You’ve Got To Have Friends!

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Bette Midler sang it, and oh is it true…

I moved to New York, to a wealthy suburb filled with soccer moms, (I’m neither), in 1989. When I first married, in 1992, many of those attending were more acquaintances, with a few old friends, all from my native Canada, mixed in.

Only in the past two years have I finally — thank heaven — felt like I, and my second husband, have found a strong network of good friends. I’d always found it really easy to make friends, so was surprised and hurt at how hard it was for me here. I’d only lived in one other place that was lonelier, in a town in rural New Hampshire for 18 months, that was the roughest place I’ve ever been.

No matter what I said or did, or how many times we entertained, nada. Everyone was married, pregnant, eager to become so, or a mother. I had nothing in common with anyone I met — until the very last month after we’d decided to get the hell out and move to New York when I met Penny, a funny, warm, down-to-earth single mom in the rug store where she worked. We stayed friends for a decade.

It’s not easy making new friends as an adult, once you’ve left school and especially if you, as I have for six years, work alone at home all day.

Which is why I read and enjoyed this charming new book, “MWF Seeks BFF” by a young (28 yr old) writer who went on 52 dates in Chicago in search of new friends. She writes lucidly about the challenges and how rare it is to just click! with someone new and hope they’ll carve out room in their life for you.

As I headed into major surgery, and Jose made up a list of people who might want to hear about my progress, I realized how lucky we are now to have found so many people who genuinely care about us both.

How did I meet them?

— Freelance work. Several are people I met at professional events aimed at writers. One is a woman who intelligently and sensitively edited my work when she ran a women’s magazine.

— My husband’s colleagues. He works full-time in an office at a newspaper, a place where people are really busy. But I found a lovely new friend in his department, a fellow Francophile.

— Pool aerobics. I don’t hang out with my classmates, but seeing the same women week after week for two years has created some new friendships, even if largely limited to the locker room.

— Church. I’m not at all like most of the women at our church, but the women who have become close friends have taken the time to see past what some see as my bohemian exterior. (I’m hardly a hippie, but we don’t live in a huge house, or a house at all,  and our household income is probably 30 percent of theirs.)

— Board work. Any sort of volunteer work where you have to show up regularly means you have time to get to know one another, know that you share a passion for the same issues and care enough to commit time to that cause. One of my best friends is someone I’ve been on a volunteer board with for a few years. You see one another in wholly different roles and behaviors than simply going out for drinks or a movie.

— Friends of friends. One local woman is an artist I met at a party here.

— A dinner party filled with strangers. One of my favorite women friends first sat opposite me at a fun dinner party held occasionally for 20 paying strangers at a home in Queens. Turns out her Mom attended the same Toronto ballet school and we’re both Canadian, have lived in foreign countries and both speak French.

Team sports and classes. I’ve been playing softball for a decade with a group of men and women from their 20s to 70s, including a retired ironworker in his 70s and a 30-something pastry chef. We have lawyers, a few doctors, schoolteachers, and have gotten to know one another very well on that dusty field. Athletic pals see our sweaty, exhausted, sore, injured (and triumphant) core.

— My own work colleagues. One of my new friends is someone I met through my freelance work for The New York Times, who has since moved into another full-time position elsewhere.

— Blogging. One of my new friends is a man who also blogged for True/Slant when I did, and we quickly became mutual admirers of one another’s work. We’ve read each other’s manuscripts and I love having a handsome, smart, single guy friend to keep Jose on his toes!

My friends range in age, from 30 years younger to 30 years older. Some have young kids, some have grand-kids, some have teenagers and a few, like me have no kids at all. Maybe typical of the women I find interesting, we almost never talk about kids, but about work, the news, our families.

How do you make new friends?

13 thoughts on “You’ve Got To Have Friends!

  1. The life of a writer can certainly be a solitary one. Fortunately, I can write in a variety of environments (some writers require total solitude and silence), so getting out of the house and working on a few pages at the bookstore or my favorite coffee shop is a wonderful way to interact with other people – and avoid going stark raving mad. Nothing inspires conversation with others more than a person intently typing away on their computer. “Whatcha working on?” or “Would you mind watching my stuff for a minute?” invariably is uttered by someone and a conversation often ignites. Luckily, I’m pretty outgoing, so I just put myself out there. If I’m rejected half the time, that’s okay. I had to put quite a bit of effort into getting to know my new neighbor, but it’s starting to pay off. On the flip side, I just started blogging a few weeks ago and I’m thrilled with the talented, intelligent, funny, diverse and creative people I’ve met and become close to in such a short time. I’ve already found my “blogging bestie” and met several other incredibly nice people with whom I exchange emails or comments on each other’s blogs. On Facebook, my sense of humor didn’t always come across. On wordpress, it’s celebrated. What a wonderful thing to meet so many like-minded people who get it. And what a relief to not always have to add “LOL” after everything I write so people know I’m just kidding.

    1. The last few days in the hospital have shown me, in embarrassing fashion, what a hermit I have become! It’s been really difficult to handle the constant interruptions and questions. I do tend to work alone at home almost all the time because there really are no serious distractions — like a fun conversation with a stranger. I need to get out more!

      Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Hey, sounds like you came through the surgery pretty well. Rock on!

    I just kind of randomly meet people. I’ve met a lot of people through writers’ conferences, through work stuff, academic contacts and conferences, and writers’ forums and groups. I’ve also met some pretty interesting people just in the day to day. Actually, everybody is interesting. I manage to get a story or two from everyone I meet. People are fascinating, and I’m a curious sort, so I pretty much talk to just about anybody.

    Sending good ju-ju for your continued healing.

    1. Thanks. It feels like the Russian army has been through my hip, but it’s done. Whew.

      I love your openness to new people. I’m usually very gregarious and also really enjoy meeting new people; it’s one reason retail work was such a great fit for me…every customer has a story to tell and great salespeople naturally discover it through genuine conversation. I miss the constant flow of interesting people I met there, if not the low wages and dull work.

  3. I make friends 1) because I talk too much 2) because I am nosy and invite myself into others peoples conversations but mostly because 3) i can find common ground with everyone. I can make the best friends on the metro or on the airplane. It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t have to be a certain type of person, its all about knowing that you can have a connection with anyone. Its the random friends and people you meet on the sidewalk that hold a special place in your hear.

  4. Glad you’re mending well!

    How do I make friends? Slowly.

    We moved out of NYC to upstate NY 2.5 years ago, and I am finally feeling like I’ve made a couple friends. One of them is a friend of an old friend in the area, so we had her in common. We’re both writers, so we have that in common.

    The other is the mother of my daughter’s friend. I do have two children, so I meet people through them. Our kids are getting older, though, so we don’t have new-mother desperation. They’ve all bonded already with their new mom friends from back when the kids were little, so it’s hard for me to break into their circles.

    In truth, my closest friends live far away, and I miss them.

  5. Thanks for sharing this…I wonder if it’s harder to make friends (with simply fewer people to choose from locally) in a rural area. I was shocked at how brutally lonely my experience was, but I also did not work in the area when I lived in NH and not having kids (or grown up there) made it very difficult.

    I miss the decades of history I have (and can only really have) with my Canadian friends, who knew me in my go-go 20s, not as some 50-something with a bum hip. But I’ve lived in one spot now since 1989 and have a few friends here who go back about a decade…and that’s a solid feeling of history, even if I don’t consider them my closest pals.

  6. Caitlin, what a great post. And you could probably relate to where I came from. I moved from Montreal to Toronto in ’90 after finishing school, and as you said, it is completely different making friends outside of a school environment. I thought Montreal was a big city until I moved to T.O. People already had their own cliques and never invited me into theirs. I got along really well with my co-workers, but outside of work, they had their own lives and had no interest in bringing me into it. So I took courses and met a couple of interesting people; I took a solo Club Med trip and made a great friend from T.O. But I can’t say I made really enduring friendships, and the friends that I did make were – for the most part – also originally from somewhere else. I guess that was our common ground. Thanks for your insights on my last blog past, as someone who’s lived on both sides of the border! And good to hear you got through your surgery like a winner, too!

    1. Thanks! I did the opposite move, from TO to Montreal in 1986 when I went to work at the Gazette. I quickly made two very good female friends who lived in the same small downtown apartment building. Both were single women, and one even introduced me to my first husband. But (maybe this is a universal) I also felt that Montrealers had all gone to the same schools and lived near their families, so who needed a new friend?

      When in Toronto, a Montreal friend said she found TO very hard to break into socially. I can see that. TO is also a really workaholic city compared to Montreal. One of the truly remarkable differences I saw was that in TO people never seemed to go out in large groups, only 1 or 3 people at most. In Montreal, it was routine to see a group of 6 or 8 of more!

      NY is not easy, but so many people have moved here from far away that it’s easier to find friends who need friends! My circle includes those who have lived and worked overseas so they “get” the challenge of reinventing.

  7. Even though I am gregarious by nature, I like my own company. Friendships, for me, are quite simply, about being social: people to share activities with. Consequently, I have a steady stream of people coming and going from my life. That suits me fine.

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