by Debby Adams, guest contributor
Lucy and Ethel. Laverne and Shirley. Thelma and Louise. Best friends forever. We all want to find our BFF, the woman who will laugh with us at our makeover attempts, cry with us through our losses, and pick up the phone without question if we need to call her at 3 AM. But where is she? And why do more of us feel lonelier, despite social media, than ever before?
According to Shasta Nelson, the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen, making new friends isn’t easy. Once you’re out of school, it’s easier to find potential dates, thanks to sites like Match.com, than it is to find new women to befriend.
Truth is, in our younger years we’re surrounded by potential friends in school. We share many things in common, like fear of a certain math teacher, coming of age issues, and the stress of figuring out what to do after graduation.
But once we’re out of school, women’s lives head in different directions. Some move across the country, or back home; some get married or opt to stay single; some have children and stay at home when others work full-time. Years later, some will retire and move out of state.
“Changes put a strain on old friendships, and unless you’re willing to put forth a great effort to maintain the connection, the friendship either fades or dies entirely.”
Throughout your life you may find yourself in new territory, giving you the opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences. But how do you reach out to strangers and minimize the awkwardness?
Grab a cup of coffee, a notepad and pen and start a list of places where you interact with others. It might include things like work (paid or volunteer), your building or your neighborhood (if you have a dog to walk, you’ll meet lots of new people!), a house of faith or a local gym. If you’re already a member of any professional or civic clubs, list those. Then for each of the categories, list one or two people who’ve piqued your interest.
If the page is nearly-empty, then make a list of your interests and/or potential classes you’d like to take. Yoga? A book club? A cooking class? Community garden? Dance class? Then check out websites like meetup.com, volunteermatch.org, or your local newspaper to see what events work with your schedule. Put one or two on your calendar and participate. You’ll soon know if the group is a good fit, but attend a few times before you make a final decision. Start a conversation with someone you’d like to know – sharing a common interest makes it easier to break the ice. Ask questions. Most people are happy to share their opinions. Once a connection is made, invite them out for coffee afterwards.
Developing the bond of friendship takes time. Some of the people you meet may never be more than acquaintances. But others might progress from a coffee meet-up to dinner or a shopping trip (Shop! In the Name of Love). Maybe even a classic movie night at the local theater for a showing of Thelma and Louise.