Tee’s Review: My tutu is purple!
I stood on the front lawn of my family home in New Jersey and crushed my best friend to me in a ferocious hug, crying and emoting as only a teenager can manage with any sort of credibility. I was moving away. No more sleep-overs, no trips to the shore, no making fun of the boys we actually liked. I was moving to a place (Houston!) where I had no friends, no parties, no life. It was terrifying and conflicting because I actually wanted (sight unseen) to go there.
Fresh starts always seem like a good idea from the perspective of being done with the old place and wanting new opportunities, yet it is always difficult to leave dear friends behind. I was moving to Texas with my parents and looking forward to settling in, finding a great job and making new friends. I spent the next 42 years in Houston, creating a rich life, abundant with friendships. In that span of time, I came to realize the many different levels of friendship that existed in my social sphere. I treasured all of these relationships.
Years later, when I once again chose to move to another state, I felt a great pull on my heart, not only due to parting from my most intimate pals, but for all the connections I had made with my fellow human beings in my corner of that huge city. My husband and I spent a couple of weeks before our move visiting with as many friends as we could prior to moving day. Emotions ran high. When we departed, as we accelerated onto I-45 North out of town, I reflected on the myriad ways in which friendships had been forged over the years. I would soon become a stranger in a strange land with a need to start over and a game plan for creating a fresh social life.
As we crossed the border into Louisiana, I had written (in my head) the Manual for Making Friends. It occurred to me that friendships come in many forms and levels of intensity. I would need to take advantage of every level in the years ahead, living in my new village, looking for those people with the potential to move up the levels to become cherished confidantes, companions, collaborators, cheerleaders and accomplices.
Let’s face it. Not everyone on our Facebook pages are close personal friends. There are some people on my friends list that I have never even met or only met once. Superficial as Facebook connections can be, I never overlook friend requests just because we have never met in person. But there’s a bit of scrutiny, an investigation into our pathway of connection. If they come at me from out of nowhere, I usually bypass the creepy friend request and block them from my realm. The social media connection might have to be the lowest level of contact and acquaintance we have with another human being which might fall into the friendship category. Naturally, some of my closest pals, near and far are part of my Facebook society and have sustained me through flood and plague via this instrument of communication.
The next level of association might be the people who work in a place I frequently visit. Librarians are a great example. I read, therefore I know librarians who are wonderful fellow book enthusiasts. I have a friend at Whole Foods. She once worked at another grocery store which closed. I was so delighted to see her again, after she was newly hired, that we take the time to have a conversation (mostly about our dogs and recreational activities) each time I shop. When I was taking the bus downtown daily, I met many fellow passengers with whom I could count on having a chat. When I see them on the street now, we continue that connection, seemingly happy to see one another. Do these relationships count as friendships? I like to think so. It exists at a lower level since I don’t know where they live or even their last names.
I enjoy belonging to organizations where like-minded folks congregate. Church, club, activity group, work site, neighborhood. Do the people I meet at meetings count as friends simply because I see them once a month, know their names and say hello? When I introduce them to someone else, I often say “This is my friend Malcolm” even if Malcolm had no idea we were friends. If I’ve interacted with Malcolm a few times within the social realm of whatever entity brought us together, I consider him a friend, even if we have never connected outside that sphere. I think this might be so because I can’t find another title (acquaintance, associate, affiliate, countryman, peer?) that doesn’t sound like I hate the guy. Friend it is.
Any one individual from any of the above categories of friendship have the potential to become true friends with a more intimate association. One person in a know-you dyad has to make the first move. “Can I have your phone number?” is a bit of a dicey question since they might reluctantly hand over the digits just to keep from being outright rude. I prefer the “Want to get a cup of coffee after the meeting?” inquiry. They can make a plausible excuse or, if they truly can’t make it but like the overture, they will ask for my phone number. These are the first steps in becoming friends.
True friendships are forged through shared experiences. The more and varied the experiences, the tighter the bond. (If you find someone willing to wear a tutu in public with you, hold onto them for dear life.) Budding friendships might start with going to a festival, play or concert together. Lunch at that place you have always wanted to try is a great option which leaves plenty of room for conversations. The closest friends are errand friends. These are the people who will ride along while you pick up the dry cleaning, run to the drug store, accompany you to the book store or just about anything else that will feel less of a chore with a ride-along companion.
I have been most fortunate here in Asheville in finding a squad. A squad is best described as those cronies (cohorts, pals, chums) who act as one unit. We actually call our little group “The Squad,” a term coined by our member Gina. We are all friends together. This was nothing that was planned or thought through, it just sort of happened. We often see each other separately, but enjoy time spent with all five of us present. We have a long-running text thread which assures me that someone is always listening. I find great comfort in that connection where I can find companionship, support and trust.
Gina is now leaving us. Moving away with her husband. We couldn’t talk her into staying without him! She won’t be too far away, but won’t be available for walking the neighborhood or meeting up at the park. I find myself on the other end of a departure. Friend leaving. I have been there before, but this truly feels different. A depleted squad, one fewer confidante, one less nearby friend. I’m confident she will stay on the text thread and visit when she can. That makes her one of those true friends. We won’t cling to each other on the front lawn and sob like teenagers, but the sentiment is the same. Trips south are being planned, online Zoom meetings will continue and words of encouragement will be sent as she settles into her new community.
Making friends sometimes feels like a lot of work, especially if you are bereft of people to pal around with in a fresh setting. Whether that setting is a new city, neighborhood, social club or bus route, people are there, wishing for the same kind of connection. I have relied on that knowledge in order to overcome any shyness or hesitation at making the bid for a closer relationship. The payoff has been enjoying the company of tutu-wearing, coffee-sharing, bad dog-lamenting, let’s-meet-at-the-park friends. Big win.
When’s good for you?
Guest Editor Tee knows the value of shared experiences. One might think my green tutu clashes with her purple, but I believe the two colors are complimentary. Wait ’til you see the white petticoats!