Rant About How Tough It Is to Make New Friends

I’ve always had a lot more difficulties making friends here in southern Spain than in Barcelona or Madrid. Everyone thinks it must be easy to make friends here because southern Spaniards appear very friendly and open. But that is only superficial appearance. In fact my impression is that southern Spaniards are much more closed minded (in general and also when it comes to making friends) than people from Madrid or Barcelona. Or maybe it’s just cultural differences, but I’m from a place where you don’t make friends the same way people do here.

Red Flowers for Friendships in a Field

I made a ton of friends when I lived in Madrid, unfortunately I didn’t keep in touch with most of them when I left. Those were the days before email and Facebook, and people’s phone numbers (landlines, because those were also the days before mobile phones) change and they move. But I’m still really good friends with some friends from Barcelona. I found it easier to make friends in Barcelona than here in southern Spain.

Once someone who had lived in France, who said she’d lived in France for many years (she was American), said that in France people have 3 groups of friends: childhood friends, usually from the same elementary school they went to, high school friends and university friends. Once people got out of university, they lost interest in making friends and if you wanted to be their friend, they didn’t. I find here in southern Spain it’s very similar.

Most people here have lived here all their lives and they only hang out with people they’ve known all their lives and grown up with. They are very friendly, they’ll chat with you for a long time. But then after that they are not interested in taking the relationship any further. They don’t want to hang out with you, they want to hang out with the kids who went to grade 2 with them. They don’t want to go to the bar with you, they want to go to the bar with their circle of friends from university.

Some people are very open and not in the least bit shy, like my friend Maria*. And even she can’t make new friends. All her friends are people she’s known in elementary and high school. Which is a major problem for her, because in high school she hung out with the drug addict crowd, and most of them are still on drugs today. She is not on drugs but you know what it’s like to have a friendship with someone who is on drugs: violent behaviour, unreliability (they say they’ll meet her tomorrow at 11 and they don’t show), you can’t count on them (they say they’ll introduce her to someone who is looking for a receptionist and then they forget and the person hires someone else) and worst of all they pressure her to take drugs again.

She’s tried over and over again to get away from them, because she knows they are no good for her and she knows they only use her. As in, let’s go out tonight. But then they only wanted to go out with her to try and get her to take drugs. But when she really needs someone, for example she needs someone to pick her son up from school, all of a sudden they are not available.

She can’t live in Marbella, her hometown, because every time she is in Marbella all her old druggie friends drop by and try to turn her house into a drug den. So she keeps moving away. But then she can’t find a job anywhere else, or she has a family emergency and needs to return to her family in Marbella, and she just can’t get away. But when she does move away, she can’t make any new friends. And she’s the least shy person I know. I mean, she could sell air conditioners to an Inuit person.

Marbella Street With Flowers

In Barcelona, there are a lot of outsiders, it’s a big city, new people are constantly going there for different reasons. For work, or to go to the university or to study something else (not university). Or for personal reasons. So there are tons of people who didn’t grow up in Barcelona and don’t have a circle of childhood friends there, so there are tons of clubs there to meet people. So it’s easy to meet people and make friends in Barcelona.

But here in Malaga there are hardly any clubs. I asked someone once, let’s say you want to make a hiking club, or a sewing club, how do you do it here? And they told me, you ask your childhood friends if they know someone or if they know someone who knows someone who likes to go hiking, and you go hiking together. In Barcelona, you join a hiking club. Here, you ask your childhood friends if they want to go hiking with you. That’s just the way it works here.

Which really sucks for those of us who didn’t spend our childhood here!!!

I met a lot of people in Barcelona by going to meetings of things that I was interested in, or even just with classified ads. That’s how I met my great friend Pippi* and my friend Morche* and my former friend Enid* (we fought because she became a radical vegetarian and stopped having any contact with people who were not vegetarian).

But I just can’t seem to meet anyone this way here in Malaga. In fact I couldn’t meet anyone in Almeria either, things work there the same way as here, as Almeria is also southern Spain.

I met my friend Jessica* at a secretarial course we took together once. During the course many of us hung out together but once the course ended most just simply kept making excuses for not meeting up again, and finally they just simply stopped having contact with other people from the course. Only Jessica continues to be my friend. I met a few people at a hotel entertainers’ course too, but I’ve changed a great deal since taking that course and we just drifted apart due to having very different interests.

Also people who have never worked before are hard to make friends with, which was the majority of the people at the hotel entertainers’ course. It’s just impossible to get on with people who have never worked before. My friend Lucinda*, from the course, who had never worked before, told me things like, why are you so worried about being able to pay the water/electricity/phone bill? It’s only a few cents, right? And if you can’t pay them, just go back and live with your mami and daddy like I do, or get them to pay your bills for you.

Lucinda is over 30, has never had a job and has lived with her mother all her life. Now, I’m in favour of kids living with their parents, I want my kids to live with me. But I still also want them to work. And to know what life is like and that you have to pay the bills and that mami and daddy aren’t always going to bail you out. Or at least not at age 30.

And I’m just finding it a bit hard to jive with someone who at the age of thirty-something has never paid a bill in her life or had to run to get to work on time. I dunno, somehow I just can’t.

Oh by the way Lucinda is not disabled in any way, neither physically nor mentally.

Another example: one year I subscribed to the blog of a makeup blogger, and I also joined her Facebook group. So I chatted on the group for a while, and commented on her blog for a while. But then one day she organized what was supposedly an open party at her house (she lives in Malaga) and on her Facebook she said, Hey girls come on come join the fun, come to my party! Bring some drinks and your bikini cos we’re all gonna jump into my pool. Leave a comment below if you want to come. So of course I commented too and said I’d like to go. She answered my comment (on Facebook) and said, I’m sorry Serena but this party is only for my personal friends, that is, followers of my blog who are also my personal friends, I thought it was clear and understood. I wanted to say, well if it was only for your personal friends why did you announce it on your open, public Facebook group that I’m a member of?

So you see, here people make a very clear distinction between FRIENDS (ie. people they have known all their lives and probably went to the nursery with) and friends with tiny little letters (ie. people they’ve chatted to online or maybe even met in person, but meeting someone in person and having a good time with them doesn’t make you their friend).

I dunno maybe it’s that way everywhere, I’m not like that though. For me, you are my friend if I have met you a few times and we got on great. I don’t need to have known you for 30 years to admit you into my circle of friends. You don’t have to save my life to prove your loyalty and honesty to me before I will admit you into my circle of friends. But other people don’t agree with me. And I’ll admit there aren’t too many people in my life whom I’ve known for 30 years or whose life I have saved haha.

I always think it’s so hard for me to make friends cos I’m so shy, I’m too shy to just come right out with someone I just met and just say, hey I really enjoyed chatting with you, you wanna meet up again for coffee sometime?

But Maria is the least shy person I know and she can’t make new friends either, only her old druggie ones. (Although I admit she would probably not be pleased with me referring to her old lifelong friends as “druggies”.)

And while we’re at it, not to sound like a sleazy saleslady but I’ve written a few thrillers so, if you’re into creepy, scary, suspenseful novels, I’d love it if you’d check them out, here: Thrillers by Moi.

So how about you? Got any suggestions as to how a shy, wall violet like me might make new friends? Please leave me a comment. As you know I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

*not their real names

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Best Friends

Today I was sitting around thinking about my good friend in Madrid, let’s call her Lana (not her real name). For years, when I lived in Madrid, we were inseparable.

Inseparable Friends Peace Sign

Lana and I are still in touch. But it’s not the same anymore.

When I lived in Madrid and she was single, she was a real rebel. Heavy metallist, rebellious, anti-conventionality. It’s ironic that now she follows all the conventions and all the things that people expect of her.

We met in the choir. Both of us sang in a choir. We hit it off right away and soon became fast friends.

We were both wild and rebellious, both of us a lot in character like George of the Famous Five, except we had – and still continue to proudly sport – long hair. The difference between us is that whereas I’m quite shy and diffident around people, especially people I don’t know well, Lana is very talkative.

I thought about all the things we’d done together, so many fun experiences we’d shared. Going home one night after a night out clubbing, at 3 in the morning, we decided to start howling like a bunch of cats in heat, waking up the neighbours.

Going to visit an apiary, that is, a bee farm, with a friend of hers. On a hiking trip to observe vultures. Like me, at that time she was very much into hiking, and we often went on hikes together.

Climbing into a water ride at the amusement park one hot summer day, two mischievous little urchins in the same boat with us thought it would be fun to throw water at us. We threw water back, and soon it was all we were doing the whole ride long. We went on that ride I think it was about eleven times with those same two mischievous urchins and had a blast.

Another time we went to a field that was off limits. One of those private properties where trespassing is forbidden. There was a very high fence around it to prevent people from jumping in. We wanted to play in that field. Not because we especially wanted to play in a field – although we did, and it was a very large field – but mainly because it WAS forbidden. On that occasion we went with our friend, the boy I would one day marry haha.

We were absolutely DETERMINED to get into that field come hell or high water. My boyfriend gave us a boost up onto the top of the wire fence. We reached down and pulled him up. So far, excellent.

The problem came when we went to jump down. The shirt I was wearing got snagged on the fence, ripping off half the hem when I jumped down. Unphased, we continued into the field and carried on playing. I don’t remember what we were playing now. Some kind of ball game, maybe?

When we tired of playing and it was time to climb out, this time it was Lana who got snagged on the sharp, poking-out wires of the fence. In her case, it was her jeans. The wire poked a hole in her jeans. However, jeans are sturdier than shirts, and neither was she able to rip herself off the fence, nor could she disengage herself or unhook her jeans from the wire.

She couldn’t simply jump or pull herself down, because then the wire would have gouged into her skin. In the end, we don’t know what she did, but she had to extricate herself from the wire all by herself because we couldn’t get back up again.

I remember one hiking trip in particular. We planned to go with a good friend of hers, Elena. In those days Lana had the bad habit of always arriving very, very late. This was in those times before mobile phones.

Anyways, we were going to meet up at Chamartin train station. Elena arrived, and we started spinning about the station in search of Lana. Aware of her tendency to arrive late, we didn’t give up when she still hadn’t shown her face after we’d been combing the station for a long time.

At last, we both saw her get off the escalators looking like a scarecrow, with wild eyes and swivelling her head in all directions. It was so late, she was convinced that Elena and I for sure must have taken off without her. Of course, being loyal friends, we hadn’t. We grabbed a train to some mountains north of Madrid, whose name I’ve now forgotten. But they are well-known and people often go hiking there. Gredos, I think.

There were a lot of people on the same trail we were on. We walked to the end of the trail, where lots of people had set things up and were playing, eating and just generally having a good time. I believe there was a lake there as well. All of a sudden it started to rain – one of those unexpected, unpredictable mountain storms. All the people started taking off down the trail.

It was quite a long trail. We were perhaps halfway down the trail, when Lana suddenly realized that she had forgotten something in the clearing where we had been playing. We had to trek all the way back, in the rain, to retrieve the lost object. This time when we turned around to go back, the mountain was completely deserted.

After what seemed a veritable odyssey, we finally straggled back into town. We were starving. We had packed a picnic and we wanted to eat. But of course, there was no way we could have a picnic in the rain. We didn’t know where to go.

At that point, we noticed a building that was in construction. It was halfway built. It had floors and stairways, sustaining columns. And most importantly, it had a roof!! That was all that mattered to us! Within seconds, we were rushing up the stairs to the second floor (for greater privacy haha). We plunked down onto the floor, relieved to finally find shelter from the cold rain after what must have been hours, and enjoyed our picnic with numb, blue fingers. It was just a silly thing, perhaps, but I remember we didn’t stop joking and laughing all the way.

With Lana I travelled to Granada, Cuenca, the Alpujarra, Morocco. We had a blast in Morocco. At that time, her family lived in the compound of the Spanish consulate in Tangiers, and I spent several days there. We also took the train to Larache.

We wanted to go to the beach in Larache. But unlike in Europe, it’s impossible to go to the beach in Morocco and even less so if you are two young girls. In Morocco, just the fact that you have long hair and wear a skirt, and especially if you are unaccompanied by adult males (although the presence of adult males is hardly a deterrent), is enough to draw in all the Moroccan men as if you were, well, some sort of rare prize or something.

So we had to defer on our beach plans. But even so, we had a great time together in Morocco. I remember going to the souk with Lana’s mother, and eating pistachio ice-cream. Mmmhh.

Today Lana is married, with two kids, like me (except I’m not married, of course!), and we live our separate lives in cities more than 500 km apart. We still chat via WhatsApp. She’s no longer a rebel, commutes two hours a day to get to work, gives her kids communions and attends all her and her hubby’s family events: baptisms, weddings, engagement parties……

She no longer goes out hiking or for walks in the country. They very rarely even go on holiday. She never travels, except to the family home on the beach.

I wish she lived here in Malaga, near me.

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

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Christmas Eve Musings

Can you believe it’s Christmas Eve and unlike the rest of the country, I am not:

  • munching on apéritifs with my kids
  • chatting with relatives that I only see once a year (who don’t exist anyways…… maybe imaginary relatives haha?)
  • sitting near a fireplace singing Christmas carols
  • sitting around a Christmas tree playing the zambomba

(pic of zambomba, a traditional Christmas instrument round here to mark the rhythm while singing Christmas carols)

Zambomba

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

  • out on the street setting off firecrackers (I hate firecrackers!)
  • cooking
  • cleaning the kitchen
  • washing the dishes

I am just lying around the house with my kids, surfing the net while my kids play together. And that’s wonderful.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons when I am not lying around the house surfing the net while my kids play together, because I am working.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons where my kids are not playing at all, because they have homework.

I think of all those countless endless afternoons where my kids are not together, because my youngest son stays with his father when I work.

So I dunno if our Christmas Eve is boring, by other people’s standards. And maybe I would’ve liked to have a bit more pizzazz in our festivity hehe.

But it’s okay. Christmas Eve is about being with family. And even though I live with my family (my kids), the three of us are rarely together, except late at night after work.

And right now we are together.

Just wish we could be together ALL THE TIME haha!

Well, I have been seeing lots of blogs wishing readers a Merry Christmas and happy holidays today. So whatever holiday you celebrate, I would like to wish you a happy one too.

Happy Holidays!

Butterfly

May your world always be borne…… on the wings of a butterfly……

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Puerto Banus – Bumping Elbows With The Jet Set

Perhaps not everyone knows, but Puerto Banús, in Marbella, is synonymous with…… jet set, rich Arab and European royalty, Hollywood celebs on holiday, luxury yachts and Lamborghinis, James Bond, maybe? (Well, not yet, at least.)

I’m not too sure how or why this little locality acquired such fame. It’s just another ordinary port on the extensive coastline of southern Spain. So I don’t know how the powers that be saw fit to transform Puerto Banús into the playground of the ultra rich as opposed to, for example, some other port on the same coastline such as Estepona or La Línea de la Concepción.

But be that as it may, very fortunately, taking a stroll in Puerto Banús alongside the super rich and famous is free. Anyone can go there. Happily, there’s no “entrance fee” in order to gain access to the town or port.

You can take a walk there and window shop at the many luxury boutiques that you can find there. You can admire the dozens of luxury yachts all neatly parked in a row (many of which were, nonetheless, up for sale – a testimony, perhaps, to the effects of the times that we are living on the pocketbooks of even the ultra rich?).

Parked Yachts Puerto Banus

It was a very happy day for me that my friend and I took our families out for a walk in Marbella, where we had a fabulous lunch at an incredible local treasure chest of a restaurant – unfortunately I didn’t pay much attention to the name of this restaurant, and I wouldn’t be able to find it again, since I just followed my friend around haha – that served the most amazing Malaga fried fish dishes.

Malaga fried fish is a specialty of this Spanish province, and it has nothing to do with the greasy, pre-packaged fried fish that is so popular in Britain.

(Many apologies to fans of British fried fish, I’m sure there must be tasty fried fish in Britain too, it’s just that, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to sample any of those kinds of fried fish when I was in London, only the greasy ones……)

I usually take photos when I go out to eat with the kids, but for some reason I wasn’t in the mood the other day. So I’ve got no photos of our famous dish.

Here’s a photo of my kids devouring similar fare, however, on a beach in the city of Malaga.

Pescaito Frito

After our meal we decided to spirit ourselves over to Puerto Banús. I’d never been to Puerto Banús, although I’ve gone several times to visit in Marbella.

Playa de Puerto BanusThis is a weird statue, commissioned for a huge sum from a Russian sculptor. We thought it was weird since it reminded us of the statue of Columbus that points out to sea in Barcelona.

Statue Puerto Banus

This is the statue of Columbus in Barcelona.

Colon Barcelona Columbus Statue

Sunset in Puerto BanusIt’s hard to see them, but if you squint a little bit you can see the itty bitty (and not so itty bitty) fishies in the water here.

Fish Puerto Banus

Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water
Come back here, man, gimme my daughter!

PJ Harvey

Imagine being the owner of one of these!

Yachts Parked in a Row Puerto Banus

 Lighthouse Puerto Banus

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CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

I don’t often get around to rummaging through old photos and picking out specific themes. But I felt like taking up the challenge from Marianne of East of Malaga today and putting up some photos with the theme of the month.

I’ve seen some neat galleries on other blogs, but I don’t know how to set up a gallery here so I guess I’ll just bumble along with the old traditional way: plunking down photos one by one!

Ciutadella Barcelona

This was from our trip to Barcelona. Seems such a long time ago!

Calle Larios Malaga

Larios Street (calle Larios), the major pedestrian thoroughfare of downtown Malaga, is so beautifully lit up at night.

Chunky Statue

Thought this was a most unusual perspective on reflections, this statue, in Torremolinos, is polished so smooth you can even make out the details on the building it’s reflecting.

Malaga Street

These nocturnal alleyways are lovely in black and white too, and more mysterious at that.

Nebulous Reflections

I’m not going to tell you what that one is! I’ll leave it up to your imaginations!

Rio Chillar River

This was a scenic gorge you can wade through on the Chillar River near Nerja.

River Malaga

Shadows in the Water

This could be any city, any riverbank, any reflection.

Well, I would like to link to Toby at Travels With Toby, who reminded me about the CBBH Photo Challenge. She’s travelled a lot, and with any luck, one day she’ll be my neighbour here in Spain!

Then I’d like to recommend another blog even though it isn’t really related to travelling, photography or Spain, A Sprinkle of Al Sharq. What Sprinkle and I both have in common is we’re both single mums! I know lots of single mums but even with that, I think we’re still a minority.

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Marbella, Land of the Jet Set?

Do people in Marbella spend most of their days lying around a poolside, sipping champagne and zipping off every once in a while in their own personal yachts when they get bored?

Well, I dunno. Most of the people I know in Marbella are pretty poor and down-and-out. Although, on the other hand, I have to admit that most of the local people I know in general here in the south of Spain are pretty poor and down-and-out. (Unlike in Barcelona, where most of my friends were average, middle-class and with good jobs.)

Marbella Street

I’ve got a friend who works cleaning houses. She’s a single mum, she has to struggle to make ends meet. Although she’s been living this way for years, and I guess she’s doing pretty fine when you take everything into account. She’s been able to pay her rent up till now, never got her electricity cut off for non-payment, hasn’t as yet had to resort to living off of flour and potatoes for a week or take her son to the homeless shelter for a meal.

But does she live off of Chardonnay and pink champagne or lounge on the beach in topless designer bikinis?

Church Tower Marbella

Well, she does lounge on the beach sometimes. But not in designer bikinis, hers are more likely to hail from the dollar store.

Most of the time she doesn’t have shampoo, shower gel, cutlery, pots and pans or towels in her home. You know, the usual, basic, everyday items that most of us take for granted that everyone will have and that most of us assume that everyone can afford. When she can get it, she usually has milk (after all, she’s got a growing kid) and oil, olive oil when things are going great, sunflower when things are a bit tighter.

Belen Marbella

So, well, you can’t exactly say she’s starving to death. But maybe that’s not exactly how you expect an inhabitant of opulent Marbella to be living, either.

Another friend in Marbella is pretty hip. She’s an artist, so, of course, she makes art. Handicraft, to be more precise. Then she sells it in improvised stalls at street markets.

Passageway Marbella

Well, that’s not such a bad way to make a living. She says her best-selling wares, nonetheless, aren’t her artwork but rather, cheap clothes that she barters away for one, two or three euros apiece.

You know, fashion’s quite important in Marbella.

Square Marbella

Now, I know that supposedly, a lot of world-class citizens are supposed to own mansions and palaces in Marbella. The famous (and wealthy) Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is perhaps Marbella’s most renowned sweetheart. Arab sheiks seem to like to make Marbella their home. The rich and famous favour Marbella as their winter hideout, and I imagine that if you mention the name of this small city, probably images of luxury spas and giant estates surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees spring to mind.

But the truth is, I didn’t see any of these famed properties. Now, logically, I know that they exist but I guess, like the mythical Shangri-La, maybe you’ve got to be “in the know” in order to be able to find them. Sort of like the mystic valley behind the mountains whose doors only open to you if you happen to be a seeker of spiritual truth, or something of the sort, and you come in peace.

Typical Street Marbella

So in conclusion, I guess Marbella is just yet another example of a typical southern Spanish locale where the lifestyles of the “natives” (ie. Spanish people) differ enormously from those of its foreign (and usually world-celebrity) inhabitants.

Now, I know that Marbella and, for that matter, the great majority of communities both large and small in southern Spain, are going to be just fairly normal, average, ordinary towns where you can find all sorts of people. Well-to-do people with large homes surrounded by gardens, middle-class citizens with reliable but not outstanding jobs and poorer, more marginal types, who work in the “domestic assistance” sector or at odd jobs.

Marbella Lights in the Sky

But it strikes me over and over again how such a large proportion of the Spanish people I know and meet in this part of the country belong to the “poorer, more marginal types”, as opposed to well-off foreigners or Spaniards with steady employment living in other regions of Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona or basically any northern city.

And over and over again it makes me wonder: Is it just the culture? Perhaps here in this part of the country kids aren’t encouraged to work? Maybe they just grew up used to observing their out-of-work fathers lounging around on the sofas most of the time, and decided that that was the way people are supposed to live? (I say fathers, of course, because on the contrary here mothers never rest. There is always more work to be done around the home, meals to be cooked, rooms to be cleaned, clothes to be ironed…..)

Wrought-Iron Head

What really struck me about this balcony was the incredible intricate faces in wrought iron. Do you see them?

Is it just the attitude? Maybe here people don’t bother trying, because they think: Well, Andalucia has always been poor, so what’s the use?

I don’t know what it is that exists here in southern Spain, that keeps people poor and uninterested in obtaining or completing their education. I don’t know why so many people take “recreational” drugs here. Well, I know that drugs are a major problem in many parts of the world, and not only here. But here, I get the impression that most people take them. Or at least most of the people that I know, at any rate.

My ex brother-in-law recently passed from an overdose of the medication he was taking to wean himself off of strong illegal substances. He came from a good, well-off, educated family. He didn’t need to take drugs. He had a successful business.

Many of my friends here take drugs too. A little bit of Mary over here, a joint of hashish on the beach. Some coke if you’re successful and you can afford it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much (or little) money you’ve got, drugs are always readily available and easy to obtain at any gathering with your friends.

All the same, I thought I’d leave you with some images of historic Marbella in the evening, with the colours of the setting sun tinting the sky.

Marbella Street With Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a photo full of light, in case you were tired of gazing at all those dark night photos.

Staircase Marbella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Much Do YOU Value Your Friends?

I was really down today because of…… friends! Not the inseparable kind, or the ones that are always there when you need them.

Today, I was really feeling down because of friends who don’t value friendship a whole great deal.

Optical Illusion Faces

I don’t know about you, but for me, a friendship is sacred. I think a friendship is, well should be, as important in life as family, more important even than a job, or your hobbies. I mean, after all, a friend is a PERSON. A job or a hobby are just things. And if you ever lose your job, well, you can always find another one.

But a friend? If you lose your friend, sure, you can go out and get another one.

But it won’t be the SAME friend. It won’t be that same person that you shared so many memories with, and had so many good times and laughed together with for so many years.

I’m finding that three things REALLY get in the way of a friendship: religion, politics and money. No surprise there, I guess.

Now, fortunately, I don’t tend to air my political views (if I even have any haha! I am really the queen of a-political thought! Most of the time I don’t even know who is ruling the country at any given moment……) a whole lot and therefore never have disputes with friends on that issue.

But now, religion, that’s a whole different bag of jumping jacks (or however that expression goes, after all after 15+ years living in a non-English-speaking country, I just can’t quite put my finger on the proper expression anymore).

Now, by religion, I don’t mean only the usual, established, traditional, centuries-old schools of philosophical and mystical thought generally referred to as religion such as Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc., to name a few. For me, religion is anything that a person is fanatical about. It might be your diet, a sect, a guru or even a fashion trend or brand name, for that matter.

I have two friends who consider their “religion” above anything else in the world. More important than friendship, more important than family, more important than their sentimental partner. Even more important than love.

One of them is a radical vegetarian. By radical, I mean that not only are she and her family very strict vegetarians, but also that in order to be her friend, you must also be a strict vegetarian. You cannot eat meat in her presence or feed meat to your children in front of her children.

Of course, being vegetarian is more than just food or diet. It’s a way of life. Therefore, her children can’t eat with other children if they are eating meat. They cannot attend fun events if other children will be eating meat there. She will travel half-way across the country in order to acquire certain exotic, hard-to-get vegetarian items, instead of for example spending that time going out with her family, or doing something to improve her mind or her character or even, for that matter, just relaxing around the poolside after a long, hard day of work.

No, after a long, hard day of work, she will happily get into her car and drive several hours across the countryside in order to go to a certain health food shop where she has heard that certain exotic vegetarian items can be found.

Now, I do admit, living in Spain is like living in Beeflandia and vegetarians here are about as scarce as blue fleas (a Spanish expression). But, well, personally, if I can’t find a certain vegetarian item within a certain radius of my home (let’s say, four blocks, for example), well, I prefer to just do without and find a substitute instead.

Now, I am not against vegetarianism, and I’m certainly not anti-vegetarian. Not by a long shot, I actually support it. However, I prefer to spend my time improving myself (and I can assure you there’s a lot to improve haha!), doing exercise or playing with my kids, rather than driving across the country in a car.

Long hairAnd of course, it’s hard to be friends with someone who is a radical vegetarian. It is very easy to offend such a person: if you feed your kids meat in front of hers, if you eat meat in her presence, if you don’t recycle (or you forget to do so sometimes and just toss your tin can into the general garbage bag), if your showers are too long (tsk tsk tsk, wasting water there! but come on, girls, I’ve got waist-long hair, if you have ever had waist-long hair, you must know what a pain it is to get all that gunk like shampoo and conditioner through all of it and out of it, and it’s not something that you can accomplish with just one little bucket of water……).

For that matter, if you don’t get up at the crack of dawn (you know, the early bird catches the worm and all that stuff) or go to bed when the birds do, if you prefer to read at night (like me) rather than have a heart-to-heart with your pillow at that hour, if you want to participate in an event where meat-eaters will be present, if you…… Well, you get the message. Very easy to take offense.

I have another friend who is a radical follower of a sect. Now, I totally respect her religious beliefs and preferences. However, she is often sending me religious propaganda, literally besieging me with it. She says it is “good for my soul”, and I need it. She says I can follow whatever religious beliefs I want (or none, if I prefer), but that I know deep down inside that her religion is “calling me”.

I finally got sick of that one day and tried to very tactfully suggest to her that, well, not everyone has the time or the interest to read her fifty million religious sermons that she sends to me all the time.

Of course, the predictable result: she felt offended. She’s one of those people who will smile charmingly at you as they throw spiked arrows, so she didn’t down and out get all huffed up and scream insults or whatever at me.

No, she just smiled and suggested that, well, if I had so little time and interest in her interests, perhaps she wouldn’t have the time or the interest to pay attention to my interests and any news that I might have to share about my life, either.

Well, it’s not like I spend my life beating her on the head exactly with news about my life, or battering her continuously with banter about my interests. But, well, supposedly we’re friends, and friends do every once in a while like to tell their friends about what’s going on in their lives. Don’t you think?

I’m quite a private and reserved person, I don’t like to talk about my life a lot. (And you can see this most clearly from the very sparse and much too widely-spaced contributions that I’ve been, ahem, ah, sort of contributing to this blog lately. Oops……) But occasionally, I do like to send her a little “tweet” about my latest.

And of course, since she is my friend, I do expect her to read it and at least show a slight interest in it. I don’t bombard her with religious messages. I don’t bombard her with any sort of message, for that matter.

But when I do send her a message, I kind of expect her to notice it.

Well, so much for fanatical friends. Now, I want to gripe about a different kind of friendship breaker: the big M word…… Yes, MONEY!

I lent 15€ to a friend about a month ago, so she could buy herself a bikini. (Not that she needed it, she already owns about 50, but then again, it’s a free country and everyone can buy what they like…… although preferably with their OWN money!)

Now, I’m not in a hurry for her to pay me back, although it WOULD be nice if she would pay me back SOME TIME!

However, the thing is, ever since I lent her the money, she has been avoiding me like the plague. There’s no way I can get to see her anymore. She won’t go to the beach with me anymore, she won’t go out for a coffee, she won’t get together with me to walk around…… And all because, I suppose, she hasn’t got the money to pay me back. (Or doesn’t want to pay me back.)

Does she really think a friendship is worth less than 15€ to her, or to me?

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