Artwork by Iris Bowdler

Hi Auntie Annabel,

I have a problem with my friend, I feel like she is forgetting and abandoning me. She is prioritizing dating and not our friendship. She’ll plan things with her dates and never with me even though we were really close until she discovered online dating.

What should I do? How do I tell her I miss her and that I feel like crap because of her actions?

Help!

Yours,

Lonely friend

Dear Lonely friend

When I first read your letter, I was struck with the horrifying thought that you might be my lonely friend.  I have been encouraging (bullying) them into confessing their agonies to me for some time after all. For all intents and purposes, you could be one of my friends because if I take a long, hard, drunken look at that (wo)man in the mirror (I’m asking her to change her ways – I really am I promise), I know I’ve probably been guilty of the same crime. For reference, the icon for my friendship group chat is a picture of a Cadbury’s Flake superimposed with my face, and my friends have no qualms with presenting me with the image whenever I threaten to miss a social event for a date.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a punt at online dating before, but it’s seriously addictive stuff. When you first download dating apps, they are all-consuming: you feel a buzz every time you match; a frisson every time someone messages and then comes the heady rush of actual dating. After a period of time, as your thumbs become weary with endless swiping, so does your mind: when you’ve read ‘I hate it when boys go on about height, it makes me six-two my stomach’ and ‘stay home if you’re sicc, come over if you’re thicc’ (honestly people, is there a big gc where you pass notes?), the novelty begins to wear thin. At first, however, you’re absolutely enchanted by the damn thing.

I would suggest that your friend is probably still deeply under the spell of online dating and the fact is that the whole business is fairly time consuming so I totally understand why you feel that your friendship has fallen by the wayside. Don’t take this as an insult to you as a friend but rather a compliment: the fact that she is prioritising dating and isn’t spending as much time with you doesn’t show that she has fallen out of love with you as a friend, but rather that she feels comfortable and secure in your friendship. 

In first year, I had neither the time nor the inclination to date because I was too busy getting to know my friends and consuming outrageous amounts of Zesty White but, as time progresses, it’s entirely natural that we ease back on bonding time. The two of you probably already have a firm foundation as friends: you don’t, to use the lingo of Love Island, need to ‘graft’ so much as you did before. In short, try to cut your friend (and your friendship) a bit of slack and allow her to explore the world of dating. If you become too needy and criticise her for dating instead of hanging out all the time, then you risk making her feel suffocated or feeling that you’re clipping her wings and she might end up resenting the friendship. Trust me, she’ll get dating fatigue in the end and will naturally return to her pre-dating ways. I like to think there is much wisdom to be found in Georgia’s mum’s ‘elastic band theory’ in Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging. While I appreciate the aim here was all about winning back the absolute sex god that is Robbie (a noble endeavour of course), I think the concept can productively be applied to friendship: give her some space, allow some distance to form and she’ll come pinging back. 

That said, I do sympathise with your feeling of being neglected and I don’t want to invalidate that.

We all require different amounts of face-to-face time to feel close to someone: for some of us, we can see a friend we haven’t seen for a year and feel as if it were only yesterday while for others, distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder and regular meetups are necessary to keep things ticking over. If you know that you fall into the latter camp, then how about suggesting concrete plans now and again e.g. drinks @ Turf;  a swim in Port Meadow; or a picnic in uni parks. If you give someone a time and place, they’re much more likely to commit. When you do spend time together, take an interest in her dating adventures – you’ll find that it makes for some fairly entertaining conversation and will demonstrate that you don’t begrudge her having a love life. In addition, use the time to cultivate other interests and relationships outside of your friendship (you could even make an appearance on the old dating scene yourself – double date anyone?)  In the end, Robbies and Toms come and go, but the ‘Ace gang’ are 4evz. 

Yours in agony

Aunty Annabel

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Bella Stock

Bella is in her second year reading English at Teddy Hall.