Trying to make friends as a grown up is like dating. I’ve written before about how most of my friends I knew in college or from teaching. Its hard to make friends outside of those worlds because our lives are all so separate from each other. If you meet someone cool and you want to actually build a friendship with them, you have to work for it a little bit. When you’re trying to become friends with someone you don’t work with, share no mutual friends with, and only see once a week, the process can make you feel like you’re trying to date the other person. I thought when I got married I wouldn’t have to date anymore.
I had a conversation with some old friends from high school theater about the challenges of making friends as an adult. One of my friends said something that really stuck with me. She said, “you have to be aggressive.” With her permission to do that, I felt less awkward about asking someone I thought was cool to get coffee. I kept trying to tell myself it was all totally normal and either she would say yes or she would say no. Either way it was not a reflection on me. I still felt a little awkward about asking, but it felt good to take the leap. She said yes and we had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.
We chatted a few times after that and then went to get a drink after work. I kind of asked her on a whim. I didn’t want to seem pushy since I was the one who asked her to get coffee, but again, I took the leap. And again we had a great time. We have a lot in common, we like talking to each other. But after those after-work drinks I literally began to feel the same panic I used to feel after going on a first or second date. Does this person like me? What happens next? Can I ask her to hang out again or will that be crossing the line? All of those dumb questions that just come from my raging insecurity. Then I started to ask myself what did I even want out of the situation? I have a lot of friends, very good friends, who I see all the time. Do I really need another best friend? Is that what I’m looking for?
The answer to that, is no. And figuring that out has been pretty good for my overall perspective on this topic. I wish I could have had this much perspective when I was dating. It would have saved me from a lot of weirdos! What I do want from this new friend is someone to hang out with in my neighborhood sometimes. As for who asks who to do what, I keep coming back to what my friend said about being aggressive. I’m not being aggressive in the let’s-hang-out-every-day-and-be-obsessed-with-each-other high school way. But if I’m free, and I want to stay in my neighborhood, or I think of something she would enjoy, I can ask her. Its nice to not have to travel to manhattan, or hoboken, or williamsburg to see a friend. I like that I can mention the name of a local bar or coffee shop and she knows where it is and can walk there. I’m not trying to “go steady” with this girl, I’m just trying to add someone cool to my circle.
So I guess it’s like dating, but also, not at all like dating.