Dispatches from the Other Side

When I started this blog two-and-a-half years ago, I was looking for new friends and had little to no idea how to find them. Much has changed in the time since. I’ve made lots of new pals. I’ve figured out a number of ways to meet new people–joining groups, getting set up, accepting invitations. I’ve settled into a life in Chicago that I never saw coming when I started on my friend quest.

And lately, I’ve found myself on the other side of the friend search. Recently an old acquaintance moved to town and reached out for dinner. I met a woman in a doctor’s office who suggested we exchange email addresses, and we did.

It seems the friender has become the friendee. 

As such, I wanted to pass along some notes from the other side of the fence.

Such as…

If you invite a potential pal to brunch (or drinks, or dinner, or even a non-food get-together), and she doesn’t immediately reciprocate with an invitation of her own, this does not mean she didn’t like you. Sometimes it just means she’s really busy, or she’s trying to keep up with other pals and she honestly hasn’t remembered to reach out because your friendship is brand new. I’ve long hammered the point of making the first move, and then the second, and even the third when it comes to new friends. Reciprocity is a rule of friendship, but if you’ve only met once, you’re hardly friends. The rules don’t apply. That new acquaintance I met? We had a great time at dinner. I didn’t reach out again immediately, because my schedule was jammed with travel and some dates already on the calendar. But when she texted me a week later to say hi, I was reminded to invite her along on a girls night, and we both had a great time. I was so glad she reached out that second time, because I had been meaning to get in touch. I didn’t think she was weird or desperate or pathetic. I thought she was smart, and cool.

People really do like connecting. After meeting a new friend in the doctor’s office–we exchanged email addresses and talked for ages as we left the office together–I was so excited! I called Matt squealing, as if I’d made my first friend ever. It was just so flattering to have her simply say, “Would you want to exchange email addresses? I’d love to chat more.” Um, yes please. She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with. Friender McGee over here. In the context of sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I probably would have been too shy to ask for her email, so I was so happy she did the dirty work.

The lesson here is one I mention a lot: If you extend a hand of friendship, it is the rare person who will call you a weirdo. And, not to sound like your mom, but if she does call you a weirdo, who cares. She’s not worth it.

I’ve been on both sides of the friending fence now and I make you this promise: No potential friend is analyzing your attempt at friendship as much as you are. So go for it. Couldn’t hurt. Really.

Has anyone ever tried to friend you? How did you react? Share your dispatches from the other side!

18 Comments

Filed under The Search

18 responses to “Dispatches from the Other Side

  1. Did you end up telling her about your book?🙂

  2. I haven’t actually been the friend-ee, mostly I’m the one making the plans and reaching out! I’ve turned into an insular little hermit recently because it’s getting to be too much effort on top of my dissertation. Sometimes I would love to give my email to people I meet, but I’m definitely on the shy spectrum there😀

  3. It does take a lot of work to make new friends. I learned this the hard way when I moved abroad. It especially sucks when you’re the one that always has to reach out because you’re the one that’s new in town. I’ve since made a lot of friends, and now they do reach out, but with some people it seems like I still do all the work. These friends tend to fall by the wayside after a bit and remain social acquaintances. What’s your rule on how many times to reach out? Mine’s rather limited. I’ll only try 3-4 times max.

  4. Rachel, hi! I read MWF seeking BFF a few weeks ago (couldn’t put it down) and it changed everything for me. I literally would be reading the book, and put it down to immediately text a would-be friend that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Mostly, I think it made me feel normal. I think and overthink possible friendships constantly, and reading your book made me realize I’m not the only one. I was so surprised at the end of the book though, when your colleague/friends said they just couldn’t believe you thought about it that much. What?! I definitely think about it that much. At 27, I’ve recently moved to Chicago from DC (I’m in my second city, as you said) to be with my partner as he does a graduate program at the University of Chicago, and I identified so much with your search. I have met a few really great friends here so far, and I have gotten the courage to pursue and even pioneer those relationships largely from your efforts to bring to light the idea that everyone really does want friends, even if it does feel weird as a woman to be the one to essentially ask people on dates.
    As far as notes from the other side, I think I’m kind of doing my search backwards. Before moving to Chicago, I never really had the trouble finding friends that I have experienced here. In DC, I think I was just close enough to home (south western Virginia, where I grew up) to have mutual connections everywhere. So living there, I felt easily accompanied by new friends whenever I wanted them. As something of a homebody, I was definitely someone who got asked to do things more than I was doing the asking. But whenever I did get asked, I always loved it. And I always respected the person doing the asking for doing it, and even wished I had what I perceived as really excellent social skills for being confident enough to ask and kind enough to include me. I really try to keep that in mind as it becomes more my responsibility to do the asking. I think we just have to go at it confidently and kindly (and sometimes persistently), and from there the friendships are likely to take off on their own.

    I’ve recommended you’re book to everyone, I think it’s a real game changer for women of our era! Thanks so much for writing it. I really appreciate it.

  5. Confused

    I am curious how you gracefully handle it if you feel as though you did not connect with a would-be friend? I recently met a friend-to-be and we went to dinner and had a nice time. But it became really clear that we had almost nothing in common. We both said goodbyes and I figured that was that. But now she has been texting and emailing – and I don’t know how to decline. She is a nice person. We just didn’t “hit it off” (at least on my end). I really (REALLY) don’t want to hurt her feelings because I know she is super shy. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out if I have friends to introduce her to that might get along better with her – but, since I’m new too, I don’t know anyone. Argh. Help?

    • amommys2cents

      I also me up with a potential friend and though the visit was nice it was clear we aren’t going to make it as buddies. Way too different in many many ways. She’s asked about getting together for playdates with our kids and I’ve just been “too busy” to set it up when she’s available. She’s stopped asking now.

    • Kate

      Oh, this is tough. I found myself in a similar situation not too long ago, but continued to accept invitations because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, plus I knew her friend inventory was really low. I found myself dreading our meetings and being uncharacteristically flaky, simply because I don’t enjoy her company. Almost a year later and she’s moved to an apartment less than a block from me. How am I going to get out of this mess?? It would have been so much easier if I’d called the game from the beginning. Even if it bruises her feelings, I’d say it’s best to stick a fork in it now, instead of having to do it after a year of “friendship”. Oy – good luck. Hopefully you’re braver than me!

      • Confused

        Ha! I wish I was more brave. Instead I have become flaky too – and find myself trapped in a circle of white lies to get out of hanging out. I think I’m going to have to psych myself up to just end things. The longer it goes on, the more awkward things feel…

        • I think im alright on my own now.

          So, Ive just come across this site, probably like everyone else to figure out how to get a life. Ive been in my ‘new’ city for 4 years and I’d pretty much given up. All of my previous jobs had been alongside mostly men and Id ended up thinking I couldnt make friends until I realised a) its only work b) most men dont seem to want to make friends with women, turns out they keep you on the hook just in case and then let you down gently ( flake a lot, tell their friends that you cant take a hint) when they meet someone they actually want to date.

          Reading this blog convinced me that its actually easy and I should go out there and just chat to people like I used to when I was new in my career. It was nice to be reminded that noone worries about this stuff more than you do yourself. And yes life was easier when you didnt think about all the ways it can go wrong. Ill get back out there and remind myself im not in hell anymore.

          So I clicked on the readers comments, to get a few more real everyday stories to inspire me and I find this thread. Women being flakey and avoiding other women because they dont want to hurt their feelings. This is disappointing, this is what the immature work-lads say about women they dont fancy, this is cowardly.

          To every one of you that feels trapped in a dull friendship that you didnt want, just speak up and end it honestly. How would you feel if someone wouldnt tell you a straightforwad truth because they think you are so fragile and they are so important that one failed attempt at making a pal would ruin you.
          But do think about the ones who, due to lifes circumstances like grief, moving town, bullying at work, are finding it dificult to make new friends, they have no information, no current reason, they many not understand why they cant make friends, so tell them easily and straightforwardly that you dont think you have too much in common. That their favourite colour happens to be the one that you dislike the most and it just doesnt work for you, noone did anything wrong did they? Maybe they do smell, maybe they are being whiney and annoying, but someone should tell them, a person can fix that if they know about it. Dont let them fester for 10 years in the ignorance of your ‘politeness’. There are plenty of other people for you both to meet in the world, not everyone gets along, they know that because they are not 7 years old, you are not special to them, you are not their only hope, but your flakeyness -is- what will make them unhappy.
          If you are flakey and evasive and say vague unhelpful things to avoid telling the truth, it can add to their stress, the awkwardness, the stuff that makes a person look weird and insecure. It stops regular people from wanting to get to know them, eventually they can drift to a point where they never feel safe and then next non-friend they make will be twice as awkward, just because you didnt speak up, because you wanted the easy way out. Youre not doing anyone any good this way, and, if youre on this website, you need friends too, so practice being kind, or honest. Either virtute is a really good start to restoring the faith in humanity we all need so we can get back to not feeling like idiots who have become afraid of starting a conversation with a stranger.

          If she learns something good bad or fixable about herself, its a win, its a step towards a better future, its genuine hope. Be honest, could be the best thing you ever do.

  6. Role reversals ARE really weird. I am so used to always being the one to initiate, but I’ve made a good friend within this last year who not only will sometimes initiate a get-together, but she is really happy to see me and to accept an invitation to a coffee or lunch date; not making me feel like it is an obligation she reluctantly has to do, the way so many others are. It is so, so nice, and it just really makes me happy that she is happy to spend time with me.

  7. stephrogers

    I love your blog and I’m finding it really encouraging as I try to make new friends in my new social circle. What I need is a go to list of interesting topics to talk about to fill in those awkward early moments. Talking about my kids and their bodily functions seems to be off limits. Do you have any tips?

  8. Someone recently did try and make a friend of me, and she was totally successful. I would consider her one of my best friends. We met at a conference, and she went to take a short nap after a long day, and after her nap, she looked for me and found me, and we went for coffee before the next session, and a great friendship was born.

  9. I loved reading this. It can be so hard to put yourself out there to try and make a new friend and we all have such busy schedules that when someone turns you down or doesn’t get back to you right away (which can happen often!) it’s really discouraging. Thanks for the motivation to try, try again!

  10. yes an inspiring read. I am about to move back to my own country after 20 years abroad so in fact it does feel as if I am going to live in a foreign country. one thing that is worrying me is how to make new friends and I will make that effort to connect a few times before giving up, It is so true why do we expect someone we hardly know to reciprocate , it is fair to keep trying.

  11. As I’ve grown older, I have become more picky. Quality above quantity.

  12. Nico

    Hi Rachel! I haven’t been reading your blog much recently as I’m working on my own book and that means time is at way more of a premium… but I have wanted to say a big thank you to you for blazing the friending trail for me. I moved into a new neighborhood last year, and as this is where we will be staying for a looooooooong time, barring disaster, wanted to make some local friends. Met a few women at the playground or around… but always short conversations especially with kids around. So I took a page from your book and wrote notes to five of them, saying I’d love to get a chance to know them better, was thinking about hosting a mom’s night at my house, and would they be interested – and passed on my email address. Well, ALL interested, it’s now become a monthly thing with more neighbors added each month, and everyone keeps saying how glad they are I started the group. So I need to pass those thanks on to you, because without this blog I never would have screwed up the courage to do it. And I hope that some or all of these women will become my BFFs over the years to come🙂 – Nic

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