Queen Camilla has appointed six close friends as “companions” to accompany her on royal duties, says Esther Walker in the I newspaper, presumably so she’s never left alone with “bad-breath weirdos” or accidentally leaves the loo with her skirt tucked in her tights. This week’s embarrassing headlines aside, I felt strangely sad when reading this: “Would I, in that position, be able to pick six people to fulfil this task?” Talking about friends “makes me prickly”, because, truthfully, I don’t have many. Hearing about other people’s jam-packed social lives can send me into a “downward spiral”. I don’t spend every weekend cavorting with pals, so “I feel like I have failed”.
The problem is that friendship has become “overly fetishised”. Until the 1980s, TV programmes centred on the “cosy family unit”: think Happy Days and The Waltons. But by the 1990s, the nuclear family was “often scattered”. Series like Friends and Sex and the City presented family members as little more than problematic burdens, and taught viewers nobody is more important than your pals: “no parent, no sibling, no partner”. Even our kids are surrounded by fictional characters with friends rather than relatives – the likes of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Yet many of us can live quite happily without “an abundance of transformational friendships”, instead just quietly “plonking about” with our immediate family. Sorry to say it, but “friends are overrated”.