I’m Fluent in Friendship

A few weeks ago I attended a speed-friending event hosted by GirlfriendCircles.com. It was surprisingly fun. Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked—I signed up didn’t I?—but just the word “speed-friending” (or is that two words?) sounds awkward, right? I thought so at least.

It turned out to be great. One of the most interesting parts of the evening was listening to GFC CEO Shasta Nelson—a former pastor and life coach, and thus a practiced and engaging public speaker—expound on the importance of friendship. Not just why we need it, but how we can create it, and what just doesn’t count. (“If you meet someone tonight, and then never talk to her again, that is not a friend.”) One thing that really stuck with me—and I’ve heard Shasta say this before—is that there’s no vocabulary for making new friends. There are no platonic words for flirting, picking someone up, having a girl-crush.

When I talk about my search, I have no doubt that an outsider would think I was ranting about a romantic relationship. My sheer excitement about a great new prospect, the references to “going on a date” and “picking a girl up”? The vocab screams lovers. Never mind the fact that in my home, date has become a totally platonic term.

“What are you doing tonight?” Matt says.

“I’ve got a date,” I say.

“Cool.”

The latest romantic term I’ve brought into my friending is “the honeymoon stage.” You know that point with a new friendship when you’re so excited about this person, you think she could be your new best friend forever, and every time she reaches out, you get all giddy? I’ve had that with some friends for sure. I’ll get a text and immediately shove my iPhone under Matt’s nose so he can read it himself. It’s the part of female friendship before you’re too aware of the other person’s flaws, and if you are aware they don’t bother you. They’re just “quirky.”

Recently, I was writing about a new friendship. No matter how I pieced the words together, it sounded like I was pursuing a budding romance. And while that can be funny, in this instance it was just frustrating. I could think only of Shasta, wishing there was a fix to this lexicon dilemma.

We could change the dialogue right here and now. If someone has insight into the language of friendship, I’m all ears. Is there a less misleading way to say “I asked out a girl I’ve had a crush on—we’ve been flirting for months—and now we’re going on a date?” See, just writing that feels awkward.

Mostly, I just want to understand. Why are there no platonic words for creating a new—and vital!—relationship?

14 Comments

Filed under The Search

14 responses to “I’m Fluent in Friendship

  1. Noemi

    Hi Rachel and other friend-seekers!

    Just wanted to share that I have only been reading this blog for a few weeks, but it finally inspired me to act. I moved to Philadelphia about two years ago, and due to work and kids, etc., I didn’t really have time to find new friends; however, I deeply misssed having local “girlfriends” for companionship. Ironically, I did find a wonderful guy living in the duplex upstairs from me, and we are now happily living the whole combined-family lifestyle. Unfortunately, that also added more stress to my friend hunt because his ex-wife lives in the same town and it was difficult to figure out who her “clique” was, etc…

    Now, thanks to the inspiration I received here, I have taken a real first step in the right direction. Shortly after moving here two years ago, there was a field trip for my son’s class and I met another mom who was chaperoning. We hit it off & spent the whole day chatting. Every time we saw each other after that, we would be really glad to see each other, mention how we should get together and exchange numbers – but neither of us made the call. Well, I ran into her again last week, and this time I sent her an email offering some times when I am free and suggesting we get together if she was interested. I received an email back this morning (yeah!) and we are now planning to have lunch next week. This leads me to one important question though: Do I suggest meeting at a local place or ask her to my house? She knows my beloved and I bought a house only a few blocks from where she lives, so should I offer to pick up bagels, etc., so she can come see the house, or is that too much for a first “date”? LOL. I can’t believe I am having this much angst over lunch with a new friend…Help!

    • Noemi! This is such a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing.

      It always feels silly to be so nervous about a first friend-date, but I feel the same way you do almost every time. The truth is that in your case I don’t really think you can go wrong. If you’d only met over the Internet or something, I’d say you should make sure to suggest a public meeting so she doesn’t get freaked out (this happened to me. I “met” someone who then invited me to her home and I was totally keen on it..). But considering you have kids at the same school and live close, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with inviting her over.

      Personally, I think there’s a bit more pressure on you when you are playing host, so for the “first date” I always suggest a restaurant. I recently hosted friends for brunch, but I spent so much time running around that I didn’t get as much quality friend time.

      So, I personally would go the local lowkey restaurant route. Though, if you really want to show her your place, grabbing bagels and hosting isn’t “too much” I don’t think..

      Hope that is a little helpful!

  2. It is kind of like a crush, isn’t it? Alas, it’s been a long time since I’ve had one of those–they’re energizing and fun. And yes, it sounds a little weird, but I think most of us know where you’re coming from.

  3. I think there’s no vocabulary for this sort of thing for the same reason women find it so hard sometimes to admit we need more friends — because of the belief that friendship is supposed to happen organically and not something you need to actively seek.

  4. Christina

    Love, love this post! I remember my professors in college pointing out that the language for love used to be more all-encompassing. Shakespeare and Whitman referred to friends as lovers and no one was aghast. In my own quest to find a new bff, I feel fortunate that my boyfriend understands; but wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Platonic Lovers Lexicon? I was just discussing this issue with him last night, when he sweetly and gently reminded me that I am his best friend, I had to explain that there is a “Girls Night Out” in town, and I needed a different bff with whom to explore the new fun fashions in the boutiques.

    I have been trying to find a viable vocabulary for the platonic “friendship sparks” for some time now. Especially for my mom who is confused by the need to have a bff at all, and when I try in vein to explain, her confused reply is, “Are you a lesbian, honey? Because you know I’ll still love you just the same if you are.” LOL. My mother married young and believes marriage is your only circle of friend (I purposely left off the s to make a point: there’s also something missing when you don’t have a bff). On another note: Thanks for mentioning GFC; I’m really looking forward to learning more!

  5. Betty

    I’ve had this exact same discussion about “friendship language” with others too. I even now jokingly tell my husband that I’m going out on a “friend date” if I’m going out for lunch or coffee with a potential new friend. He laughs and tells me that I’ve had more “dates” than he’s probably ever had in his whole entire single dating lifetime!

    I’d also love it if someone could coin a new word/term for a person who you are on friendly terms with, but you are not yet sure where you stand with them. They are more than an acquaintance, but less than a friend because you haven’t yet reached that stage with them yet, but hope to. How about “fracq”? 🙂

  6. Verrry interesting post — and a wordy dilemma, for sure. My best friend and I refer to our hang-outs as “hot dates” and such, and I had not thought much of it until reading this post, but it’s true: there are few adequate ways to convey our closeness and importance to each other without inevitably straying into romantic language.

    Fascinating!

  7. Fanfan

    Wonderful post!
    This is brilliant: “If you meet someone tonight, and then never talk to her again, that is not a friend.”

  8. Lisa A

    I have recently experienced an unpleasant side to trying to making friends. I went to a conference, hit it off with someone younger than I, she wanted to meet for dinner to network, ended up not splitting the bill with me and then somehow my phone/blackberry ended up in her possession. It has been over a week now and every day there is a new excuse as to why she can’t return my phone to me. I feel naive and uncomfortable. She’s no friend! She’s scary!

  9. Natalie

    Rachel,
    I hope your book offers a chapter on proper terminology that will inevitably be added to Webster.
    Enjoyed today’s post!!

  10. tommy

    I am no expert (or even very informed) but ‘ancient’ Greek has many different words for different loves. “Agape” – brotherly love – being the only one that comes to mind at present. So, we could all study up on our Greek for conversational BFF-ing. Or would tossing out ancient Greek into the convesational waters, then having to explain what the heck you’re talking about (is there an app for that?) even more awkward? “Ted, I feel agape for you, bro!” What’s even the proper sentence structure for the Greek/English amalgam? Do I feel agape FOR someone or do I agape TO someone? Or am I agape-ing someone? Can’t we all just get along?

  11. Pingback: Things Are Getting Official « MWF Seeking BFF

  12. Rebecca

    I like your thought! (although I think “phileo” is the brotherly love, and “agape” is the insanely godly unconditional love) I’ve actually heard people say “I agape you” or “I phileo you” but it’s usually with your close church friends who know what the heck you’re talking about. I’m not sure it will be picked up by mainstream English speakers….they can’t even handle English, much less Greek.🙂

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