I went on a date recently. No, I wasn’t cheating on my husband. I was meeting a friend of a friend for coffee.
Much like real “set-ups,” I put this one off for a long time. Our mutual friend had introduced us months ago, and while I periodically emailed this woman – and she me – to try and find a convenient place and date, neither one of us really put much effort into it.
The meeting languished on my “long” To-Do list, falling somewhere between “polish silver jewelry” and “figure out religion.”
And then, one day, when I was scrolling through my email, I came across her name and thought: “What the heck?”
I’ve written before about how hard it can be to find your “type” when you’re dating for friends in adulthood.
On the surface, this lady I eventually met up with had everything going for her: she was a psycho-therapist (Oh! How I love a good therapist!), she specialized in mid-life transitions (Hello!), and she was Jewish (Nuff’ said).
But, of course, people can look great on paper and still be total duds in real life.
(I once went on a date with a guy in DC who seemed like reasonable enough boyfriend material, but who then spent the entire evening telling me how he’d been listed as one of Washington’s 100 most powerful people. Right after telling me his salary and his work-out regime.)
Not so here. Within half an hour, this therapist and I began jointly analyzing the link between my being the youngest of four children and how that affects my attitudes towards my own kids’ sibling rivalry.
I knew I’d found a friend. By the time we ordered our second pot of fresh mint tea, I was in love.
In the hyper-connected world which we all inhabit these days, it’s easy to fall back on virtual friends. I, myself, have made loads of friends online over the years.
Some of those friendships have now claimed a seat at the table on my personal Board of Directors. Others are people I simply enjoy catching up with from time to time on Facebook.
But the Internet can’t yield the sort of benefits that derive from close, real-life friendships. Research shows that having robust, diverse social relationships can have a host of wellness benefits, including longevity, happiness, and professional success.
And it’s not just close friends who matter, either. The New York Times recently published an article on the importance of loose ties.
The thrust of the article was that by cultivating low-level friendships at places we frequent – whether churches, bars, or PTA meetings – we become less lonely and more empathetic.
These “low stakes” friendships are also a fantastic source of recommendations for everything from hair salons to accountants.
In a compelling column in 2014, New York Times’ columnist David Brooks declared that if someone magically gave him $500 million, he’d use it to foster adult friendships.
His vision was sort of like a giant summer camp composed of grown-ups drawn from all different backgrounds. Brooks believes that having close friends helps you make better decisions, adhere to a higher standard of behavior, and – ultimately – be more authentic.
I’m totally with him. I’m not sure I’ve got the cash right now to go to camp. But I do know that I need to keep putting myself out there, meeting new people, and soldering old ties.
In the meantime, I’m having dinner next month with my new Bestie. She’s bringing her husband and I’m bringing mine.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll become friends too.
When was the last time you made a new friend? What was the experience like? Would you do a repeat if you found the right person? Please share your thoughts and stories with our community!