Friendship doesn’t come easy for me.
I’m an introvert at heart and, as a result, I often feel socially awkward in the presence of new people. What to say? How to find a common subject to discuss other than the weather? Feel uninteresting? Yup, that’s me.
Due to my work in public relations (yeah, go figure…how’d I end up with that gig?), I’ve had to learn how to make small talk occasionally (though I never like doing it) and I have a lot of acquaintances because of the nature of my work.
I’m not completely a hermit; over many years, I have accumulated a decent-sized social circle…people I can call upon to go out for a drink after work or hang out with on a weekend…but I have an even smaller group of true friends. And, truth be told, I think that is the case for most people.
But what I don’t have that I see with a lot of women around me is a “best friend” or a “lifelong friend”… that person you’ve known since kindergarten who you still make time to hang out with, even if you live 10 states apart now. My sister-in-law has just such a group of “friends for life” and I am so in awe of their bond. How do you meet someone at five years old (or more than one someone???) and still end up feeling a deep, kindred spirit connection with them 40-plus years later?
I don’t know and I never will know, but I think it is awesome when I see it happening for others.
I’ve bonded with both men and women as friends throughout the course of my life and, truth be told, especially when I was younger, I had to work much harder at friending women. I could psycho-analyze myself and try and figure out why (and believe me, I’ve actually done this and I probably earned a degree in the Patti School of My Own Psychiatric Care in the process), but in my early 30s, I realized this:
There is no guarantee any of us are going to end our lives with a partner in tow (no surprise I came to this conclusion around the same time I got divorced) and even if we do end up w/a lifelong partner, one of us is going to outlast the other. I also worked for a life insurance company at the time of this conclusion, so I was fully aware, due to regular viewing of actuarial tables, that, well, sorry, guys, but women are much more likely to outlast their male partners (Same sex couples? Well, sorry, guys ‘n gals, but you must get to duke it out together ‘til the end).
Sooo…In my early 30s, I figured it was time to buck up and figure out this girlfriend gig if I wanted to create lifelong friendships that might, well, actually last my entire life so I don’t end up dying alone in a house full of cats.
And what a blessing my girlfriends have been.
Though I still don’t really have one “bestie” girlfriend who just “gets” everything about me, I have learned to accept that that is okay. Instead, I have a collection of vastly different women in my life, each of whom brings something unique and special to me as an offering of friendship.
Am I looking for just pure fun and laughter over cocktails? I’ve got a few friends who fit that bill.
Am I looking for someone to be more adventurous with me…someone willing to step outside of the box, take a drive and just explore with me for an afternoon, no agenda needed, just follow the open road? I’ve got a friend for that.
Am I looking for someone with whom I can share my deepest, darkest secrets? This one is particularly hard to come by – this involves a tremendous amount of trust – and I feel fortunate to have at least one such female friendship in my life.
And there are a whole cadre of other women whose presence in my life – no matter how often or infrequent we see one another; we might just bump into each other at the store and end up in a 30 minute catch-up session three times a year – bring something special to my life. They might be business acquaintances-turned-friends or someone I met through other random people in my life, but when we met, there was a spark or some kind of shared connection.
One of the saddest things I hear younger women say to me (and I can say this because I used to say it too!) is, “I don’t really like women; I am more comfortable with men.”
While that might, indeed, as it was in my case, be true that you are more comfortable with men (I had no sisters and I spent a lot of time with my father and my brother when I was growing up), my advice to them is this: Step out of your comfort zone. Say “Hello…how are you?” to that woman at the chamber of commerce mixer or the one who stands next to you in Zumba class every week.
When it comes right down to it, I think the majority of people feel kind of awkward about meeting new people (those people who don’t are just very gifted and I’m so envious!). But take a leap and ask a few questions. Learn about her life. Chances are, she will ask about yours, too.
Does it mean you’ll have found your new BFF? Maybe not. But: you will have a new connection that can still bring joy and value to your life, just as you can bring those gifts to hers, as well.
Because remember, you have an awful lot to offer to the women you meet, too. You are a gift someone is just waiting to receive.