Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I posted about this once before; it was my second ever post and I didn’t have any readers then, so I’ll just link here to it.

I’ve been thinking about this friendship thing for sometime. It was nerve wracking moving to Bangkok (for a billion reasons) but making friends was one of the things high on my list to worry about.

I don’t exactly come across as shy – in fact, those that have met me will say ‘no, no, you’re not shy…’ so it has come to my notice over the years that people interpret it as something else entirely. I think it’s just plain shyness, I come from a family of extroverts, but I need time to grow relaxed with people. Clearly though, it isn’t always the way other’s read me.

Once when I was a new first year at university (the first time) I was chatting to a girl called Carole in her room. There was a knock at the door and another first year girl, Michelle, put her head around the door and said “I’m pleased you’re both here.” She then proceeded to tell us exactly what ‘everyone’ in our halls of residence, thought of us.

I was ‘snobbish, unapproachable and formidable’. (Gee, thanks Michelle, I so needed to know all that). I realized later and know now with complete conviction that the problem here was Michelle’s, but still, I’ve let ‘formidable’ haunt me for years, and I still worry that lots of people see me that way.

So I talked in that early post about my anxiety about how to make friends, but although I didn’t feel my natural habitat was a women’s group, I have found friends there.

Then a few months ago, I met a woman at bookcrossing, and she asked about the group I belong to. Rather than go to a big expat women do, I said I’d organize a night out with a couple of lovely women I knew. I invited four or five women, and I asked them to each invite another lovely woman so it would expand my social group too. It’s become informally known as the lovely women or lovely ladies (I prefer woman to lady!) and it’s a different group, though overlapping sometimes, to the women’s group.

Then, of course, there are the bloggers who have to be counted among my friends, not just because I’ve met some of you, but because you have become a hugely important part of my life. Although it’s happening in some new-fangled cyberspace way, (with 6,000 miles of real distance) you are my friends; you are providing the service that real live friends do and for that I am grateful, and I wanted to say thank you.


Rebecca said...

your lovely womens group sounds...well... quite lovely!

JJ said...

Ah, thank you. It is lovely. There's a tendency here that the groups go by nationality, which is a bit odd, so the 'lovely women' are English, Scottish, American, Australian... much healthier!

Helen said...

I've met you. I thought you were fab and not formidable at all. x
(I've been accused by someone as 'looking down on them'. He is the only perosn to have said that - so far!. I choose to believe it is his low self esteem problem and and not mine!)

Jen said...

Isn't it strange how other people's perceptions of us vary so widely from our own?

I didn't find you formidable either, even if I did have to try and chat you up in M&S!!!

Friendships are terribly important. To be honest, I always thought online friendships were tragically geeky but now? I couldn't manage without you guys and certainly wouldn't have ever had the confidence to give up working for 3 months to write a novel!

Thank you to you too. Very, very much.


Carol and Chris said...

I can't imagine anyone finding you formidable!! You are so not formidable and your completely right when you say that the problem was with her not you.....(Can you believe people find me loud and Scottish???)

Friendship is very important and I have to say that you were my lifeline when I first moved here (and still are when I need you!!) so......Thank You :-)

C x

A. Writer said...

What a wonderful post.

Friendships are very very important. I've had my ups and downs with the friendship part of my life in the past but now I have some wonderful friends (one line and offline) and I'm so thankful for them being in my life.

Although I've never met you, you certainly don't come accross at 'formidable' through your blog.

I can't believe how lucky I am to have found everyone in the Novel Racers. Being part of such a friendly and supportive group means the world to me.

Jon M said...

Shucks, don't mention it, JJ. You didn't strike me as snobby when you bought me a drink at the book launch! Still owe you that one! Formidable? Isn't that 'fantastic'in French or something?

Lane said...

I really like this post. It's weird how we somehow feel responsible for how other people see us (and also make the mistake of adapting to make them feel comfortable).
The best thing about getting older is not giving a flying fig anymore...
I read somewhere the other day that we always want to present our best bits to the world when in actual fact it's the cranky bits that people love us for.
Thank goodness for friends (inc. cyber ones!)
Lane x

Angie said...

JJ, that is so weird, I had the *exact* same thing happen to me in my first year of uni and it devastated me and actually made me withdraw and become more shy. How very strange! I think it's something about exuding confidence whilst being shy - some people interpret it as formidable and snobbish, but it's the opposite!
I'm glad you've found a circle of friends who appreciate how lovely you are. This was a fab post. And I'm glad to have met you (even if only online :).

Caroline said...

Oh honey. I've met you - you came all the way from Bangkok to attend my launch (let me have that fantasy please!) I think that you're wonderful. Thank you for listening to me rant and for giving me *the best pens and pencil case* in the whole wide world!

liz fenwick said...

Friends are so vital living well. Others persception of us is really strange.....once upon a time I thought I knew what people thought and now as age has set in a don't give a d..m. However I do love my friends icluding my cyper ones :-)

Mel said...

What a great day to find your blog! I've lived down south for a few years now and I've only just discovered what a life saver net friends are. I haven't bonded with anyone (no farang around these parts & language barriers prevent real clicking)so it has been such a relief to find people I can "chat" with online. The only thing I miss about living in Oz is my friends! So, it's nice to meet you, I'm so happy I found your blog!

JJ said...

Hi everyone

Sorry to ignore your comments for days...

Helen, thanks. It IS their problem!

Jen, I am sorry. You should've seen the look on the woman I thought was you. She didn't know T Wells M&S was such a pick up joint!

Carol, 'loud and scottish', you? Well, yes, actually.

A.Writer, I feel the same about NR too. Can't believe my luck.

Ooh, Jon, I can live with being 'formidable' in a bad but sexy French accent...

Lane, you're right. I worried about it for years. Now, if someone can't see it's my way of getting comfortable, well, it's their loss.

Angie, that's so weird - or is it wierd? I have such a problem with that word.

Caroline, that's good. I like that fantasy, too. I'm just such a book launch kind of person, darrrrling.

Liz, You're right. Not to give a damn, and we're lucky communications when we live overseas is so much easier.

Mel, thank you for coming by. I've just read your blog, and I'm sooo impressed with your situation. How very exciting. Hope to see you again.