A few weeks ago, a fellow book-clubber asked me how my friend search was going. I told her I’d been busier than ever, meeting every potential BFF that would have me. Then she said something that totally caught me by surprise.
She said, “You’re so brave.”
I think my actual reaction was to laugh out loud. Me? Brave? No. What I am, really, is the type of person who will spend Friday night on the couch lamenting my lack of local best friends while doing nothing about it. The type of person who will continue along that road, complaining about something while taking few steps to fix it, until I make a promise to The Internets that I am going to make a change. Because once it’s out there in cyberspace, there’s no taking it back (at least in theory).
Courageous is not a word people use to describe me. Silly, maybe. Friendly, I hope (at least by now). Snippy when she’s tired or hungry, for sure. But the only other time in my life I can remember being called brave was when my father was dying. A high school friend emailed me. He, too, said, “You’re so brave,” which I recall only because I remember thinking “I am? What did I do other than curl up on a hospital couch for three days, smelly and unshowered and unspeakably sad? I’m not brave, I just have no choice.”
But anyway, this isn’t about that. This is about how someone called me courageous for doing something little kids do every day. And I don’t even really do what they do. They walk up to strangers and say, “Hello, I’m Rachel, will you be my friend? You can come over my house. My mom makes good cookies.”
I say something more like “Um, hey, would you, um, maybe want to grab a bite sometime? Or a drink? I can work around your schedule, but, yeah, it’s totally cool if you’re too busy.” I’ll show you courage.
(I hope to one day work up to the kid version. My mom does make good cookies.)
Still, I know there are people who think some of the things I do—going to dinner with total strangers, asking a novelist out, not attacking Joan Rivers in a fit of Oscar hysteria—show some level of bravery. Because putting myself out there means I could be rejected. People might—and sometimes do—think I’m crazy. I’ve gotten enough emails from readers that start with “I can’t believe I’m writing you, this is really weird,” to know that for many of us, blindly reaching out to a potential new friend is scarier than asking out a potential mate.
And it’s too bad, isn’t it? Shouldn’t extending friendship be standard? It’s hardly Purple Heart worthy. Yet sometimes these little gestures—these moments of vulnerability—feel much more courageous than going skydiving or speaking in public. (I said sometimes. I would never skydive and I get all awkward and shaky when speaking in public… but for some people…)
What is it about reaching out to potential friends that scares us? Why are kids so good at it, but adults sometimes so awkward or uncomfortable? And do you think the cookie pickup line would work?