I have never really mastered Facebook. There is an immediacy to it that isn’t suited to people like me. By the time I get around to checking it, my head filling with pithy retorts and interesting little snippets, the world has moved on, and everybody is busy with something else. So I don’t really check it too often. But I will do so more often in the future. Because when I logged on this morning, I made an interesting discovery. There are, apparently, some single girls in my area. And they are dying to meet me!
I have noticed a couple of women on the streets of my neighbourhood, but they don’t look at all like the ladies on my Facebook page. There’s the lady who comes jogging past every morning, red in the face and breathing like an emphysemic hippo running up a flight of stairs. She seems more intent on meeting her maker than meeting me. Then there are the two elderly ladies who walk their dog down the street in the evening, but there is a comfortable domesticity about them that would imply that they have not been single for years.
Women do occasionally drive past, but if they were dying to meet me wouldn’t they at least wave? No. I took another look at the message, and I think I know what’s happening. Winter is starting to bite round here, and on closer inspection, these ladies don’t seem to have many clothes. The poor dears are probably locked away inside, huddled over their electric heaters, and desperate for some company. And peeping out occasionally from behind the curtains, they would have seen me running up the road hurling abuse and small stones at the dog and decided that I was a friendly sort of person.
As I get older, this sort of thing happens to me more and more often. Years of scowling at my children have given me a network of fine lines around the corners of my eyes that look just like smile lines, and people think I look friendly and avuncular. I’m not. I don’t particularly dislike people; I just never learned the art of making friends.
I grew up with three sisters. My older sister is like a machine. Whenever we went away on holiday or off to a party full of strangers, she would sit back and survey the scene for a minute or two, and then simply wade in and take over. Within minutes, I would be a privileged insider at the centre of a brand new circle of friends. Which was wonderful. But it meant I never learnt those skills for myself. I tried to learn by example, by watching how she did it, but I could never work it out. She just made friends. And I borrowed them.
My son is like this. He has the EQ of a cult leader. He will walk into a room full of kids he has never met before, and soon they will all be dressed in tiny saffron robes and chanting his name as they follow him to their doom. I’ve tried to watch him, too. I still have no clue. He will spot a likely little knot of kids and walk up and stand near them, without forcing himself on them. He will begin to ape their moves, playing the same sort of games and laughing when they laugh. And fifteen minutes later they will have handed over their life’s savings and shaved their heads for him. It’s a little unnerving, but may prove useful when we get older and run out of cash.
Which brings me back to those poor single ladies. They must be pretty desperate for some company to be approaching strangers on the internet. To add to their woes, most of them seem to be from the Ukraine, so they must feel as isolated by the language barrier as they are by their lack of sturdy winter clothing. But for once, I’m going to stick my neck out and make some friends. I’m going to contact these ladies.
You see, the flip-side to hijacking my sister’s friend-making abilities is that when she wasn’t around, I tended to keep to myself. So I know what it’s like to feel lonely. Isolated. I’m going to invite those poor, lonely ladies over for a meet and greet. My wife likes meeting new people and has that same magical friend-making gift.
We can offer them a hearty slap-up meal (some of them look to be a little on the lean side, and Svetlana in particular looks like she could live with a steak or two), and maybe send each one of them home with a warm winter vest. And some pants. The expense doesn’t bother me- someone else on Facebook is going to teach me how to make piles of money by trading in forex, so I should be set up for life!
Now that I think about it, we could even invite over some of our single guy friends. The more the merrier, I always say, and who knows, maybe the odd spark or two might fly. Stranger things have happened.