Most people bond with their socially analogous peer group. I should therefore be having beers and deliberating the complexities of work-life balance with other professional thirty and forty something male fathers. Yet in the vast majority of cases (but not all) I find have very little in common with these people. It often seems that I find it easier to relate to those that when looking at the cover many in my position wouldn’t read the book.
In the early 90’s, whilst training as a Surveyor in the bureaucratic, clay-coloured walls of a local authority office I made a judgement based on peer group similarity – and if it hadn’t been for the other persons open hearted brazenness my life would have been significantly less rich than it is.
She was dressed in white stilettos, a short skirt and sported a blonde bob haircut when I first saw her. My then egotistical and haughty nature had already passed judgement. I would have nothing in common with this girl who worked on reception – she was most probably a dim-witted floozy who simply wasn’t at my level.
That was wrong. So wrong that twenty years on, with her living in New Zealand, me in the UK and a possibly a number of years passing before we see each other in the flesh again, we have enough memories and enough love to know that we will probably always be friends. It almost feels like we are brother and sister – especially as she has very little immediate family outside of her marriage and children, her parents being killed tragically when she was just a baby.
Long term relationships are built as much on memories created and shared as the here and nows, and those memories are vivid, exciting and often hilarious. Intoxicating and intoxicated holidays in Eastern Europe together, wayward London nights, skinny dipping after trips to the seaside, her bad fashions, wrong boyfriends and girlfriends, but most of all always being there for each other – never passing those snobbish judgements, but accepting each other for who we are and taking pleasure in that.
I guess that’s some sort of maturity for you – when you stop judging others different to you in a negative manner and find acceptance that we’re all unique with different views, styles and personalities. It's like music - how often do we refer to someone as having 'good taste' when what we actually mean is taste similar to our own ? By making judgements about how similar someone or something is to our own world view we put barriers up, safe in our own inward looking nest, never challenging ourselves. As we get older those who are not open to the new or the different become stagnant - like my peer group who often argue that music these days isn't as good as when they were young. I'm so glad that this friend, this wonderful and incredible friend, taught me the lesson that just because someone isn't the same as you doesn't mean you can't build a relationship.
Music provided a background to some of our memories – car journeys to the south coast, nightclubs (more her than me), gigs (more me than her), but ultimately it was about true friendship rather than just someone to hang around with. It wouldn't matter what we did or where we were. It was just about us.
In a recent email from New Zealand, my friend wrote “I am just listening to David Gray’s White Ladder and I still remember that night when we saw him with a crowd of around fifty. I will always love the song Please Forgive Me and the way you bounce to music. Don’t ever lose the bounce.” With friends like her, I don’t think I ever will.