Magazine article The Spectator

Kill Your Friendships

Magazine article The Spectator

Kill Your Friendships

Article excerpt

Pals are a luxury, not a necessity

I am not a bad friend. I enjoy my mates, and I am generous, showering them with fun, money and sympathy. But I do not crave their company when I am without it, for whatever length of time, and should we lose touch, I do not miss them. In fact, I find there's a profound pleasure in parting with a chum, whether by their hand or by yours. We should all have the courage to admit it when a friendship has become more work than play, more duty than beauty.

Maybe my origins led me to feel this way. I was an only child who, at an early age, became extremely fond of my own company. Some of my earliest memories are of lurking in my bedroom and begging my mother to get rid of young schoolmates who had come calling for me to play. I was first married as a teenager, remarried in my mid-twenties straight after my divorce and then took up with the man whom I've now been with for 22 years. I always had my husbands to talk to, so I never grew up sharing confidences with friends the way other women do.

As I have got older, I have learned how to do so, and I must say I enjoy it -- it's a one-on-one way of showing off. And, not being needy, I have found myself making friends with the ease and swiftness that other people pick up fuzzballs on their jumpers. But because of my early solitude, friends seem luxuries rather than necessities. My second husband believed I had such a fickle attitude to friendship that each Friday he would update the list of my Top Ten friends in the manner of a Top of the Pops chart countdown: 'And straight in at No. 5 -- for writing a flattering article -- it's Daisy Waugh. But down three places -- for not being sufficiently fawning at the Groucho last night -- it's Emma Forrest!' Some people might find this attitude deeply shallow, but I like Peter Ustinov's take on it: 'Friends are not necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who get there first.'

Those extreme hoarders I sometimes see on TV horrify me because we know that if you never throw anything out, you often won't be able to find what you want. And perhaps the thing you want may be a new thing -- and too many old things will take up room the new thing needs. It was Sacha Guitry (not James Goldsmith) who originally said, 'When a man marries his mistress, he creates a vacancy', and the same goes for friends. You need to keep the line moving in order for the dance not to grind to a halt. …

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