Last night my husband and I had dinner with a lovely couple I had never met before. The wife is a doctor and researcher, a few years younger than me, and a kindred spirit: a scientist bound to the empirical evidence of her experiments, she nonetheless believes in the possibilities of alternative medicine for what the conventional one can’t do, and we immediately found ourselves on the same wavelength.
We bid goodnight with the promise of meeting again, maybe at our house, and, driving home, I saw the possibility of a new friendship forming in the near future, a friendship away from engagements with the husbands, but one of girlfriends’ talk and movies and phone calls about nothing. Am I naive in thinking this is even possible?
Making friendships later in life, those friendships that require intimacy and commitment, is bloody hard. We are at the stage where we believe what we believe and we hold little space for people who might be, at first glance, different. At school, in college, on the first job we would bond over trivial things and the excitement of new discoveries: the college friend with whom I travelled around Greece for a month; the farmer’s daughter who showed me how to extract eggs from under a chicken butt; the neighbor with whom I discovered boys for the first time; the girl with the backpack who entered my rented room in London to stay around for a few years; the first lesbian friend who introduced me to all manner of gay literature – we all gravitated toward each other for the time it took to explore various possibilities and then our paths diverged. Life is not big enough to contain every single person we liked at some point in time. Some of them have disappeared completely – others resurface from time to time with updates on their lives.
The friends with staying power have deeper roots and deeper affinities and have occupied a larger chunk of our lives – they have been witness to heart breaks, disasters and near misses; joyful and seminal events; triumphs and falls all documented over tea or cocktails or phone calls of extraordinary lengths. The common trait is the lack of judgment on all sides.
Setting judgment aside as we get older is a trickier proposition. One of my new year resolutions was to be mindful of pre-judging and to have a more open mind towards people in the absence of knowledge. I found myself being more accepting and less eager to cast aspersions, often holding my opinion. That, in turn, has led to a number of acquaintances playing a bigger role in my life, if not exactly becoming close friends.
I find women endlessly fascinating: what drives them and their intricate thought patterns never fail to astonish me. But how does one go about asking a 50 year old woman out on a playdate? Is it weird to call someone up, after one or two meetings, and ask them along on a movie or coffee? Do people do that? Or is it better to let things develop organically, sit through a bunch of shared dinners and cocktail parties before making a move? Life is busy, life is full and, at this stage, my life is less willing to be filled with mindless social occasions when sitting on the sofa with a Campari, Ottie and Netflix holds much more appeal.
But precisely because time is at a premium, it would be such a shame to let good people pass us by. They might not gain best friend status but they can still enrich our lives.
Becoming a best friend requires a leap of faith that is hard to take at this point in the game. Sofagirl sent me this card a few days ago, in case I needed reminding what is required of a best friend:
She knows that, in real life, I would reach for the shovel and follow her. But here is to hoping she never shows up at my doorstep with a corpse, real or imagined.
Here is where you can find some funny cards
Image found in the public domain