Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Unfriendable in this Land

Yesterday, after watching "Lost," DH and I were lamenting the fact that we have very few "couple friends" here in Podunkville. (Marriage counseling begins on the 17th - maybe we'll meet a nice couple in the waiting room...). While it seems like there is no shortage of kids for DS to play with at the park, and the moms of those kids for me to chat with, somehow that next, more elusive level of friendship - the "hey, let's get our spouses together, get sitters for the kids, and go out for a double dinner date next Saturday" - that has been a lot harder to find.

We're wondering why. We have a couple of theories. We are not outdoorsy enough to attract the liberals who live here, and we're not religious enough to mesh with everyone else. So we need to find the in-between-ers like us who maybe do outdoorsy things like hiking but not all the time and not to crazy extremes like base jumping, and who maybe respect religion but are closet atheists who don't hate certain groups, thinking everyone who doesn't agree with us is going to have a hot time in the afterlife.

So we have plenty of superficial "friends" here (as in people who don't know the real us), but few close friends. We decided we'd like that to change. So we started taking stock of our friendships to try to figure out what we need to be doing to meet that goal. (Gah, reading that again, I know how cheesy and oddly obvious this sounds...)

There are 3 other couples with kids with whom we are part of an official "Dinner Group," where we rotate houses, and every 6 weeks or so, we all help cook a big dinner, while we leave the kids with sitters. One of the couples is even newer to the area than we are, so they've been open to our invitations and even though their kids are 4 and 7 years older than ours, they do really seem like a good fit with us. The other 2 couples are great, but they are a lot more outdoorsy than we are and their hobbies don't really mesh with ours very well - the only commonality really is a love of good food and left-liberal leaning conversation. Which hasn't been enough to inspire get-togethers with them beyond the Dinner Group meetings.

It seems like the only people open to new friends like us are the people who, like us, have recently moved here. Everyone else seems pretty settled into their lives and friendships. Is it like that everywhere?

I've also been spending my time poorly as far as making close friends goes - as you know from my previous post, I've been wasting away in a shitty book club that has 23 members. I haven't really clicked with anyone there. The truth is I haven't spent time with any of the book club women 1-on-1 in the year and a half I've been a member. They haven't asked me and vice versa. That's shorthand for "I have no real friends there." It was a good way to meet people early on, but now I'm looking for a new place to fish. Not sure how my slowly-fade-away-over-time-style exit is going to play out.

DH recently joined a male book club which meets like every 3 months, and is full of triathlon-mountain-biking-teleskiing dudes who don't really watch sports on TV, nor do fantasy teams like DH does, and thus have little on the surface stuff in common with DH - but we'll see if he forms any connections there. He just might.

Some friendships we thought for sure would happen just never did - like remember that mom & son I blogged about over a month ago who I met at the food court and thought we'd definitely start seeing? She totally has not responded to any of my (2) emails, or to the one phone call I placed. I'm pretty shocked, because when we first met it seemed like she was more into it than me. Maybe she got hit by a bus, to borrow that misguided dating analogy.

I've mentioned my friend Stitch before, and her husband, Cowboy. Stitch is like the only woman here who knows the real me, and she lives even further off into the country than we do, so we have to really plan to see each other. DH is really not into Cowboy, but he thinks he is a nice guy, and so that has made it hard to do couple stuff with them, and I know Stitch wants to, which is awkward and sucky.

I've rambled enough. If any of you are really good at making friends, or really bad at making friends, and think you know why, I'd love to hear about it.

UPDATE: Poor DH's male book club meeting the other night totally made him feel like shit. First of all, the book SUCKED out loud. (It's old & out of print for a reason.) These Ironman-crazy-outdoors dudes decided they would all do a 2 mile run straight up a fucking mountain... and DH was left in the dust. He said he felt like he was the fat kid in high school gym class all over again (and DH is in great shape I might add). And they didn't even read the shitty book, but DH did! And they had no idea who Betty White was, and why she was going to be hosting Saturday Night Live. So he is going to quit. These really aren't bad guys, it's just that he had nothing in common with this group who does Ironman races, and were raised that way, and know zero about pop culture or sports. I feel so bad for him because I know he had high hopes, and feels like a loser.


nej said...

I am so very curious to know where you live. It sounds an awful lot like Colorado with the "triathlon-mountain-biking-teleskiing dudes", even though I can't complain about those guys since my DH is one of them.

If by chance you do live in CO, then we should be friends.

Which now that I'm thinking about're totally right about the next level of friendship. I've hit it off with a few moms since becoming a mom, but haven't been able to take it to the next level, mostly because the dads don't have much in common. In fact, I am actively pursuing a mom whose husband is playing hard to get, just because I think that my DH would really like him. I like the mom and all, but I'd really like her if the hubbies hit it off because then we could be family friends.

It is hard to make friends at this age. I find that more often than not, I want to punch other moms in the mouth within a few minutes of talking to them...I'm kidding. Kind of.

I've had the most luck making friends in mommy and me classes - yoga, music, art, etc. The kids are usually the same-ish age, so we've got that going for us, and then the moms are usually SAHM, so we've got that, and typically that's good enough for a while. I realized early on that all I really needed was two or three moms I really clicked with to be happy.

I'd definitely start fishing somewhere other than your book club. And be open to friendships where you might not think you'd find one - my best mommy friend and I don't see eye-to-eye on tons of stuff, but we agree on The Most Important Things and have an unspoken agreement not to judge when it comes to everything else, and being friends with her has made me a better person.

Good luck. It's tough but worth it.

hush said...

@Nej - I live in WA state ski country in the middle of nowhere. It is "Patagonia Disneyland" (to steal a line from the underrated Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant movie "Catch & Release") probably not unlike say Crested Butte, CO, or Gunnison, CO, or Bend, OR used to be. (But not Vail or Aspen or Sun Valley, ID...) I laughed out loud at your wanting "to punch other moms in the mouth within a few minutes of talking to them." Hee hee - I get that completely!

Jac said...

I think I am good at making friends but bad at keeping them. Most friendships require regular maintenance and I don't know that I have that in me at this stage in my life.

I have exactly one really good friend and lots of friendly acquaintances. I had a BFF for a few years but I broke up with her when she became an emotional vampire. I'm a really positive, there's-no-problem-that-can't-be-solved kind of person and there is only so much self-pity I can take before it drags me under. Then again, since I have exactly one really good friend, maybe it's obvious that the problem is me. I just don't know. I'm not really making the effort because I'm an introvert and I spend all day around people and I'm too tired and can't be bothered to spend precious personal time reaching out to others. Am really lucky that the one good friend's husband is my DH's BFF, and that their twins are six weeks older than my DS. So I get so much from that relationship, and maybe that's all I need right now.

I TOTALLY want to punch other mums.

blue said...

I think I'm a lot like Jac in this regard. I am really great when it comes to getting to know new people, but the good ones very rarely "stick". I sometimes feel like I don't have the energy or attention span for more than one really good friend at a time.

My DH is pretty easy to please when it comes to the husbands of my friends. As long as they can talk about tractors and making things out of wood, we're good to go. That's easy since we live in a very rural part of New England, but it doesn't go much deeper than that.

We've managed to meet one or two cool couples as we weed through the hunting, nascar fans, but they are few and far between.

blue said...

By the way, your description of being in between the base-jumpers and the religious folk really clearly depicts our placement here as well and helps me figure out why we haven't found more friends like us.
Thanks! I couldn't live further from WA state but if I did, we'd totally be hanging out.

Cloud said...

I think making friends as an adult is just hard. Maybe it was hard as a kid, too, and I just don't remember.

We have some couple friends, but it seems like all of our good couple friends have at least one Kiwi in the couple, so we have that whole New Zealand thing in common.

I want more good mommy friends, and haven't really found them. I'm still trying, though.

I think the reality is that good friends take time to grow, and that is something that is in short supply in the lives of most people with kids. So it is hard.

Claudia said...

Yea. DH and I are in the same position, seven years into our tenure in Bumfuck Denmark. We are currently talking about moving to another house-in-the-country, only in the center of a triangle of three bigger cities for the job ops. We are aware that we may be unfriendable no matter where we go, so we aren't letting that reason be our guide for moving. But really, seven years is a long time to hope for a good job to come along, too.
Where we are, people are REALLY settled into their way of life, with their friends from school. If you didn't enter the social circle by 13 years old at the latest, you're SOL.
The one friend I had most contact with is getting way too self-conscious and wishy-washy, so much so that it's getting difficult to just carry on a conversation with her. I don't know what's happened, but it makes me want to yank the anchor all the more. I like confident people, dammit.

I am good at being friendly. Years of bartending and now being a teacher to adults taught me that. But getting to the friend equivalent of second or third base is really hard, especially at my age.
By the way, next time we're in Portland, OR, I'd love to try to meet up. We're all for a weekend trip to Seattle or Mt. Ranier or something. Yea, it will likely be a year or two away, but still.

Claudia said...

Oh, and speaking of having a hard time meeting people at this age and finding out if you mesh, I did meet someone like that when we were in the states last summer. Of course she lives in San Francisco, so we have to have a long-distance relationship, but we so totally clicked. It was wonderful and sad. She is my old friend/how DH and I met's ex.Too bad they're not still together, so we could force them to come visit us.
Pity party over.

Melba said...

I could have written this same post hush.

Not only am I lousy at making friends, I'm also lousy at keeping up with them too. Most of my friends are people who are really good at staying in touch and making plans. So that usually falls to them.

And I agree with what the other posters have said - it seems that at this age (30's) everyone already has their circle of friends and isn't looking/needing more. It seems like the older I get, the harder it is to make friends.

We just moved into a new house in a new neighborhood (so everyone is "new") so there's potential there. And I've already had coffee with the next door neighbor, who was really nice. The circumstances of this coffee date aren't the best though - I locked me and the kids out of the house and my cell phone was dead, so I had to knock on her door for help and she graciously invited us in for coffee while we waited for my husband to come with a key. At least that time, the kids were on the same side of the locked door as I was. I'll save that awful story for another day.

caramama said...

For me, the biggest problem is the husbands. My husband gets alone fine with my friends' husbands. But he doesn't "click" with them. And me? I like just about everyone and will tell people I'm just starting to get to know about my sex life and all the wonderful things my kids do. My husband needs time and a bond to click.

We have new neighbors next door, and we invited them over for drinks after our kids were in bed. I also went over for a glass of wine with the woman the other night. We seem to get alone great. They don't have kids so we don't have that in common, but they are great around kids.

I'm always wishing we had really good couple/family friends nearby. I'm working on it, at least. But at least I have my family and a couple close friends from childhood nearby.

hush said...

@Jac - I hear you on the "emotional vampire" (great term!) friends who you just need to get rid of. I've had 2 in my life so far, and I knew ending the friendships was the right thing when, in each case, I felt instantly better the next day.

@blue - "We've managed to meet one or two cool couples as we weed through the hunting, nascar fans" HA!!!

@Cloud - I agree that it takes time and at this point in our lives time is in short supply. Definitely trying to take the long view & be patient.

@Claudia - "But getting to the friend equivalent of second or third base is really hard, especially at my age." LOL!!!! So true. I have to remember that some folks (like you) have it even harder, in places where silly things like "pedigree" matter. If you ever want to meet in Seattle, email me (keep trying if u don't hear back right away) at:

@Melba - The words "I could have written this same post" are always comforting! Thank you. And please keep making the first move with your neighbor - she sounds promising!

@caramama - "The biggest problem is the husbands... he doesn't "click" with them" Me, too. My DH is a lot more judgmental about feelings of fit with people than I tend to be. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage for him: he has several extremely close guy friends, but not very many just-so-so-friends - if that makes any sense, whereas I am the total opposite. My 2 BFF's pale in comparison to his 7 BFF's, and he can go to a party and not know anyone, whereas I know everyone. It is so hard finding a couple where we all mesh.