I visit the same Starbucks once (and by once, I mean at least three times) a week, and over the past few months have become familiar with many of the employees there. One barista in particular has been exceedingly friendly, and we chat every time she takes my order. She appears to be about my age, is married, and we have similar taste in movies, music, and caffeinated beverages. She loves her job, hates winter, and her husband got her an iPad for Christmas. I can tell you lots of interesting things about her, but I can’t tell you her last name, or what she looks like without a green apron on.
Many times as we’ve chatted I’ve thought to myself, “She is the type of person I would like to have as a friend.” I’d like to hang out with her, and talk past our short discussions at the cash register. In short, I have a friend-crush. I really want to make this person my friend, but I’m not sure how. Every approach I’ve thought of either makes me look like a friendless loser or sounds like I am trying to come on to her.
Why is it so hard (for me, at least) to make new friends after 30? When I was younger, I was always in situations where meeting new people was the norm, and friendships happened easily. It seems as I get older, I have a harder time finding people who I can really connect with, people who “get me.” When I do find people I click with, like my friend-crush the barista, I go into insecure mode. I assume that person probably already has plenty of great friends, and isn’t looking to add another. I assume that people think a woman my age looking for a new friend must be totally lame. I assume that I am the only one who lives her life surrounded with people, yet sometimes feeling a little bit lonely.
One place I’ve had success finding new friendships is on the internet. I don’t consider myself to be completely socially awkward, but writing comes naturally to me, and I am able to make connections without the anxiety I experience in the real world. Social media is just that: social. It encourages making as many connections as you can. Simply responding to a tweet about a website looking for contributors has led me to two women I consider to be dear friends, even though we’ve never met in “real life.” We exchange Christmas cards, chat on Twitter, and they make me laugh when I am down and listen to me vent when I’m frustrated. Despite the absence of face-to-face interaction, they are friends in the truest sense of the word.
One of my “internet friends” recently moved to my city, and we are hoping to meet soon. I’m looking forward to meeting her, but I’m also a little nervous. What if she thinks I’m lame? What if we have nothing to talk about, despite the hundreds of tweets, texts, and Facebook messages we’ve shared? What if, after she meets me in person, she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore?
I realize that all this anxiety makes me sound like a little kid, but no matter how old we get, the desire for friendship is always there. No one wants to be the kid sitting alone at the lunch table, whether we’re 13 or 38. But there’s something about life in our 30s and beyond that doesn’t lend itself to making new friends; in most cases we’re done with college, we’re established in our careers, and often raising children has taken over the time we once used for socializing. So how do we connect and find friendships in our current life situations?
I don’t know the answer, but if you do (or you just want to make a new friend) you can find me at Starbucks.