In Which I Pinpoint The Root Of All Our Problems. (Or Totally Overanalyze An Overheard Conversation.)

Last night, as I was leaving yoga, I overheard the tail end of an exchange between two girls. The farewells went like this:

Girl #1: Let’s hang out!

Girl #2: I know!

And then they turned and went their seperate ways.

My immediate reaction was to laugh out loud. Probably not the most polite response to a conversation I had no part in, but I couldn’t help it (and they didn’t hear me). These ladies sounded like quintessential “valley girls” (is that even a thing anymore? Or did I just break out a straight early ’90s phrase?), plucked directly from a Saturday Night Live  skit. I felt ok about my giggle, too, because I know I’ve been one of those girls before–and people have laughed plenty at me. It’s the circle of life.

But then, when I thought about what they actually said, it hit me: This is the problem today! This is why we find ourselves on BFF searches. The first girl, the one who suggested the hang out, gave no indication that she meant it. First of all, it wasn’t an invitation so much as a statement of fact. Second, she said it as she turned around to walk away–it wasn’t as if she waited for an answer, breaking out her calendar to get the hang-out on the books. It was a courtesy, like “nice to meet you” or Chandler’s “we should do this again.”

And girl #2? “I know”? What is that? It’s not even a response that makes sense! She too walked away as she said it, calling over her shoulder as they parted ways. Not “I know, we totally should. Call me and let’s set it up.”  Or “Ok. great. I’m free Saturday.” Just “I knooooow,” said in a whiny tone that implied she is sad to never hang out with girl #1, but has no intention of actually making it happen.

Witnessing this brief interaction, it was one of those moments where I was like “Oooh, right. This is how we got here.”

I don’t know these girls from Adam. They are probably perfectly lovely people. But I haven’t been able to shake the exchange, probably because I felt like I was witnessing the precursor to a BFF search. Or maybe it just felt like watching myself, two years ago. I wanted to be like “You both seem to actually want to hang out. So bust out the schedules! Make it happen. ‘I know,’ isn’t going to get you very far.”

We’ve all been party to these conversation. I wrote about my own experience with such an exchange last week.(Btw, our date was fab.) But  if I had to choose just one thing that could change the situation for every one of us who’s ever friend-searched it would be this simple nugget: When someone says “let’s hang out,” call them on it. Say, “Ok I’m free on Thursday.”

Bam! Friended.

What do you think? Think this small exchange is emblematic of a larger problem? Or am I overreaching?

17 Comments

Filed under The Search

17 responses to “In Which I Pinpoint The Root Of All Our Problems. (Or Totally Overanalyze An Overheard Conversation.)

  1. Karen A.

    You have nailed it precisely. I know it is a tired saying, but “plan the work and work the plan” truly applies to anything you want to achieve, and what could be more important than the creation and maintenance of BFF’s?

    It brings to mind a how I met my husband story. My handsome one said “we should go out dancing sometime”, I only said one word: When? Twenty-six years of wedded bliss and counting.

  2. I heart it when you quote FRIENDS. It is most convenient when I am also drinking from my FRIENDS mug that I received in 8th grade, during it’s first season, when I fell madly in love with the show. I have been faithfully drinking from this mug for 17 years now. :)

    I also totally agree that all you have to do is actually set something up. Something as simple as, “Hey, next week after yoga, let’s go grab a coffee.” That way, there is no whistful wishes of hanging out, you can squeeze in an hour after the class to figure it out.

    One of the ways I connected with one of my best friends was when she had a book I wanted to borrow. I met her at book club and she mentioned a book. I got her number so I could plan on picking it up from her. I took my kids with me one day after school to grab it and she invited my kids to play in the backyard with her kids while she found the book. 1.5 hours later, when we realized our kids were totally in love with each other and we were on the way to be fabulous friends, we’d already made plans for the weekend to get the kids together again. All because I have a book addition and wasn’t afraid to ask to drop by and pick it up.

  3. katieleigh

    Yes. This is exactly the problem. I was nodding along with you the whole time. Bust out those schedules, indeed!

  4. You are definitely not overreaching! This is a huge problem, I so agree! I created an entire Friendship Channel with reports devoted to bringing people’s attention to this. Keep up the great work Rachel!

  5. I’m going to get sociological on you today. Have you heard of the Principle of Least Interest? It’s a theory that’s been around since the 30’s or so, and it says that the person who is least interested in maintaining a relationship holds all the power. I think something like that is at work in these exchanges. Both girls might mean that they want to hang out, but maybe being available and eager to make plans makes them feel like they’ll appear desperate for friends or something? Maybe they don’t want to be the only one making an effort? I know that I’ve been guilty of waiting for the other person to reach out and make plans – partly because I don’t want to be rejected for trying, but also because I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard (and there are some friends where I’m constantly trying to make plans, and they always end up falling through).

    Just last week I got a “we should really hang out soon” email, to which I replied that yes, I’d love to hang out soon, and this has inspired me to act on it.

  6. Megan

    Totally not overreaching. It’s sort of hurtful when you start to extend an invitation and the only thing the other person is basically acknowledge that you’re talking. I’ve had this happen SO many times – “I know” doesn’t get you ANYWHERE, especially when exchanging numbers isn’t even enough these days.

  7. I called it something similar (lack of momentum) when I pinpointed the biggest reason relationships don’t ever get started: http://www.girlfriendcircles.com/blog/index.php/2011/08/nothing_kills_relationship_faster_momentum/

    Good to know we’re on the same page. :) It means we’re more likely both speaking truth, or else both drinking the same cool-aid!

  8. Christina

    I think the “Let’s hang out” statement from Party A was deliberately left in neutral territory because it doesn’t invite rejection (not like: “let’s hang out… how about friday?”).

    It’s essentially the socializing equivalent of dipping one’s toe into a swimming pool to see if the water might be the right temperature for swimming.

    However, the “I know” response from Party B, while it might signal agreement on some level, isn’t particularly encouraging.

    I think if I was Party A and I received such a lackluster response, I don’t think I would try again. Would any of you? And if you decided to try again, what would you say for attempt #2?

  9. J

    Before I quit checking Facebook everyday, I used to see this ALL THE TIME. And it drove me crazy because one of the main culprits was a person I knew would never follow through on it because even when she makes plans, she backs out.

    I recently read a blog that touches on a similar idea – the “polite lies” we tell – http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/stop-saying-polite-lies/. It made me think a bit more before throwing out statements like, “Let’s hang out sometime!” when I don’t really mean it or when I’m not prepared to set a date.

  10. san

    Not sure if this is because I am European, but those kind of exchanges irk me to no end. Just mean what you say already!

  11. Laurie

    Rachel, I just read your book (got an early copy from the amazon.com Vine program and just left a review there – five stars!). And this seems to be such a common thing. Is it that one or both women really don’t care to actually get together and are just being nice with pleasant small talk? Or is it that both or one of them really wants to get together, but feels awkward actually making the plans, as if they would look desperate or weird? So maybe they just put the feelers our there, Hoping the other will take the bite?

    What I have been finding is some people just don’t put the priority into friendships that I am willing to put in. My husband spends plenty of time doing guy things with friends. But I never seem to find other women who are willing to put time aside for friends. I seem to meet people who just won’t take a night away from being mom and wife to go be BFF. Once my old friends started getting married, living with a boyfriend, having kids, they seemed to spend time exclusively with their family (hubby, kids, but also their moms, sisters….). They just drifted off. The few I would still see sometimes (usually the non-married and non-parents) often ditched me last minute. I can deal with last minute changes, but not 9 out of 10 times. And never for anything major either. It’s never having to work, a family emergency, or such. It’s just something else came up that they “forgot about.” Ya, right. Every time.

    I had a friend like that cancel the morning of, when I called her (because she was late in calling me like we had planned). Then she called me back a few hours later wanting to re-make the plans! I had already gone out and was back home at that point, having bagel and coffee by myself. And she seemed annoyed by that!

    Anyways, loved your book. I hope it will get me to reach out a little. It did get me to your blog. And maybe between your book AND blog I’ll think of actually being more pro-active in the friendship field. I’ve got a few new pen pals and that is fun. I love letter writing, and in letters you can really just spill yourself all over the page and really get to know people. But I would love someone in town to shop with, have coffee, go for a walk, watch a favorite show or movie with and all that fun stuff.

    I think your book is really needed. There is this unspoken gap in many women’s lives and we either don’t know what it is yet, or know, but can’t figure out what to do about it. You help us see we are not alone. I hope, hope, HOPE you are doing another book sometime too. : ) (because I remember how much you just loooove smiley faces in emails, heh!)

    • Hi Laurie,

      First, THANK YOU so much for reading MWF Seeking BFF and for the wonderful Amazon review. It was the highlight of my day!

      In this case, I think both girls really did want to get together, but they just don’t know much about follow-through. I got the sense they were in college, which might have something to do with it. People say a lot of things they mean but don’t really execute.

      As for friends cancelling last minute — yes! It’s such a way of life these days, and like you say it’s so rarely for a big reason. Usually just “I’m really wiped it’s been a long week” which isn’t really a good reason.

      Good luck on your own search, and thanks again for reading – and the review!!

  12. anon

    You had other 5 star reviews there too! I think your book is really hitting the spot for many women.

    Ya, the cancelling last minute thing is hard. I think the “I”m just wiped out” excuse can be legit sometimes. Life is so crazy busy these days. But with this one person, it was usually not “I’m wiped out” but tended to be that something else was going on, or them acting like we never had made plans and now, gee, something else is going on. I realized the friendship was at different priority levels for both of us. She was happy having me on call, but I was looking for something where we both put the same effort in. On-call is great, as long as the planned dates are kept most of the time too. Or am I being too hard?

    Meanwhile, Starbucks is doing a “buy one get one free” on their holiday coffees from Nov. 17-20th, from 2pm-5pm. That could be a great excuse to mention going to get coffee with someone! I don’t have any classes or groups to try and get my nerve up for this. I am bringing my daughter, lol! But her birthday is this month and it will be a special treat for her. She’s too young to get coffee very often. But anyways, I am just happy my brain jumped to thinking about it as being a possible way to get a coffee date! Your book has the wheels going in our heads!

    Laurie

  13. I agree, RB. It’s just human decency to make a genuine commitment to get together. If you don’t want to hang out, then don’t say you do! Just a reminder to us all to be authentic when we relate to other women.

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