friendship

'Amy Schumer has a 'no new friends' policy. Here's why it doesn't sit right with me.'

I love Amy Schumer. There’s a deluded corner of my brain that believes someday we may actually break through this one-sided fan/celebrity dynamic and become the carb-loving, feminist buddies destiny secretly wants us to be.

Perhaps this is why I was surprisingly stung when I noticed her recent post on Instagram, posing alongside Oprah, with the hashtag #nonewfriendsexceptoprah.

The pair had just recorded an interview for O’s SuperSoul Sessions, where they bonded over being introverts who found social situations exhausting. In contrast to Oprah’s BFF Gayle King – a true extrovert who draws energy from being around other people – Schumer and Winfrey agreed they could only recharge by being alone.

Sometimes at parties they even hide in the toilets to get a few minutes to themselves (I did that two weeks ago – see, so much in common already!).

In fairness, who wouldn’t let Oprah into their inner circle – even if you are an introvert with a ‘no new friends’ policy? But this isn’t the first time Schumer has mentioned her closed shop policy on new people.

Recently while promoting her movie, I Feel Pretty, on US morning show Live with Kelly and Ryan, she was asked how she managed to keep her guest list so small at her last-minute Malibu wedding back in February:

“For a couple of years now, I have a no new friends policy. No new friends! No new friends!” she declared. “It’s too much to juggle.”

And last year, when asked about her friendship with Jennifer Lawrence, Schumer reportedly told Total Film magazine that, “Famous people are exhausting and too much work to be friends with, other than Jennifer.”

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I can’t entirely tell (because we’re not friends yet!) whether Amy’s policy is tongue-in-cheek, or if there’s actually some truth to it. But it did get me thinking: is it reasonable to close shop on new friendships?

We’re told that when we say no to something or someone else, we’re actually just saying yes to ourselves. And that this is a positive step that contributes to our long-term well-being. But is a friendship ban really as simple as saying ‘yes’ to yourself?

We’re also told we get different things from different friendships. Some friends offer wisdom, or fun, while others offer a healthy dose of tough love. A quick Google search will tell you there’s a magic number of different friendship types one person needs to be fulfilled (say five, or seven, or eight).

So if you’re one of the lucky ones to have five, or seven, or eight key friendships that tick all of those boxes, can you one day decide that you’re not accepting any new ones?

Mia Freedman speaks to author Kayleen Schaefer about why female friendships are so important in society right now…

On every season of every reality dating show, at least one contestant (usually the villain) makes the jarring statement: “I didn’t come here to make friends, I came here to find love.”

This kind of declaration never sits well with me. What’s so wrong with making new friends? I wonder though, if I’m secretly threatened by their honesty, their comfort in putting it out there. On some conscious level, maybe I’m taking it as a personal rejection.

I would describe myself as a person who is always open to new friendships, at any stage of life. But when I put my track record under the microscope, I realised my ‘newest’ close friend was made two-three years ago. I’ve definitely met new people in that time, but none of them have stuck.

So am I just as bad? Have I closed myself off like Amy Schumer and the reality TV villains? At least they were up-front about it.

As we get older and our lives fill up with demanding jobs and families, the slice of the pie designated for friendships gets noticeably smaller. How often do we hear people say, ‘I barely have time to catch up with my existing friends, let alone make new ones’? Just like the Busy Badge, it’s often said with strange sense of pride.

The problem with the way our life pie is designed, is that if we don’t forge these key friendships early in life – when we still have the energy and free time to commit to them – it gets increasingly harder to fill these spots later on.

I know several truly delightful people who have moved cities in their late 20s and 30s and found it almost impossible to meet new friends. Not because they’re not thoroughly friendable, but because people have turned their lights off. They’ve got their five, or seven, or eight key friends. They’re set!

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While we treasure the comfort and shared history of old friendships, isn’t there something equally as rewarding about making friends with a person who sees you with fresh eyes? Where your bond is based on interests and values you hold today, right now?

Perhaps they can teach us more about ourselves than those well-ingrained bonds where roles and beliefs were cast long ago? Roles we fall straight back into at every catch up – like siblings. Shouldn’t we be looking at new friendships as an opportunity for reinvention?

Of course there are limitations. We can’t run ourselves into the ground dating a brand new friend every night. But can’t we find a balance between preserving ourselves and also being decent people? Opening ourselves up to new personalities and perspectives, while making the world a little less alienating for those who may not have filled their dance card yet?

Isn’t there always something to be gained for us too? Or does charity start at home? Are we better off – introverts or not – to draw a line in the sand, in order to be kinder to ourselves?

Even as an introvert, there’s something about this that doesn’t sit right with me. How about you?

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