these ‘old’ friends and make some new ones along the way as well?? Maybe it’s just a shortage of ‘my type’ of person in Dubai.
You see, my type of friend involves some very high expectations. Permanently in my life, if I decide to keep you, I’ll give you everything I have, every little bit of me. But I expect the same back. And although there have been others who have let me down along the way – and undoubtedly I have dropped a few myself as well – this is where Dubai in particular fails me. It’s a temporary place for most people – somewhere they come to as part of a journey, not to stay and make a life. We form stop-gap releationships. So I can be your friend, and you can be mine, but if something more important comes up, or your life takes a different direction to mine after a while, well, it seems ok here to simply stop being friends.
The thing is, it seems to be something I find incredibly hard to accept. I recently read an article in a women’s magazine which suggested that female friendships alter in importance as the need for that particular person surges or subsides – or are dropped altogether if the relationship is no longer required. I understand how that may be, and can even see parallels in my life that support the theory – but I’m not sure the usual rules apply, or even should apply, when you are living away from home. I have always thought that as expats living abroad, the bonds should not only form faster than average but be stronger too. We experience eachother in a very raw way, and we rely on our friends because there is no-one else. If we are homesick, or going through a bad patch, or having health issues, or sharing good news even – well it’s the people you see every day, who you have proper face time with, who you tend to share those things with first. Facebook status updates and long distance phone calls assume second place. And as everyone in Dubai (with the exception of about 200,000 locals) is an expat, everyone technically should be in the same boat. So is it a valid excuse to drop someone because circumstances change for one or the other of you? Why, when suddenly you aren’t as convenient or available as you once were, and meeting up or talking involves a little more effort, should the friendship die as quickly as it was born?
Maybe the simple nature of being in such a transient environment makes lasting friendships less important. I probably mind it more than I should and I should probably just cast my net wider, accept less than perfect will do, and take the view that it’s only for a few years anyway and then I can go back to my real life. But is that any easier to handle? To me, no matter how it comes about, friendship should be about loyalty, longevity and love. Friends, even silver ones, should always have the potential to be upgraded. And honestly, for a place with so much ‘bling’ I seem to be a little short on gold.