I’ve been really lucky to live in some odd places. Places where it was easy to find friends because there were only a few of us in the same situation, even after I left college, where you pretty much live with friends and learn with friends and work with friends. Places where the choice is between being friends and being alone.
First there was Japan, where Dick and I lived next door to our three co-workers for the semester. British Caroline and I bonded over the Japanese-subtitled James Bond marathon, and Lou from the Philippines and I bonded over a shared worldview (and Tina from America, if you ever read this, you always had the best manicure!).
Then there was Harlem, where Mimi and I were the only white, married (and pregnant) twenty-two year-olds. Then The Bronx where I had Angela and Laura at work.
And then there was Cairo, where Suzy, Katherine, Rebecca and I were the only twenty-something wives of teachers/graduate students with pre-school age kids.
Even in Florida my closest friendships seemed providentially serendipitous — Jill was the first church-lady-fellowshipping partner I ever had who got me, and Tara was in Florida for one year only — the year she and her husband and kid moved across the country all so she could meet me.
Some of these friends I might not have gotten close to if the laws of proximity hadn’t necessitated our friendship, and in many cases those friendships are even more precious because of our surface differences.
Now I live in my dream community, the kind of place I used to tell Angela and Laura (both quintessential New Yorkers) was “Zion.” I was kidding, a little bit, but I really like Utah. It’s not as diverse as most of the other places I’ve been; still, it’s the kind of place, in all other respects, that I’m excited to raise my daughters in.
But I don’t have any friends. (Except Chrysanthemum, and she’s a great friend, don’t get me wrong, and the fact that she moved in just down the street the same week is another clear case of providential serendipity, and without her I’d be bereft.)
But the haze of moving and settling and re-routine-ing has lifted a bit, and I look around and I start to recognize people because they look like their kids, who are familiar to me from primary (3-12 year-old Sunday School, which I’m 2nd in line to be in charge of), and I wonder who I’d like to be friends with, and who’d like to be friends with me.
I put myself out there. I’m involved in church and school and neighborhood activities. People (women) are always friendly, sometimes enthusiastically so, but . . . my (admittedly hesitant/timid/nonexistent?) overtures haven’t led anywhere.
Most days I’m happy to let things meander. I’ve got Chrysanthemum, after all, and awesome bloggy friends, and old good friends I could call up or email or Facebook. And I think, well, this is a good opportunity to focus on the kids, to do some more writing, to finish my basement.
Until I remember I have absolutely no idea how to begin finishing a basement. And really, I’d like to have a few more friends within visiting-every-day, Arctic-Circle-running distance.
Suddenly making friends seems a hard thing to do. And it’s not even that people have lived here forever. Seagull Fountain is pretty new, and several families nearby have been here less than a year. But even they seem to not need me, to not be searching for friends as I find myself (thinking of) doing.
And the last thing I want is to be a project friend. We were a project for a nice military family in Japan, only we didn’t know that we were a project until the husband got up in church and testified as to how great the fellowshipping project had made him and his wife feel. I was shocked when they never invited us to do anything after that burst of fellow-feeling.
I’m picky myself; I don’t want just any old friends. I’ve been surprised in the past, but somehow I wonder what I’d have in common with the nice girl my age who has four daughters (perfect!) and who told me today that she and her husband mostly eat meat they’ve hunted themselves (uh?), and that the antlers (%^) are starting to crowd them out of their house. (And her van radio was set to a country music station.)
Of course, now that I’ve written that, she’ll probably call me up tomorrow and see if I’d like to go to the library with her and all the kids, and I’ll feel guilty for talking about antlers and remember that I really love venison jerky, and maybe if we’re friends I could also score some free-range buffalo, which I hear is better for your heart than beef anyway. (But I’d have to introduce her to Coldplay. A girl has to maintain some sense of self.)
I was thinking today I should write up a questionnaire for likely prospects:
1) Do you have time/energy/room in your life for another friend?
1a) Are you interested in being friends with me?
2) How many hours a week would you be interested in socializing with this new friend?
2a) What days are good for you? Are your kids strict afternoon-nappers?
3) What are your feelings towards caffeine-dependency, trashy novels, and the occasional swear word?
4) Check the box if you’d like to arrange a playdate for our kids where we’d both be there too and try to converse meaningfully between breaking up fights, wiping noses, and answering our phones.
Then I thought that perhaps this would be a little bit Michael Scotty-y from The Office. And that made me both sad for my kids who are going to suffer through their teenage years with a Michael Scott mom, but also it cheered me up a little bit, because I remembered that at least I have something exciting planned for Thursday night.
But seriously — any tips? How do you make friends when it’s just not happening naturally?