Baby Steps

Making new friends is tough. Even more so when you’re on the wrong side of 40.

I have been thinking about this lately because I’m trying to unambiguously let some women acquaintances know that I value them and would like to be better friends. Seems like a tortured process for something that should be spontaneous and organic, but the women I am attracted to tend to be like me. Smart, self-sufficient, strong, opinionated and risk-averse when it comes to showing vulnerability.

No one wants to appear needy, but we all want more than just acquaintances. At least I do. This is not the same as the intimacy you get from a lover or partner. People may say “my husband/boyfriend/partner is my best friend”, but no ones saying “my husband is my best girlfriend”. Two different things.

So I’m taking baby steps by saying out loud that I’d like more from our friendship – more trust, more expectations of each other. I still feel vaguely mortified doing it because, at its core, is the fear of rejection. “What if I read them wrong? What if they don’t want to be better friends? What if they don’t like me as much as I like them? How embarrassing!” For both of us.

I thought of this the other day when I realized I hadn’t heard from my little sister for a month or so. Because her desire to reconnect after 11 years is so new, I’ve been cautious in my expectations. But I realized in the back of my mind, I was feeling rejected because the last two times we spoke I had initiated it. It’s probably the pending holidays thats making me revert to family protocols.

My family’s rules of engagement for socializing included strict “turn taking”, without which you would have a power imbalance where one person “needs” the other too much. Now the question is how do I want to keep contact with my sister? Call her on her what I think is playing with my feelings? Let it go until she surfaces again? This is why alcohol and holidays go hand in hand.

And so I have historically hesitated (or recoiled like from the undead), from the possibility of appearing needy to women friends. Danger smells like a cloud of White Shoulders.

I’m happy to report none of these potential friends wears White Shoulders (I think you buy it from freaky catalogs like Vermont Country Store now), or comes with a suitcase full of past grievances, so my learning to toddle may not be too painful. Maybe its like riding a bike – the fear of falling is much worse than an actual fall. I’m hopeful.

I am trying to remember what I did with those baby shoes of mine that my mother had bronzed. I’d sure like to hear how  post-apocalyptic alien anthropologists would explain that odd practice of human culture.