The Magazine People Conundrum

I went on a long car trip this weekend, four plus hours each way. I enjoyed the drive. My brain goes into driving mode on those trips – half focused on the road and half free to wander. I get a lot of thinking done that way.

This weekend I was thinking about an event I was going to miss and how not upset I was about it. One of my closest friends was hosting a board game night with several other friends I’d met many times over the last decade or so. Thinking back to the last time we had all gathered, I remember thinking I was happy to be there for my friend’s event, but could have done without all the rest. But my friends obviously enjoyed their friends’ company, so why couldn’t I?

This really bothered me. They were all perfectly nice. Intelligent. Funny. Things you look for in a good friend. But . . . but what?

Now, I know that my closest friends have all had not-so-easy childhoods. I will not go into the breadth of things that went wrong for them. Those aren’t my stories to tell. Suffice it to say that they were all forced to grow up in some way before their times, which resulted in a certain depth of emotional maturity that some adults never achieve. They were all just like me.

But did I really need that in all of my friends? I began to expand my exploration past my inner circle. Turns out that yes, most of the people I choose to spend time with have been through the wringer. The odd thing is that, aside from the initial telling of the story, none of us ever talk about whatever our trauma was. We don’t really have to. There is assurance and empathy just in knowing that someone has a similar background. Without it, it was hard to connect.


I know it’s judgmental, but after over a decade, I have never had an indication from any of my friend’s friends that they have developed the sort of emotional depth I apparently look for. They seem to me like people in a magazine – exciting careers, suitably adorable kids, requisite pet(s). Totally unreal.

Maybe it’s just because they don’t know me well enough to share, or maybe they are fortunate enough to never have had to deal with the roadblocks life has thrown at so many of us. Either way, I just can’t seem to connect.

I’m sure light socializing with people you don’t entirely love doesn’t seem like a big deal. But my energy is limited, and time spent coasting through social events feels like a waste of time. It makes me feel guilty, though. I don’t see those friends nearly as much as I would like.

I’m not sure I am entirely happy about knowing this about myself, either. If I’d remained ignorant, at least I would have kept trying. But you can’t un-know what you know, and now I am stuck. There will certainly be future occasions where I am invited to socialize with the group rather than just my friend and their spouse. It would likely end up being a good time, just one in which I would feel like I am on the outside looking in. I’m not sure it’s worth the energy.

So when the next invitation comes, in the immortal words of The Clash, will I stay or will I go?

I have no idea.