New Friends.

I met a new friend today. *Gasp* I know.

How often does that happen? For me, in "real life"? It's rare enough that I'm writing a blog post about it. 

Here's how it went down: there's a grocery-stripmall near my house that has a little bit of everything. My Dr. is there. There's a little gym next door. So after my Dr. appointment I had a few minutes to kill before going to inquire at the gym about a membership (more on that in another post!). So I headed in to Harris Teeter, bought a likely magazine and a hot chocolate at the little Starbucks there by the front of the store. 

Starbucks had gotten some kind of big delivery, because there were boxes spread out over the tables, and I had to ask if I could sit at one of them (they consolidated).  I was settling in when a sweet-sounding woman asked if she could sit at my table. Of course! There were no other tables to sit at, why not?

And I did my usual airplane/bus/elevator thing and went back to my mag. A minute later she says, "Is that an aquamarine?" - she was referring to my wedding ring, which is indeed an aquamarine, which Jared cut for me 2 years ago. 

And gosh this is a lot of backstory, which is because I haven't blogged regularly and I'm going to fix that. 

So I was floored that she recognized the stone, which no one ever has. And she said her new wedding ring is aquamarine too, and it's her favorite stone. I see that she's got one of those real estate magazines you find in the entryway of grocery stores and ask if she's looking for a house. Nah. Just likes to look. (Raise of hands, yah? Me too. Looking at homes is like lady-porn. Admit it.)

And that kicked it off. We spent 45 minutes talking. She lives less than a mile from me. She showed me some of her gorgeous photography - she has an artist's eye with no training at all, and she made me laugh and I made her laugh, and we drank our drinks and talked about kids and schools and carpet and how to clean an aquamarine ring, and dreams of what we would do if only, and there was no weirdness whatsoever - I might have known her for ages. I almost hugged her when we parted. 

To this minute I have no idea why she was in there, except maybe for the same reason I was (time to kill, grab a drink and a look-see at something in print), because didn't actually leave with any groceries. She might have been only my imagination. (someone should get outside her house a little more often, yes?)

But then I was reading the ol' internets this afternoon and came across two very interesting articles.

Friendships as Adults: Harder than it Seems

The first one I saw was a reaction to an initial article at The Atlantic, called "How Friendships Change in Adulthood". One of the points made is that college is the time when most people form their lifelong friendships because the circumstances are all there to make that happen. And because we don't tend to BE in places like that as adults, our "making friends" skills atrophy.

Love that. Picture me in my airplaine/bus/elevator mode "minding my own business" rather than actively looking to engage with the world, even at the Starbucks in Harris Teeter. And isn't that what I do, with my camera and my mind and my whole life? Engage with the world? And yet my skills at friend-making have atrophied to the point where I'm flabbergasted that I had more than a 5-minute conversation with someone, which wasn't contrived or appointed or required in some way. Am I the only one there?

So when priorities become really important, FRIENDS are high on the list - that we WISH we had more, or stayed in better contact with the ones we have. And I think that includes online AND in-life friends. People to laugh with and have inside jokes with, to cry with or pray for, to say, "I'm here. I see you. You aren't alone. You're loved and valued." Studies say that people with depression are helped by having friends, and engaging with them regularly. What's the magic there? 

Where We Live Affects our Friendships

So why does our adulthood make it difficult to develop and maintain friendships? Aside from the excuse that most of us don't have (make) the time to actively make and maintain friendships, the second article suggests that at least part of the difficulty is in where we live. 

It's called "Why Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult," and it essentially points out that we simply don't live in places (as we might have done in college) where the spontaneous encounters occur that form and keep friendships. Spontaneous encounters. Last time you had one of those? 

The author quotes a study:

And this also reinforces the point:

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

So maybe the spontaneous friend I made in the grocery-store Starbucks today was an anomaly. It is certainly rare in my life - mostly because I spend so much of it at home working. Maybe something like this only happens in the South, where I've noticed that people are markedly more outgoing than in other places I've lived. I don't know. But my life changed a little bit this morning, and I'm grateful for it. 

Now You:

  • Did you make your best lifelong friends in college?
  • Has your ability to make friends atrophied in adulthood?
  • Do you think WHERE you live (city/suburb/rural) affects the friends you have and make?
  • How has the internet changed your friendships?
  • Do you think about friends and friendships in a wistful way, (wish I had more) or in a resigned way (I just don't have the time)?
  • Do you think being a male or female drives any of this? 

Blog it, Facebook it, React. OK go.