Making friends when you're a kid is so easy. You basically pick a human you like and go, "yup, this one is cool", and you do stuff with them. You don't question their taste in reading materials, you don't you don't care if they have weird hair or other friends. You basically just enjoy their company as often as possible.
When you are a grown up, things get complicated. Suddenly you have to have loads in common, you need to move in the same circles, you need to have a more substantial connection that just thinking they are brilliant fun, and this is where we have made things hard for ourselves.
Obviously I don't mean we should all go back to the playground rules of grabbing someone by the hand and leading them around all day, declaring at lunch time that they are your best friend and we will now do ALL THE THINGS TOGETHER.
Although. Just quietly. Wouldn't that be kind of awesome...?
Anyway. Society has a decidedly painful way of making life difficult in this department, in that we have somehow come to a point where not only is it problematic trying to hang out with people you like, it's a mission even meeting new ones.
For example, if you work in an Accounts Department, you generally only meet people who work with numbers, in commerce, or at least in corporate environments. If you work as a lawyer you meet lawyers, discuss cases with other lawyers (possibly for legal and confidentiality reasons), and spend time with people who deal with legal matters.
If you are a barista, you meet a million different people everyday, from all types of industries with all different ideas. However, you generally get about a minute of each others' time and then it's onto the next new person, with no chance to really connect (mostly).
This is not to generalise the whole conversation, but I think you know where I'm going with this.
Certainly it's possible - even likely - these types of people have a variety of interesting friends outside of work and certainly they meet new individuals weekly. But with how many do they get to say; hey! that new person is way cool, we should totally hang out!
We say it to ourselves, but we don't do it because we think we can't. Or shouldn't. It would be considered rude, bad etiquette, or 'not the done thing'.
This, good people, is stupid. And it needs to stop.
Personally, I keep meeting new and interesting people for what seems like a split second and then they're gone. I'm not sure if it's me or them (though obviously I suspect it's them), but it's unbelievably irritating.
Making a new friend has some truly ghastly similarities to dating. When you first meet, it's highly likely one of you will have stronger feelings than the other, one will make the more proactive moves, and one of you will certainly have more specific ideas about how this relationship is meant to proceed.
How soon after we meet can I call? Do I suggest one of my favourite places to hang out straight away? How long until I can invite them to my house; is that second date - ehem! - meeting, or later?
In an effort to cut through this never-ending bullshit which seems to repeat itself like a bad high-school drama, I've come up with a strategy. Of sorts.
When I meet someone new, I plan on asking a series of leading questions that will hopefully reveal whether said person should be in my friendzone;
How do you feel about coffee?
What about tea?
How much Masterchef do you watch a week?
Do you find Ricky Gervais funny?
Can you clarify the coffee answer please?
Do you think vegans are real people?
Team Ragnar or Team Rollo?
Seriously; I need a definitive answer on that coffee question.
And so on. Basically, I want to know if we amuse each other enough to make it through another meeting, one where we are likely to be one-on-one and actually have to entertain each other directly. You know, without booze, Ricky Gervais, or other stimulants.
This isn't all about having heaps in common; that assumption is a mistake. And it also isn't about yes or no answers to questions; again, mistake. It's about a connexion.
I once asked someone if they put much stock in star signs (as I rather do); he rolled his eyes dramatically and said, you don't really believe in all that crap, do you? Then proceeded to treat me to a 15 minute mock-tirade, complete with Stan S. Stanman hand gestures and and twee/wispy voice interpretations.
It was hysterical and I adore him for it. *This man* is now firmly my friend.
There's this gorgeous girl I know who consistently tells me how amazing I am, how wise and clever I can be, and how much she thinks I've got my life together. Even after I tell her stories of falling headfirst into bushes on the sidewalk, crying in the bathrooms at work over having to talk to IT, and continuously falling love with the wrong people, a-la-Bridget-Jones-with-better-clothes-and-sarcasm.
*This bella*? Gal pals for life.
Both of these people are utterly different from me. We have a a reasonable age difference, we work in different industries, we have wildly differing friends. And neither of them drinks near as much - or is even close to as snobby about - coffee as myself. Though we all agree on good wine (thank gods).
Both of these people renew my faith in humanity. They have sunshine in their hearts and are genuinely interested in knowing what's going on in your life. They take me seriously, and if I send a text that doesn't get answered within 24 hours, I get a proper response later inclusive of explanation of what's happening with them.
When you make a connection with someone it can be really scary; oh my gods, this person really understands me! They see me for me, they really *get* me! Fuck. Now I have to pretend to be normal and cool and not like I appreciate how awesome they are and how awesome we could be together!
(I know, exactly like dating right?)
But friendship isn't about being the best you can be all the time - they have the army for that claptrap. Friendship is about having someone to share all the good stuff, bad stuff, and truly weird stuff with. And being able to hear someone elses' stories too - trust me, that part is better than cable.
So here's the thing; let's all start putting ourselves on the line a little more. We're getting older and too cynical, and the world is getting just a little too serious for us not to have people around who can make us laugh.
Again, I'm not saying you need to make friends with every aeronaut you start chatting to on public transport, and I'm not saying you should make your intentions known with everyone by gleefully declaring your friendship with childish abandon...
...but let's not rule it out, hey?
...but let's not rule it out, hey?