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.
32 responses to “A True Tale of Food and (Potential) Friendship”
Way to go, Rachel! I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship…or several. 🙂
Nice work! I admire your bravery 🙂
Maybe you should be thanking the class for not serving food … otherwise, that post class moment could’ve been even more awkward (then again, grabbing drinks is always appropriate, no matter what time of day!).
It warms my heart to know that food (or the lack thereof) is directly related to friend making. Can’t wait to hear more on this topic!
Nice work! You go girl!
Thanks for posting about meetup.com. I just joined and am looking for a meet up to attend now. Cheers!
Hooray for being bold and hungry! I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Nice job! It’s definitely better than kicking yourself later for not taking such a simple, but big, step. What’s your next move going to be? Will you call them, or wait for them to call you?
Aside from not having food, how was Chicago Cooking Chicks anyway? I’d check them out on meetup myself, but my office firewall won’t let me 😦
Next move — I will email. I’m nervous to call! I hate having to say, “It’s Rachel, the one from the cooking class.” Is that crazy?
Chicago Cooking Chicks was fun… I’m hoping that if I go back there will be more cooking and eating and less watching others cook, but clearly I’m glad I went!
It’s not crazy – baby steps 🙂 Email is, as my boss puts it, “less intrusive” so it’s easier. I’m sure you’ll work up to calling soon enough!
Hi Ladies…this caught my eye from one of our members. I am the founder of the Chicago Cooking Chicks – Vanessa Moses….we know go by The Cooking Chicks. WOW I cannot believe we are quoted in a book? I hope to connect with you Rachel! You know we know started a Cooking Chicks book club! We read food inspired books and create dishes from those books that inspired us! We’d love to talk to you about reading your book which would totally be relevant to many of the women in the group! Please check us out http://www.thecookingchicks.com – we are now 700 women (almost) and growing!
Hope to hear from you!
You go girl! Those first time meetings can be so daunting and it is hard to decipher what people are thinking.
I am curious, if these new friends didn’t invite you to dinner, how would you have reacted? Would you have tried more meetups?
Glad it worked out, but wanted to know your take, if it went in the other direction.
Thanks for your encouraging comment on my last post. I appreciate it.
Thanks Rudri! Funny, when I offered my card, I had no expectation of a dinner invite. I didn’t even know they were going to get food. My plan–my hope–was that if I gave them my card, they too would offer their information (or maybe I would have asked for it?), and I would have followed up with a “so nice to meet you, would love to get together sometime” email the next day. That’s usually my go-to plan (my virtual self is bolder than my real-life one!). At the end of dinner, I did ask for both of their info. So now I have two new phone numbers, and one email. I’m still nervous about calling new people–what if they don’t know who I am when I say “its Rachel”?–so I’ll start with the email.
That’s another post. When did phone calling get too personal for the first move? I always resort to email at the beginning….
Good for you! That seemed to go perfectly in terms of a friend-making-adventure. I’m curious, as others above, about what you would’ve done had the post-class dinner invitation not been issued.
Rachel, I was reading the story and my stomach literally tightened up as I got to the part where you were getting ready to give your card. Good For You! That moment comes and it’s far too easy (for me) to wimp out and then beat myself up later. You had to have been so proud of yourself for just continuing to push yourself right out of the box! I’m going to really, really, try to do that at my next social opportunity! Really. (If I write it, I will do it.)
Thanks Stefanie! I must say, I was proud (I totally called my mom to brag afterwards!). It was such a small gesture, and would be easy for so many, but for me it was a stomach-tightener too!
I think this is just great. I think you’re brave and I’m inspired. I have actually joined meetup in my hometown for the express purpose of meeting a new BFF and have been frustrated that the two meetings so far have been when I’m out of town. My husband and I are actually looking to move so maybe I should just put the whole BFF search on hold until we figure out what we’re doing, but I think it’s a good muscle to flex, stretch and grow so I thought I’d keep looking even though I may leave. I’m following your every step and am right behind you….I don’t know what will come first a new hometown or a new BFF, but either way, the new journey awaits and I admire your commitment to following through. It’s so easy to just go home. But easy won’t help you break new ground. Keep up the good work
Aw, thank you Barbara for the kind words. I agree with you that if you start flexing the friend-muscle now, maybe it will be easier when you get to your new hometown. I think (I hope!) it gets easier as we continue to extend ourselves…
I’ve been thinking about you a lot today, Rachel. As I pack up to return to NYC my thoughts are once again turning to how THIS TIME I will get myself out there and make some damn friends!
Well done, you! As females, we aren’t usually the ones handing out our digits, so I think it’s good for us to see what it’s like for the man.
How odd to have a cooking night like that w/ no food! Seriously!
Ok, I tried a meetup.com running group last spring. It took alot of self-pep-talks to get myself to sign up for a group run. I showed up and there was a guy there wearing a kilt. Seriously. He didn’t seem to even be Irish. I had already RSVP’d for a post-run brunch so I had to spend a good 2 hours with this guy. During brunch, he casually mentioned that he was a member of the Mensa Organization (or whatever it is called). he was one of the most socially awkward people I have ever met. I never did another group run.
But in a couple of weeks, I am going to try another running group. Crossing my fingers that there are no kilted mensa members in this club…
I know a lot of beautiful friendships built on a mutual love for Pad Thai … well, in theory, at least. Go, you!!
I loved the moment when you handed her the card and it was so awkward. (I mean, I’m sorry it was awkward for you…but it was great reading.) I wonder if you could maybe pre-plan something to say next time, like a friendship pick-up line? Or maybe you can be the one with the plans to eat out, and can invite them to go with you? Something like:
“Hey, I’m going to this great Thai place, you want to join me? Oh, you’re busy? Well, here’s my card if you ever want to get together.”
Thanks for sharing the awkwardness.
I swear, my life is like one awkward encounter after another. They’re always good for a laugh… and I’m happy to share!
You’re right, next time I should do the asking. But when if I said, “I’m going to get Thai” and they say “What, alone?” that might also be awkward (“well, no, i was hoping you’d join me….”)
Kudos, Rachel! I’m pretty sure I would have walked out after the class and let the opportunity pass me by. You were brave – and obviously charming!
Rachel, that’s awesome! Good for you for going for it! I would have smiled, said it was nice chatting with her, and left… kicking my butt all the way home for not doing more. And I like the idea of sending an email foll0w-up as the next move! Good luck!
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I just joined meetup.com, and am heading to my first Meet Up (a cooking potluck) in a few weeks. I am so nervous – reading your account of the whole thing made me feel a bit better though. Thanks for posting this!
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