I've never been great at collecting friends. I've done better than most in that I have a best one, long term, so I'm not exactly socially disjoint. But I don't have a broad circle of acquaintances I meet on a regular basis, let alone a bunch of bezzies I spend every weekend drinking and partying with.
The 1990s were the worst, when I spent several years with possibly two friends, otherwise engrossed in work and doing stuff alone. At the end of the decade I had my one dalliance with a 'special' friend, which was an entirely alien lifestyle but I adapted fine, apart from the whole thing being a complete disaster. At least one other friend emerged from that meltdown, which was damned useful, and then in 2001 I hit London and the overall picture improved.
But interestingly not by much. I thought blogging might prove the catalyst to a better social life, and I've certainly met some great people as a result, but not many I could mark down as regular real life acquaintances. If anything Twitter's worked better on that front, not that my tweeting's especially conversational, but it's easier to see if you have anything in common with someone when they broadcast their thoughts and interests several times a day.
So I thought I'd attempt to map out the trajectory of my 21st century friendships, just to check that the overall picture's not so embarrassingly feeble as it sometimes seems. I've flicked back through diaries, which are ideal for this kind of thing, to try to determine whose presence in my life could legitimately be described as a proper friend. If we've swapped birthday presents that likely counts, or if you invited me round to yours or vice versa, ... and no, there's none of 'that', thank you.
Each row represents one anonymised person, in chronological order. You might well be able to work out if that particular person is you, and BestMate's row in the table should be pretty obvious. Family are not included. I've used red for seriously good friends with regular interaction, orange for less frequent contact, and yellow for a connection ticking over nicely on a lower heat.
Yes, I realise I'm setting myself up here to offend people, either through omission or underestimation. If you're not in the table you might be wondering why, but I have set the bar quite high, and not included mates I simply bump into somewhere once a year. And if you are in the table you might not agree with the colours I've used, but it's all relative, so I may be judging you against different criteria to what you think. It's all terribly subjective really, please remember that.
So, er, just the nine friends in fifteen years, that's a bit rubbish isn't it? There are people at work with nine friends they've been out with already this month, and it's only August 4th. Equally nine friends isn't bad, and about half of them have at some point been seriously good friends, and one has been a long-term rock in my life, so mustn't grumble.
I did best for really good friends back at the start of the decade, but then I went out more then, and there were a lot of other people bubbling under who I bumped into all the time. But I'm doing best for friends right now, because look there are seven coloured boxes in the 2015 column, so I must be doing something right. Thanks if that's you, really genuinely thanks.
So anyway, I'm hoping not to let too many of these colours fade away as the years pass by, and I am obviously still on the lookout for someone to fill row ten. Hello?
And I wonder how your friendship table might stack up.