I am lonely. I have friends - people I love passionately - scattered about the place but down here there's no-one I can casually call up to go and see a movie. There's no-one in my life who fully appreciates my particular kind of humour, no-one who is happy to talk about bugs and compost and how best to keep ivy under control. Since we've moved down to Tasmania, almost five years ago now, there have been people we've socialised with but we've found no-one with whom it is easy and funny and no trouble at all.
I am lonely. I don't think that's a sentence uttered aloud very often; there's something shameful about it. As a kid, 'Nigel (no friends)' was one of the really mean names in the arsenal of bullies. As a feminist I'm quite comfortable talking about the ways in which social structures marginalise and alienate mothers but those processes aren't personal, even if they feel that way at times. And the moral indignation at that kind of injustice can carry me through bad days. But there's something pathetic about asking 'Is it me?', thinking that maybe my empty Friday nights (and Saturday nights, and Sunday nights, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights) are not because of our stage in life or because it's always hard to meet people when you move to a small town, but because people just don't like me very much. That stings.
The thing I loved most about Canberra was being with my friends. I hung out with people who I hadn't seen for three or so years but as soon as we saw each other the words spilled over without stopping. I was giddy with the conversation. Are Seville oranges frost hardy?, what various ex-boyfriends are doing now, is X about to have a baby?, how to cook a great risotto, curating exhibitions in the War Memorial, the tensions between the childless and parents in workplaces, career prospects in the public service, birth stories, how to run a vineyard, and a hundred and two other topics boring to almost everyone but me and my friends. I loved it.
I miss the ease and fun of those people, but more, I miss the self I am with my friends. That person is witty and never tongue tied, is happy to confide her life and her plans, she doesn't have to pretend to be interested in order to be interesting. Self-absorbed as I am, I love my friends because of who they are, sure, but also because of who I become when I'm with them. They reflect an image of my self that is far more fabulous than I could ever be on my own.