Sunday, August 9, 2015

Making new friends (at our old age)

Are we any good at making friends when we get to the age where we call each other “honey” so we don’t have to remember each other’s name? Should we be trusted with new people?

I found out recently that it is possible to make new friends and even remember their names after 30 seconds. I would use mnemonics to recall names, but then I’d have to know what “blue” or “ocean” or “shish kabob” is supposed to remind me of. I have just had to learn to pay close attention and not let the voices in my head distract me.

A month or so ago I ventured into a frozen yogurt wonderland in Portland to purchase a signed copy of a new book by a local author. I hadn’t met her before but I was among her many social media connections and we had exchanged a few messages in the last year or so.

Stepping forward and choosing a copy of the book, I sheepishly offered the correct spelling of my name, not expecting her to remember it from her nearly 500 Facebook friends. She invited me to have a seat and we chatted briefly. She even gave me very sage advice on the best way to order frozen yogurt from this particular establishment. I felt some bonding going on.

A few days later I sent her a message and suggested we meet up sometime in Portland for more frozen yogurt or maybe dinner.  Soon after we were able to get together for dinner in between my work hours and a workshop I was attending. It was a really nice conversation and it went by very quickly. I was tempted to bail out of the workshop and just keep talking, but I left the diner feeling confident that there would be other chances to get to know each other better.

I had made a new friend. I was so excited that I just wanted to tell someone. But how does a 50s-something-year-old woman announce something like this? And why, exactly?

Let’s face it - it’s not always easy to make the acquaintance of someone that’s not from the inner circle we manage to corral ourselves into as time goes by. But even if we have been eligible for AARP for a few years, we still want to think of ourselves as interesting enough to engage in conversation with someone other than the UPS driver or the cat.

The funny thing is that I was actually nervous about meeting my author friend. Naturally, my nerves were completely unwarranted, but I think some of it comes from not often having to identify ourselves.

Back when our children actually wanted us to volunteer at their schools or on field trips, we typically didn’t really have any identity other than so-and-so’s mom, or maybe The Mom Who Makes Awesome Cupcakes. That wasn’t me, by the way.

Last week Spouse and I were invited to dinner with (follow closely now) Second Born’s Best Friend, her parents, and another college roommate from Pennsylvania who, along with her parents, had been vacationing in the area. The giddiness and excitement of our three girls during their reunion was palpable and adorable to witness.

Over the course of the evening we found our own tier of friendship with the other couples. Spouse and I had spent time with Best Friend’s folks but this was different from circling our vehicles on the college campus trying to jam everything in for the trip home. This was an actual social occasion where we were learning a lot about each other. Here we were more than just The Parents.

So there is hope. We can still make new friends at our age and with our feeble name recollection skills. We have also realized how important it is to nurture the friendships we have had for years. They can’t be taken for granted if we expect them to still be around. And the great thing about old friends is that we already know their names.

I just wish I knew why our friend Shish Kabob doesn’t return our calls.



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