Wednesday, 12 September 2012

How you end up friends with people you don't like

When you've got no friends and your're lonely, your standards tend to drop.  And if you've been ostracised and socially rejected time and time again yourself, you tend to be reticent to do it to others.  Even if they're a complete creeper, or their politics clash badly with yours, or they're emitting rays of body odour so strong they're visible to the naked eye, or they're selling something.  You're too kind to pull away, and you're so desperate for some human contact you're prepared to swallow your principles, block your nose, buy their Avon, and put up with them.

So, that's how you end up "friends" with someone you don't don't even like.

  Dog and cat, Hanson, Mass. 

This cannot end well.

There are the obvious risks. Sure, some people who come off as creepers are just nice, misunderstood souls.  But some are actual creepers  And, as Aspies, we're less likely than most to be able to tell when someone is genuinely dangerous and we need to get out immediately.

Then there are the less immediate but just as dangerous potential outcomes.  Being scammed out of money, time or services by someone with no intention of paying them back.  Being stuck in conversations or situations you have no interest in and maybe even find distressing.  And, of course, the inevitable let-down when the 'friend' shows their true colours.

There's another risk, too, more subtle yet able to do a lot of long-term damage to our ability to make other friends with actual nice people we like.  Unsurprisingly, you become associated with your associates.  So if you hang out with a bunch of creepers, shysters, bigots or smelly folk, people are going to assume that you're either like that yourself, or you're OK with it.  So even if you're a genuine, kind-hearted, non-smelly person, your personal brand is going to take a hit.

The whole 'better alone than in bad company' thing is on my mind at the moment, because I am in the midst of a conscious, planned campaign to make friends.  To that end, I've started going to a couple of local club-and-society type things, which will remain unidentified to protect the innocent.

The first time I went to one in particular, it was great.  The people seemed friendly, the atmosphere seemed relaxed and accepting, and I felt if not at home at least not explicitly on the outer.  This week, though, things were different.  There was a different mix of people, and that made the mood of the group very different.  Things were more cliquey.  There was a lot of talk of politics in the tea break.  And it seemed we were graced with presence of the resident 'let me show you how awesome I am' guy.  I ended up talking to nobody, spending the break reading the most boring noticeboard in the southern hemisphere and bolting as soon as it was over.  

Any number of things might have happened.  I might have got lucky the first time, or unlucky the second.  I might have been having an 'off' night which coloured my perception.  I might have inadvertently sat near some people who had their own issues going on and weren't up for talking to new people, and had I been four seats over it would have been altogether different.  There's been a lot on in politics this week, so it's understandable things came up which usually wouldn't.

So, I'll give them a few more goes before I make up my mind.  But I no longer feel obliged to hang around if it's not for me.  For one, I've got other groups on the go so it's not the end of my social circle if I pull out of one.  And two... sometimes you really are better off with your own company.