I realize my problem isn’t as serious as other letters you’ve answered, but I figured I should try writing anyway since I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it.
I was friends with someone I’ll call “Oakley” from elementary school through high school. It was very rare for my parents to allow me to hang out with friends, so I really only got to spend time with Oakley if I was in one of their classes. The lack of contact outside of school didn’t exactly cultivate a deep friendship, and I didn’t keep in contact with them after graduating even though we only live a few miles apart.
This past weekend, my mother ran into Oakley’s mother at a movie theater, and they talked about getting together for lunch in the near future to catch up. I’m worried this catch-up-lunch is going to end with an obligation for me to hang out with Oakley.
I have nothing against Oakley personally, it’s just that: 1) School wasn’t a nightmare for me, but it wasn’t a great time either, and I imagine it being at least a little painful to have to reconnect with any part of it. 2) While I remember Oakley fondly, they’re essentially a stranger now, so what’s the point? And 3) I have no interest in socializing with *anyone.* (I made more “friends” in college and the following internships/jobs, but I avoided spending time with them outside of those contexts. I do wish I had real friends, but the idea of socializing makes me extremely anxious.)
I already asked my mother not to set up any “play dates” between me and Oakley (she was surprised and said it was a good thing I told her). I’m not sure what else to do or what she could say if Oakley’s mother brings it up. Any thoughts or advice?
(Note: I realize Oakley might not be interested in seeing me at all either. I’m just imagining a worst case scenario where Oakley’s mother tries to reconnect us.)
You know your mom best, and the fact that she said “It’s a good thing you told me” tells me that the meeting of the moms would have resulted in some pressure to reconnect with Oakley when she hung out with his mom.
However, that’s a LOT of head miles to drive on something that hasn’t happened yet and may not happen. And something where, even if it happens, you still have the final say-so. For example, what if your mom did set something up?
Mom: “I talked to Oakley’s mom, and here’s their number so the two of you can reconnect!”
You: “No thanks, I’m not interested.”
Mom: “But what will I tell Oakley’s mom when I see her?”
You: “I don’t know? That you ran it by me and I’m not interested?”
Mom: “But what will she tell Oakley?”
You: “Same thing, probably? Who knows?”
Mom: “But what will she/Oakley think of me/you/us?” (This is the *real* question, the one with stakes for your mom).
You: “Who knows? I told you not to set anything up.”
You could also accept the number from your mom and never call Oakley, though that risks many follow-up questions that might be a bigger hassle than saying no in the first place.
You are allowed to choose your own friends.
You are allowed to pick your own friends without help or hindrance from your parents.
You are allowed to be as social, or not social, as you like.
Act like it’s true and it will be true.
You say in the beginning of your letter that this question isn’t very serious. You also say: “I do wish I had real friends, but the idea of socializing makes me extremely anxious.” That sounds pretty serious to me?
That statement + the fact that you got very worried about the prospect of seeing someone you ‘remember fondly’ again + hearing that you were prevented from spending time with friends as a child (really Not Okay on your parents’ part, in my opinion) + that you deliberately avoided deepening friendships from college or internships …Well, all that together makes me want to recommend that you explore those nervous feelings with a trained clinician like a therapist or social worker. We can’t internet-diagnose you and wouldn’t if we could, but I think it’s worth typing “anxious about socializing” “anxious about making friends,” etc. and seeing if checklists or online resources that come up apply to your situation.
You are the boss of whether you hang out with Oakley again in this life. You’re also the boss of whether you want to make friends with others and how you want to handle those friendships. Your parents aren’t the boss of your friendships anymore, but if anxiety about being around people is getting in the way of the things you want, I hope you’ll look into treatment so that those feelings are not the boss of you, either. You deserve to have the relationships that you want in this world!
Readers, as a reminder, saying “It sounds like you definitely have (condition)” is not cool. “I have felt like you, and I have (condition), this is how I manage it, if any of that information helps you here you go,” is in bounds.