You know what’s harder than dating? Making friends. This was solidified for me in Alaska, when I subconsciously decided to not be be friends with anyone ever again.
I think it’s because we analyze friendship less. Or at least I do. When I think of my dating life before I got married, I think of being in my college apartment kitchen, standing on the linoleum floor barefoot in a sloppy tree pose, recounting every detail of the night to my roommates between mouthfuls of microwavable popcorn.
He said this, then I said that, then we stumbled upon the ballroom dance club practicing in an empty room at the student union and tried to dance between fits of giggles. What do you think it means?
Is it a deal breaker if his best friend is a girl? How do I pretend it doesn’t bother me that two weeks into dating doesn’t make us automatically best friends?
He texted. You always know if you’re in if he texts you before going to bed. It means you can roll over and fall asleep safe in the knowledge that you were someone’s last thought too.
Turns out if you text a girl you just had coffee with that day saying you had fun and let’s-do-this-again you come across a bit extra— or even worse— desperate. The same rules don’t apply. But it’s not my fault I never had to think about them before.
Until recently, friendships were a thing that happened to me. I’d stumble into them obliviously in lecture or through other friends, or at a party.
Friendship got complicated after college when I moved across country to Atlanta, Georgia. Suddenly I was meeting tons of sweet girls (because everyone’s sweet in Georgia, no really, all the most genuine and nicest people I know are from Georgia). Meeting people was easy.
But finding a way to say “Hey I know it’s almost midnight, but can I come over and watch episodes of Lost and eat my body weight in popcorn and pass out on your couch if I want to?” was harder— much harder. I craved familiarity; I missed laughing so hard I peed my pants and getting hand-me-downs; I missed knowing I never needed an invitation because I was always invited; I missed never thinking about having friends and just having them.
I started to hate meeting people. Particularly the phrase “You should meet my wife.” It automatically meant the pressure was on. We’d go out for coffee, I’d send her a text saying we should hang out again, and often never hear back.
Dating was way easier than this crap. At least I understood the rules of dating, making friends post-college as an adult was a jungle of insecurity, second-guessing your sense of humor and hearing the phrase “same life phase” thrown around a lot.
All of this brings me to last summer in Alaska. I had discovered the best way to stop just meeting people was to stop being someone they would want to meet (I’m so smart).
So when Maegan came over to me with a big smile and said “Hey I’m Maegan, I live in Nashville too!” I remained cool. Chilly in fact. I was not about to meet anyone else. It didn’t matter that she was funny and nice and clearly confused about why she was getting the mean girl treatment. But I was on a mission, and few hours later I waved good-bye nonchalantly having successfully avoided another friendship.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I thought of Maegan randomly. I heard a whispery voice say “You could have had a friend, you know, the kind of friend you want, but you robbed yourself of that experience by being a complete ass.”
Call it conscience, call it an inner voice, I call it Jesus because I think he cares about things like whether or not we have friends. I knew that little voice was right, it just meant putting myself out there— again. Vulnerability is the best worst feeling. Like emotionally doing karaoke, or like that butterflies feeling you get when you maybe swam just a little too far out from shore. So I texted her while I sipped my morning coffee, bracing myself for the non-response I was sure I was going to get.
But to my surprise she texted back, and we got coffee. The voice was right, it was wonderful.
These days we text all the time. Usually they’re things like “Hey Jared and I just landed at Nashville airport. I know it’s late but we’re coming over”
Or, “Dessert? We’ll bring the ice cream.”
“Chris is busy— want to go on a baby moon with me instead?” And then five days later “I’m freaking out. I can’t go on a baby moon! What if I give birth to this child on the beach?!”
And getting texts back like “Forget the baby moon, let’s just hang here.”
I still think it’s harder than dating. But the same principles actually apply in an unexpected, quirky way. I always assumed it would be effortless, but really good things take time to grow. Good friends are like stalactites— they require the consistency of showing up in the mundane and exciting. It’s seeing people for more than just Instagram squares and wondering what’s going on behind the filters. That and a love of food and talking until way too late into the night— these things help.