Dear Clementine

Our resident advice expert offers her sage wisdom to a woman seeking new friends in her thirties.

Image Credit: Coclico

Dear Clementine,

My best friend's job is moving her family across the country, and even though I'm 37, it feels as if I'm back in elementary school and I have to make friends all over again. I don't have any children to use as "bait" to meet new people (that phrase was terribly worded, wasn't it?) and I live in a fairly large city where it seems everyone has already established their friend group. I know this isn't true and there are friends to be found everywhere, but Clementine, how do I start? How does one make friends as an adult?


Friendless At The Lunch Table

Dear Friend,

I'm going to begin with the gentle reminders you probable already know. Like, to get a friend you must first be a friend. Fall in love with yourself; only then will you be absolutely irresistible to someone else. Believe wholeheartedly in friend at first sight; it's totally the new black. Collect smiles, find parts of yourself in others, give more, and say yes when no is pushing at the back of your throat.

But you know all of that already. I think you're looking for a bit of practical magic. And so here it is: Have a baby – little boys seem to be low maintenance – and then dangle him in front of cute moms in the organic aisle at the grocery. Just not if he's sick or cranky or teething or hungry or babbling incoherently or sticking stuff in his mouth like a crazy person…or just being childish. The last thing we need is that kid scaring off any future friends.

I'm kidding! Babies are never the answer. Unless the question is "What do you think we should get to make our life a total nightmare roller coaster blast of joy for the next as-many-years-as-we're-lucky-enough-to-have?" That is the truth.

And yet, I do think you're right about babies being awesome friend bait. You see another woman with a sweet pea, and you can instantly get to know her after watching for a while. Is she smiling and giggling, or puffing exasperatedly and mumbling expletives? Is she dousing her child in hand sanitizer, or does she seem to be chill with all the dirt that comes from living a good and messy life? Does she make her babe feel like she's got all the time in the world, or is she dragging him along at full adult speed ahead while talking sweetly to someone on her phone, tiny feet be damned? Some of those traits make for a charming friend. Some of them do not.

Then there's the matter of the whole shared experience thing. You've got a baby and so does that girl in the cute booties and vegan (hopefully) leather pants. Chances are, you both went through a little drama to get those babies, whether it was infertility struggles, massive weight gain, an adoption that just about broke your hearts, an epidural that didn't work, and a host of other wow did my body just do that moments. You probably have a ton in common, so go introduce yourself.

But you don't need a baby to recreate this friendship scenario. I think the same phenomenon can occur whenever people share a somewhat stressful, invigorating experience. Relationships – every single one – grow stronger after they make it through a fire or two. Think about it. It's why we still have pals who knew and loved us during our awkward, often evil high school days. Even the semester we almost failed ethics class. It's why our hearts still reserve a whole chamber for the college roommate who stayed up with us all night for a week the first, second, and fourth times it got crushed. It's all about being able to look at another person and say to each other, "Whoa. We made it."

So sign up for something that scares the business out of you. Join a group that runs farther, flies higher, or digs deeper than you ever dreamed you could. Get so much distance between you and your comfort zone that you'd need a plane, a boat, a Jeep, and a tour guide to get back. Not that you'd ever return. You're going to fall hard in love with yourself, and then fall just as hard for someone else. I promise you will find friends on these crazy adventures and giving sprees, and I promise there will come a time when you look at each other and say, "Whoa. We did it." Because that's how you do it.

I know how it feels to live somewhere where everyone already seems to have their people. They've been friends since nineteen eighty blah and even their moms were sweet on each other and wouldn't you know they delivered their second babies on the same exact afternoon in June. Their husbands could pass as brothers, even. It's so hard to climb into those relationships. So hard that you can't even find the energy to waste on such a fruitless endeavor, can you? But, please, dig deep and find the energy. Trust me. If finding a friend to adore is so important to you that you're seeking advice on how to do it well, you've earned at least my unwavering faith in you. Now, go introduce yourself to everyone else. They're going to find you irresistible.

Because all I know this this: People were made to love each other. And even when it looks like they've already found enough each others to love, they haven't met a you yet. And there will always be room for a you in someone else's life and someone else's heart. Anything less than that expectation just isn't allowed. Not in my world, and not in yours.

That's the only way I live my days.