I’ve started applying eyeliner when I go out. And earrings. If I notice dirt on my jeans, I might even change them. Suddenly, I’m putting a lot more effort into making a good impression. Why? I’m on the market again. In play. On the prowl. Seeking a soul-mate.
Oh, not a romantic one. Mr. 70 Percent may drive me crazy at times, but I love him and am in it for the long haul, wherever he may drag me. (Happy Valentine’s day, Honey!) What I’m trawling for is not love, necessarily, but friendship. Not to replace the beloved BFFs I left behind when we moved–that would be impossible–but simply for a little conversation and companionship. No long-term commitment required.
As it turns out, looking for a new friend is a lot like looking for a new lover. First, you make initial contact. This could be through a third-party fix-up, or a spontaneous encounter at the gym. I have even gone on nothing more than someone’s appearance–Great scarf! Nice haircut! She’s reading People!–which my 18-year-old daughter says is shallow. Maybe, but one of the great advantages of getting older is that you become skilled at snap judgments. That doesn’t mean you’re always right–and I certainly wouldn’t rule someone out as a friend just because her scarf was ordinary or she was reading Us Weekly–but first impressions provide a basic frame of reference. (Which is why I sometimes change my dirty jeans before I leave the house.) There’s got to be some sort of initial attraction.
Then there’s the stress of arranging the first meeting. Should you email or call? When? How do you convey interest without appearing over-eager? And friendship “dates” pose the same conundrums as romantic ones: coffee or wine? Meet there or drive together? Which boots to wear? But they also hold the same sort of promise–that little shiver of excitement you feel when you realize you both hate Tiger Moms, love Counting Crows, or consider Six Feet Under the pinnacle of good TV. As I’ve written before, sometimes you just know. For me, the measure of a good “friendship date”–like a good date date–is not just how easily the conversation flows, but also how quickly you delve into the nitty-gritty: family dynamics, romantic history, mental health. At least with prospective friends, that’s all the putting out you have to worry about.
Still, friendship dating summons the same kind of insecurities that romantic dating always has. There’s the constant checking of the phone–why hasn’t she texted me back?–and the fretting over radio silence. Maybe she doesn’t like me! I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned I once considered voting for a Republican, even if it was Christine Todd Whitman.
The whole experience makes me slightly envious of my 11-year-old daughter, who had about 50 new friends within a month of moving to Vermont. All she had to do was score a couple of soccer goals at recess and post a few hundred pictures of herself on Instagram. Maybe I should give it a try.