The Who-What-Where of Friendship

I have developed an inappropriate obsession with stories of how friends meet.

You know how some people love reading the wedding announcements in the New York Times Sunday wedding section? They flip through the lists of newlyweds, simultaneously rolling their eyes in disgust and acknowledging their deep-seeded jealousy of the seemingly-perfect pairs. I’m one of them, but only for platonic partnerships.

I never quite cared about reading the wedding announcements, save for scrolling through to see if any of my former high school classmates made the cut. Reading the same old tale of a college meet cute every Sunday gets boring after a while.

However, my fascination with how two BFFs found each other is off the charts. And it gets just plain weird.

Take a couple weeks back. I was leaving my Saturday morning dance class when I ran into a old college classmate of mine. About a year ago, said classmate  started working at the same company where I was a web producer. We were in different departments so  rarely interacted. When I saw her at dance, she was taking class with another former colleague, this one in an entirely different department than either of us. Ours is a pretty big company, so people in different departments don’t usually hang out much. So how, I wondered, had my ex-classmate become so buddy-buddy with this other girl? The fact that they were working out together on a weekend made clear that their relationship was more than a passing office courtesy.

I know it sounds like I was jealous. I wasn’t. I don’t know either of these girls that well, and I have my own set of “dance class friends.” But the fact of their friendship certainly sparked my curiosity. I harassed my old classmate for dish: How exactly did your paths cross? Did you hit it off right away? When did you start hanging out outside of the office? How was the invitation extended?

Being something of a friendship fanatic, this information intrigues me. I want to know the logistics of how it’s done. I’ve asked the same questions of women who met at the gym, or as neighbors, or through mutual friends. They all have one thing in common: They’re creeped out by my aggressive questioning.

Some people want to learn everything about dead presidents, or shooting stars, or the cast of Roseanne. I want to learn everything about real-life friendships. But let me tell you: it’s real hard not to come off as a personal-space invader when firing these questions.

Oh well. Such is the price I pay for my inquisitiveness (I feel like that word should be inquisitivity….)

If you’re on a friend search, are you constantly trying to figure out how other pairs made it happen? Ever ask for a rundown of the friendship history, or are you too shy/embarrassed/respectful of personal space to bother? And if you want to share the who-what-where of your BFF meet cute, take it away!

11 Comments

Filed under The Search

11 responses to “The Who-What-Where of Friendship

  1. Melinda

    You know, I am always interested in how friends met but when I ask I usually get the standard answers like “Oh, we’ve been friends since we were kids” or “We met at gymboree”. I know there’s a more interesting answer but no one seems to want to give it up. I love funny How-I-Met-My-BFF stories and I love to share them. I love to tell the story of becoming friends with my BFF of 30 years because I had a crush on her brother. Lost the brother but gained a lifetime of loyalty and laughs. Or my other BFF who I met because we bought thier house. I know someone who met thier BFF because her kid took a brillo pad to the BFF’s husband’s brand new pick up truck. I want stories like that!

  2. Anonymous

    My BFF and I met in college – sort of. We were both on the crew team first year, but didn’t really hang out. She swears she came by my room once or twice to see if I’d like to but I didn’t return the favor. I swear that she always seemed surrounded by so many friends, I was intimidated to befriend someone so admired. Halfway through sophomore year, her life-long battle with Lyme disease flared up again and she was forced to take a med-leave that resulted in her never coming back to college. About 2 weeks before she left, we finally hung out at the same party and really hit it off. Her grandmother lived an hour from where my parents lived, and as January break was coming up, and she was going to be visiting her grandmother, I invited her to my house for a few days. So, this girl and I who had never really hung out one-on-one spent three days at my parents’ house in NJ. It was make-it-or-break-it; we were either going to be BFFs or hate each other. Thank goodness we were BFF material, and now, 6 years later, we still are (and just Skyped last night!).

  3. Whitney

    My BFF and I met on our first day of a new job together. We were both starting jobs as teachers (my 5th year, her first year of teaching). I saw her across our court yard with two other new teachers…She looked like a snob and I though her and the other 2 had already formed a clique’ so I was a little depresssed that they had already formed a friendship, leaving me out in the cold. Well in January of that year I was talking to another teacher about how my group of friends was really thin these days because of my grad school but I was ready to make some new friendships. This teacher suggested I talk to my future BFF. she felt like we’d hit it off and were on the same page. So long story short we began talking in the teacher’s lounge and she eventually asked me to go eat with her at her favorite place which just happened to be around the corner from my apartment. I really didn’t see a future BFF in her at first but over time she grew on me! :-) A year and a half
    later we don’t go more than a couple of days without checking in with each other. So grateful for that push that I needed in order to put myself out there.

  4. My BFF started out as my personal trainer at the gym. I knew almost immediately that we could be the best of friends…we would spend a good chunk of my training session gabbing away like old friends. But – she still maintained that she was my trainer and that she didn’t really associate with clients outside the gym.

    So, I spent the next year or so shamelessly pursuing her to go outside the bounds of our professional relationship and be actual friends with me. Part of me is surprised that it didn’t cause her schedule to mysteriously fill up such that she couldn’t train me. Heh.

    But – apparently I finally wore her down. We started hanging out. And then, after just a few friend-dates (but 2 years of 3x/week training sessions consisting of some of the most confidante-type conversations I’ve ever had in the middle of a gym), I was moving and looking for a roommate and she was looking for a place to live.

    And, VOILA! I’ve got a roommate, personal trainer and best friend all rolled into one.

  5. I don’t really recall many of my bff meets…usually when it comes to bffs, it’s something so simple and then it expands. Take one of my bffs from college. I can’t really recall when we decided to be friends, but we’ve talked about it, and it seems that at one point we just weren’t and then all of a sudden we were: inseparable and in all of each other’s pictures. It just seemed, bam! And when I think that, I think that’s what makes making new friends hard, because that doesn’t always happen. And so, I don’t necessarily know…but I would love to find a new bff and have some type of wacky story to go with it…I don’t know if it’ll happen, but a girl can hope!

  6. I love reading these stories! My BFF and I were in grad school together, but rarely crossed paths off-campus. I never “made a move” because she was so confident, opinionated, and awesome-haired. One day in class she said something hilarious, I cracked up, and she announced, “If I’ve made Julie laugh I feel like I’ve done my job for the day!” And it occurred to me that just MAYBE she wanted to be friends with me as much as I wanted to be friends with her.

    So I sent an e-mail asking if she wanted to get coffee, admitting that I always thought she was so much cooler but thought we might get along well — and she wrote back and said the same. ALL HAIL THE RECIPROCATED GIRL CRUSH! We’ve been swoony, goofy best friends ever since.

    {And apparently it’s highly unusual to make a best friend in adulthood, because many of our friends think our closeness is odd, or that we’re suddenly gay. I can’t help but think no one would think twice about it if we had been friends all our lives…}

  7. Haha I like how you said “I’ve asked the same questions of women who met at the gym, or as neighbors, or through mutual friends. They all have one thing in common: They’re creeped out by my aggressive questioning.” I could see why they might react that way, but I think it is good of you to try and learn as much as you can about how these close friendships started! I think it’s interesting too! One of my best friends is actually 7 years older than me, and we met because she and my brother went to high school together and were good friends. It wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 when we reconnected on facebook that I realized how well we got along together and how it felt like we really understood each other. It feels like there is no age gap, and we never think about it really. She’s a self-described nut bar and wears renaissance style dresses everywhere that attract a lot of strange looks sometimes, and loves old movies and halloween-related things. We’re pretty different in that respect, but values-wise we are very similar and we are so close that we feel like we are sisters.

  8. This sounds awful but I recently cemented a friendship through the mutual dislike of a co-worker! This has happened to me multiple times now that I think about it… There is something about someone sympathising with you and taking your side when someone else is being unreasonable. It is camaraderie in its truest form.

  9. One of my closest most recent friend acquisitions and I met in class at grad school. We always sat next to each other but we rarely interacted. I had heard her speak and she sounded smart, but I didn’t see her as anything but a classmate.

    That was until she turned to me and whispered one day before class, “Do you mind switching seats with me? I’m pregnant and this woman’s perfume is going to make me sick.”

    We started talking and I found out she’s not only a writer, she’s a vegan. (Those are the two biggest groups of people I hang or chat with. Writers and vegans. To find a two for one deal was thrilling!) I know, being excited about finding a vegan friend seems strange and arbitrary, but I’m a big believer that two people who like similar foods and dining experiences are a better match for being friends than two with drastically different culinary tastes. Three and a half years later we just took our first week long vacation together (with our spouses too) and it was amazing. I feel so thankful that the women next to us wore gallons of nasty fragrance.

  10. Cy

    I always wonder silently how people get to be such good buddies. I *am* jealous and pick it apart in my head–“Their kids aren’t the same age! How did they make friends??!” I have made friendships with women, but have no bestie. I’m still searching for Ms. Right. :/ Love the stories, though!

  11. Nora

    I wonder what Rachel’s ex classmate said when asked how they became friends.. I’m totally interested in stories of how friends became friends!

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