how to make a new friend

part one in a week-long series all about the rituals of being friends.

how to make a new friend when you’re five years old (option one):
  1. say, “hello.”
  2. wait for the other five-year-old to say “hello” back.
  3. ask, “wanna be friends?”
  4. wait for the other five-year-old to say, “okay.”
how to make a new friend when you’re five years old (option two):
  1. say, “hello.”
  2. wait for the other five-year-old to say “hello” back.
  3. ask, “wanna play dinosaurs?”
  4. wait for the other five-year-old to say, “okay.”
how to make a new friend when you’re an adult:
  1. watch the other person and how s/he behaves in a group.
  2. wait.
  3. dance around in your mind about whether you need a new friend because you already have enough friends for god’s sake.
  4. have a good conversation with the potential new friend but don’t follow up.
  5. forget how to suggest fun things and/or decide that nothing you do is fun.
  6. get scared that the new friend doesn’t want to be friends.
  7. get busy.
  8. try to act cool and aloof around potential new friend.
  9. hold back your real personality until you judge that potential new friend can take it.
  10. judge potential new friend as too snobby/smart/busy/pretty/unattractive/granola/corporate/soft-spoken to be your friend.
  11. take potential new friend’s busy schedule as an indication that s/he thinks you’re horrible and never wants to see you again.
  12. somehow, against all odds, hang out with potential new friend.
ah, to be five years old again. in the world of adult new-friend-making, it seems we have to be subtle, fend off awkwardness, avoid showing our hand in case the other person doesn’t like us. sigh.
 
about fifteen years ago, when i was newly living in chicago, i had an amazing experience in this ritual of new-friend-making. i made one of the best friends of my life with a conversation almost exactly like the five-year-old version above. it was so simple. and it worked. and we’re still friends.
 
it worked so well, i’m not sure why i didn’t stick with it.
 
this week, i got a message from a new-ish friend that reminded me we don’t have to do the adult version of new-friending. she said, in plain language, that she feels we were meant to cross paths, that we are kindred spirits. and it made me feel like a million bucks.