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I have this astrology book, “The Secret Language of Birthdays.” It goes a step further beyond astrology and proposes that there are unique personality traits associated with each day of the year. Among the things I’ve learned: I share a birthday with one Mr. Ennio Morricone, and our birthday, November 10, is "The Day of Metamorphosis." Interesting points in the book: Those of us born on this day are excellent at transforming humble materials into finished products (I think that means cookies!), but that we can be socially inhibited and self-preoccupied.
Very intuitive, New Agey astrology book. You see, I’m terrible at making friends. As much as I talk about wanting to get away from the world, I actually like being around people. But I have no idea how to talk to strangers. When confronted with a new social situation, it’s like my brain-to-mouth expressway shuts the hell down. So, often what happens is I meet someone new, and they think I’m really quiet and nice, only to find out later that I’m actually kind of a loudmouth.
I mean, I will never be the one who hires a stripper for your bachelorette party and then enthusiastically woo-hoos her way through the evening with a diminishing stack of small bills. As much as I want to be that friend sometimes, I am not. I'm naturally kind of a loner. But I’m definitely the friend who Has Opinions and will gleefully provide Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary during an at-home double feature of “Xanadu” and “Zardoz.”
I’m also kind of a bad friend. I’m TERRIBLE at communication. I don’t like talking on the phone, so I rely on email and texting to keep in touch most of the time. Except half the time, I don’t return e-mails, because I read them, intend to respond later, and then straight-up forget. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that my brain is working on like 10 things at once.
It’s a wonder that anyone remains friends with me at all. Under my day in “The Secret Language of Birthdays,” it says that my “idiosyncratic habits can rub some people the wrong way. Friends, family or lovers will have to be extremely faithful and trusting in order to stand by them year after year.” So that pretty much sums it up, right there -- I’m a freak, you guys. A weird, mostly unloveable freak who will bust out a really dry joke when you least expect it. Fortunately, I have some very loyal friends.
My closest friends, the ones who have stuck by me throughout the years, live at least one state away, so I don’t get to see them very often. We can’t just like, go hang out or have dinner. My ex was very social and had a huge circle of friends that we hung out with all the time, pre-kid, but after we had Oliver, I had no social interaction. With no close friends in the Los Angeles area, there was no one I could call up and ask out for coffee. No one I could talk with about my failing marriage, when it finally came to that. It was lonely.
I always sort of wished I had a group to hang out with, like on “Friends,” even though I know that’s totally unrealistic, because who has an apartment like that in New York. These last few years, I’ve cultivated a nice group of friends with whom I have regular social interaction. We hang out, see movies together. It’s all terribly exciting! I met them through Jeff, of course, because remember I am terrible at meeting people. But the important part is, I consider them to be true friends -- like, if Jeff and I broke up tomorrow, I would still maintain friendships with most of them.
And this has improved the quality of my life immensely. I always worried that I would end up like my mom, who never really had group of friends when I was growing up. It seemed like a lonely way to be, going to work, coming home, and only interacting with her significant other. And after my son was born, I found out that it is, in fact, very lonely to live this way.
It turns out that our trusty friend, Science, agrees. According to the Huffington Post:
"A new study of 6,500 Britons found that at age 50, having regular interactions with a wide circle of friends has a significant impact on psychological well-being, and is especially important to the happiness of women."
I won’t be 50 years old for a while, but I’m going to go ahead and add my own theory to this: Having regular interactions with your friends is good for you, no matter what your age. Because during the first four years of my son’s life, I felt like a lonely little boat in a big, friendless sea. I imagine I would have been much happier if I’d had any sort of a social life during that time.
The challenge for me now, is maintaining the friendships I DO have (note to self: maybe try picking up the phone more often, you self-preoccupied weirdo), while learning to break out of my shell and carry on a conversation with a stranger at a party, thereby ensuring that I can continue to make friends in the years to come.
So. Any advice for learning how to talk to strangers? Are you sort of a loner, like me, or are you really good at making friends? Tell me your birthday and I’ll tell you what “day” you are according to “The Secret Language of Birthdays.”
Be Twitter friends with Somer, in spite of her idiosyncratic habits, @somersherwood.