We relocated to our current city of residence about 8 years ago. In that time, I have labored, and I truly mean labored, to make new friends, a network of connections to be a safety net for myself and my family as we have no family of our own nearby. It's been tough. I feel weary just thinking about how hard this work has been. The longer we live here and the older I grow... the shyer I have become. With age, I have learned a few things about making friends.
- I can learn much by listening to someone. Not just about her, but about how she sees me. Does she speak only about herself? Does she show some interest in me? When getting to know someone new, I ask her the basic, small-talk questions about family, career, place of origin, etc.. If she answers my questions but does not reciprocate with any interest in knowing my answers to those same questions this person doesn't care about getting to know me. She doesn't even care who she talks to--she just likes to hear herself talk. Forget it, she is off the list.
- I am constantly sizing potential new friends up for their "D.Q." -- "Drama Quotient". If her conversation is peppered with phrases like "I threw a glass of water at my mother-in-law at the Christmas dinner table" or "So I said to the salesgirl, 'Honey, I'd like to see your boney butt just try to make me leave this store'." Forget it, she is off the list.
- Actions speak louder than words. It's a cliche, I know, but cliches become cliches because they are TRUE! If a new person in my life is promising to get together but never picks up the phone to make it happen or never returns my call when I try to make it happen-- forget it, she is off the list. I am entirely too old and weary from raising two children to run after someone who is not interested in me.
- Does she share my values? Does she seem to be a good mother? Is she materialistic? Is she constantly bitching about a personal problem but taking no action to solve it? Is she rascist? Elitist? Compassionate? Intelligent? The answers to these questions and others will determine my interest in pursuing her as a friend.
- Does she laugh at my jokes? Does she "get" my references? Seriously, this is important, because I have a weird sense of humor and it may not be for everyone. It's not an ego thing, I just don't want to have to tiptoe around her and censor myself in her presence.
- Is she happy in her life? If she is expecting me to come along and make her happy, fix her up? Then, no, I don't want that job. It's not a cold-hearted thing to say. It's just practical. I'm a softy and I've learned that people take advantage. I'm over 40, as most of my potential friends are. If she doesn't have the basics of a life, i.e., finances, relationships, belief system, well in hand at this point in time I tread cautiously. I may lend an ear and, if asked, offer what I hope is sound advice. Then, I'll sit back and watch to see what she does. Her actions will determine how much more emotional energy I want to give her.
So then, with all of these filters in place, does it surprise you, my Readers Dear, that in 8 years' time I have accumulated less than a handful of new close friends? I am discouraged by this at times, but I guess this is the choice I make. I can over-populate my life with fickle, flighty people or invest in true, solid friendships. I choose the latter. I think I'm worth it. When I sit across the table from you at Starbucks, I may not say much. Until you ask me. I hope you'll think I'm worth it, too.
Behind the still waters of my big, brown eyes there runs some pretty deep water. And in that water happily swims a hamster with much to say. Stay tuned for more...