How to Make Friends

(If you click on the picture, you can see it bigger.)

S bought a house yesterday.  We (my husband and kids and I) went to see it today.

This is a picture of the house taken from the fireplace.  S’s idea.  No, you goofball, I wasn’t in the fireplace.  Mini-tripod, timer.

We’ve been friends with S for less than a year and I was thinking today about how friendships start.

Sometimes friendships develop slowly, like a stalactite.

You find yourself in a group with the same people over and over and after a loooong time, you get to know the individuals in the group.  Then, when you know they like you and it’s safe and easy, you invite an individual to something outside of the group, and a friendship has formed.

Other times, the friendship begins in a single moment and you can pinpoint when it happened, like the big bang.

I remember becoming friends with J.  It was the second week of school, sophomore year of high school.  Gym class.

Is there any class more shaming for the unathletic than gym class?  If you’re bad at science no one needs know, so long as you keep mum about your grades.  But in gym class, you have to stand up and lose spectacularly for all to see.  And not only do you lose, but your inadequacies mean that half the class loses.  It’s beyond humiliating.  I don’t remember ever being picked for a team closer than 3rd from last.  And I was often the last one picked.

(Miserable memory moment over.)

Back to the friendship:  Normally in school, I would try to blend into the walls and keep as silent as possible, especially during gym class.  But for whatever reason there was a reprieve from the torture and the teacher was waa-waa-waaing about whatever it is gym teachers talk about.  I was bored and sitting far enough away from the teacher not to be heard.  AND I was in a particularly gregarious and witty mood that day and let slip a few quips to the student who was sitting next to me.  J.  (This may have been the first time I initiated a conversation with anyone at school, during the entire 12 years I attended.)

Turns out that J and I are eerily similar in many ways and share the same sense of humor.  She enjoyed my quips so much that the friendship was born.  Voila!  Friends, 24 years.

And then there are the friendships that you jumpstart deliberately.

Like M.  I had just moved to this area, had a 1 year old child, and was stuck at home all day, lonely, bored, and friendless.

One day, while taking my son for a walk, I saw a woman halfway down the block with a child about the same age as mine.  Her face seemed friendly enough from what I could see from so far away.

Plus she had amazing, wavy, stunning red hair–not that that has anything to do with the story, other than I’m wildly jealous of her hair.  The other day, she stopped by my house and came walking up the path to the door, and I swear that the world started moving in slow motion, with her red hair bouncing and flowing out behind her, like a Pantene commercial.  When I get to heaven, I’m gonna have hair like M’s.

Back to the start of the friendship:

Whenever she wasn’t looking, I picked up speed, bouncing the stroller over the bumps in the sidewalk, trying to catch up with her without her noticing.  (Bounce, bounce, bounce.)  When I got close enough, I had to time it just right so that we were passing each other at a spot where we could talk (not crossing a street or something).  And then I gave her steady eye contact (because we all know that’s important!), and she said, “Hi!”.  And I said Hi, and added something about her baby.  And I decided right then that I would pursue this friendship and I draaaged out the conversation as long as possible.  This was easier than you’d think, because M is Extroverted, (see the capital E?) and was happy to have an extended conversation with a stranger.  And somewhere along the line, one of us suggested exchanging phone numbers, and we’ve been friends ever since.  (8 years.)

To this day, M thinks she initiated the friendship.  I never told her (until now) that I secretly raced down the sidewalk and calculated where we’d meet on the sidewalk (if one mother leaves her house traveling south at 2 mph, and another mother leaves her house…) and dragged out the conversation until someone suggested the exchange of numbers.

And then there are the friendships that are a combination of stalactites, big bangs or jumpstarts, like my friendships with the members of Photo Club.  For these friendships, I bypassed the long wait of getting to know each individual in the group, and I invited them to lunch or dinner before I was sure they’d want to be invited.

That’s a nerve wracking feeling!  Calling up an acquaintance and inviting them to your house…when they’ve given you no indication that they’re interested in you in any way.

And to make it worse, I called K and invited myself, my husband, and 2 children to HIS house!  (I offered to bring the food.)  Of course, K and his wife said, “Uh…ok…come on over,” but I wondered whether or not they just didn’t know how to turn down such a preposterous dinner invitation.

And then, just to make things more awkward, I went ahead and invited us to K’s house AGAIN!  Ack!  And now they really couldn’t figure out how to tell me, “Um… stop inviting yourself to our house.  You’re rude.”

But then they finally invited us out to lunch a couple of weeks ago to my favorite restaurant and (whew!) what a relief.  I’m taking the fact that they initiated an invite as an indication that I’m not too bizarre to have a friendship with.  (Or maybe they were hinting that if we want to hang out with them, we should go to restaurants and not invite ourselves to their house.  Oh no.)

Another thing about friendships is that the newer they are, the more you have to be together to maintain the friendship.  I can see J twice a year and the friendship is still strong.  I can see M about 3 or 4 times a year to keep the friendship going.  But with my Photo Club friends, we’ve been friends for mere months, and if we don’t see each other every few weeks, the friendships will disintegrate.

So I’m going to wait until about the 3rd week of January, and then invite my whole crew to K’s house again.

We’ll bring chicken casserole.

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2 thoughts on “How to Make Friends

  1. It’s ironic that your post on friendship didn’t generate any replies. Your friends must all be as conversational as I am. Guess its good you talk a lot. It’s also good you bothered to strike up a conversation on the LHS gym bleachers all those years ago or God knows we’d never have gotten to know each other since Benson & Melton are nowhere near each other in the alphabet and we never got to sit together on any other class. In high school the alphabet can be a cruel mistress.

    • No kidding. I had to sit next to Benbow all those years.

      Btw, do you remember what happened next? So…I actually spoke to you on the bleachers, and you didn’t gaze blankly at my jokes (like most people did)…and then, when did we ever speak again? In the next gym class? In the cafeteria? I can’t remember. In my memory, we talked in the gym class and the next moment we had a fully formed friendship.

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