In yesterday’s jet laggy haze, I forgot to mention/thank/obsess over the guest posts from my new friends last week. Aren’t they great? Didn’t I luck out? Sure, in a year of 52 dates there were some uncomfortable silences and awkward run-ins, but if those six ladies were the end result (and there are plenty more new friends where that came from–I could only host six!), I’m feeling pretty good about the turnout.
First, let me just say, if you are ever feeling all down in the dumps, see if you can find an excuse to have a friend write a blog post about you. Or a note about your friendship. I’m not sure how to go about that if you don’t have a blog–”Please write 500 words about me. Go.”–but there’s got to be a way. Maybe just start a blog so that two years later you can ask your pals to write about your relationship. I’m just saying, those posts made me blush and got me all new-friend crushy like it was the first day we met. A comparison to Orphan Annie? (Who I may or may not have played in a summer camp play when I was a 19-year-old counselor. Just saying.) Why, thank you! The realization that I’m not the only one who thought a mutual love of Harry Potter was a sign from God? Downright fabulous.
I appreciated the words of my new friends, and also the honesty. Especially Taylor, who admitted being taken aback when she learned about my 52-date quest. “I wanted to think that she wanted to have dinner with me…for me,” she wrote. To which I’d say, of course, that I did. While I looked to fill a certain amount of dates, it was more important to me to fill those slots with women who might actually turn out to be my friends. And thank God I kept going until 52–Taylor’s a dream, and, aside from friendship, our connection helped her get a job and me get a brain to pick about the publishing world. Hooray.
After Taylor’s post, one commenter posted this question, a curiosity that others have echoed: “Did the book deal come first or the adventure?” The answer, sort of, is both. Or, I should say, what came very first was a two-and-a-half year run in Chicago of feeling locally friendless and frustrated. I wanted the last-minute brunch call, the Friday night wine buddy, someone nearby whose house I could drop by. As an aspiring author, when I decided to try to my hand at writing a book, this friendship conundrum seemed the only possible topic. The need for a nearby BFF was a longing I couldn’t shake, one I’d spoken with other women about, all of whom felt my pain. The question of how to make new friends as an adult was one that no one spoke of–how embarrassing!–yet no one had figured out. So when I finally decided to put a proposal together, it was born of my very real need for new pals. I wanted it to be a document of my own attempts at new friendship, because I wanted a project to push me out of my comfort zone and force me to do the scary work of meeting new people. Asking out a nice-seeming waitress or renting a friend is something I knew I’d be too chicken to do unless I made it a challenge, something I had to do. (Two years ago, I was not the new-friend approacher I have become. I was a skeptic.) So I crafted a book proposal, kicked off my quest, and a few months later, I sold my book.
That’s the trajectory. The short answer to the commenter’s question is the adventure started first, the book deal came during the quest. My hope is that once people read the book, they’ll see how much success can come of a friend quest and set out on one of their own–book deal or no book deal. But truth is that when I started, with no model to go on, I truly thought the end of the story would be me saying, “People are not open to new pals. Friendliness is a thing of the past. This was the hardest year of my life.” So I was scared to put myself out there and, ultimately, I thought, humiliate myself. (Spoiler alert! That’s not how the book ends! Phew. That would be a downer read.)
How wonderful it is to be wrong.
Would you have thought a friend-quest would result in repeated rejections? Have you ever started a “project” just to force yourself to do something you knew you deep-down wanted to try but were too scared? And, seriously, aren’t my new friends dreamy?