Simple speech exchanges are easy to manage on the whole. None of us really want to be stuck-insiders. We are pack animals. We cannot come into our own as individuals without learning about how other people live. We have to have a benchmark against which we can find out who we are. After all, we are all in the same boat and have many things in common. Whenever I open a conversation with someone I’ve never met before I am very careful about what I say until I have begun to understand him or her better. I stick to small talk until then. When I was much younger and wanted to find friends of my own I relied on my first impressions and made lots of mistakes.
My judgements were not good and I didn’t know why. I wished I had had an identical twin. Why? Because what I most yearned for was to be able to share my thoughts and ideas with her. Looking back I realised how much better I understood myself. Would I have been able to be best friends with her? How would we deal with the dark side of our natures? That would not be something I could anticipate. One of the joys of a good friendship when both people have much in common, including the same kind of intelligence and attitudes to life, is to be able to learn from each other.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I began to make friends. I was sitting in my bookshop in Bedford with my name over the window. The door flew open and a six foot four giant strode in. His personality was overwhelming, he had sparkling and penetrating brown eyes and a mass of black hair. He looked like my idea of a pirate. “Hello Jean Pain” he said. “I’m Jerry Planus. Put the kettle on and make us a cup of tea.” There was nothing conventional about him. He might have come out of a picture book. We talked non-stop for a good hour, exchanging a brief outline of each others’ lives. I felt as though I had known him for years.
That was the beginning, I made five more men friends, equally unusual, when I opened my shop in Cambridge. It felt like a band of brothers and I was treated as such. When I finally decided to get myself analysed with a Jungian analyst, I discovered something very important. One day he said to me “You tell me about your men friends but you never mention anything about a woman friend. Why is that?”
“I don’t know” I said. “I don’t understand. I am a normal woman in as much as I am married and have three children I love dearly.”
“Well” he said. “From what you have told me about your father and brother, it is clear that you had little respect for them.”
“That is quite right” I said. “Both are dead and it saddens me that I haven’t missed them. They played no real parts in my life.”
“So this looks as though you are trying to do some repair work by making men friends you do respect.”
I knew at once that he was quite right.