On Making Friends – the more difficult side of dating

Originally published here.

 

Here is something that Cosmo does not want to you know: getting a boyfriend is not all that difficult. If you sincerely want a beard-face of your very own, all you need to do is brush your hair, leave the house, act interested in sports /travel/Skyrim/pina coladas/getting caught in the rain, and then compromise on most of your standards. BAM! Boyfriend. Go forth and shack up, you lucky thing. A far harder goal to accomplish? Making new friends, post school-mandated socialisation.

 

Nobody’s going to lock you in a classroom filled with like-minded people of a similar age, ever again. Once you’re earning your own money and making it in the big bad world all on your adult lonesome, making that connection gets infinitely trickier.

 

One way to avoid facing this truth? Stay in the city you grew up in. Keep your high school friends as your only friends. You don’t need anyone else – they’re the ones who studied calculus and Catcher in the Rye with you, who saw you vomit Smirnoff under a pool table. They knew you pre-puberty. Stick with them, in a little blissful bubble, failing to acknowledge that you’re not the same people you were ten years ago. You can do that, if you want. It might even be quite nice. It’s certainly the easier route.

 

Because the other option – risking being on your own – really sucks. I’ve moved countries twice in two years, each time leaving behind all the people I would trust to pass me tampons under bathroom doors. It’s the most heart-breaking thing in the world, making a friend only to leave them – worse still when green cards and oceans mean you might never see each other, properly and frequently, again. Some might say that the age of social media has made these kinds of relationships easier, but I call B.S. I want to see pictures of my best friend hanging out on the beach with people who look a-bit-like-me-but-more-interesting like I want to rub wasabi into my eye sockets.

 

With the annoying adult realisation that you really should be glad that they’ve made new friends – because you like them, goddammit – comes the thought that perhaps there might be others, like you, wishing for a pal. Perhaps they want one with red hair. Who likes Donna Tartt and cheap shoes and the smell of MAC foundation. But how to find them?

This is the dating advice that I need. This is the handbook that doesn’t exist. So You’re Twenty-Six and Lonely – A Self-Help Book For Those Without Lady-Friends To Pass Them Tampons Under Doors. Why hasn’t this been written?

 

I know why. Because making friends is more complicated than finding a partner. Because you can’t let your genitals do the talking, because you can’t chat each other up in a bar, because you’re shy, because there are no friendship pick-up lines, because we’re all so afraid of looking stupid that we’ve all stopped looking.

And once you’ve decided to take the leap, you can’t even repurpose your years of dating do’s and don’ts, because making new friends requires totally different tactics to nailing down a partner.

 

For example, it is acceptable – nay important – to look desperate. Looking as inscrutable as a brick wall that may or may not hide Diagon Alley isn’t going to endear you to strangers. So make it clear that you haven’t had a decent conversation about Orange is The New Black or the attractive lift operator in Covent Garden in over a month, and you’re deteriorating. Cast longing glances at prospective pals. Laugh loudly, and too long. Compliment them frequently. Recommend things. Stroke them when they’re not looking (don’t do that).

 

It is also likely that you’ll need to make the first move. After all, most singletons know they’re single – not everyone knows they’re open to new friends. None of this fannying about casting coy glances, hoping for invitations. Ask for their number, text them, ask them out for a drink. A walk. Clay-pigeon-shooting. Make plans, any plans – just make it happen. The ball is in your court, and have you ever tried to play tennis by yourself?

If it sounds stupid then that’s because it’s not a perfect formula. There is no friendship equation. But life is too short to be lonesome and if you meet someone who you’d want to cook your favourite dinner for and not take their pants off afterwards, then why not try? Hitch up those pleather trousers and open up, my little walnut. I am testament to the fact that your trials will not be in vain – my efforts have resulted in friend dates involving lipstick, Stilton hollandaise and rather too long spent casting The Goldfinch for film. And you want to be my friend now, don’t you? Just a little bit. Just to see how it feels.

 

It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the occasional embarrassment. Friendship, once you have it, is worth all the time spent looking – and once forged, it feels effortless. There’s no limit to how many friends you can have, so keep the old ones – you’ll have friends all over the place. More friends than you can count! You’ll break Facebook, you’ll have so many friends! And you’ll never have to fetch your own feminine hygiene products again, if you don’t want to.

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