"Do you want to be friends?"
I was asked this question at lunch today. It's a question that I have asked several times in the past few months. And no matter what, it feels awkward. It's one thing to date romantically. Of course, I usually avoid this question when asked this in a romantic-type situation. But, it's another thing entirely to try to meet friends where there is no alcohol or mutual friends in the mix. Not that these things are needed to make friends. It just makes it a little easier. I'm sorry. Perhaps that sounds terrible. But, it's the sad truth. These assets help in making friends.
But, when you move to a new place where you know no one: these are not tangible assets. Let me correct that. There is a plethora of alcohol, but we're not in college anymore. No one wants a bunch of drunken friends. I never really liked that then. Why would I seek that now? No, I would prefer the route of mutual friends. But, that's tricky too. First, you need to have one friend to provide the gateway to a network of friends. Then, when you find one wonderful friend, you run the risk of becoming a leech. Or a letch. Or something I would rather not be. After all, we all need our circles, right?
And it's a subtle dance between romantic dating and dating new friends. Either way you are trying something on. You're seeing if someone fits. You are seeing if there is a real connection. It could be chemistry that you are looking for. Or it could be the comfort of knowing that you could be yourself with this person. You might be looking for a lover. Or a tryst (I like that word). Or a friend. Or a girlfriend. Or someone who really gets it. And I tell you, the two are blurred. No matter what, as you sit down to the meal or drinks, there is the same nervous energy. Will s/he like me? Will I like him/her?
It sounds a little silly. But, it happened today when I had lunch with the woman that asked me this question. Several weeks ago, I met this young woman through work. It's a random string of events that are not easy to explain -- so I won't. But, suffice it to say, we met through work. After a brief conversation, we exchanged emails and said we should do "lunch." Now, in dating world, this is the safe date. This is what you do with someone you are not sure about because you are limited to one hour away from work. In the friendship world, this may also be true. I'm not sure. Our lunch lasted over a hour so perhaps that theory is shot. Or perhaps I shouldn't try to theorize. I know. You were going to say that. But, this was a friendship date. And the rules seem to be oddly similar.
Conversation was great. We talked about work -- which we are both passionate about -- and our city and dating and all kinds of other things. It was great. And then, she asked this strange question. "I know this sounds weird. But, do you want to be friends?"
It's the same moment on a date when one of the datees says, "So this was fun. Shall we do it again?" That's more complicted, I think. Of course, none of these things should really be complicated. We should just be able to laugh. To laugh out loud at the insane awkwardness of meeting new people. Will s/he like me? Will I like him/her? Laugh. Because we should. We should laugh at loud -- as we both did at lunch. We both laughed at the ridiculous nature of this question. But, it's real. The honesty of the question is so genuine. And it's still ridiculous. It's so ridiculous. And for all of this, we should laugh loudly and boldly.