Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finding like-minded souls aka Does my new friend have a potty mouth?

I’ve known him for going on 30 years (oh Biff, that just makes us both seem so old.)  We met as angst-filled college freshman.  I’d known Runner for 3 years at that point and we all ended up at the same school.  A shared dormitory, bad dining hall food, one car among us and being away from home for the first time.  And so it started.  Friendships made and friendships cemented. 

Just the other morning, Biff asked a great question on Facebook – Why is it so much harder to find and make friends now?  Is he right?  Was it easier as kid when someone was a stranger one day and your BFF the next?  Those friendships were honest, straightforward and caring – some have lasted into adulthood.  The responses to his question were interesting – ranging from adults being more complicated to people just being jackasses (uh, that may have been mine.) Others shared the obvious that it just makes you appreciate the good ones.

But his question did make me think about it. As adults, our offices and the gym are the playground where we generally meet people. Maybe we live in a neighborhood that fosters friendships but many of us do not.  Some of us have young kids, where we are thrown together with lots of other parents. Some of whom may not be total a-holes. Some of whom may become friends. If we’re lucky.

I know that friendships change.  When mini-me was very young, my new friends were the parents of her young friends. We bonded over diapers, day care and tantrums.  We joined mommy groups where often the only things we had in common were young children, lack of sleep and messy houses. Then our kids formed opinions (boy, did mini-me form opinions) and began to pick and choose friends. We saw less of those early friends and sometimes it was easy.  A good night’s sleep and the ability to have a complete conversation made you realize you didn’t have much to say to some of those folks or drastically different parenting styles made deeper friendship more difficult.  Kids grow, schools change, people move, you move and you have to start over.

We’ve now put down some roots. I live in a ‘hood with great people and the mom posse - friends for both me and mini-me so the neighborhood connection worked.  But now, I see some of my other friends less. Kids keep growing, schools keep changing, and schedules become more complicated.  Maybe we are changing and the differences are more subtle. My office isn’t really the kind of place that fosters strong friendships and the gym….well, I should go to one and perhaps if I did, both me and my new fit friends would be besties forever. But, bonding over our sweaty bodies strikes me as something a wee bit more than friendship.

But really, how would I go about making a new friend right now? It’s not like I can sit on the driveway with the sidewalk chalk and a cocktail and hope someone will wander by and ask if they can play.  Embarrassingly enough, the mom posse I have done this. More than once.  I’ve tried the PTO but honestly, that is a group of women that need a hobby and possibly a drink or three. While I’m friendly with a number of other neighbors and certainly with some folks at work, none seem to be moving in the direction of a new friend.

For adults, there seems to be a dance of sorts – gotta feel each other out.  Do you have anything in common?  Will they still like you if they know you (fill in the blank?) But, do those friendships just develop or do we have to make a list, go over it twice and then strategically go about it?  I thought about my most recent new friends. I was at the barn (a smelly, hot and dusty home away from home.) I was talking with the instructors and another mom about another even newer parent. We agreed she seems very nice.  We’ve tested the waters with her by talking about our love of a good cocktail and how our precious children can make us need a good cocktail. She seemed to be on board. We’ve yet to determine if she can tolerate our potty mouths (‘cause really – it’s not secret I have one) – because this new mom is a mid-Westerner and we think we may scare her.  Then it dawned on me – my new barn friends did this with me since I’m the newbie.  I had made three new friends – good ones. I never made any team I consciously tried out for but this revelation made me feel like I made the cut. I almost feel like the popular girl now that Derby, Jumper and the Bomb have welcomed me into their little club.  It just happened. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t really try.  I really was just hanging out on the proverbial sidewalk and they asked me to play.  So glad I said yes.

So Biff, I think the answer to your question is to just be you (and oh, the joke I could insert here.) Talk to folks – even if at a glance you’re not sure you will connect. Let’s face it, on the surface, we should never have become friends – we were so different but we just connected. We gave each other a chance.  Because you never really know if that person next to you at the soccer field, in line at the movie or standing next to you at the next kid’s birthday party where you don’t know anyone else – is your new friend. If they ask you to play, just say yes.

Note: though I’ve been blogging for a while and always put a new post on my Facebook page, Biff has yet to realize that I was writing all those posts I was recommending. Or, he was simply not reading my posts. He’s either a shithead or not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But now he knows…and he may read this and he’s a really good writer. He’s a great writer. Bracing myself for feedback and possibly a heavy dose of snark in return.