Last week, I went to my first MeetUp Group. Meetup.com bills itself as “the world’s largest network of local groups.” Their mission, they say, is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize.” Basically, it’s a social network for groups that engage in just about every activity under the sun. Love doing needlepoint while watching Harry Potter? There’s probably a group for that.
On Thursday, I went to the inaugural meeting of the “Chicago Cooking Chicks” group. It was a presentation by Susan Goss, the chef at Chicago’s West Town Tavern. There were about 15-20 women there, mostly in their 20s and 30s. The majority of them were with a friend. Not me. I flew solo for the express purpose of meeting someone new. After standing awkwardly near the door, I introduced myself to the girl just a few feet away, also alone. (I know this was the obvious first step, but when I’m alone in a group of new people I get uncharacteristically shy.) Erica and I had been chatting for few minutes when two other girls, Lizzie and Jess, approached us. They’d come together but the whole point was to meet new people, they said, so they were determined to not spend the whole time talking only to each other.
When the presentation started, the four of us took the back row. I sat next to Jess, and we chatted throughout the presentation—mostly about the creepy mime who for some reason was the cooking studio mascot. One hour and zero food later (who puts on a cooking presentation from 6-8 and doesn’t actually serve the cooked food??), class was dismissed. Everyone gathered their bags and I tried to figure out what my next step should be. Do I just go up to Jess and say, “Can I have your number?” Would that totally freak her out? It seemed there was no natural way to take our casual banter to the next level.
Halfway to the door, I knew I’d kick myself if I came home without even attempting to befriend someone. I took a deep breath, turned around and walked up to Jess and Lizzie. “Um, I’m just going to give you guys my card because…” I didn’t really know how to finish the sentence. Because I’d love to be friends? Because I think you’re super-cool? Because I really really really want you to call me?
I didn’t even get to finish the sentence before Lizzie said “Oh, ok…” As in “Wow, that’s weird.” Oy. They must think I’m crazy.
But then, “We’re going to grab dinner and a drink, do you want to come?”
Uhhh yes please. So I said, “Sure, I’d love to.” And we went and ate Pad Thai. And had a great meal. And laughed a lot. And exchanged phone numbers.
It’s a fairly unremarkable story, I know. I introduced myself to someone, who was kind to me in turn. I have a friend who literally meets people while she’s crossing the street. But for me, it was big. Huge.
You never know. It might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.