Category Archives: Pickup Lines

Ask and You Shall Receive…

Today is my turn to blog for The Month of Friendship. For those of you who are new to my search, let me give you the Twitter-ized version:

After two years of waiting for a local BFF to emerge in my new hometown of Chicago, I’ve decided to go out there and find her.

On Tuesday, I was reminded of exactly why I’ve been forcing myself to ask out potential friends, despite how desperate it can sometimes feel. I was at my favorite boutique, just a block away from my apartment, looking for a dress to wear to an upcoming rehearsal dinner. Well, that and I’ve been trying to befriend the manager since I moved here.

We’ve become friendly enough in the time that I’ve been frequenting her store. The weekend I went wedding dress shopping, I showed her a picture of my potential gown for an “objective” opinion. She’s told me about planning her sister’s bridal shower. She knows what clothes work best on my body and can perhaps get me a discount on said outfits. She’d most certainly fill my fashionable BFF opening.

For a while, before I threw caution to the wind and started asking every potential BFF to dinner, I was too embarrassed to invite her to hang out. What would I say? “Hello I have no friends! Will you take pity on me?” Uh, no thanks.

But now that I’ve been at this a while, I’ve gotten more comfortable in the art of the asking. Like anything, it gets exponentially easier with practice. And the breezier you are (Remember Monica on Richard’s answering machine? “I’m breezy!” I channel this often…) the less awkward the exchange. I promise!

So I went into the store in the middle of the day on Tuesday, and Manager and I were the only people there. After trying on a few dresses, I bought an adorable little black number.

“So do you work every Tuesday?” I asked her at the register.

“Yup.”

“I was wondering… I work from home on Mondays and Tuesdays, and it can get really quiet and isolating. Would you want to get lunch sometime? It’d be nice to get out of the house for a little.”

Manager was so excited. “I’d love to! I really would.” She went on to tell me that she always meets really great people at the store, but she feels like she has to wait for the other person to make the move. “Otherwise, you could be like ‘why’s the salesgirl asking me to lunch?’ It’s unprofessional.”

This had never occurred to me. She’s all 7-feet-tall and impossibly thin and pretty. The idea that maybe she wanted to be my friend too, that maybe something was holding her back never crossed my mind.

So we exchanged numbers and we’re going to have lunch. It could maybe even become a weekly-ish affair. I have a good feeling about this one.

The small-but-significant exchange was an important reminder of why, when we meet someone with BFF potential, we should just go for it. Everyone wants pals. We’re constantly worried that people will think we’re weird for making the first overture toward friendship, but more often than not the other person is flattered. Thrilled, even.

And there could be a million reasons why she hasn’t tried befriending you. Once Manager explained it to me, it made perfect sense that she’d have professional concerns about trying to befriend a customer. But I never would have thought of it on my own.

So this month, why not resolve to finally say something to the would-be friend you’ve been eyeing in yoga class/the grocery store/the office. What’s the worst that could happen? No, seriously, what?

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“Buy Her a Beer, That’s the Reason You’re Here…”

Maybe some of you remember this Coors Light commercial from some years back (click through to watch the video if you’re in a feed). The brief-but-brilliant ditty immortalized the mighty wingman, who is defined by the very official Wikipedia as “a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners.” My personal favorite of all wingmen is Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother fame, though the critical role was perhaps first embraced by pop culture after Swingers, the original wingman flick.

It’s true that a wingman is usually around to help a guy get lucky. But if you’re serious about picking up friends, a wingman—or wingwoman—is an indispensable accessory.

When Matt and I got married, I expected he would be my most intimate companion, my biggest supporter, the someday father of my kids. I didn’t anticipate he’d double as an amazing go-to wingman of the friend-search variety.

What do the responsibilities of a seeking-BFF wingman include? In Matt’s case, the job entails scoping out potential friends in restaurants and departments stores, agreeing to go on unlimited couple-dates (even when the game is on and  the male half of the couple isn’t his type), and encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and ask a potential BFF for her number no matter how crazy she might take me to be.

Out-of-town guests also make for great wingpeople. (That sounds like some sort of villainous species from Wizard of Oz. Wingpeople. Huh.) Being with an old pal when you’re trying to pick up new friends is helpful for multiple reasons; mostly, the BFF target will see that you’re out with someone (meaning, you do have some friends) which seems to warm people to friendship advances. You’re not a creepy lurker preying on friendly bartenders/boutique owners/yoga instructors to find someone to chop into pieces. Instead you’re a nice, bold woman who’s always looking to add to her circle of friends. Old pals will also give you that extra nudge when you’re teetering on the edge of talking to the girl with the great purse. And if you’re too shy, the tried-and-true just-in-town-for-the-weekend friend might approach the potential BFF for you: “Have you met Rachel?” The old friend has nothing to lose.  Even if she makes a fool of herself, she’s got the next flight out of O’Hare.

This weekend I found myself in the ideal wingpeople situation. One of my closest friends from college was in town—one who’s super interested in my search and eager to help me find someone to add to her ranks. And of course Matt was around ‘cause, well, he’s my husband. We live together. So when Matt and I went to dinner with Jenny and her boyfriend, and I mentioned that our waitress seemed cool (“definite BFF material”) they may or may not have convinced me to leave her a note. With my digits. On our receipt. Not something I would’ve ever been bold enough to try had I been eating alone.

If any of you out there are on your own BFF search, I encourage you to employ a wingman. (And if you do or have, please—pretty please!—let me know how it goes.) It could be a friend or husband or sister or just about anyone who has your best interests at heart and isn’t too shy to take the plunge every now and then by, say, writing your note to the waitress because your handwriting is totally illegible. For example.

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The Hard Facts: Keep Talkin’ Happy Talk

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Higher well-being was associated with less small talk and having more substantive conversations. Compared with the unhappiest participants [in this study], the happiest participants … had roughly one third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.” (Psychological Science, “Eavesdropping on Happiness,” Feb. 18, 2010)

When I started this girl-dating journey, I believed in the whole “don’t talk about religion or politics around the dinner table” thing. I didn’t want to stop a potential friendship in its tracks just because I went to Obama’s Grant Park election night rally while she might have spent that glorious evening mourning the fall of Sarah Palin.

I’ll keep it light and friendly, I thought. All Chicagoans can bond over the weather—seriously, Sun, it’s May—and I can talk about tabloid headlines all night if necessary.

But I’ve found the girl-dates that inspire me to skip home are the ones where we do, in fact, get serious. During one particularly promising dinner, my maybe-friend and I traded stories about our vastly different upbringings and debated the Man Upstairs and the existence of soul mates. (Her: “Do you believe in soul mates?” Me: “You mean, like us?” No, I didn’t really say that. But almost.)

Science backs up my anecdotal research, and to be honest, I’m a bit surprised. If you’d asked me a few months ago who I thought was happier, those who ponder life’s big questions or those who don’t sweat the (big or) small stuff, I’d have said the latter.

“It could have gone the other way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’” one of the authors of the study told the New York Times. I get that. The big thinkers so often seem the most somber, dragged down by the weight of the world.

But “substantive conversation” in this case isn’t limited to dissecting the meaning of life. A profound social encounter was defined as “an involved conversation of a substantive nature (i.e., meaningful information was exchanged, e.g., ‘She fell in love with your dad? So, did they get divorced soon after?’)” Talking about TV even counts, if you’re analyzing characters and motivations. This is good for me. My Survivor strategy sessions are officially considered profound discussion. I knew it.

Needless to say, I no longer shy away from serious talks on the first girl-date. If it will make us both happier, then we’ll want to hang out again. And again. As long as we both shall live.

The study concludes that, “the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial.” What it doesn’t venture is which came first. Are happier people more likely to have deep conversations? Or do deep conversations increase a person’s well-being?

What do you think? Which came first—the happiness or the depth? Do you tend to keep it light when you meet new people, or delve into more meaningful discussion?

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Someone’s in the Kitchen with Rachel

Tonight Matt and I are taking a cooking class. My husband’s  not much one for cooking—though he makes a mean smoothie and should probably patent his granola concoctions—but we got a gift certificate for our wedding and this session is Italian food (Pasta with clam sauce! Cannolis!), so I was able to twist his arm.  These classes call for four chefs to a station, which means we’ll be paired with another couple. I’ve already warned Matt that we need to time our arrival perfectly—we don’t want to be too late because I want to scope out the couple we’re paired with, but we don’t want to be too early either, lest we be the scopees rather than scopers.

If we do end up spotting a really promising-looking couple, I’m a little scared my enthusiasm for the potential new friends might turn us into the Heffernans in this King of Queens clip—I, of course, being the Kevin James of our duo (if you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed you’ll have to click through to see this video… Do it! It’s worth it):

Yes, I would be the one all “Hi, I’m Rachel. You like to cook? I have a stove! Come over! We’ve got enough aprons for everyone!” Matt would be the one hiding. Inside the oven.

So as to save me from embarassment and divorce, let’s decide now what I should do. I’m thinking perhaps save the movie and Olive Garden invitations for another time. Start small, perhaps go business card again. I’ll do the number exchanging with the female half of the couple. Guys seem to think friendship advances are creepier than women do. Unless he’s a Red Sox fan, in which case he and Matt will be bonded for life. And we’ll all live happily ever after.

Got any advice for what I should say tonight to avoid turning into Kevin James? And what should he have done in this scene, anyway? Was there any way to make the move without prompting a restraining order? Please rescript this trip to Home Depot, or let me know if you have any brilliant ideas for tonight. I promise to keep you posted on the flip side.

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A True Tale of Food and (Potential) Friendship

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.

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The Pick-Up Artist

Yesterday I heard a woman say that one of the worst things a guy can do on a date is spend the whole time checking out the other women in the restaurant/bar/community theater production of Fiddler. I nodded in agreement: “Oh, it’s so true. Wandering eyes have got to go.” And then it hit me. I was that guy! Er, girl! Just a few weeks ago, I went to an event with a semi-friend (on her way to full-fledged friend, mind you), and though we had a really nice time together,  I definitely spent a moment early on eyeing the other BFF prospects.  Because what if she was there? My mythical BFF, the girl I’ll go on Sunday shopping trips with and who’ll talk me into buying the dress I don’t need because it looks that amazing.  I’m not saying the current date couldn’t necessarily fill that role, but it was early in the relationship, so I’ve got to keep my options open, right?

This is not to say I didn’t pay attention to my friend—I did! I swear!—but in preparation for the girl-date,  I spent some time trying to decipher the friendship code of conduct. If I thought I saw The One, could I approach her and just introduce myself? Would my girl-date be offended? Is that, like, cheating??

On the one hand, you never want to feel like someone you’re spending time with is only half-paying attention to you. That’s just rude. On the other hand, friendship is not romance, no matter how similar friend-dating and the romantic kind are.  There is no exclusivity. We don’t have to have The Talk. (“What are we?” “Why do we have to give it a label?” “But do you like me? Or do you like like me?” “I just want to be friends! Not best friends. It’s too much too soon.”) And adding a third to the mix doesn’t bring up any porn imagery.

I was looking for friends, and my soon-to-be friend was looking for friends, so the more the merrier?  We could be each others wingwomen! She could say to Imaginary Potential BFF “Have you met Rachel?” And we’d all three live happily ever after in Bestieville.

Needless to say I didn’t approach anyone. No new prospects jumped out at me, and I thought it would be weird to say to my semi-new friend “she looks good, I’m going to introduce myself.” And, who am I kidding, I haven’t yet worked up the nerve for a total “Come here often?” move. Without some connection—we’re both writers, we’re both new in town, we’re both in curly hair hell—I don’t know how to approach someone new. I’m a girl who’s been with her husband since freshman year of college. I’m not well-versed in the art of the pickup. But that doesn’t means it won’t happen. Never say never.

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A Family Affair?

Last night I went to see first-time novelist Kelly O’Connor McNees read from her new book The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott at Barnes and Noble. I’ve never actually been to one of these author events before, but I checked out the B&N website the other day because I thought readings might be a good place to pick up potential BFFs. (That’s right, I go trolling bookstores for women.) I was especially excited to see that McNees was reading because, first of all, Little Women is one of my favorite books so I get excited about any tangentially related novels (see: Geraldine Brooks’ March), and I’d actually just read a rave review of The Lost Summer on another blog so it was on my radar. Extra enthusiasm came when I saw that the 30-year-old author is from just outside Chicago, so perhaps she could be my friend (I’m in the market for a new-author BFF whose brain I can pick. Wait, that sounds gross.)

Thinking about Little Women from my new friendcentric perspective, it occurred to me that the four sisters are pretty much each other’s only BFFs. We hardly hear about any other female friends throughout the entire story. Louisa, like her literary counterpart Jo March, was the second of four girls (the youngest of whom was named May. Amy in the book. Really, Louisa? I love you but I’d think you could handle something more creative than swapping the first two letters…). It got me thinking about the family as BFF question: can they be one and the same?

Just as I generally believe that husbands and BFFs should fall under separate-but-equal, I think one has to distinguish family from friends. Yes, my brother and I are incredibly, perhaps unusually, close. I call him about pretty much anything and everything—Modern Family, professional dilemmas, complaints about family. Not that I’ve ever had any (Hi Mom!). Similarly, my mother and I talk every day. She lives only a few blocks away so I see her Quite. Often. Still, I guess I’m a compartmentalizer: I like to keep family in one box, husband in another, BFFs in the third. This doesn’t mean they can’t meet and mingle, but I think it’s helpful to have different people in each role.

Also, there’s a muy importante distinction between friends and family: Friends are people we choose.

In Joseph Epstein’s Friendship: An Expose, he writes, “A best friend is that person who gives you the most delight, support, and comfort, often in those realms where family cannot help. A best friend is perhaps the only person to whom you can complain about the difficulties presented by your family.” I tend to agree with this. If members of my family double as my best friend, then who do I complain to about my family? And, if ever necessary, to whom do I complain about my BFF?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I totally asked the author out. She had no cards with her but said it’s important for writers to stick together and I should email her via her website. (I know you’re thinking this was a classic brush off, but I really don’t think so. Perhaps that is classic denial.) She’s around my age and new to the biz too, so I think it might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Do you think a family member can be a BFF? Or is that akin to mixing business with pleasure? You know where I stand… Now you weigh in.

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