Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Connections, (Not) Making Friends

Recently, a friend invited me out to dinner with her SAHM group. I'm not a mom, let alone a stay-at-home one, but my social life has been a little lacking lately and since it's always nice to meet new people and my friend's heart was in the right place, I decided to tag along. The fact that the dinner was at The Melting Pot on Ladies Night had something to do with it as well. There's just something about The Melting Pot that I love. Maybe because I'm a snacker and I love the little pieces of food and dipping the little pieces into different flavors... I'm not sure. But the mix of tastes, scrumptious martinis, reduced cost, and the relaxed experience itself makes Ladies Night worthwhile.

Which is how I found myself: childless, near 40 and single, sharing a fondue pot with four (much younger) mom's and one pregnant woman. Which, if you've ever been to The Melting Pot, you know is kind of an intimate experience to have with people you don't know. Eating food essentially out of the same pot- there's something familial and tribal about that. It's something we don't often experience with our families, let alone strangers, in our hurried lives. Smalltalk ensued, something I'm not a great fan of in the first place. The conversation turned to where we had all come from, and how we all ended up in Grand Rapids, or in some cases, back in Grand Rapids. I explained to one of the moms that although I had been in Grand Rapids for 12 years and have a lot of friends, I don't have a lot of people to spend time with. She agreed and said she was in a similar situation. "It can be hard to meet people," I said, "Once you get to-"
"No," she cut in. "It's different when you have kids." 

Oh. I didn't know this was going to be one of those things I "don't understand" because I don't have kids. Someone forgot to let me in on the secret of how to meet people as a single adult with no kids. I'm sure it's not easy being a SAHM without a lot of friends. I don't dispute that. I just don't think it's easy being anyone without at least a few like-minded adults to spend time with on a regular basis. At least if you're married you have a spouse to talk to sometimes. Single people don't talk to their cats because they're crazy. They talk to their cats so they don't go crazy! 

When we're growing up, potential friends are all around us- in our neighborhood, at school, at church, sports, etc... Once we get past high school and college, it can be rough to meet new people, let alone make new friends. And maintaining old friendships isn't always easy, either. Our modern society is transitory. People often don't remain in their hometowns, near family and friends. Technology helps us keep in touch but it sure is nice to sit across from a real live person at the coffee shop sometimes instead of a laptop. To compound matters, I've noticed that many people react with suspicion and even sometimes resentment when a stranger or casual acquaintance reaches out to them. I've been guilty of this myself. We need to remember to leave ourselves open to new friendships because we never know who is out there waiting for us. 

I felt verbally chastised by the woman who spoke the above words to me. I'm sure she didn't mean to offend, she seemed like a nice person. There was no malice in her tone. But with her words, a wall went up between us. It was clear that she had, rather quickly and with virtually no real information about me, discarded the idea that I may be of some value to her socially or emotionally. I wasn't enough like her. Some of my closest friends, at first glance, don't seem to be much like me. But sometimes it's the differences between friends that prove their value and provide much needed perspective into situations in our own lives. 

Our friends don't have to be just like us, any more than do the people we do business with. Any good businessperson can expound on the importance of networking. Well, sometimes networking is useful not just in the workplace, but in our emotional lives as well. And that includes all of us. Not just stay at home moms. I'm glad I went to dinner though, even though I didn't meet a new best friend. It was eye-opening, no one at the table meowed in response to any of my comments, and the fondue was great- especially the chocolate! 



  1. Very well said. I am a mother, but some of the friendships that I enjoy the most are the ones with my child free friends. I love the opportunity to step away from "mommy" for a little while and just be a woman.

  2. I know I would need to do that too if I was a mom. I've always thought it was important for kids to see that their parents have a life outside of being a parent as well, although I know sometimes it can be hard to schedule that in! :)