Well I have to say it’s been absolutely ages since I felt genuinely sorry for myself. That, and not wanting to use up my precious writing ideas on my blog when I have two years of a masters degree to fill up, means I’ve been a little mean about my blog posting topics. And this week, despite my best intentions, it will be no different, because yet again I managed to run headlong into the catchphrase that invades my life on a regular basis, entitled “Why can’t we make friends in Dubai?”
I have blogged on this subject extensively (so much so that I haven’t provided a link in case I’m repeating myself) and I’m sure there are those of you heartily sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of hearing about it. And I’m not particularly bothered about it any more, if truth be told. But last week, I met a friend of a friend who has only recently arrived in Dubai, and it threw the whole thing back up in my face. The woman in question has been here less than six months and in that time managed to infiltrate a whole collection of my friend’s friends, plus make a whole set of her own. She knows everyone. And their husbands. She is going to birthday parties and camping and Christmas and all manner of things that I must admit, whilst I wouldn’t expect an invite from the friend in question because our friendship hasn’t shaped itself this way, would be nice to get from somebody.
Don’t get me wrong. I have friends, plenty, particularly now that I am involved again in the Dark Arts (otherwise known as theatre). But I seem to have failed dismally on the playdate front, and therefore on the ‘family friends’ side of things too, that means we might actually get invited to camping and boat trips and waterpark outings and other such fun weekend activities.
In the early days, I admit I was fussy. And socially a little awkward. And I didn’t have children which automatically put me at a disadvantage because most other people we met did. But then we did have children. Oops, no we didn’t, we had one child. Singular. Which again puts me in a bit of a situation, because most mummies like their play dates to have a convenient older or younger sibling attached for theirs to play with. And, in all fairness, I like to keep a nice house and refuse to invite my son’s toddler friends over with a hyperactive 5 year old in tow who is going to wreck the furniture and bully the cats because they are bored. But it’s not all my fault, because I have tried to break the ice with mums on several occasions and for some reason it never seems to work. At the soft play area a few weeks back we were sitting having a snack on the table next to a couple of mums from nursery who I see every day and I said hello and introduced myself (just in case they didn’t know who I was after nearly a year of drop offs and pick ups) and you know what? They nodded and then went back to their conversation as if I ceased to exist. The children were all playing together and they just let me sit next to them like a ninny. Why would they do that? It’s two versus one, it’s socially polite for them to ask me to join them, not let me hang there like a nerd at the school disco waiting to be asked to dance.
But this is the story of my life in Dubai. WHAT DID I DO WRONG? Am I such an utter social misfit that I cannot be let loose in public? Do people think I’m a)too weird b)too caustically challenged c)too anally retentive to enjoy breakfast/brunch/beach outings/bbqs/birthday parties/other things beginning with ‘b’? I know my husband charms the pants off most people he ever meets so it can’t be him that’s the problem. Maybe (she dreams) I’m just too attractive or clever or confident for the average person to handle.
Or maybe I just prefer a more organic approach to friendship, and still, after all this time as an expat, can’t be doing with making my life a continuous round of speed-play-dating in order to ‘fit in’. Meeting my friend’s friend (FF?) last week was a little like being on a job interview. She quizzed me about everything, from what I did with my time whilst my son was at nursery (tricky: do I admit to being a gym bunny and indulging in blogging and shopping inbetween house maintenance and supermarket trips or do I try to make myself sound more meaningful?) to what schools I had picked out for him (the wrong one, apparently), to whether I would want my husband to remarry if I died. As I slurped on the second glass of sauv blanc I got the distinct feeling I hadn’t got the job – that I’d been sloppy in my responses, as little too down-to-earth for her liking, and like a teenage boy on their first date, just a bit too eager to be funny.
Thing is, I am funny. And down to earth. And a bit lazy sometimes, when I’m not working my arse off to achieve something for myself or my family. I am a little weird, and caustically challenged, and somewhat anally retentive. But I want people to like me because I’m different, and therefore a little interesting, not because I’m the same. It shouldn’t stop me from going to brunches or meeting for coffee or gathering at the soft play area and yet I don’t seem to have been able to tap into what I have officially dubbed ‘The Coven Concept’ in Dubai at all.
What the hell, I was never a girl’s girl. But in the UK, over the years, I did make friends with a lot of other girls who weren’t girl’s girls either. Sometimes even in groups. On weekends my husband and I did things with other couples and no doubt when we return we will do so again, with all of our children in tow as well. I am not completely incapable of forming friendships and we seem able to have our share of fun with our friends when we see them. But for some reason I never quite nailed it in Dubai, and now I fear it’s too late. The new people coming in are new. They do newbie things and meet other newbie people and their eyebrows shoot to the backs of their heads when you say you’ve been here six years, and they assume you already have people to go camping with and have bbqs with and spend school holidays with hanging out by the pool. To a certain extent they are right to assume we have other things going on. They are in a totally different place to us psychologically and it’s hard to not end up in a weird sort of ‘parenting/public information’ role. For anyone who is not new to Dubai our place in their lives is usually relegated to the occasional dinner rather than a group gathering. On the rare occasions we are invited somewhere we are usually the outsiders in an otherwise well-established group of friends, which isn’t easy to break into either, unless you have balls of steel like my FF of course.
So, I don’t know how she’s done it, but clearly I can’t, or won’t, or don’t need to enough to make it happen. And maybe that’s the point here. We have a nice life, we have a few people we enjoy spending time with, and we have our weekends together to enjoy just the three of us which is precious in its own way. I look forward to a day when we are surrounded by enough friends and family to pick and choose how to spend our time, but if that is not Dubai then so be it. As the great Whitney said, it’s not right, but it’s okay.