I owe a lot to Craigslist. I got my job, my couch, my cat and my copy of Mario Kart 64 on that site, so when it came to finding a new friend a few years ago, it only felt natural to turn to them for one of those too.
At that point in my life I had just moved to Montreal from a small town in Northern Ontario. After a few months of working odd jobs on film sets and a very brief stint as a tea bagger in a warehouse, I found a job at a porn site writing under pseudonym about porn stars, industry news and snarky articles on sex. I didn’t talk to anyone in the office for the first four months of that job. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in them; it was just my first 9-to-5 gig and didn’t really know how to interact in that setting. Now I know that talking at the coffee machine and water cooler is actually a real phenomenon. Essentially for four months all I did was go to work, ride the metro, hang out with my boyfriend, drink beer, and go on Tumblr.
On a lazy Friday in February 2011 I had enough of it. I posted the following on Craigslist:
Desperately Seeking: New Sidekick
Must have the wit of Chelsea Peretti and the charm of an ice-cold martini. They should like trendy literature, funny but not crude YouTube videos, cakes that look like turkeys & cool crafts. Ideal candidate would be extremely outgoing and would not be put off by sarcasm, book readings, throw pillows, midnight food expeditions or going to a bar on a whim in their pajamas to have a shot. Applicant must not be afraid of overzealous tendencies, dressing up when it is not Halloween, nail polish, dress shopping or calories. Must live in the Montreal region. Owning a cute dog, preferably a Boston Terrier a plus.
Please no pompous foodies, but foodie benders welcome to apply.
Despite the fact that posting such an overly try hard “special snowflake” kind of thing online makes me cringe, everything in that little blurb is me. I do all of that stuff! (I am still looking for a friend who has a Boston terrier to live vicariously through.) I figured that if I wasn’t totally honest with who I was, how would I possibly find someone who would like me for me?
I had never done any online dating before so I didn’t really know how to put myself out there in that sort of fashion, but I think I did a pretty good job. After I posted, I noticed another ad on the site that made me stop and click. The ad was so similar to mine. Instead of trying to show off what she knew, she just laid it all out there. She needed a change. She knew posting an ad on Craigslist was kind of strange. Her friends from school just didn’t fit into her life anymore. I admired that she could be so blunt about that awful situation we all go through in our early adulthood, so I responded.
The girl on the other end of the ad was Laurie.
Laurie is a beautiful French girl who actually makes what she puts on her Pinterest. Every Halloween she has friends over to her house to carve pumpkins and drink cider. She cooks home meals like your mother does and has the biggest smile that will light up any room. At the time we met she was teaching piano lessons and wanted to get into sound engineering. Yes, she is the most perfect person in the world. Did I mention that she works at a great nonprofit that helps the Québec music industry rise to its full potential?
We e-mailed back and forth for a while to ensure that neither of us were actually old men. I showed her my blog. She liked my love for The Big Lebowski. We shared a mutual love for music. We both loved crafting. Hipsters scared us. We both liked the same kinds of literature. Eventually I invited her out to my apartment to meet.
I remember being so nervous for her to get there. I was pacing outside and ran back in as soon as I saw her car turn the corner. It’s such a different feeling than having an acquaintance over; at least in that case you can talk about who or what you have in common! I don’t remember much about our first hang-out but I know that it was really boring; we sat at my kitchen table and talked about ourselves. It was like an interview. It was kind of a strange thing since we were both looking for new friends so we were faced with the task of catching each other up on everything important in our lives.
Who did we hate the most? What was the thing our siblings did that drove us wild? What kind of Doritos are the best? In that sense finding a friend online isn’t like dating at all. You want to know all of the dirt and info upfront; you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. You don’t want to suddenly know after five hangouts that the other is actually some insane rock climber. At the time we met, she was in a long distance relationship with a man from the States, and I was dealing with the strange and wonderful world of living with your boyfriend after doing the long distance thing for a little over three years. I think that’s something we bonded over a lot.
Pretty soon her boyfriend moved to Canada and the four of us got on like gangbusters. They were the people we were having dinner with; they were the ones who we’d sit on the porch with late into the night, laughing our asses off when the boys would try to climb up on the roof to get away from the girls. They brought me with them to Quebec City on a Sunday night to see The Black Keys and drove back so I would be on time for work the following day.
The guys would get together and play video games, talk about how amazing and perfect their girlfriends are (that’s what they talk about when we’re not around, right?) and Laurie and I would go out to shows. There was a solid year where we wouldn’t go a week without seeing the two of them, but after a while the four of us drifted.
We didn’t need each other all the time anymore. She got a dog, became closer with her sisters, her boyfriend moved back to the States. I got a new job, started branching out at work by actually talking to people and started exploring the city on my own. I didn’t know it then, but I realize now that I needed her to find myself, to not let the city change me too much. People are always surprised when I tell them that I did this, but it was such a great experience that I wouldn’t exchange for the world.
I asked her the other day on Facebook what was going through her mind when I answered her original ad. “I don't recall exactly what I wrote in the ad, but I guess I wanted to find someone who had similar interests to mine with similar sense of humor. I didn't connect on cultural/musical levels with the group of friends I grew up with and at the time it made me feel lonely. I wanted to expand my friend base and be myself. When you answered the ad I liked your wit, you felt really easy to open up to and seemed really cool. You introduced me to This American Life and I found in you another crafter which is something I already loved doing. I felt like Craigslist in this case had been a success!”
I didn’t take a lot of precautions meeting Laurie and in this day in age you can never be too careful. I know that there’s a growing trend of women using dating sites like Match.com and OKCupid, as well as platonic dating sites, to find new friends, so maybe nowadays you don’t have to turn to the seedy underbelly of society that is the Craigslist personals.
Finding a friend online is something I’d definitely recommend since you have to put everything about yourself out there; it’s actually kind of refreshing. We live in a time where all we have time to do is work and sit in front of the TV, so you may as well find the best person to watch Parks & Recreation with.