I sit at a picnic table at The Standard Biergarten. Gwen sits to my left. Her body is at a 45-degree angle facing me. I take this as positive nonverbal communication.
She tells me she is a lawyer. I feel inferior with my reply, “I’m in fashion.”
She goes on about her law firm. All I hear are words I don’t understand. “Pro Se…Ex Parte…Defendant.”
I pretend to understand the legal jargon, and come up with the only sentence I can muster: “Well, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen!”
She looks confused, so I quickly change the subject.
“Would you like another drink?”
At the bar, I wipe sweat from my upper lip and tell myself to play it cool. Upon returning to the table, I place a champagne flute in front of Gwen and keep the beer mug in my hand.
“Where do you live?” I ask.
I could have guessed she’d say that. Maybe it’s the J.Crew sweater. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s drinking a Bellini at a beer spot.
“I’m new to the East Side. Been looking for somewhere to take a Zumba class. Any suggestions?”
“I’m more of a CrossFit person,” Gwen replies.
I stare blankly at my beer mug.
Our mutual friend, James, who introduced us, shows up and breaks the silence. I go to the restroom to regroup.
Staring myself down in the mirror, I start the pep talk. You can do this. You haven’t been out of the game for that long. You got this.
I realize this was not said in my head when the girl next to me gives me the side-eye and leaves without drying her hands.
With my newly found false confidence insecurely in place, I strut back to our table to seal the deal. I get a few feet away and stop dead in my tracks. This makes the guy behind me do the same, forcing his beer to crash into my spine, creating a sort of fermented swamp-back for me. I don’t apologize to the guy behind me, or dry my back because I am too consumed with the scene in front of me: James is cozying up to Gwen and flirting like it’s his job. My face becomes flush with anger. He catches my eye and I give him the death stare.
What? he asks with his eyes.
“I haven’t even had a chance to get her number!” I mouth back.
Trying to pick up friends in your thirties is, unfortunately, exactly like dating. You find yourself having to light a wood-burning stove under your ass to go out on nights you’d rather stay in, on the off chance that you might “meet someone.” You wear heels, which force your dogs into their namesake downward position, creating early onset arthritis. You apply nighttime makeup instead of nine-to-five makeup, which, by five, looks like no makeup at all.
All of this painstaking effort makes you realize that the potential friends you’re courting start to mirror the lackluster characters from your dating life.
- Girl With the Adderall Habit was once Lead Singer in the Band — you knew he was bad for you but you hooked up with him anyway. Despite the fact that she has crazy eyes, you still meet her for coffee, swearing it will only be once. Spoiler alert: It’s not just once (you’re mesmerized by her aloofness and keep going back for more).
- Socially Awkward Girl formerly known as Nice Guy – there was no chemistry, but you felt bad turning him down. She forces you to lead an entire conversation over mimosas without so much as asking a single question. She has kind eyes; you felt bad telling her you had other plans.
- Gwen resembles Blind Date Dude – arranged by a friend with zero potential of working out. You have nothing in common but try hard to make it work because of the mutual acquaintance who set you up.
None of this would have had to happen at all had your old friends not taken a mass exit to the altar. You were perfectly happy with the original plan of drinking together every weekend until death by liver failure do you part. You’re not naive. You knew the marriages and babies would come some day. You remember that childhood song:
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then come all of your friends trading in their beer bellies for baby bumps
You just didn’t think it would happen all at once. You set up a “wedding” savings account, not for your own wedding, but as a way of paying for all of the Ninja blenders, penis straws, and pink taffeta dresses. (The best part is that, “You could so wear them again!”) This would prove to be money well spent if these old friends of yours didn’t relocate to Sorryville shortly after the thank you notes went out.
“Sorry, I can’t come tonight. Bob and I are taking a couples painting class.”
“Sorry, I can’t make it to your birthday celebration. Little Bobby is about to make his first peepee on the potty.”
“Sorry, I can’t meet you at the mall. I’ve just taken my temperature and it appears I’m ovulating, so today we’ll be engaging in a 24-hour bender of forced intercourse.”
Being younger and making friends was similar to being the hot guy at a party: females just fell into your lap. It’s harder as you get older. School is no longer the buffer that forces you to talk to strangers. You have to get creative to make friends now. You start doing things like going to yoga, participating in the Revlon Run Walk for Women, and spending copious amounts of time in the tampon aisle. But those don’t produce the same camaraderie you had with your old friends. You have to think bigger, think of something that will ensure you meet other people in the same boat. You join Meetup, and much like OkCupid, you have your ups and downs. Mainly downs.
- The One Night Stand: A fellow party girl, you both drank entirely too much and got all “TMI” about your personal lives. This resulted in one of you crying and one of you vomiting, and you’ve never been much of a crier.
- The Casual Relationship: You get together once a month and have semi-interesting conversation over dinner and drinks, both too burned by your previous friends to turn it into something more serious, like weekly Sunday brunch.
- The Stalker: You quickly realize she is the epitome of the phrase “batshit crazy.” She oddly resembles the creepy guy you tried so hard to get rid of, but much like winter in New York, keeps turning up just when you think you’re in the clear. Come to think of it, this could very well be him dressed as a woman and going to great lengths to keep in contact.
You realize it’s tough out there. Those who have a large, tight network of friends don’t understand.
“You’ve got to put yourself out there to meet people,” they say, insensitively, not knowing you’ve done everything short of having bubble tea with the Craigslist Killer.
One day, during a Facebook session, you come across a photo posted by an old classmate. Knowing you can’t call Gwen, Adderall Habit, or Socially Awkward Girl on this one, you pick up the phone to call Sue, area code: Sorryville. You tell her to look at the picture of Steven’s new bundle of joy.
“Steven’s baby has man hands!” she blurts out, as if she knew exactly what you were thinking.
“I thought it was a 6'2" plumber’s hand Photoshopped on the baby’s body!” you say.
Your new friends might be readily available on a Friday night. They might drop everything to meet you for Sunday shopping without question. And maybe they’ll be front and center, applauding your achievements while silently wishing a slow, flesh-eating disease upon your soul (how dare you be the more successful one). But one thing these new friends can’t provide you with is the assurance of knowing that even when you say something wildly inappropriate — like how you wonder if you could get away with stabbing your arch nemesis just once in a benign area, like the web in between the thumb and pointer fingers — they won’t call the cops on you. Which makes you remember one more character from your dating life.
- The Ex: You slowly grew apart, but get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside every time you run into one another. Even through time and distance, you always find comfort in just how well she knows you.
You begin to reflect. Maybe you don’t need new friends. Maybe the old friendships, albeit scarce, are enough. The nostalgia envelops you like a cozy blanket. Until you remember that Sue moved to the suburbs, and traveling all the way across the river to New Jersey is just too much of a trek for friendship. Back to your Web browser….