“No seriously, it’s kinda like dating!”
Everyone in the room burst out laughing, but then they slowly started to nod. One mom shared a story about how she offered her number to another mom at the park, only to realize ten minutes later that maybe she didn’t like her as much as she had originally thought. Another mom recalled connecting with another mom at a new member social and making a monthly exercise “date”. Our book club discussion has veered away from the book for an instant and has gotten lost in a discussion on how to make friends.
When you hit a certain age, a certain stage in your life, suddenly making friends becomes hard, really hard. You no longer go to classes or parties on a regular basis. Your days are spent caring for little people or working 9-5. You don’t get to socialize or meet new people very often, and when you do the window of opportunity is very small.
You’re at the park and you chat for a minute with a mom who’s reading a book you just finished. You make a connection, but quickly her child runs off and you never caught her name. For the next three months you just smile at each other across the sandbox. Or you go to the supermarket and always run into the same mom. She has a child about the same age as yours and she buys the same products as you, clearly it’s a match made in heaven, but making the first move is awkward.
It’s just like dating. You dance around each other, wondering who’s going to talk first, who’s going to make the first move. You’re terrified to start; what if she hates you, what if she doesn’t feel the same connection? You’re scared to come off as needy, desperate. That fear of rejection, of ridicule, is exactly the same as it was back when you were single and it was a mate your were seeking. It’s just easier to smile, move on, and imagine the what ifs. In my mind I have a ton of great friends. In real life I have a plethora of missed connections.
In the end though there’s nothing to lose and a ton to gain. We need these friendships and we are never going to get anywhere if we stay hidden behind our shopping carts. Fear of rejection pales in comparison to the fear of loneliness, and I, for one, am done skulking behind a tree. Tomorrow I’m going to see if the daycare mom I keep stalking wants to go get some coffee or lunch one day. Well maybe first I’ll wait to see if she can come to C’s birthday party. If she says yes to that, then for sure I’ll ask about lunch, you know, after I chat with her at daycare for a few more weeks…