How to Find Friends When You’re All Grown-up

Sharing with you the wisdom of Rebecca Frech and Fountains of Carrots.

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

 

In infancy, no one but the mother exists in the infant’s eyes. Solitary play is good enough, as long as Mother (the primary giver) is near.

In early childhood, parallel play makes for best friends. They may not speak to each other or know each others’ names, but being in the same room, doing their thing, makes them favorites, like two adult introverts reading separate books on the couch.

Later in toddlerhood, group play arises with communication and rules of conduct. Consequences are administered when the rules are broken. Social skills are learned. For some, this gives away to private conferences and sharing secrets. For others, it transfers to team sports and online gaming. Friendships are negotiated and renegotiated but within our social structure, they still take place largely at school.

Until we graduate.

Then we work.

And the same thing continues. We become work friends until the day we ask each other out to lunch. Then we move to the new stage of more-than-work-friends.

For the person who leaves office camaraderie for freelancing or homemaking or a toxic workplace, the realization may come that outside of having proximity, we have no idea how to form and maintain friendships.

 

 

In an interview on Fountains of Carrots, Rebecca Frech, author of “Can We Be Friends?” points out the awkward truth. With the societal changes in our communities, we are going to have to learn how to make friends and it is going to feel an awful lot like dating.

Yet, such boldness as asking someone out because you would like to be friends is surprisingly refreshing. One such friend took that step with me. I was leaving office-life for freelance-life. We broke bread together during my last week and she, in characteristic awkwardness, said she wanted to be friends. We called it “declaring our friendship.” It helped cut through the period of wondering, harkening back to junior high, “does she like me?”

I am usually the one to call and schedule, but that is okay because I know where we stand.

Another friend, from the same office, is much more comfortable with expressing sentiment than I am. With maturity, instead of “you’re my best friend forever” she said, “you’re my closest friend in Modesto.”

I gesticulated, emotionally, “it’s mutual.”

Meanwhile, the drama that would normally break friendship elsewhere in my life was mitigated by my saying, “I like you and want to continue this friendship.” That friend and I spoke openly and honestly, problem-solving the issues at hand.

It is hard and difficult and vulnerable. Some are afraid to put themselves out there and ask a potential friend to lunch. Others let the priorities of work and home take precedence over the indulgence of a Friday Frozé or Taco Tuesday without the kids.

 

 

 

Some of the keys to forming friendships, according to Frech include,

 

first,

acknowledging it will not be easy. It will be awkward.

 

Second,

accepting that you may be the person who has to lead and ask the other person out. Standing around waiting for a friendly phone call may not work if the other person is also waiting.

 

Third,

anticipating the awkwardness of dating. It takes time to know if your personalities “mesh.” If you hang out a few times and it fizzles out, that’s okay.

 

Fourth,

asking the other to step forward if you are doing all the initiating. For friendships to grow, there needs to be a give and take. Sometimes, individuals get comfortable in the roles they have found through family or marriage as the go-getting or receiver, but a new friendship requires new flexibility.

 

Fifth,

understanding that the best friends for you right now might be very different from the friends you’ve had. Those with the external match up (Football! Homeschooling! Bunches of children! Same church!) may not match up internally for what you need right now. There are benefits to be gained when the other is busy in different ways than you.

 

Frech advises, identify what you need. Are you looking for intellectual stimulation? Are you looking for in-person friendships which social media cannot fulfill? Do you need someone with shared values because those you’re surrounded with have a different worldview? Once you know, you can start actively looking for that person by going to places where people are (because you can’t do this at home!).

Then ask, date, and see where the road takes you.

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