Thursday, June 8, 2006

Making friends?

I'm sure you've all noticed this, but allow me to state the obvious: making friends as an adult is hard. My social circle here in Rust Belt is tiny. There's Bullock, of course -- and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for him, because otherwise I would probably be miserably depressed! But Bullock isn't the be all and end all of my life here. There's also Victoria and her husband (who needs a pseudonym), as well as Milton (who I need to make more of an effort to hang out with), and our economist friend, and Smartass Poet and his wife (though Milton and Victoria are closer to them than we are -- Bullock and I need to make an effort to include them more and get to know them). And that's about it for the people in our 30-something age group.

There's also Will and Beck (not their real names), the unofficial parental-type units for me, Victoria, andMilton (because we're all in the same department and, currently, the same neighborhood, and they're Boomers). They frequently feed us and ply us with copious wine. In the summer such feasts are held on the huge porch of their late Victorian home in Rust Belt Historic District. And Will hilariously tells students that I'm his "protege." Since we're in different fields, I think he's being playful, and since we have different styles of teaching, the smart students think this is hilarious as well. But Will has been generously supportive of my work, especially when he's been on the research council in charge of handing out funding. I've heard told that he's my "biggest cheerleader." I'm deeply grateful for that. But Will is a tenured prof with significant authority, so I can't be too chummy with him or his wife Beck. Social, yes. Intimate and revealing, no. There are things I wouldn't tell them.

In short, the social circle is small, so I should welcome the chance to enlarge it, right? So when Buffy, a tenured colleague in another department who's just a little older than I, called me to invite me to a luncheon, I should have been delighted, right? She's a friendly and sweet person who, I think, genuninely likes everyone. In fact, I don't think there's a mean bone in her body. But it's just...well.. we really don't have all that much in common. She thinks we do because we like some of the same TV shows. Or rather, she's obsessed with some of the shows I like (e.g., see the pseudonym I gave her). But beyond that, I fail to see the common ground. For instance, she's a mom of two kids she still calls her "babies" and she belongs to scrapbooking clubs. I'm pretty sure there's a huge gulf of cultural differences between me and the world of scrapbooking. (I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just writing "scrapbook" as a participial verb, frankly.) I think she thinks she does this all in an ironic hipster kind of way. But from my point of view she seems very much a devotee of the cult of American (or at least midwestern) motherhood.

And before I get trolls telling me I clearly hate mothers and America and apple pie, let me say this is not about those with and those without children. Bullock and I have a lot of friends and family with kids and we dig hanging out with them all, kids and adults alike. The point I'm making here is that this particular mom of two and I don't have enough in common to be the buds she thinks we can be. If I had kids, we still wouldn't. The moms I'm friends with don't do scrapbooking, for instance. (Not to chalk it all up to scrapbooking -- that's just a handy example.)

So what do I do??? This feels so much like high school, but then my tactic would've been to ignore her, and I can't do that. And it's not like a guy you're not interested in asking you out, where you can find some polite way of saying "no thanks." How do you turn down an offer of friendship? Or should I stop being such a snob and see if there's more common ground than I think. (For the record, I've spent a lot of time talking to Buffy in semi-social situations on campus, so I do know quite a bit about her and her interests.) I really don't want to hurt her feelings, but...but...argh.


MT said...

I wanted to say bite the bullet and give it a chance, but then I remembered recently dodging an overture myself. Actually, I came to regret it, now that I think about it, so perhaps it wouldn't be hypocritical for me to egg you on as I first meant to. Yes, do not be a snob. Life is more foxhole than cocktail party. None of us can tell who anybody is just from the way they walk down the street. Also, if you think you're so cool, be a teacher. Nice, open-minded people were bigots before Rosa Parks and MLK. Taste and style aren't religions to people who aren't Goth or LandsEnd or some other trend-obsessed group-identifier. Of course, that's the philosophy part. I don't dare advise on the diplomacy part. I wonder if it would be possible to be...sincere? You could advance your recovery from snobbery by admitting the scrapbooking actually put you off agreeing to have coffee with her, even though you've always thought her very nice.

MT said...

Anyway, do you not want to talk about Buffy to anybody ever? Why can't she be the friend with whom you talk about Buffy? For however many minutes a week that's worth? Nobody is a friend for everything, even a spouse.

Anonymous said...

Big Sis Advice: Go beyond the workplace. It's always complicated. As you know, I have plenty of friends I've made through work, but few have developed into deep friendships, or at least not until one of us changed jobs.

Runners groups? Cooking class? Political groups? Just some ideas.

Flavia said...

I say go for it. You say that it's a luncheon--so I assume that there will be other people there? You might click with some of them even if not with her.

As the dating service says: It's Just Lunch. You're not promising to be best buds with Buffy, and if she turns out to be not really your type, you can cheerfully turn down other future invitations.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

If she's a big Buffy fan, I'm guessing the odds are she's less into the Cult of Cheese than she might seem. Buffy, after all, was pretty damn twisted at times! I wonder whether her enthusiasm about you is powered by the hope that she might be able to be quirkier around you than she is around her other Midwestern Mom friends?

Dr. Virago said...

AW -- Actually, she's even into Buffy in a cheesy way, or at least a really, really enthusiastic way with which I can't identify. She calls Whedon the Creator. With a capital C.

Meanwhile, her other friends, from what I know, *aren't* Mom types. But like me, her social circle here is small, so I'm sure she's trying to expand it. It's just -- would we be friends if we had a bigger pool to choose from?

Oh, and for the record, MT, *all* my friends are Buffy fans, and in fact, I'm probably the *least* devoted fan of the bunch.

BUT...the rest of you are right. I should stop being such a snob about scrapbooking and what have you and just give it a chance. (Next time, that is -- I actually couldn't go to the luncheon.)

But Virgo Sis is right, too -- I need to try to make friends *outside* work. But that's even harder. In the big cities it was a little easier because there were so many people moving into those places looking to make new connections, but here everyone's so darn local and set in their ways. And the running group didn't have a group run, btw -- I only ever saw those people at races. (But I think that's changed -- I know if I hadn't forgotten to renew my membership. D'oh!)


6/08/2006 6:00 PM

Bardiac said...


Try the luncheon and hope there are some other people there.

It seems especially hard to make friends outside of work in the midwest, doesn't it?

When you find a good way, let me know, please! (and it has to NOT involve scrapbooking!)

medieval woman said...

I completely agree that it's so hard to make friends as an adult - the Dutchman and I have been in social isolation here for a year b/c all the professors are commuters and we live in town. We also could have tried harder, maybe, but knowing it was a one-year gig...

Question: is Buffy buying lunch?