Thursday, 14 January 2016


An indulgent lunch led to a reflective evening.
Good food, no alcoholic beverage for me, but camaraderie. Two rich courses overshadowed by non-stop chatter and laughter. The past relived, the recent present caught up on. The latest disasters averted, the budding romances, the failed marriages, the trials of family life, the job woes, and the new resolutions. A social circle that's survived and shared many experiences, except age; all of us at a different stage in our lives. Young, middling, wise.
Those appearing young are in reality old; the middling neither youthful or mature, and somewhere in-between being quiet and forthright; whereas those assumed wise are young at heart, the flirtatious go-getters of the group. Not forgetting the couple that flit across all three categories like migratory birds: diving here and there, swooping in the air, whilst always being impeccably groomed. Quite simply, they put the rest of us to shame due to their coiffured hair, colour coordinated outfits and matching accessories.
It's fair to say that grouped together we resemble a smorgasbord: none of us are exactly alike, and yet we expect each of us to stay the same. To be the same each time we meet. No change. Events may have moved on, but personality and outlook should remain unaffected. Marie will moan and seek reassurance; Hannah will listen and interject when appropriate in soft, comforting tones; Tricia will try to be the centre of attention; Jan will be business-like; Catherine will attempt to jolly everyone along and usually succeed; Kelly will apologise for any slight she feels she may have caused in the run-up to these proceedings; and Natasha will look anxious but will nonetheless provide a sense of calm.
That being the case, how could our catch-ups possibly be merry? But they are. Only a bunch of women know how to meet each member's emotional needs and still manage to joke.
But where am I in this assortment of women folk?
I sit back and watch, taking part when I'm required to. Soaking up the setting like a sponge, absorb what's done, what's said, make mental notes, or try to engineer a one-to-one. That's the role I always play. I don't think they realise these days that my attendance is a huge effort. An undertaking I continue because I value their individual friendship, and yet there are times when I feel the bond is tired. Frayed, like a cord that's been strained in the same spot and which soon might snap from the repeated tension.
There have been more occasions than I could count recently where I've felt we're not on the same page or even in the same book. Not that I would admit to that fact in a telephone chat, by email, or to their faces. I have never sought confrontation and I do not wish to seek it now, although I know in suppressing it my tone at times may seem a little odd. Brusque or vague, and I'm sure regardless of what I do or don't say my body language gives me away. Just little signs that all is not well. As well as it used to be. That something about me is different.
And I do feel different; I'm surprised that nobody else does, unless like me they're hiding that reality under the layer of personality we've each come prepared to exhibit and to expect. I just find I don't want to be included as much and I don't want to engage with their concerns or share my own. I've always been a bit reserved, a bit private like that, sat on the outside and looked in, but now I want to be left alone and not needled. The group dynamic dies if a member feels obliged to attend the proposed outing, lunch, or girls' holiday, or has to come up with a not very believable feeble excuse. So why do I go? Because it's easier than laying my new self bare. Because it's hard to leave the old me behind.

All characters and events in the above are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.