This morning I woke up thinking about making a new friend.
I have some, but I recently moved to a new place and instead of meeting friends, I met a man.
His friends became my friends and his family included me well. I had no reason to venture outside of the confines of this safe place to make my own friends. After two years, we broke up. He kept his friends and family.
I found nursing heartbreak to be an important diversion from friend seeking. After all, it is hard work to recover and feeling the pain and vulnerability prevented me from reaching out, from searching for who I may want in my life or acting in my own best interest.
Lets face it, making friends hasn’t always been easy.
I am 57 years old and the people I call friends are strewn out all over the country. It’s not convenient to call a friend in Portland for coffee when I now live in Connecticut. How can we tell what time to meet? So I am on the hunt. I have a lifetime of experience to draw on and I know who I am right this minute.
It seems that my lifetime of experience gets in the way as I look at my ability to find friends. I have a strong sense that I do it by 3rd party association. Friends of friends become friends. When I go it alone, I do awkward human things like saying phrases like “I need a friend” and “I’m looking for friends, do you have room for another one?” or the all important “Hey! I really like you, could we keep in touch?” a tad earlier than most people deliver those lines.
I am an awkward kind of person. That may hinder the progress some.
I have the idea that dating sites should branch out. Perhaps they already have in meet-up groups and the like. I am talking about writing a profile, posting my needs and wants and then waiting for the perfect person to find me or vice versa. I could sit in the warmth of my home, burrow under the brand new electric throw I got for Christmas and search through profiles. I wouldn’t have to venture outside the house, reach out of my comfort zone or make awkward conversation.
I could write a beautiful profile explaining that while I yearn for friends, I am independent and so you kind of have to hound me to follow through, and oh by the way, maybe you could make early plans with me because when I make plans to go meet someone at 7 or 8 at night, I am highly likely to want to stay home. A soft sell, so to speak. As I type this, I am finding that the profile needs a bit of work.
Along my friend seeking path I have picked up some tips. Finding a friend is no easy venture. There are trials and tribulations, heartache and heartwarming conversations.
It takes a brave person to try.
Here is what I have learned so far, in the hope that it may serve others as it has served me:
Go places you would normally go anyway.
This may seem self-explanatory, but if you are like me, you may be inclined to try going places that you wish you liked or aspire to like in the future. I recently decided that given my love of glass blowing, I ought to look for friends at museums. I am well educated, smart and well spoken. I look pretty well put together and museums are places I would like to fit in. The phrase “like to fit in” is key here.
I didn’t fit in. I found people in the museum I visited to be quietly reflective, contemplative and want to look at art.
Friend-seeking on a normal day in the museum is a tad bit like talking in a theatre, it isn’t really done. It’s a place you go to with friends to talk about after. I sidled up to a woman who looked like a good prospect. She looked a bit discomforted by how closely I was standing to her. She moved on to the next piece at a runners pace. I ran with her.
She gave me a sidelong glance as I spoke. “Do you come here often?” She looked for the guard.
I moved on.
I encourage you to go places you already feel comfortable. A local restaurant, favorite bar, Whole Foods, gym, art class or the library are all better choices for me. You will need to assess it for yourself but I assure you that you will find yourself surrounded by people who like what you like and conversation will follow.
Sometimes one conversation is enough.
I recently wandered into my favorite restaurant. They have a beautiful pale onyx bar lighted underneath and a bartender who makes her own juices. I sit at the bar by myself and I feel comfortable and accepted. This particular time, I met the man sitting next to me. He hosts supper clubs. He invites groups of friends to come to his home, pitch in with the meal prep, cook together and enjoy meals once a month or so.
He and I launched into a conversation about food. We talked of how octopus tastes after it has been par-boiled in a beautiful broth and thrown on the grill. We explored new and interesting ways to cook dishes and through it all, I felt great. I spoke about things I love and when I was done eating, I said I was glad to have met him. I didn’t pursue exchanging information, in fact, I can’t remember his name.
I may run into him again, and if I am lucky enough to get an invitation to a supper, I will go. I was proud of my ability that night. I did not make things awkward, forward or uncomfortable. If he becomes a friend, I will have company to talk to about food.
If he doesn’t, I figure that at least I had company for one evening.
Making friends takes time and along the way, company is something to be grateful for.
Work friends are not necessarily home friends.
I have worked for the same company for 23 years. I find that when I take the work out of the term “work friendship” I find out who these people are. I appreciate one woman in my office because she is quiet and organized. An invitation to visit her at home revealed that her organizational skills are kept at work and her place looks like it belongs on an episode of “Hoarders.”
While I worked hard to drink the tea she offered without picking too many cat hairs out of it, I realized that work was where this friendship belonged. I for one, put my best face forward and try to remember that I need to behave like a grown up at work. So do they.
I have high hopes for my search. I have a lifetime ahead of me to make friends and to keep them. Some will live nearby and others will be stretched across the world.
As I find myself more at home where I am, I will gather friends. They will love my awkward approaches and be grateful for my company as I am grateful for theirs.
The search is beginning and now that I am standing on my own without protection of relationship, it becomes obvious to me that friends are what I need in my life.
Here’s to friends!
Author: Annette Moore
Editor: Renee Picard / Assistant Editor: Ellie Cleary