Can’t Buy Me Friendship

Go ahead, arrest me. I solicited a friend.

That’s right. Just a few days ago, I paid a woman to spend time with me.

Perhaps you didn’t believe me when I promised to try out Rentafriend.com? Well, I did. Verdict? It was almost normal.

I found my rent-a-friend—let’s call her Lisbeth—through the company website. In my search of local women around my age, there were only two people who seemed solely interested in being hired for friendship. The profiles of the other women were more, shall we say, friendly, than even I’d hoped for (except for the one girl who I’m pretty sure is doing the Bloods gang sign in her photo. Awesome). I chose Lisbeth because she seemed more interested in going to farmer’s markets than meat markets.

Keep in mind that in order to even contact Lisbeth I had to pay the $24.99 for a month’s subscription to the website. Then she told me that she charges $20 an hour. Then she suggested an all-day affair.

We settled on lunch and the museum. The strangest thing about the whole experience was that it wasn’t particularly strange. The time we spent together was quite…usual. Almost as if we were actual friends.

Until it came time to pay for lunch. I figured part of the gig was that I pick up the tab, but she totally did the fake wallet reach. Ladies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was the classic date move. You don’t actually intend to pay, but it would be rude if you didn’t pretend to offer, right? Um, yeah, I know that move. I use that move.

Over lunch I learned that Lisbeth is 28, like me, and a social worker. She’s renting out her friendship to make extra money since she’s only employed part time. I, however, was her first “client.” The other interested parties were all men who either seemed creepy or spoke such broken English that she didn’t see how they’d communicate, let alone hang out.

She seemed like someone who, under different circumstances, I could actually be friends with. After lunch we wandered around the Museum of Contemporary Art, spent a while in the gift shop, and prepared to part.

Then came the awkwardness. On an otherwise solicitation-free corner of Michigan Avenue, I paid Lisbeth $60 for our time together. “I feel weird taking money from you,” she said.

“Oh, you know,” I said awkwardly as I shoved a wad of bills in her hands. “If you ever want to hang out again, like, for real, you know where to reach me.” Yeah, this didn’t feel like an escort situation at all.

After we went our separate ways, I realized I’d been so nervous about the payment bizarreness that I gave her $20 too many. I tipped my rented friend! Kill me.

I guess she didn’t feel that weird taking money from me after all.

27 Comments

Filed under The Search

27 responses to “Can’t Buy Me Friendship

  1. Karen A.

    Oh my Rachel, the things you have to do in support of this blog! I am sorry, but this did make me laugh out loud. Thanks for a great start to my day.

  2. JenD

    I applaud your bravery! In fact, I’m giving you a standing ovation (no easy feat while typing on a laptop). If I haven’t yet, I’d really like to thank you for letting those of us too timid to try something like this live vicariously through your interesting experiences. This one really takes the cake. Brava!
    I’m guessing you’re not going to try this one again?

    • If Lisbeth contacted me and wanted to hang out–for free!–I would be all for it. But no, I have no plans to pay to meet her again.

      And thank YOU for your thank you, how kind.

  3. That is absolutely hilarious! I can’t even believe there’s something out there like that–you are so brave!

  4. Jen S

    Rachel,

    I’m wondering – did you tell her about your blog and search?

    Also, I love how she faked reaching for her wallet! We all know that move.

    • Hi Jen,

      No, I didn’t tell her explicitly about the blog or the search. I did tell her that I am newish in town and looking to meet new people, and I also told her I was a writer and that I’d been checking out the different sites out there for meeting friends.

      In general, I don’t feel it necessary to say “I’m on a new BFF search,” because, really, isn’t anyone who is out meeting new people doing the same thing? Not as explicitly maybe, (and not blogging about it) but I think anyone who is making an effort to meet new friends is in some way open to the possibility that any of the people could become new best friends. But it’s interesting food for thought!

  5. I’ve been wondering when you were going to tell us about your experience, so I was delighted to see this post. I second the others, you’re so brave!

    Knowing that you’re her first client but not the first offer tells you a lot about the site and its prospective future, eh?

    Thanks for an entertaining post and for taking one for the team. Your humorous take on the world really shines in this one!

  6. Great story and experience! I bet that will make for a good remember when story if she ever does contact you again lol

  7. Jess

    Rachel, you are so brave! As I was reading this I knew, per the terms of the site, that Lisbeth would probably take her $60 ($80) + free lunch and run, but I couldn’t help hoping for the movie ending. You know, she’d decide that she had a really good time and would rather have a potential friendship with you than one paid friend date, so she’d refuse to take the money and you’d have a new PBFF. (At the very least, I hoped she’d call as soon as she realized that you overpaid and offer to give the $20 back.)

    I suppose at this point it will be awkward if she does want to get together again, because you’ll have to let her know up front that it’s not a paid date this time – a conversation I can’t even imagine. :P Fortunately Chicago is a big place, and I know there are lots of women who will be happy to hang out with you for free. :)

    • Lorrie Paige

      I doubt if she would hang out for free. I mean, this is a job for her. If she decided to make a real friend from every nice person she meets she wouldn’t make any money.

      It’s business, plain and simple.

  8. Leanne

    That. Was. Awesome.
    I can’t believe you kept this experience to yourself for that long. Well done. Not a fan of paying for friendship but a good experiment. The best part is that you genuinely felt you could be friends with her. What a trip!
    Can you expense that in the name of research? Let’s hope so!

  9. Wow, you really WILL do almost anything on your search (I mean that in a good way, I swear).

    I can’t imagine how awkward the whole thing would have felt to me, but brava for giving it a go!

  10. Jean

    I was so excited when I saw that it was Rent-A-Friend Thursday! I had forgotten all about your promise last week. And it did not disappoint. I love the part about the “fake reach”; we’ve all done it at some point.

  11. Oh, wow. Just…wow. Rachel, you are so brave. (And yes, the fake wallet reach – I have done that!)

  12. TJ

    Hah, too funny! Hooray to you for putting up with an expensive awkward day in the name of research. :) And I think she should tutor or something for extra money….doesn’t sound like this gig has been too lucrative for her!

  13. Christina

    You know it’s funny but I look at my some of friends that way. I refer to them as my prosti-pals or concu-buds… (I don’t tell them this though, lol).

    They are there to satisfy a need — a need to socialize, but other than that, they mean very little to me. They aren’t BFF material and never will be.

    Anyway glad to see you had fun with your “friend whore”, lol. You might want to add rentafriend.com to urbandictionary.com’s definition of “friend whore”, just for kicks.

  14. Erica

    Bertsche this is your funniest post yet! I literally just laughed out loud thinking about the bizarre payment interaction part. Good for you for trying this out, it sounds painfully awkward!!

  15. Lisbeth

    I must say, everyone, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments on this blog. I am the infamous “Lisbeth”, from Rachel’s Rent-A-Friend date. Aka the girl who is basically portrayed as a money-hungry social worker, with a bizarre side-job. Unfortunately, I was not looking to take advantage of Rachel’s wallet, and instead I was just as nervous dealing with the payment issue as she was, hence the awkward reach-for-the-wallet move.

    The funny thing is…that I had fully stalked Rachel before our meeting, in order to make sure she wasn’t a creepy predator. And before our ‘date’, I stumbled across her blog, and the fact she was writing a book about friendship. I went into our blind date knowing all this info, yet not knowing how to bring it up without sounding creepy, so I played dumb! Funny how technology affects relationships.

    I too felt like our date was almost normal, except we weren’t talking about the elephant in the room…the fact that there is payment involved. Other than that, it was like a ‘normal’ first date, just chit-chat and trying to make each other feel comfortable, even though its weird.

    I must say I agree with Lorrie Paige, who said “I doubt if she would hang out for free. I mean, this is a job for her. If she decided to make a real friend from every nice person she meets she wouldn’t make any money. Its business plain and simple.” As harsh as it sounds, this Rent-a-friend gig is a source of income for me, just as blogging and writing is for Rachel. I was aware that she would probably “use” this date as material on her blog or in her upcoming book, and this made me feel like it was more of a business transaction and not a sad, lonely woman, who I’m taking money from.

    Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end with a Hollywood ending, where I give the money back, delete my profile from the Rent-a-friend website, and commit to weekly coffee dates with Rachel as ‘real’ friends. I must say it was an interesting experience and Rachel was pleasant to be around. Best of luck in the blogging/publishing world!

    • I find the business aspect of it all so funny. I have often toyed with the idea of becoming a masseuse, but I don’t want to touch strangers, and I couldn’t take money from my friends-so this is one dream that was never meant to be fulfilled. Good luck in your business venture!

  16. Rachel: This cracked me up. Bravo for you. I don’t know if I could even do what you did for the blog. It just would feel so strange. I wonder if she will ever call you. . .

  17. Sneha

    Such a funny story!! I love the articles in this blog

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