Saturday, January 28, 2012

You Gotta Have Friends

In a previous post I talked about my need for a partner in crime. One of my biggest challenges since moving here has been making friends. While I’m a social person, I’m not an initiator. I won’t approach someone without a reason (even if I do really like their purse or they’re talking about something I’m interested in). I rarely strike up conversations with strangers (something I wish I had inherited from my mother). Once we’re introduced I’m fine but I need the other person (or a third party) to make the introduction and the first move. Dating and making friends have a lot of scary similarities; I'm challenged in both. Sad.

Even with my closest friends I sometimes struggle with connection. My best friends live in four different states and we probably don’t talk or email or write enough. Most of them are married and several have children. We're all busy with work and our lives. And time zone differences don't help much. But what I love about these ladies is that even if I don’t talk to them for weeks or months, when we do talk it the time doesn’t matter. Time seems irrelevant when you’re dealing with your life-long friends. Hopefully they’re reading this and know how much I miss them and think of them.

Allison, Kim & I in NOLA
I have a lot of close friends too. None of them live in California though. When I go to Arlington for work trips, I have the best time with my friends from work (I don’t want to call them work friends anymore since we socialize without needing work as the catalyst). Allison is a perfect partner in crime: she’s up for anything and isn’t afraid to be silly in public. These are wonderful qualities to have (especially when the person is your friend). Kim and Daniella are my oldest friends from work: they also live in two different states. We talk during the day through iChat, text and Facebook. They’ve gotten me through some stressful times and I’m amazed at how they keep their humor and grace no matter what. Amy is another excellent partner in crime. She was the first person to visit me in Alameda and I had such a great time exploring my new hometown with her. Amy made me try things even if I wasn’t 100% on board. There are others too; I don’t have the space to mention everyone but know that you’re awesome.  

Amy and I at the Winchester Mystery House
I knew a few people in the area when I moved here but none of them were people I was close to previously. I see them occasionally and I think that’s fine. I’ve become friendlier with one of my co-workers in the last few months. I think she’ll probably be one of my first local friends - she's great and is an initiator (that's the kind of friend I need). I've also met some people through the theater where I volunteer. They’re fun and interesting. I feel more creative when I’m around them. So I’m making progress but still feel like there’s work to be done.

I just finished reading an amazing book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. It’s like she’s been living in my brain for the last year. Like me, Rachel experienced a friend crisis when she moved. She moved to Chicago to be with her boyfriend (now husband) and struggled with not having any close friends in the area. The book focuses on her year of friending—she goes on 52 friend dates looking for “the One.” She chronicles all of the friend dates and methods she used for meeting people (and she tries everything). She also includes research and other writing on friendship. I underlined passages and took notes in the margin like I was in school and there would be a test. Her quest has been a huge inspiration. It’s made me think about myself, my friends and how I think and feel about making friends. I also have about 10 other books to read based on her resources. Friendship is fascinating stuff.

No one seems to want to talk about making friends. Bertsche talks a lot about this too. It’s okay to discuss being single and looking for a boyfriend but talking about wanting to find friends makes people uncomfortable. I’ve had several awkward conversations with people about this subject and I usually leave the conversation feeling bad for making them feel uncomfortable (which is totally ridiculous and I know this). People think that you’re depressed or lonely which makes most people pity you or think you're some kind of freak. I’m not even really lonely (I like to do certain things by myself—being independent is something I’m proud of). I would just like to be able to have a friend or a group to call on when I want to get drinks or do something. Or I’ve had a crap day at work and I just want to vent. Or I want to shop for shoes.

Making friends as an adult is hard work. When you don’t have the community feel of campus or other predefined social situations or shared connections through your established friends you have to work for it. I haven’t been doing that and I need to. No one can make friends for me. My mom can’t set up a playdate anymore. I mean, she could, but then I’d be that girl.

One of the other things in the MWF Seeking BFF that I was really interested in is the concept of a Dunbar number. The idea is that each person has a certain number of friends with whom a they can have stable social relationships.  There are certain types (lifers, close friends, casuals and acquaintances). The common number is 150. I don't have anywhere near 150 so I have room for more friends. My quest is not about replacing friends but adding new ones.

So I’m making 2012 the year of the friend. In addition to the health benefits of making new friends (another thing I love about the book-research supports that having friends makes you healthier), I’m also looking forward to all the people that I will potentially meet or that I’ve already met and will get to know better. This also fits nicely into my goals for 2012. Maybe I’ll find a live music buddy (or two or five) and friends are excellent inspiration. I’ve already taken a major step: I joined a club through Meetup. The group is here in Alameda and the members seem a lot like me; nice, creative, interesting women who want to enjoy where they live and meet new people.

Next Friday I’m going bowling with complete strangers. Maybe I’ll make some new friends and I’ll be working on my goal of going bowling more often. I consider this a win.

I had this song running through my head while writing this post. I have no idea why this song popped into my head given all the songs about friends and friendship but this is how my brain works. Enjoy!

Rachel Bertsche’s blog:
Tripping Daisy/Saturday Morning Cartoons song:

Interview with Robin Dunbar:


  1. Speaking as someone who is super old, I will say that youngsters like you may not realize that the blessing of having out of state friends today is that it's SO MUCH EASIER to keep in touch with them thanks to the Internet. I eventually lost touch with all my high school friends when I chose to go to college out of state. I mean, back then, you had to mail letters, or make expensive phone calls. Of course, there's no substitute for hanging out with your friends, but at least now there's email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook...

    Anyway, you are a fun and likable person, and I'm sure you'll find plenty of friends if you just keep putting yourself out there... it sounds like you're doing just that!

    1. I agree that it's easier to keep in touch because of all the technology available but I also think social media outlets make us all lazy. It's easier to comment on a status update or text message than to call someone or take the time to write. We lose some of the supportiveness and interaction when we use Facebook or Twitter to keep up with one another. Granted I loooooove seeing the baby pictures and vacation photos and keeping up with everyone's lives but I miss the idea of doing the same thing in person.

      I also know that I'm incredibly passive aggressive when I post certain things on the FB. It's easy to be that way and not make a change or fix the issue.

      Great Hello Giggles post on FB:

      My biggest problem has always been the fact that I'm not an initiator. I was great at this as a kid but not as an adult. As kid I probably didn't care that much about what people thought if I went and asked them to be my friend. That's what kids do.

      So now I'm working at it and I will be successful! (Apparently I need a mantra).

  2. I'm so glad this was your new post, because when you mentioned this book on the phone it inspired me too! I'm going to track it down this week.
    I'm going through the same process which is a little hard since I'm not an initiator either, but I'm confident both of us will meet some great new friends this year!

    1. I think you're going to love the book! It's funny and interesting-it's a lot like sitting with a good friend and chatting about things. It's really easy to relate to everything she goes through.

      I know we will be awesome! You've already done so much with book club and jazzercise-you're being active. We can support each other from far away.

  3. I know that this was written about a year ago, I hope your search went well, I am just starting mine! MWF seeking BFF just warms your heart, doesn't it? Cheers

  4. I related to so much of the book. I finally felt like someone got it you know? I think my search went well-it's definitely gotten better once I moved back to Virginia (since I have friends here) but I feel like I'm doing more and expanding that circle.

    I hope your search goes well. Just enjoy it and have fun. That's really all any of us can do.