New friends, old friends, fake friends


It’s a strange aspect of having lived an international life. My oldest friends aren’t based in Joburg, which means that I don’t get to see them all that much. It’s mostly okay, though, because we stay in touch with all the usual digital means of our modern age, plus Dean and I have made some new friends. We’ve lived here long enough to have gone through the usual cycle of friendship in a new city – it always takes about three years to become settled in a new place, to build your network and made real friendships. Having lived in South Africa for eight years now, I’ve not only managed that, but there are even some awesome people in my life locally who are our old and wonderful friends.

This past weekend, though, we were visited by an old friend and it was hard for me to not feel nostalgic. Back in university, Dean and I belonged to a fraternity. I always hated the idea of sororities or fraternities, until I realized just how wonderful it was. Loki was the name of our grouping, and it was filled with a quirky and international mix of men and women. We would go out once a week for official drinks, but more often than not a bunch of us would go out several more times in the week. Considering that Dean and I were going out six nights a week at that stage, it’s no wonder we had a big group of friends. What is surprising is how those same people still fit who we are.

When Carel and Vera arrived, it was instant hugs, connection and ease. I hadn’t met Vera before – the last time I saw Carel was about eight years ago, before he met her. And yet, it felt like no time had passed. I was as happy to see them, relaxed and comfy as I was almost a decade ago. There was no pretense, no stress, just that unique joy of seeing someone after so many years and feeling like it was just yesterday. We caught up on stories, shared funny observations, ate tons of food, and even talked about politics and the insanity that is current events at the moment. After eight years, our four hours together were far too short. It’s like those times I’ve flown through London and had wonderful and too-short visits with Sadaf; when you already have such a solid friendship, no matter how long it’s been or how long you spend together, it feels normal, comfy, and as it should be.

Of course I have similar friendships here, people who are amazing to have in my life, who I couldn’t live the life I do without. Whether we meet up once a week, once a month or even more infrequently, there are a variety of people who I’m friends with here in Joburg who I’m sure will be friends for life, who I will continue to see as the years go by – whenever our paths cross around the world, I’m sure we will meet up, laugh, and it will feel just like it does now.

As someone with the capacity for deep and meaningful friendships, I’m always shocked by fakeness in others. I like to think I’m a good judge of character – while I might be too nice for my own good, I generally can tell when someone is insincere, a user, or just lacking in integrity. That doesn’t mean I won’t be drawn to such people, but I typically keep my distance or know how far to trust or engage with such individuals.

However, lately I’m finding a few instances of people who I thought were good friends, or at least had the potential to become good friends, turning out to not be such great people. And I’d love to blame some sort of cultural confusion, that I couldn’t read them because of some residual foreign-ness about me or them that just made me blind to their true nature. But that wouldn’t be true. The reality is that I fell for the facade, I fell for the pretense. And maybe I attributed certain things to being in different life stages – I am married and now a mom, so that does change things – but the reality is that it doesn’t matter. People who want to be close to me, or who I want to be close to, don’t care about those things. We find a way, we make it work.

I don’t know why the fake people are bothering me more than usual. Normally, I just see that someone isn’t meant to be a close friend, or a friend for life, and I move on. I don’t waste more energy thinking about the friendship that could have been or the time I put into the relatedness. I appreciate the time and impact that a person had when they did, and I let the rest go. Maybe I’m second guessing myself because I really do wonder if having a kid has ruined some friendships… but then I see how I still manage to connect to those people who are authentic and real in my life. I suppose this isn’t a Seinfeld moment – “it’s not you, it’s me” isn’t always true. Maybe it is them, maybe it’s not me.

Regardless of the how or why of the fake friends, the visit this weekend made me realize just how lucky I am to have such a variety of awesome people in my life. Some of them I’m lucky enough to see often, and some of them I only get brief moments together with months or years between visits, but no matter what, I have some amazing people in my life, and I’m better off as a result.


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  • Overrated tbh

    • Zoe Hawkins

      shut up and go back to work

  • Naxie

    i know the feeling – disappointment and something more – when we think that someone is a friend, only to discover that they aren’t. i think what’s most upsetting is when we wonder why we didn’t see the signs sonner – or didn’t see any signals at all – that the person wasn’t who we thought he/she was. we then second guess ourselves.

    you are a great judge of people and have a spectacular BS detector, too. sometimes, as we know, it just takes longer than we’d like to figure out that someone in our life isn’t a friend and more, is phoney and not to be trusted.

    but YOU, my sweet girl – are a wonderful friend and the best daughter in the whole world….love you so, so much.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      *biggest hugs* love you so much! at least you’re my REAL mom, in all meanings of the word real.

    • I think this nails it – we second guess ourselves. Also people can suck.

      • Zoe Hawkins

        true true!

  • VampyreSquirrel

    Who I consider “friends” has dwindled quite crazily with my divorce and the circumstances behind it, but it just shows who my friends really are. I’ve also gained some people I can consider friends, and that’s awesome.

    Having a child shouldn’t affect friendships though. #justsaying πŸ˜›

    • Zoe Hawkins

      Yeah, I think major life changes will always change friendships, but it still feels awful when it happens. And truly, those people who are your real friends will be solid no matter what life throws. I think kids change some friendships because they change availability or at least the perception of availability – in reality, in before Dean and I made a person, I was done going out clubbing or whatever. πŸ˜›

      • VampyreSquirrel

        Haha, that perception of availability is crazy when it comes to parents, especially new parents (like you and Dean, my sister, and and and) where people are like “OMG, we can’t go there, they’ll be busy with the baby”… no, actually the baby will likely be sleeping, and waking up from time to time for feeding, changing, etc. Just don’t stay too late, let the parents rest as well xD.

        I was done with clubbing at 24 or 25 xD

  • Ursula Van Lelyveld

    Wow so much in the same space that I’m posting from today.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      can’t wait to read your post!

  • Valshen

    Maybe it is harder to maintain the facade of liking a person when they are busy with a child and not paying full attention to said fake person? Some people can’t handle not having 100% of your attention. That is their problem, not yours.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      this is true! also, little do they know how much attention I can still give while bouncing a baby. πŸ˜‰

  • HouwGobz

    I may be able to help with this to a certain degree as someone who is only interested in ever having my dogs as children and can’t see the cuteness of babies. From my experience it does come down to those life circumstances. Most people, as you know, will have their priorities change when their kids are born. It’s not just availability or attention given, the type of conversation and entire focus can tend to shift, and sometimes entire interest areas (now this part might not be you). It’s difficult at times to keep up with that shift and it doesn’t necessarily mean people are fake, they just can’t really relate anymore and so the distance grows. It’s not anyone’s fault, no one is a bad person and it can hurt but alas, yeah, it happens. This is the trying to give people the benefit of the doubt explanation.

    But then again, they could just be assholes. So many people are self-centered and can’t handle a conversation drifting away from them. If you’ve ever tried talking to some people without offering up any information about yourself, you’ll notice so many out there, don’t even bother to ask. Unfortunately, because you are a nice person, this tends to attract said assholes because other assholes are too self-centered to be paying attention to them. πŸ˜‰

    • HouwGobz

      P.S. Don’t let these people affect you as a person. If you do, you’ll just build up walls and never let anyone in close enough to make new friends who are truly worth it. Mmmmkay?

      • Zoe Hawkins

        will keep that in mind! and definitely, i’ve known people who only want to talk about kids or nappies or whatnot once they procreate, but i still read, watch series and play games, so plenty of the usual avenues of conversation open. I think it’s probably that other thing you mentioned it could be – as soon as the conversation couldn’t revolve around them, they decided the friendship wasn’t for them. Or maybe they just didn’t like the fact that I could still swear and enjoy a glass of wine with a baby on my boob. πŸ˜›

  • The older I’ve gotten Zoe, I’ve realised that I would rather have friends that I can count on that I can count on my one hand in terms of numbers than have many “friends” who don’t actually give a shit. Surround yourself with those who love you for who you are now and let the rest go as “reason, season” friends. If they are meant to be in your life they will find a way to be in it.


    • Zoe Hawkins

      very true!! absolutely adore my awesome people, just still always so surprised at those who aren’t what I thought they were. Will focus on the good instead, though πŸ™‚