She had her six-month old baby perched on her lap; my toddler was a few metres away, eating grass. After our children tussled awkwardly over a pack of sultanas, we got talking and discovered we had a few things in common: tall husbands, quaint Newtown apartments, Eurasian offspring. The conversation meandered across various topics, from aircraft noise and breastfeeding to religion. When she stood up to leave, I wanted ask her to hang out with me sometime, but I hesitated. “What if she says no?” I thought. “What if I come across as desperate? Peculiar? Or worse still, like a stalker?” So I didn’t say anything. Like a teenage boy too nervous to ask someone out on a first date, I chickened out.
Making friends is not an easy task when you’re approaching thirty. In our early twenties, we’re open to new ‘everything’: people, friendships, experiences, hobbies. Once we hit our thirties, our circles tighten and we tend to stick to our tribes. The only exception is going through a life change, such as moving cities, starting a new job, or becoming a stay at home mum. Even then, automatic friendships are not guaranteed. As a new mum, I joined my mother’s group quite late due to a conflicting schedule and found it really hard to break into the group. I’m sure people can say the same about moving churches. I’ve also found it hard to move friendships from the superficial level, beyond that point where you banter about the weekend and not much else.
So what’s a girl to do? Admit it. At some point in your life, you’ve looked around and thought, “my goodness, I really need to make some friends”. I know I have. How do you ask someone, “will you be my friend?” without feeling like you’re from planet loser?
According to the husband (and this advice is up for debate), the key is being intentional and proactive. When I wanted to make some female friends early on in our marriage, he encouraged me to seek out some women who I wanted to get to know and invite them out for coffee. Despite feeling like I was asking someone out on a date (creepy), I followed his advice. However, I wound up despondent.
“It didn’t work. We hung out, but they never initiated the invite back!” I wailed, trying to squash the niggling thought that maybe they just weren’t that into me.
The husband replied, “Maybe you didn’t initiate often enough.”
“How often are you meant to initiate, without being pushy?”
He stopped and thought about it. “At least nine or ten times. Before they get the message you want to be friends.”
Nine or ten times?!
That’s stalker behaviour, if you ask me.
I did get his point, although it was exaggerated for effect. Like with anything in life, good friends come to those who invest energy in making them. So I’m asking you, readers: how do you go about making them? Is it something only extroverted people are good at?
Would you have the courage to ask a stranger at the park out for coffee?