In the past 6 months I’ve received various inquiries into the state of my womb, specifically about the fact that it’s empty.
When visiting my mom* on the East Coast recently, I reconnected with an aunt whom I haven’t seen since my kid days. I warmed to her immediately; her personality fills a room.
[*I have two moms through a remarriage (dad’s) – one on the East Coast, one in Texas (with dad).]
After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, my aunt said,
“Keisha, you don’t want no husband or children?” It didn’t seem so much a question, but more of a statement of fact. The implication being that if I hadn’t done something by now, I’m not going to.
I laughed. “I wouldn’t say that. It’s not that easy.” I explained that I hadn’t met the right person and have no interest in being a single parent by choice.
I also met a new cousin, my aunt’s tween son, whom my aunt said she calls he`r “menopause baby” because her other four children were nearly grown when she had him.
“May I ask how old you were when he was born?”
She counted silently before saying “35 or 36?”
“35 or 36?! That’s not menopause!”
She shrugged, “Yeah, I guess not. How old are you again?” She leaned back on the maroon leather couch.
Her eyebrows raised slightly; I could see her contemplating how much longer I have in Fertile-ville.
I interrupted her thoughts with, “I’m thinking of getting my eggs frozen.”
She nodded, “I’ve heard about that.”
That seemed to placate her as she turned her attention back to the movie playing the background, White Chicks.
It’s true. Several women I know aged 35+, have chosen to freeze their eggs.
Mere minutes later, my mom, whose quieter nature balances my aunt’s more boisterous one, let out:
“Do you know I am the only one of all my brothers and sisters [all 7 of them] who doesn’t have any grandchildren?”
“You should talk to your other daughter,” I teased her, referring to my younger sister.
A couple of months later, during a call with another older relative with whom I speak regularly, she commented as we were discussing her upcoming 7-th birthday, “I hope I’m around to see you have your first child.”
I know she didn’t mean for her words to sting, but they kind of did. Sometimes septuagenarians keep it a little too real. Still, I agree, if the kids are gonna happen, it’d be nice for them to meet her. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about that though.
A few weeks after, I was chatting to my Texas mom when she non sequitured:
“I miss holding a baby on my chest. I want to be a grandmother. Hold a baby for a week.”
“You have two grandchildren!” I reminded her, speaking of my niece and nephew, my oldest sister’s children.
“They are not babies anymore!” They sure aren’t. My little nephew ain’t so little anymore and he speaks with a man’s voice. He’ll be attending college soon. The last time I visited, my niece – his younger sister – asked me about my makeup and jewelry.
I suppose I should take it as a good sign that people are even asking me about my baby plans. At some point, if I still don’t have children, people will stop asking because they’ll assume I’ve moved into uterine retirement and it’s a moot point. Though, that day may not come for a while longer if the trend of women having children in their 40s and 50s continues.
I appreciate articles like this that cover an often overlooked perspective. It’s as though as women we’re supposed to feel strongly one way or the other about having kids. Like there’s no room for a less vehement conviction. I can see a future for myself with or without kids.
I think I’d like to be a mom. I know I would work hard at it. Occasionally, I’ll see a chubby-cheeked brown baby or toddler who looks like they could be mine and I think about what my children might look like. Then again, some days I really appreciate being able to sleep in and only having to deal with swatting away the cat. And quite frankly, I have personal misgivings about from time to time about bringing another human into this at times, terrible, scary world.
With each passing birthday, I wonder if that will be the year I’m suddenly going to be overcome with hormone-infused baby obsession. Where every man I approach is not just a man, but a potential co-conspirator in baby-production shenanigans. “Is it you? Are you my baby’s daddy? You smell like you’d be a good dad. Do you have parents within a two-hour radius who could help with childrearing? It takes a village, you know. How do you feel about spanking, co-sleeping and helicopter parents?” The day has yet to arrive.
That’s not to say that there aren’t women who have clearly defined views on personal motherhood. I have friends who say they knew they wanted to be a mom the instant they picked up their first babydoll. On the other hand, I know more than a few women whom are content to be awesome aunts. For them, kids are cool as long as they can be returned to sender. Then there are those who would rather kids stay the hell away from them, the creepy creatures.
Maybe one day I’ll be a mom, but it’s possible that kids of my own aren’t in my future. I know what my options are and I will do what I can to maximize them, but I’m not interested in spending too much energy stressing out about it.
A guy I once dated lectured me: “Keisha, as an intelligent, successful black woman, don’t you feel somewhat morally obligated to produce and raise the next generation’s successes? We need people like you to have children.”
As if I don’t have enough on my shoulders.
If you are a parent, did you always know you wanted to have children? If you don’t have children, do you have strong feelings one way or the other about having kids? Or are you ambivalent?
Years ago, I volunteered on the entertainment sub-committee for my job’s annual summer party. One of my tasks involved coming up with giveaway prize ideas: a few high-value “grand” prizes, and enough door prizes so that almost everyone left a winner.
Before purchasing the prizes, my committee shared our ideas with the larger planning group. The list included gift cards from Target as a few of the door prizes.
One of the alcohol sub-committee members wrinkled her face at the mention of Target.
“Target? Ha! Does anyone shop at Target? Do you think anyone’s gonna want that? I don’t even know where a Target is!”
Everyone fell silent. Even the crickets in the potted plants went mute.
Does anyone shop at Target? Is she for real? It’s only one of the most popular superstores in the country. Where she been?
Around the conference table, people hid grins and stifled chuckles as Mrs. “I don’t even know where a Target is” scanned the room looking for validation and found none.
Finally someone piped up:
“Uh, yeah. I shop at Target. I love Tar-zhay! Who doesn’t?”
A woman from the food committee added, “I go to Target for ONE THING and I always leave with 10 other things I’m not even sure I need. They just have good stuff!”
It’s relevant to mention that Mrs. No-Target lives in a posh area of Los Angeles, near the beach in a spectacular home with a long winding driveway. L.A. has no fewer than 10 Targets. They are kind of hard to miss. Maybe she never has to leave her compound. Perhaps she has staff who take care of menial duties like shopping at discount stores. Is that what it’s like to have serious money? You don’t have to bother with knowledge of plebeian shopping centers?
It reminded me of Oprah, when she taped a camping episode of her show, and her amazement at discovering the existence of REI. She couldn’t believe an entire store dedicated to recreational equipment and sporting goods existed. I love Oprah, it’s an REI, not a cat café.
In the end, we gave away several Target gift cards at the party. The recipients loved them! One even did a little jig. At least that’s how I choose to remember it. Take that, Mrs. No-Target!
As a thank you to all of my readers – the loyalists, the newbies and everyone in between – I have partnered with several other bloggers to offer you the opportunity to enter to win a Target gift card of your very own! Thank you for your comments, encouragement and kind words, readers!
I met a guy at summer camp during the break between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. His name – I won’t tell you – but, I’ll say that he’s named after an American city. Ok, fine, let’s call him Trenton, just because. I even remember his last name, which isn’t a common one. I couldn’t tell you the name of my first grade teacher, but I remember his name.
His older sister, a pretty and vivacious soon-to-be junior, was the popular girl at camp. She held court in our room some nights, sharing her glorious makeup and beauty tips as we gossiped about the male campers we thought were cute.
I didn’t tell her I had a ginormous crush on her younger brother. What if she told him?! I’d be mortified. I think she figured it out though. I always grew quieter and bashful when he was in range.
They say girls love bad boys. I’ve never been the type. Ok fine, there was one guy in 7th grade who wore a leather jacket, Drakkar Noir cologne by the buckets, a silver chain around his neck, plain white T’s, Docs and only seemed mildly interested in paying attention in class. He always smiled at me flirtatiously. He turned out to be a big softie.
Trenton was a genuine nice guy with a warm smile and dimples that made my heart pound furiously. I live for dimples. If I could get dimple implants, I would (then again, voluntary surgery? Maybe not). One of our camp enrichment activities included sharing our deep inner teen thoughts as we formed friendships around a campfire, underneath the bright stars, on balmy southwest Texas nights, to the soundtrack of an acoustic guitar.
Trenton always had words of encouragement at the ready. I felt good around him and it wasn’t just that my head floated up into the clouds whenever I got within five feet of him. We each got assigned work duty at camp in exchange for free room and board. Each night we rotated through camp chores, some easier and more pleasant than others. On my night to clean up after dinner – one of the more tedious and extended tasks – he stayed after to help us out. It wasn’t even his night! Swoon.
We bonded over our love of the Pearl Jam Ten CD. It was the height of the grunge era and though I didn’t fit the profile of a typical grunge rock fan, the music spoke to my teenage angst. I nearly melted when he told me his favorite track: “Black.” That’s my favorite song on the CD too! We are so meant to be together! We listened to the track on a Discman (Hahahaha, I’m old). My heart threatened burst from happiness.
To this day, whenever I hear that song, I think of him sometimes, and I feel that happiness again for a moment.
Nothing ever happened with us; I’m not sure why. Maybe he was just as shy. Maybe I mistook his kindness and focused conversation for interest when it was nothing more than a guy being friendly. Who knows?
We fell out of touch after we left camp for home. These were the days before email, texting and Facebooking, so it was easier to lose contact with people.
I returned to the same camp the next summer, hoping he’d be there, but neither he nor his sister were at the session.
I never saw him again.
Everyone once in a while I think about him and wonder how he’s doing. I’ve Googled him, but had no luck. I imagine he’s married. I bet he has a beautiful wife and two perfect little children in a sprawling house with a Labrador retriever and a Siamese cat.
What if we’d been something though?
Is there anyone from your past you wonder about?
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The server threw me a questioning look as he observed my half-full plate.
“Was everything okay with your meal, miss?”
“Yes, it’s fine. I’ll just take a box please.”
“Oh, you can eat more than that! You barely touched it!”
I glanced down at my plate, then my stomach. I’d stuffed all that would fit in the compartment.
“Hahaha, no really you can take it,” I said, pushing the plate further away from me.
“Okay,” he relented, his tone skeptical as he reviewed the remains of my dish.
Surely he didn’t expect me to eat that whole gargantuan plate of food!
Unless it’s at a place of fine dining and serious dollar-mining with portions so small you wonder if the kitchen is rationing food, I almost never finish an entire entree when I dine out. It’s not because I have birdlike eating habits.
It’s no secret that American restaurants serve gigantic plates full of enough food to feed you for multiple meals. Unfortunately, instead of eating such generous portions over the span of several meals, for many the inclination is to consume the entire dish. This is on top of whatever else they’ve eaten that day. That’s a hell of a lot of food! Restaurant serving sizes have grown many times over what they were decades ago.
Save for half-order lunch options, restaurants don’t usually serve select-a-size meal portions. I’m 5’1″ (and 3/4!); I’m a petite woman. When I order an entrée, I receive the same servings as everyone else who orders the same menu item, including say, a 6’4″ 200-lb man. Between me and a man of that height and weight, one of us requires far more daily calories to function than the other. Yet, we’re given the same amount of food. If, on a consistent basis, I ingested the same quantity of food as that man, eventually I probably wouldn’t be able to leave my home. I’d be a candidate for my own show on TLC, broadcast from my bed where I am laid up like a blown-up Tootsie Roll ready to pop.
I don’t do diets. I’ve tried my fair share of fad diets in the past: don’t eat carbs; eat more fat; drink spicy lemon water; chocolate shakes; strawberry shakes; vitamin supplements; starve and smile bitterly through your hunger pangs as delicious culinary scents waft under your nose.
None of that crap worked for me long-term, if at all.
I’ve comfortably settled upon portion control, with an emphasis on healthier options, as my choice of “diet.” It allows me to eat what I like in moderation. This way there are no happy rice grains and pasta strands high-kicking their way through my dreams taunting me, “You know you waaaaant us, you know you liiiiike us.” No staring at the clock, eagerly anticipating the time for the next meal. No deprivation. No calorie counting. No boring people with talk about my dietary habits.
I know it’s radical and revolutionary, but combined with regular exercise, this method works well for me and keeps me in good shape.
At brunch in Houston a few years ago, I ordered a side of bacon to accompany my stack of cakes.
“Do you want four slices or eight, darlin’?”
Four or EIGHT? Those are my options? I just want two slices of bacon! Two!
I opted for the four slices of bacon and pawned two off on my sister. Let’s be real: it’s not hard to get rid of bacon in our pig-lovin’ society.
The pancakes arrived, an imposing tower of spongy starch. I dug in, brushing aside my initial intimidation at the sight of the mammoth heap, slowly savoring each bite. The only way I’d inhale the whole mound is if an Amazing Race win was on the line. Thank goodness for takeout boxes.
This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Girl Next Door is Black.
Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!
Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.
A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.
As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.
I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.
How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.
The beauty shop has never been a place of relaxation or pleasure for me. I associate it with chemical smells, scalp burn, lots of time spent waiting around, listening to catty gossip about the lives of strangers, and hours of sitting in the same chair forced to make conversation with someone pulling on my hair, knowing that any personal details I share might become future salon fodder.
Once, a braider yanked my hair so hard she PULLED SOME OF MY HAIR OUT OF MY SCALP! It’s been years and that hair still hasn’t grown back right.
Up until late last fall, I’ve worn my hair in some form of “protective styling” like braids or weaves. For nearly 20 years I shielded my hair from the elements, the public and myself.
I have never liked fooling with my hair. I would get my hair braided or weaved up and not have to do any heavy styling for at least six weeks. I could wake up, brush my hair or shake out my braids and be done, until I had to repeat the process. Low maintenance. Kind of. Though, not inexpensive.
I always intended to go back to natural, but …
Sometime around age 10, when my family lived in Atlanta, my mom began taking my older sister and I to the salon to have our hair relaxed and styled.
[For the uninitiated: a relaxer straightens curly hair. Commonly, black women refer to it as a “perm,” but this perm is straight, not curly. The relaxer is made up of a chemical compound which, up until recently, usually contained lye and if left on too long, basically burns the crap out of your scalp. It also typically weakens the hair leading to breakage, split ends and other hair horrors.]
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to permanently alter my hair from its naturally tightly coiled state to a bone straight texture. Hair, which now required touch ups every six to eight weeks lest the undesirable curls rise up from the roots and ruin the iron-flat look. Almost every black girl in my school had relaxed hair. The ones who didn’t, got teased and mocked.
If the fuzzy coils returned or I didn’t style my hair “right,” this group of mean black girls in school would let me know by tittering and throwing stank looks and snide comments my way as I walked by. Over the years, I’ve met more of these types – the self-appointed black hair police who insist on issuing judgmental and cruel verbal violations to those whose ‘dos don’t pass muster in their hating eyes. They definitely were not fans of “nappy” hair.
I learned that white people also had opinions on how I wear my hair. In fourth grade, it was Nick – the blonde haired, blue-eyed 10-year old print model with Tom Cruise hair whom all the girls, black and white alike, swooned over – who looked at my relaxed hair, sprayed with oil sheen to give it shine, and called me a “greasehead.” I rebutted with a passable insult and kept my face neutral, but his words infiltrated and left a bruise.
My hair was in crochet braids when I served as a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding in the early ’00s. I’d stopped relaxing my hair by then, no longer interested in the ritual of maintaining unnaturally straight hair. I recall one of my friend’s soon-to-be new family members, a white girl a few years older than me, asking “So, are you going to take out your braids for the wedding?”
Why would I take out my braids? The braids that I spent nearly 4 hours in a chair getting put in? She must be crazy. What’s wrong with wearing braids to a wedding? They’re versatile. Besides, the bride had no issue with my hair, so why should she?
When I interviewed with a staffing agency in Los Angeles, also in the early 2000s, the middle-aged white recruiter inquired, as she looked at my braids:
If a client wanted you to change your hair to look more professional, would you be open to that?
Unlike my more vulnerable fourth grade self, her words didn’t sting me the way Nick’s had; rather, her question offended me. “More professional?” Who would ask me to change my hair and why?
I emphatically said no in such a way as to shut down that line of conversation. No, I am not changing what is a perfectly normal, common and acceptable style among black women.
But, my hair does not grow like a white woman’s does. So…
Even men had an opinion about my hair.
While hanging out at a friend’s place in L.A. one afternoon, one of her guy “friends” – a late twenty-something black dude with a gut, receding hairline, bad breath and yellowing teeth – gave me this gem of unsolicited advice:
You know, if you got yourself a weave, got you some long nails and your pedicure hooked up? You’d be perfect.
So, that guy was an ass.
I did eventually get a weave, but it wasn’t his words that prompted me. I’d noticed that a lot of the black girls in L.A. wore their hair in weaves. Long, straight, flowing hair – much like the white girls. Everybody wanted that Beyoncé hair.
My middle sister installed her own weaves and taught me how to do mine, sparing me trips to the beauty salon. Notably, the type of men I attracted changed once I switched from braids to weaves.
When I moved to the Bay Area a couple of years ago, it surprised me how many black women wore their hair naturally – in puffs, spirals, coils, locs and twist-outs. No one looked at them sideways for it. Seeing these women confidently rock their beautiful, myriad curl patterns encouraged me. Even at work, in professional environments, quite a few black women wore their natural hair for all to see.
There’s no one day when I woke up and decided, “Today is the day I’m going natural!” I’d told myself and others for years, “I’m going natural one day. I am! I just, I’m waiting. I’m not ready yet.”
In the ’90s my mom traded her own relaxed hair for sisterlocks and never looked back. My youngest sister, a true millennial, was the first of all my sisters to make the transition. She did what’s known as the “big chop” and cut off her relaxed hair to start over. She rocked her cute teeny weeny afro with such confidence; it inspired me. Several of my cousins on the east coast also wear their hair natural. I definitely wouldn’t be alone when I finally made the change.
Solange Knowles famously did the big chop about five years ago. She has a gorgeous mane now.
Solange pre-big chop (2008) Source: J&R Music World, flickr.com
Solange after her “big chop” (2009) Source: imgurhd.com
Solange’s hair a few years after her big chop (2012). Source: EventPhotosNYC, flickr.com
Oddly enough, getting laid off from my job last summer helped propel me to action. The role I played at the office, both professionally and personally, was increasingly at odds with who I am, my beliefs and my values. It felt fake and I was tired of it; exhausted from not being true to myself. I just want to be myself and that includes wearing my hair in its “natural” state.
In November, I went to a salon known for their Deva Cut. My hair hadn’t seen the shears of a professional in years. When I scheduled the appointment, they advised me to set aside at least 2 1/2 hours for the cut. 2 1/2 hours? For a haircut and shampoo?! This is why I hate salons! Still, I went. If I was going to be a natural girl, I needed someone to shape my coif into something cute. Besides, women online swore by this cut and as we know, everything online is true and awesome.
I’d heard rumor of these peculiar places where women of all colors converge to beautify. Seeing it with my own eyes delighted me. Black women. White women. Latina women. Jewish women. All with curls. Curls everywhere!
I was a bit skeptical when I met my stylist. A tall, young white woman with bright tangerine hair, absent of any curl pattern, and a ’70s punk rock vibe introduced herself. She is going to help me with this hair?
I’ve walked into “white” salons before and seen the terror in the stylist’s or receptionist’s eyes as I ask, “Do you do black hair?”
“Uh…well…um, we have one girl who does that, but she works the third Friday of every fourth month.”
Or they’ll just eke out, “N-n-noooo, sorry.”
Well, whatever happened to me in the salon, my hair couldn’t possibly look more of a mess than it already did., could it? I can’t say I’d been a poster child of proper hair maintenance.
Two hours later – after pleasant conversation with Tangerine (not her real name), a very thorough dry haircut and a soothing sulfate-free shampoo and conditioning – I left the salon with expertly shaped cut and new knowledge about how best to care for my curly hair.
I used to say that taking care of my natural hair took so much effort. In reality, it was taking care of my relaxed hair that took all the time. My natural hair is the lowest fuss hairstyle I’ve worn to date.
When people ask me when I went natural, I’ll say, “November 2014.” Though truthfully, the transition itself took years. It’s a lot of mental and emotional work. You have to unlearn all the negative messages you’ve internalized about your natural hair.
You may have to re-learn how to properly take care of your own hair. I consumed a lot of information through natural hair blogs; blogs which continue to grow in popularity.
You also have to get comfortable with the fact that there will always be people who have a problem with your hair. Screw ’em. They don’t own the hair rules. If such things exist.
This is the hair that grows out of my head and there’s nothing wrong with it. I love it. It’s part of me. I am still amazed that these curls grow from my head. They are so cool. I can’t believe I ever wanted to hide them.
Me and my long weave in Seville on the Triana Bridge, Fall 2013
Me and my curls on a train in Copenhagen, 2014
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It was a girls night out: sisters and groups of friends; an adorable Girl Scout troop of mostly pre-tween and tween black girls and quite a few mother/daughter pairings attended. One little girl dressed like a little lady wearing pearls and donning an updo, accompanied by her very chic and sophisticated mother who wore an enviable black cape, melted my heart. I attend a lot of plays and as I snarked to my sister, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many black people at a play in my life” [Chitlin’ circuit excluded]. I’m so used to being one of few. Even when I saw Porgy and Bess recently, whose cast is majority black, my friend and I were two of a countable number of black people in attendance. I found the audience diversity refreshing.
Keke Palmer delighted as Cinderella. To think that she’s only 21 and has already accomplished so much in her life. Her talent seems boundless.
Sherri Shepherd starred as Cinderella’s mean stepmother. I have had mixed feelings for Sherri in the past. I attended the same acting school she did, years after she moved on, and as one of the school’s success stories, Sherri was often a topic of conversation. It was her stint on The View that soured me though (“I don’t know if the earth is flat” anyone?). I wasn’t sure what to expect from her performance. I’m happy to share that she played the hell out of her character – a hilariously wicked stepmother. I enjoyed ever minute she spent onstage.
The show itself was wonderfully produced, surprisingly funny, and even magical at times. They pulled off the fastest, most seamless costume changes I’ve ever witnessed. After the show, I hustled my sister to the side stage door to wait for the cast to come out and sign autographs.
Both Keke and Sherri braved the chill to take photos with and sign autographs for each and every fan waiting. Impressively, Sherri listened patiently as one fan tried to promote her singing talent to Sherri. Even though the woman had no demo, no videos of her performing or even business cards, Sherri gave her helpful tips for building a foundation for a singing career – even though as she said, “I can’t really do anything for you. I don’t have those connections.” That really endeared her to me.
After our successful celebrity encounters, we headed to Junior’s for a late post-show dinnerand to relive our fantastic evening over cheesecake.
While waiting for the stars to emerge, we had nothing much to do. I opted to ogle the cute security guard.
Playbill with autographs from Sherri Shepherd, Keke Palmer and a few other cast members.
Prince Charming also signed autographs. Yes, in this version Cinderella is about the swirl.
“C’mon ladies, you can do this! 15 more seconds! Think about all the delicious Thanksgiving food you’ll get to have next week. I just made a butternut squash casserole last night to test out and it was so tasty. There’re sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, turkey – which I don’t even really like…Why do I have Thanksgiving food on my mind?”
My bubbly Pilates instructor gabbed on about Thanksgiving as we held our planks for what felt like the longest 15 seconds in history. A classmate chimed in: “You have one week and a day!”
What did she say? I cocked my head to the side as we moved on to triceps exercises on the tower.
“It’s next week?!” I asked, more with surprise than an actual need for confirmation.
She nodded and gave me a curious look, probably thinking “How do you not know it’s next week?” I bet she started prepping for it weeks ago. My class is often half-full of these super-stay-at-home moms and sometimes it’s like we speak different languages and live in two different universes. When they get to talking about mom stuff, like leaky post-pregnancy bladders that prevent them from joining in certain jumping exercises, I certainly understand the concept, but I can’t really add much, unless it’s to say, “Oh yeah, I have a few girlfriends that have that problem. My bladder is in tact though; no babies. So..there’s that. Yay, Pilates!”
Well crap, I don’t have plans yet. Where did the time go?
It’s again that time of year where I have to figure out where I’m spending the holidays, so I don’t spend them alone and marathon family- and romance-oriented holiday movies on Hallmark Channel that leave me a blithering mess buried in used tissues. Or log into Facebook, scroll through friends’ festive family photos and magnificent foodscapes of mouth-drooling Instagram-worthy meals, growing bitter and more self-pitying with each “like” of a photo. To top it off, a cheerful type will post,
“Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!! 🙂 🙂 I’m so thankful for my blessings and to be here with my loving family on this special day. Enjoy your time with your loved ones everyone!!!!!!! 🙂 !”
Sometimes Facebook is evil.
Most days I’m generally content with singlehood. A notable exception is when the holiday trio of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve roll around. Instead of being filled with glee and anticipation, I feel anxiety: “What am I going to do with myself this year?” These three holidays are when I’m most vulnerable to loneliness and melancholy. It ain’t easy being alone on holidays that revolve around love and togetherness. When these holidays are good, they’re fantastic. If you’re single and your family (of origin) lives states away and other single friends fly off to reunite with their families, these holidays become a source of stress.
Thanksgiving is particularly more difficult to plan for because traditionally, I, like many others, don’t get much time off from work. Flying somewhere for a four-day weekend at Thanksgiving prices doesn’t seem smart. So, you’re alone. What to do?
The single folks aren’t the first thing that come to mind when most people are planning Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure. They’re just focused on their families. I’ve done a few Friendsgivings with other single friends in the past. I could never find a consistent group though; people kept moving. I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings with other friends’ families. Though, I can’t help but feeling like “one of these people doesn’t belong.”
I’ve volunteered a couple of times. I don’t much like volunteering for holidays. It’s a lot like being a regular gym-goer on January 2nd. Suddenly the gym is packed with people who’ve vowed to get fit this year! By February 2nd, the gym is back to normal.
I’ve spent at least one Thanksgiving and one Christmas alone and I didn’t really care for it. Though, you can’t spend the holidays with just anybody.
Sometimes you get the pity invites. Where, for instance, a random coworker asks what your plans are for Thanksgiving and you panic because you don’t have plans yet, but you don’t want to say that and seem like a friendless loser. You also don’t want to lie, so you casually answer, “I don’t know yet…” Trailing off to allude to the million wonderful invitations you are sifting through. They reply, with an undercurrent of hesitance, “Well…you’re welcome to spend the holiday with my family. My grandma’s kind of racist, haha, but she’s harmless. I’m sure she’ll like you. I’ll have to check with my husband/sister/cousin/brother/mother/uncle’s wife’s dog first. I’m sure it’ll be fine though! The more the merrier, right?”
You know they’re just being polite and given you don’t even hang out outside of work, spending an intimate holiday together might be a little awkward.
Or you accept a friend’s invitation to dinner with her family who isn’t American, so Thanksgiving means something entirely different to them. Ordinarily you love to eat myriad cuisine, but on Thanksgiving you just want Thanksgiving food, there are 364 other days in the year to eat other stuff. You can’t complain though. Your friend invited you and that was very sweet of her, so shut up and eat the rice.
Also, why does everyone in California eat pumpkin pie? Has no one never heard of the far superior sweet potato pie?
Yes, I like marshmallows on my sweet potatoes; no I don’t think it’s too sweet. My family originated in the South – well, after Africa – I want my Thanksgiving food to taste like someone put their foot in it.
Why are their raisins in this dish?
Jokes aside, it’s a beautiful thing when other people invite you to be part of their family for the day and include you in their holiday memories. There are no rules for what makes up a family and I’m grateful to those who’ve included me.
I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do this year. It’s a week away!
Thank goodness I’ve got a trip planned for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
During the great American spankingdebate of September 2014, Elon James White wrote a thought-provoking piece about his experience getting spanked as a child. He writes of the “pain and distress” he recalls feeling during belt-whoopings. As I read it, I wondered:
How does his mother feel about him telling this story?
Depending on who pens the story, the reader’s response may differ. The allegiance may change. It’s not just the story of an adult’s childhood memories of being spanked. It’s also the story of a mother’s admirable evolution on the practice. So whose story is it? Who owns the “right” to tell this story?
I share a lot about my personal life on my blog. I share a lot of stories. There are many stories I don’t share though. Stories I don’t share because they may cast an unflattering shadow on a person I care about. Stories I don’t share because no matter how innocuous the topic, someone somewhere can find a reason to be offended. What if that person is a potential employer? Stories I don’t share because while I’m good with my personal choices, other people may hold them in poor regard and feel compelled to share their distaste with me. I’m not interested in being the target of the latest internet pile-on.
What I write is the truth the way I see it. Yet, there’s so much I cannot divulge. Sometimes, before I publish a post, I run it by a sister or a friend and ask, “If you were X___ and you read this, would this offend you?” Thankfully, I’ve only had to make one pre-offense edit.
Lately it’s the stories that I don’t write that nag at me. I just don’t know if I have the “right” to tell some of the heavier stories that I share with other people. So, I don’t write them, or I write them and I don’t share them; it feels restrictive.
I am bursting with stories I feel implicitly beholden to keep tucked away.
Who do you think a story belongs to? Is it fair game to share a story even if it may make someone else look not so good?
Does anyone meet anyone in real life these days? Offline? For dating purposes, that is. You know like:
Guy sees cute girl at bus stop.
Guy makes joke about the horrid stench wafting from a black trash bag near the bus shelter.
“Ah, the sweet smell of street funk and human waste,” he cracks.
Girl giggles. She relaxes her street defenses.
They discover they share a preference for puffy Cheetos over crunchy. “This is awesome,” they both think.
They chat animatedly as they wait for the bus, trading witticisms back and forth. He uses a word infrequently woven in conversation these days and it further endears him to her. She finds it sexy when a man has a big vocabulary and knows how to use it well.
He likes her laugh and the way she thinks.
He asks if he can take her out.
She says “Yes,” with a bashfulness he finds charming.
The bus arrives.
Only in my (safe for sharing on the internet) dreams!
In real life: men on the street say things to me so inappropriate that, if said on TV, would make the Parent’s Television Council triple their angry email writing output; or at the bus stop I’ll smile at a cute guy and he’ll look the other way, jeez; or worse I inadvertently pique the unwanted interest of a creepy co-worker who I’d often catch staring at me when I was at my desk.
When people ask me, “How’s your love life?” I’m taken aback as though they’ve asked me why I haven’t eaten vegetables in a while. Like, “Oh. Right. That’s something people do, date and stuff. That’s part of life too.” I mean, I know it happens. I kinda remember there being a time when I did things like that. I hear other people talk having love lives, but I don’t think I know what that is anymore.
This love life thing keeps coming up lately.
I went on a weekend trip with a group of a friends for one of their birthday’s this summer. I roomed with V__ (a dude) and K ___ (a dudette), fellow single thirty-somethings. We returned to our room at 3am one night and both V__ and K__ pulled out their phones to Tinder. [If you’re unfamiliar with Tinder, it’s a dating app for meeting people in your area. It uses your Facebook profile (’cause Facebook isn’t over-involved in your life enough) and I’ve gleaned from friends’ experiences that a lot of people on there aren’t exactly looking for “a relationship.” It seems like more of a shallow way to meet people given you decide “yes” or “no” on a person based on a few photos and whatever information they’ve bothered to share with Facebook.]
My friends happily Tinder’d while I interrupted them with questions about why they found it so fascinating, who and what were they texting, and who else was up at 3am?
I tried Tinder once when I was at a Starbucks and freaked out when a guy sent me a chat. “Can he see me? Is he nearby?!” Like a grandma who doesn’t understand how this newfangled technology works.
Another time, two of my friends, both of whom were in relationships at the time, stole my phone to Tinder for me, despite my weak protestations. I don’t know why I hadn’t deleted the damned app by then. Anyway, I know that really, they just wanted to see what it was like; to get a taste of the single life again for one sweet moment. I see you.
I am not one for idle texting back and forth and it seems like Tinder involves a lot of this. I can’t even figure out how to work normal text messaging, how the hell am I going to seduce someone on Tinder? Oh who am I kidding? All I’d have to do is show a little cleavage in my photos and use lots of emoticons and coy responses when I chat.
I feel the same way about online dating. I don’t want to go through this back and forth, tell me your life story, what’s your favorite color, do you like to cuddle, let’s have a pre-date phone call business. If I like what you’ve got to say in your profile and if in your communication with me you use adult-level grammar and don’t make gross sexual comments to / about me, let’s meet and see if we click. There’s no need to drag this process out. This is why I don’t understand the show Catfish. How are you “in a relationship” for seven months or a year, or five, with someone you’ve NEVER MET, and then shocked when they turn out to be a Shrek masquerading as an Efron?
I’ve given online dating plenty of shots. You might even call me an online dating early adopter. In 2003, I went out with a guy I met through Yahoo Personals. (Yahoo Personals people! Old school internet!) It was disastrous. The date went downhill the minute I told him I moved to L.A. to try to make it as an actress. He treated me like I was an airhead. Nobody likes actors in L.A. except other actors, the people they pay to like them and their fans.
I know people who’ve met and married or at least dated successfully through online dating. Personally, I’ve found it to be like a tedious a second job, as well as disappointing experience. I’m nowhere near the most popular female demographic in the e-dating pool. It gets old seeing guy after guy indicate interest in every ethnicity except “Black/African-American.”
Every boyfriend I’ve had I met through a friend, doing things I normally do, being myself and not feeling like I’m being auditioned for a starring role in someone’s life. Not only does meeting someone through your social network make it easier to blend your social lives, if there’s any of the “bad” kind of crazy in your prospective boo, your friend can give you the lowdown.
One time, ONE TIME, I agreed to a date with a guy who I met at a bar. I was young and dumb (and drunk, holy beer goggles!). The night of our date, he drove us around Hollywood for nearly half an hour looking for street parking, missing the beginning of the show at The Knitting Factory. At each light, he’d stop, look into my eyes and say something utterly fromage-y like, “Your eyes shine like stars. I could get lost in them.”
WHO SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT FOR REAL?!
He turned out to be one of those short guys with a Napoleon Complex and the associated serious anger management issues. By mid-date, it was so bad, I contemplated excusing myself to go to the bathroom and crawling out the window to freedom. I decided not to, mostly because he was my ride home and in those financially-leaner days, I really couldn’t afford the $50 cab ride from Hollywood to my place in the Valley. When I didn’t go out with him again, he became increasingly irate and left vile messages on my voice mail. I had to change my number.
I have never dated a guy I met in a bar again.
I suppose online dating hasn’t been all badfor me. Last year, I dated a guy for a few months who I met on Match. He’s a great person and I learned a lot when I was with him, but ultimately I felt we’d be better off as friends.
During a recent lunch with one of my college roommates who met her husband of three years on eHarmony, she talked about why she’d decided to give eHarmony a try. She said:
“I knew I was ready to meet my husband and I made it a priority. You have to make it a priority.” I realized then that it wasn’t and hadn’t been a priority to me for quite some time. Somehow, I’d forgotten about having a love life. I guess I’d been busy with other life things, like figuring out what to do after I got laid off and realized that once and for all that I need to make a career change.
The subject of my love life arose once again in the form of an email. A friend of mine is currently off in Europe on a sabbatical of sorts and recently started up a hot romance with a strapping Nordic man. She’s happily enamored with him and inquired, “Have you met anyone interesting?” I stared at my screen, puzzled, “Met anyone? Interesting? Men? How would I even do that? How do people meet people offline to date?” Some of the ideas I shared for making new friends are applicable to meeting people to date. And I have tried them. But, you can’t force these things.
It’s been almost a week and I haven’t responded to her email. I don’t know what to say. I would love to meet someone interesting, but I’d like for that to happen offline. Is that too much to ask?
When my friend asked if I’d go with her to the Treasure Island Music Festival, I surprised myself when I said, “Yes.” After my one and only experience at the Coachella Music Festival a few years ago, I all but swore off large-scale music festivals. Between the heat, the parades of douchery, the posers (people who literally seem as though they are just there to pose), the flower headbands, the Native American headdresses on non-Natives, the spilled beer, sloppy drunken fools, the long lines to get just about anything and my general dislike of unruly crowds, I must have temporarily lost my memory to agree to this. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my friend’s face lit up as she gushed about how much she loves André 3000 of Outkast, one of the headliners of the two-day concert.
Treasure Island is man-made and sits in the San Francisco Bay just a short drive north of the Peninisula. Smartly, to avoid parking lot overcrowding, they provide (free!) large shuttles to transport concert-goers from the Civic Center to the Island. I enjoyed the bus ride, it felt like being on a field trip with a group of strangers excitedly buzzing about all the fun we hope is in store. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the event with temperatures in the 70s and a mild breeze blowing from the Bay.
Thankfully, the Treasure Island Music Festival was more like Coachella’s chill baby cousin whose sprinkles their speech with “hella” and smokes a lot of weed. The Bay Area doesn’t hide its love of the sticky icky. There is no “typical” smoker in the Bay. Smokers are old and young, ranging in colors from all over the spectrum, professional and slacker alike, each with their intake method of choice. The air was pungent over that island. Contact highs are real, y’all.
My friend and I attended Saturday’s lineup of shows. We arrived shortly before Ryan Hemsworth’s hopped onstage. He made fans of us by the end of his half-hour set that had the crowd bouncing. My friend and I agreed we liked his set more than Zedd‘s, whose set was too heavy on the “electronic” and not enough on the “dance” side of music for my liking.
Janelle Monae did not disappoint with her high-energy show despite a confusing 10 minutes during which she sang her heart out and the audience heard nothing. The audience chanted, “We can’t hear! We can’t hear!” hoping to get attention from a sound guy, Janelle, a backup dancer, Jesus, anybody! If I miss hearing “Electric Lady” because of this, someone is going to pay.
Outkast closed out the evening playing all the fan faves like, “Ms Jackson,” “Caroline, “B.O.B.”, and of course, “Hey Ya!” At one point, André 3000 called out, “Seattle!” I guess he forgot where he was. Contact highs are real, y’all.
We had a “hella” good time at the concert.
Other scenes from the festival.
Me (L) and my friend E___
Which one of these will I not be eating in this public space?
Making friends as an adult is difficult for many of us. People date, marry, procreate, change, drift and relocate. Growing up, my family moved at least four times and I lived in three different states. While being the new kid often isn’t easy, it seemed so much simpler to make friends in school.
My first day of college, I befriended two girls in my dorm who I noticed chatting with the door open. I introduced myself, cracked a joke, and they invited me to eat dinner in the cafeteria with them. It turned out they had just met each other. Our trio became insta-friends that day.
I landed in San Francisco two years ago this month – after over a decade in Los Angeles (and several cycles of friend-finding) – armed with two cats, a new job, and the friendship of only one other person in the city. Making friends in San Francisco took more effort and perseverance than I ever anticipated. You could say I’ve learned a thing or two – sometimes the hard way – about making friends as an adult.
Perhaps you woke up one day and realized, “Holy loneliness! I don’t have any friends! (And I don’t know how to make new ones!)” Or maybe all of your friends seem to be married, paired up or wrangling children, with no time for single you. It could be you simply feel your social life needs a boost. Whatever the case, we’re social creatures. Even the most solitary of us crave regular, meaningful interaction with others. We needfriends. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned in my friend-making efforts, I can spare you some of the obstacles often encountered on a quest for new friends.
Laying the Foundation
Before you undertake your search for new friends, here are a few things I recommend to lay the groundwork for being a friend magnet.
1. Be A Friend To Yourself First
When you meet new people, you’re marketing yourself in a way. The you that people meet is the whole package they intake from what makes you laugh to how you dress to what interests you. If you’re going to get out and meet new people, it’s important that you like yourself. How can you convincingly “market” yourself as someone’s next BFF if you don’t believe in the package you’re presenting?
What do you like about yourself?
What do others say they like in you?
Take time to think about what you offer as a friend. Friendship is about give and take.
What are your strengths? Are you loyal? Funny? Adventurous? A good listener? Nurturing? Embrace whatever it is that makes you you. Those strengths are what draw people to you. Lean on those strengths – your best traits – if ever you need a reminder of why you’re likable and lovable.
2. Make a Friend Wish List
You know you want to make friends. But, what does that mean? As with any activity we undertake, it’s helpful to have goals to guide us and keep us focused.
What does friendship mean to me?
Think about what you’re looking for in a friend. Not who you think you should be friends with, but the kind of people with whom you think you’ll truly connect.
What kind of friends am I looking for?
Do you want a group of friends to chill at “Central Perk” with? Are you looking for a travel buddy? Are you longing for a confidante, a best friend, someone whom you can call to help you move a dead body, no questions asked?
What do I like to do for fun?
What kinds of activities do you hope to do with new friends?
Think about the friends you do have: How did you meet them? How did your friendship evolve? Being realistic about the investment involved in building a friendship will help temper your expectations.
3. Make Time
Finding new friends and building relationships takes time. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate toward your friend-making efforts. Decide how important this endeavor is to you. Much like a romantic relationship, if you want new friends, you have to carve out time and space for new people in your life.
In my search for new friends in San Francisco, I met several people who confessed they wanted friends, but didn’t really have time to put toward the effort. One woman I met traveled for work several months out of the year. Another spent much of her spare time studying for the LSAT. Or as I’ve encountered many times over the years, the person who laments their lack of friends, but spends nearly every free moment with their significant other.
If your co-workers invite you out to happy hour and you routinely turn them down, one day they’re likely to stop asking you.
Spending all your time at work or even at home and not meeting people, will not get you closer to seeing your friendship wish list come true.
If you ditch or flake repeatedly, not only do people begin to see it as a pattern, often they take it as a direct offense.
Making time for friendship can be as simple as deciding you’ll dedicate one afternoon a weekend to making friends and socializing. Maybe you can target one or two lunches a week – or even coffee – for getting together with people. Find a way to integrate friends into your daily routine. For instance, if you have to study for a grad school exam, find a study buddy. If you’re a parent, find other parents with similar schedules.
If you’re serious about making friends, it requires time and effort. It’s worth it.
Ask Yourself: Does my busy lifestyle indicate to others: “I don’t have room for new people in my life?”
4. Keep an Open-Mind
Your next best friend, brunch buddy or running pal might arrive in a package you don’t expect. Life loves to throw surprises our way, so don’t immediately discount someone because of their age, how they dress, their socioeconomic standing (or god forbid, their ethnicity) or whatever other arbitrary factors we sometimes use in judging and assessing others. One of the benefits of friendship is how much we stand to learn from each other and our diverse experiences. Opportunities for friendship are everywhere. Don’t blindly turn away from what may be your chance at a rich friendship.
One of my closest friends is a white baby-boomer, 30 years my senior, from a farm town southern California. I met her at work, over a decade ago when I was just transitioning out of acting into my new career in tech. She is a treasure and I never would have expected a friendship like ours. When I join her and her husband on outings, sometimes I notice we get curious looks from people. On the surface, we couldn’t seem more different, yet as it turns out, we are far more similar than not.
Once you’ve laid the foundation for your friend search, it’s time to get tactical. How do you meet people?
5. Use Your Network
Who better to recommend your next friend than a current friend you like and trust? When I moved to San Francisco, I was very open about my loneliness and difficulty in making friends here. A few of my friends in other cities reached out to connect me with their friends in the area. One of my new good friends is someone I met that way. What’s nice about using your network is your friends have already done some of the hard labor for you: they’ve vetted this person. Chances are your friends won’t hook you up with ax murderers or stalkers (unless ax murdering and stalking is what you have in common).
Don’t be afraid to let people in your life know that you’re on the hunt for new friends. There’s no shame in needing companionship. Your (true) friends have your best interests at heart and want happiness for you. Often you’ll find they are more than willing to help you expand your circle and relish the opportunity to connect the people they value.
You job is a potential friendship minefield. Some people recommend not mixing work and friendship. I think that’s unrealistic given many of us spend such large chunks of our lives at work. Obviously, one should be careful whom they choose to befriend at work. Be smart about it; use your instincts.
If you work for a large company, often there are intra-company clubs and communities you can join for everything from volunteer work to ethnicity-based groups to foodie outings to career advancement support and LGBT clubs. Smaller companies may have offsite events, happy hours or even poker groups, as I had one job. Some of my dearest friends are former co-workers.
6. Follow Your Interests
Another easy avenue to explore begins with you. Your interests. We like to have things in common with our friends, it strengthens our sense of belonging. Make a list of your interests, paying special consideration to activities you can share with others. Use this list to direct your search for activities.
If you’re athletically inclined, your options are many. There are sports leagues for adults of all ages for the fit and unfit alike. While I am not athletic – sometimes my anxiety dreams involve being back in middle school P.E. – I did join an adult kickball league in Los Angeles at the recommendation of a friend. He promised I wouldn’t suffer humiliation and trauma if I sucked on the field. He was right. I had a good time, met a lot of new people, and when earlier this year – in a San Francisco league – I scored my first run, I felt so proud and vindicated.
An added benefit of taking part in activities you like, is that your positive energy will show through. Imagine how much more enthusiastic and engaged you are when doing something you enjoy vs doing something you dread or feel forced into. Like baking cupcakes vs. watching football. People are attracted to positivity. It makes them feel good.
If you like taking photos there are Flickr meetupsand instameets all over the world. Maybe you’re really into your faith. Many religious organizations have social groups and events calendars for their communities. If you have a dog, take your dog to a dog park and let Fido’s cuteness guide you to your next friend. Perhaps you want to learn a new language. I enrolled in Spanish coursewhen I moved to San Francisco. It gave me a reason to leave the house, kept my mind active, and I planned to reward my efforts with a trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Not only did I make new acquaintances in the course, a classmate asked me out!
I met a real-life Bronythis year. If men who love My Little Pony can build a community, surely you’ll be able to find something to do around your interests. I’ve listed helpful resources at the end of the post.
7. Take Initiative
Have you ever met someone at an event or maybe a conference with whom you really clicked? Maybe you exchange numbers, email addresses or Twitter handles, and you agree you “must hang out again!” but nothing happens? You never hear from each other. Why did neither of you follow up? Could be any number of reasons: we’re too busy, too tired, too stressed, too lazy, too whatever. What if we missed a prime opportunity to bring someone new into our lives? What if next time someone says, “Let’s hang out soon” you say, “Ok, I am free next week on these days, how about you?” Make a plan. Set a date. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move.
If you hear of an event in your area that you’d like to attend, invite someone you know to join you.
Maybe there’s a co-worker you’ve wanted to go to know better. Invite him out to grab a beer.
The girl in your yoga class who always smiles at you? Strike up a conversation with her. Ask her where she got her yoga mat and how she likes it. Once you open the door friendly conversation, you can work your way up to asking her to join you for a post-workout protein shake.
If you like to entertain, throwing a party is a great way to bring new friends into your world.
Being assertive and taking initiative can seem daunting, especially if you are shy. If you don’t feel confident, fake it. The truth is, many of us get nervous when meeting new people, we just assume we’re the only ones. Other people always seem so at ease with strangers. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. It’s just as possible that they’re just good at appearing comfortable under unnerving circumstances. Don’t be FAKE, just channel the comfort and self-confidence you feel when you are with friends. Remember what makes you someone people want to be friends with. No one has to know how awkward you feel, if you choose not to show it.
If you get nervous, ask yourself:
What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?
Be an active participant in building the friendship network you want.
Cultivating and Maintaining
Once you begin meeting people and making connections, how do you build on your efforts and cultivate your new friendships?
8. Say “Yes!”
There may come times when you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to make friends. Look at it as an opportunity to grow.
If you get invited to a party, go! Even if the idea of going to a party where you don’t know many people terrifies you, go! You won’t gain anything by not trying. Parties are a fantastic way to meet a lot of people in one setting. You always have the option of leaving when you like. Whenever I find myself at a party or a mixer, I challenge myself to meet at least three new people. That way I’ve given myself a goal. Three is a manageable number and after I meet my “quota” I can relax the rest of the evening knowing I’ve potentially made three new friends. If three seems overwhelming to you, start with one person and work your way up.
My motto is: I’lltry almost anything at least once. A few years ago, I went to a Thai restaurant famous for their insect delicacy, with a group – some my friends, some strangers. Eating scorpions, crickets and beetles was never on my list of “things to do before I die”, and I don’t feel compelled to do it again, but the experience was as unforgettable as I anticipated. Today I can reminisce and laugh with my friends about our buggy meal. Shared experiences, especially unique ones, are the building blocks of strong friendships.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Say “Yes!” to the opportunity to expand your horizons.
9. Let Yourself Be Vulnerable
Sometimes we worry that if we let on that we’re lonely, we’ll appear desperate. Almost everyone can identify with feeling the pang of loneliness at one time or another. Whether it’s that you’ve moved to a new city, are newly divorced or broken up or you find yourself drifting apart from your old friends, we endure friendship lows.
Years ago, I found myself looking for a new group of friends after an unfortunate break up with a best friend, followed shortly after by a break up with my long-term boyfriend. As my relationship had progressed, I’d neglected to direct enough energy toward maintaining and nurturing my friendships. I woke up one day to a desert of a social life. A triple whammy of loss that hit me like a sandbag.
I looked for a book club to join because I like to read. I ended up befriending a group of reading, traveling, foodies in Los Angeles, many of whom are still my friends. I recall during one book club meeting, how a discussion over the book Marrying Anitaled to sharing of relationship stories. I admitted how lost and confused I felt after the loss of very important people in my life, to which others could relate. I began to look forward to our book club meetings and am grateful to the members for helping me get through such a difficult time. It’s scary to open up to others about our thoughts and feelings. It’s healthy to open up though. When we do let go, often it makes us feel better and it builds intimacy in our relationships. When a friend opens up to you, listen and make them feel comfortable sharing with you.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is key to cultivating a friendship. Self-disclosure brings us closer.
10. Don’t Give Up!
The search for friends can feel a lot like dating. Not too long ago, I accepted a lunch invitation from a potential new friend. After lunch, I remember dejectedly texting another friend, “I don’t think she liked me. She didn’t laugh at my jokes and she looked bored. Kept looking off at other things.” It felt like talking about a guy I’d gone out with! Imagine my surprise when a week later, she invited me out for drinks. She did like me! Turns out what I misread as disinterest was introversion at play.
Developing a friendship takes patience, resilience and repeated contact. Meeting someone once does not a friendship make. The more time you spend with a friend, the more you communicate with them, the more you self-disclose to them and create shared experiences, the more likely you are to grow closer. Friendships move through stages, from acquaintance to best friend. Not all friendships will traverse each stage. Consistency is key to deepening bonds of friendship.
Finding and making new friends isn’t always easy. If you’re one of the lucky ones, someone will take you under their wing and invite you into their circle. Overnight, you’ve got new friends! More than likely though, you will experience setbacks while on your friendship quest. That’s okay! Where there’s a valley, a peak is sure to follow. If you find yourself discouraged, keep in mind that making friends takes time. Not everyone you meet will become your best friend or even more than an acquaintance, but with each experience you have, you’ll become more comfortable with meeting new people. Over time, you should begin to notice your efforts paying off.
Have you found it difficult to make friends as an adult? What have your experiences been like? What are some of your challenges? Do you have tips for others looking to make friends?
Running Clubs – A friend of mine met her fiancé through a Nike run club. Whether you enjoy running or want to start, it can be a fruitful place to meet people and get your workout in. Select Lululemon locations have run clubs (and yoga classes) and often local athletic and sporting goods stores will too. You can also find local running clubs at Road Runners of America.
Play Recess – another co-ed social sports organization. Currently, they only have leagues in San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. In addition to dodgeball and kickball, they have volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and soccer games.
Search for hiking and biking groups in your community. The Sierra Club has chapters across the country for hiking, outdoor and environmental activities.
Meetup – Meetup has been around for a while. It’s a large network of groups across the country organized by locals. Meetup types run the gamut from hiking to singles to art lovers to parenting to books. I find meetups require a greater level of proactive-ness than other avenues. This is largely due to the often ad-hoc nature of events that don’t engender repetitive contact among the same group of people. With that said, I know several people who’ve met with success on meetup.
Girlfriend Circles – Girlfriends Circles connects women looking to build female friendships. I’ve mentioned before how I met some cool women through the site. Members are matched with other members in their area based on age group. Monthly events are planned for groups of up to 6, so it’s manageable number of people to meet. Community members also organize their own events.
Volunteer Match – Volunteer Match connects volunteers to the organizations that need them. Search for volunteer opportunities in your area based the cause(s) that interest you.
Idealist – similar to Volunteer Match, you can search for volunteer opportunities or post your own project ideas. Additionally, they have internship and job listings for non-profit organizations.
Check your local weekly paper (e.g., LA Weekly, Austin Chronicle, Chicago Reader, etc.). Use the Calendar of events to discover fun and new things to do in your area.
If you’re a college grad, see if there’s an alumni chapter if your area. My local alumni chapter has football game watching parties, BBQs and networking events.
Yelp has anevents calendar and an active social community both on- and offline.
If you like dancing, find a local dance group. Another friend of mine met her husband and many of her friends through ballroom dancing.
Taking an improvisation or beginner’s acting class will allow you to learn a new skill and meet new people.
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You know the film & TV trope of the ugly duckling? Usually she’s got braces or other distracting face gear, as well as a hot mess of a hair situation (easily remedied by a brush and hair products) and topping off her tragic look: hideous, over-sized glasses. She’s a nerd; an outcast. Boys ignore her. Girls make fun of her. People pin “kick me” signs on her. One day, fed up with being a social misfit, she decides it’s time for a change.
In a breezy montage, underscored by slumber-party pop, she gets the makeover to top all makeovers: her hair transforms into a glorious mane, her makeup game is enviable, her teeth are miraculously straight and pearly white. Of course, she trades her glasses for contacts (which, at first, she finds nearly impossible to put in). Just like that: she’s a gorgeous swan. The boys flock to her like pigeons to newly washed cars. The girls who once mocked her, want to be her. She tossed her glasses and her life improved tenfold. Message received. Repeatedly.
I got my first pair of glasses in first grade and though I needed them, I tried my hardest to pretend they didn’t exist. By the time I reached high school, I was convinced that being in the glasses club was putting a real crimp in my life. My parents said contacts were too expensive. If I wanted to wear them, I had to buy them myself. Since I wanted to be able to see, I relented and reluctantly wore my unfashionable specs, feeling every bit the nerd and ugly duckling. I hoped one day to chuck my nerdgear and emerge a beautiful swan, bringing all the boys to the yard and girls to my sure-to-form clique.
These days, glasses are no longer relegated to the outcasts and the ugly ducklings. Celebrities don glasses as part of their ensembles. The cool kids wear them even when they don’t need to! That’s crazy talk! Now, companies like Warby Parker make fashionable eyewear so you can ditch the granny glasses and trade them for stylish frames. Eyewear makes a statement. At the very least, glasses make you look smarter.
I’m a fan of companies that give back to the community and with Warby Parker for every pair of glasses they sell, they donate a pair through one of their non-profit partners. You get a pair of fly eyewear and so does someone else who would love the opportunity to see better. It’s a win-win!
They’ve added nine new shapes to their collection for fall 2014, for whatever your mood or style. Here’s a sample of their collection:
These days, I embrace my glasses and my nerd propensities. I alternate between glasses and contacts. As my optometrist reminded me, it’s healthy to wear your glasses and let those eyes breathe. Well, if I’m going to strut around the city in glasses, you better bet they’ll be cute!
An ex-boyfriend of mine loved fantasy sports. He had fantasy teams for baseball, hockey, basketball and football. Almost year round, he dedicated a not insignificant portion of his focus to tending to his fantasy team(s), football especially. Initially I found his fantasy hobby curious and amusing. So, this is what some of the male species spends their time doing? Fascinating. He’d get so passionate watching a football game – though I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t seem to root for one team consistently. “I don’t really have a favorite team. I just need my players to score me points!” Uh, ok. Mostly, I busied myself with other activities when on Sundays or Thursday evenings he watched football games, or when he’d take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to update his fantasy lineup – before and sometimes after games.
I never cared one way or the other for football. My dad watches it and I have many a memory of him posted up in front of the TV on Thanksgiving days. If forced to pick a favorite sport to watch, I’ve often chosen basketball. I grew up in the heyday of Michael Jordan and I understand basketball. Your mission is to throw the ball in the net. If you make a basket from outside the arc, you score three points instead of two! It’s simple with fast-paced action and points scored often. Football, on the other hand, mystified me. This, despite the fact that I went to high school and college in Texas where for some, football is a religion. Football puzzled me even though friend in college, who played football in high school, spent time drawing me a diagram of stick figures and lines, patiently describing to me various plays and positions.
“But why the hell does it take so long to score?”
He explained that the offense has four chances (downs) to advance 10 yards. If they advance all four downs, they get four new ones, with the goal being to reach the end zone, score a touchdown and dance. I don’t recall much else from that afternoon football lesson, but I figured I knew enough to get by. College football games were especially fun since our team was pretty good at the time and tailgate parties are no joke. Still, I continued to feel neutral about the sport.
Gradually, I grew to mildly resent the imposition of fantasy sports in our relationship, especially football. We scheduled many an outing around my boyfriend’s fantasy schedule. Fantasy draft days turned into two or three-hour ordeals with my boyfriend cursing every once in a while at the screen when he didn’t get the players he wanted. Of course, on Sundays, he had to watch the games, which are on all day. I wanted to go to brunch; he wanted to watch the games.
Bored and feeling ignored, I’d tell him, “I’m gonna go home.”
He’d put his arm around my waist and say with a look I had a hard time saying “no” to, “Aw, but I want you to be here. I’m just going to watch this one game.” One game would turn into two. He’d promise to act more attentively, but inevitably he fixate on the screen again, chatting with me and attempting to be attentive during commercial breaks.
Eventually, after a couple of years, I found myself mildly dreading the start of football season. During the season, I hated the din from the TV during games: the clamor of the crowds in the stands, the shrieking whistles of the refs after each play; the grunts and thwacks of players.
Sometimes, I’d try to goad him to get his attention, to at least have a bit of real interpersonal communication, like a child bugging out for their parent’s gaze:
“It’s funny that they make such a big deal about gay men in the NFL when this is probably one of the most homoerotic sports you can play. It’s like these guys find any excuse to smack each others’ asses, bump chests or jump on each other.”
He’d cross his arms, throw me a look of pleading exasperation and return to the game.
When we broke up, I wanted nothing to do with football. That is, until a couple of years later when a co-worker asked if I would like to join the company fantasy team. I considered that football is one of the most, if not the most popular sport in the country and maybe I should make peace with the sport. Additionally, a grand prize of $600 with a $50 buy-in appealed to me. I like to try new things and a few of my other friends were in the league, so I told him, “Ok, I’m in!” Out of 12 “owners” – as players are called – only three were women. I relished the opportunity to take on the smack-talking dudes who teased that the girls would choose players for our teams by uniform colors and player hotness.
I researched player and team stats on sports sites and fantasy blogs, strategizing my lineup; I watched football on Sundays, I rooted for my players and dutifully updated my lineup each week. That first season I came in seventh out of 12 teams, one slot shy of making the fantasy playoffs. The guys commended me on a good first effort.
The next year I was determined to at least make the playoffs. I also joined another fantasy team with a different group of friends – again, only three girls were owners in this new league – to increase my opportunities for winning cash money. I thought to myself, “If my ex could see me now. I have not one, but two, fantasy football teams!” That year, I won most of my head-to-head competitions, leaving the previous year’s champion to question, “Do you have somebody helping you?”
“No,” I answered honestly. I insisted on doing this on my own, as I quickly realized, listening to other people – as I did a few times my rookie season – proved more harmful than helpful.
His face registered disbelief as he said, “Uh, huh. I bet you got some guy at home giving you tips.” I took his insistence on a mystery helper as a compliment: he viewed me as legitimate competition for the throne. That season I landed in second place in that league, winning $200, for a net profit of $150. I rewarded myself with a Kindle Fire. I’d officially became a fan of fantasy football.
I began to lose interest in fantasy football as my life got busier. During the first few games of the following season, I was on the other side of the world in Tanzania with fantasy games the last thing on my mind. Shortly after I returned, I moved to San Francisco, which came with it’s own sets of challenges. I cut back to one league, finding management of two teams too much. Though, I ended up joining the fantasy league at “Fancy Startup” last year, in an attempt to get to know some of my new co-workers better. I played halfheartedly that season and committed the great offense of basically handing a game to my opponent one week by not updating my roster when one of my player got benched because of an injury.
On top of that, the year I placed second, one of my good friends and fellow leaguer, E___, told me about a story he’d seen on 60 Minutes about the long-term effects of concussions and other brain injuries on football players. I watched the segment online and it saddened me to hear the stories of formerly strong, capable men suffering from debilitating depression or early onset dementia, their families struggling to adapt and care for them. I’d heard of boxers being “punch drunk” and any fan of the Rocky series knows that Rocky’s brain got a little mushy from all that knocking around. It makes sense that football players and other athletes who sustain repeated blows to the head are susceptible longterm, irreversible brain damage. The NFL seemed to drag its wealthy feet in publicly acknowledgingthere might be a connection between players being hit by 200lb+ men running at high speeds and brain damage. Further, the NFL reportedly made it difficult for retired players who claimed brain injuries, to qualify for the appropriate health coverage, leading several players to sue.
I felt torn by my participation in fantasy football. Part of my entertainment relied on guys getting bashed in the head repeatedly. And for what? Doctors are even finding evidence of brain damage in football players as young as junior high school age, in addition to high school and college students. It doesn’t sit well with me.
When I saw the video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancee. I didn’t need to see the full tape to decide that the way he hit her and then cavalierly picked up her limp body as though she were a rag doll he didn’t give two shits about, to decide that the NFL’s weak punishment of a 2-game suspension amounted to an insult and undermining of the seriousness of domestic violence.
So, this year, when E____ asked if I’d be playing in the league again, I decided I was done. I am not interested in supporting the NFL enterprise at this point. If things with the game and the league change in the future, I may revisit my stance.
E____ argued, “Does this mean you are boycotting Chinese made goods because of their human rights violations, not listening to Kanye because of his wife, and not travelling to countries like Brazil due to their government induced social issues?
Fantasy football is just a game using the statistics from real games. It does not support the NFL at all.”
While I understand his point, as I told him, “I have to pick my battles and this is a pretty easy one.”
Circumstances forced me into a relationship with Comcast when I moved here. In Los Angeles, I’d been a loyal DirecTV customer for years. Unfortunately, when I tried to transfer service and have a dish installed in my new place, the DirecTV installer shared his dreadful assessment, “San Francisco sucks for satellite! The building behind you is blocking the signal. Can’t hook you up.” Then he told me I should move back to L.A. because he hates San Francisco. Uh…thanks for the welcome, homie!
I searched and hoped for other options and came to the sad conclusion that Comcast is my only option for cable here. Internet service options are no better. AT&T was like, “We don’t have cable here yet, but we’ll give you internet for a $200 equipment set up fee!” The hell?. I’ve had financially-vampiric relationships with Time Warner AND Comcast in the past along with shitty service, bait-and-switch package “deals” and calls with customer service so painful they make you want to kick that jerkface whokicked that poor puppy. The worst.
Resigned to my last resort, I grumbled and huffed as I spent two hours –TWOHOURS – on the phone with a Comcast reptrying to get the least wallet-rapey deal on a cable / internet bundle. This fool came at me with $200 a month for a bunch of channels I didn’t want, along with landline service that I had to include to get the best discount even though I said I haven’t had a landline since 200-I don’t remember and then tried to get in my business about splitting bills with roommates and such. Filled with frustration at the foolishness of this whole ordeal, I bit my tongue because I know he’s just doing his job. My beef is really with his evil overload monopolistic employer. But, dude why are you up in my budget? If I say I don’t want to spend $200 on service I resent ordering to begin with, I don’t want to spend $200, whether I have roommatehomieloverfriends to share in the swindle or not.
Given I’m currently not working, I know the responsible, adult thing to do (sigh) is cut back on some of my non-essential expenses. In my world, television is close to essential. I mean yeah, food, shelter, love, world peace and all that, but it’s TV and I’m a pop culture junkie/former wannabe actress. Cutting cable has always been a last resort to me. For me to even seriously consider cutting off the source of my visual pacifier represents a significant shift in my world. But, homegirl ain’t got no job and Comcast isn’t speaking any my love languages. Ultimately, I decided to put on my big girl bikini, take the plunge and tell Comcast that I needed to take our relationship in a different direction. This relationship is expensive as hell and I can’t even talk to them about it because they know they have the power! It’s wrong.
I know for some, cutting the cable cord is no big deal. Either they’re not big TV watchers or they have other, higher priority vices or kids who make it impossible for them to even sit through an entire show without distraction. However, if you are thinking of cutting the cord and scared of what life is like on the other side of cable, or if you’ve already cut the cord and want to maximize your viewing options, I’ll share how I did it.
Calling It Quits
I’m sure you heard about the infamously horrendous call from the annals of customer service fuckery between the Comcast customer who tried to cancel his service and a Comcast rep who was like, “But why you trying leave though?” on repeat. I truly wasn’t looking forward to calling and being harassed for trying to save some coin. I did some research before I called. Yes, girl/boy, I RESEARCHED this shit. That’s how serious it is. I learned the following from customers who were able to exit a call with Comcast unscathed:
If you want to cut off your service all together, no internet or cable, tell them that you are moving to another country. People swear by this. It’s important that you say you are moving internationally. Down the street or to Kansas doesn’t count. They will insist on following you like some stalker mess.
Be kind to the rep. This should go without saying, in general, but with Comcast’s reputation, I recognize it’s easy to be defensive from the jump, busting out the Vaseline, before you even pick up the phone. Just try to put your stankitude aside and think of the rep who just wants to work, hopefully without headache, and call it a day like the rest of us.
Find out in advance if there are “hidden” packages. The package I ended up with, Internet Blast, is one of their cheapest packages and not one they advertise. I got the low down on it from a friend.
I ended up with a cheery rep in Utah whom I charmed with quips and compliments about her disposition. I explained to her that I was recently laid off from my job, knowing that’d score me sympathy points and set the tone for what I am not here for and that’s a $200 package or even its cousin the $150 package. The call took less than 15 minutes and when it ended I didn’t feel like I’d gotten my whole body threaded. I traded in all those channels I don’t care about, as well as HD service and a DVR for a basic basic cable package with high-speed internet, saving myself nearly 60% each month.
Now What to Watch
Cutting the cord has never been easier with all the streaming TV and film options available. Easing my transition is the streaming trio of Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Amazon Prime Instant Video isn’t cheap, but I share my account with a few friends (they allow up to 4 people on one account), making the cost more reasonable. It seems like a good deal of their television content you have to purchase, but they have free episodes of entire seasons of some sitcoms and dramas, as well as some free and cheap movies. You can also buy TV shows by the season. Even if you do decide to by a season pass of your favorite show, the one time cost is still likely cheaper than paying Comcast an arm, a leg and a lung.
Between Hulu Plus and Netflix there’s plenty of streaming TV content. Netflix is killing their competition with their indie film and documentary selection. I’ve never heard so many people care about whale welfare until the Blackfish documentary blew up on Netflix. As with Amazon, you can share your account with others, though how much sharing you do is up to your personal ethics. Both services are $7.99/month, which is $2 more than the $5.99 “convenience fee” Comcast charges for conveniences I’m sure I never saw. “Comcast” and “convenience” are words that don’t belong anywhere near each other.
iTunes is another option and like Amazon isn’t cheap. However, similar to amazon, they offer the option of purchasing entire seasons of currently airing shows, so if you’re a semi-Bravoholic like I am, that’s an option for staying in the loop of those shows if you want to pay the price…which I’ll reiterate is still cheaper than promising a gaggle of goats to Comcast.
How to Watch It
I bought myself a Roku two Christmases ago and it’s on the list of my favorite electronic purchases. It’s relatively inexpensive and need I say, the one time cost is cheaper than giving one of your silver fillings to Comcast. The Roku allows you to watch your favorite streaming apps (they’re called channels) directly on your TV. Roku has something like over 500+ channels available including Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, Crackle, Plex, YogaGlo, PBS and tons more, many of which are free. Lifetime even has a channel and I discovered that you can watch some of their movies of the week.
Apple TV is another option for streaming channels. It is similar to the Roku, but integrated in Apple’s cult network of products.
The package I settled on includes a standard definition box. I bid a sad farewell to my HD DVR and in its place received transmission so bad I thought it was the ’80s again. What’s next? The Poltergeist screen of “things are about to get really bad for you”? I’m paying for this box and the channels keep fading out. That’s some nonsense. I remembered a particularly frugal friend of mine swearing by his indoor HD antenna. He let me borrow it once when I bought my first HDTV a few years ago. I thought it was cool that I could get these random channels I’d never heard of like Bounce and stations that end in .1 and .2.
There are many options for HD antennas, both indoor and outdoor. They enable you to watch the broadcast and multicast channels in your area. The signal strength depends on your distance from the station’s broadcast tower. You can check the DTV website to see what channels are available in your area. I purchased this one on Amazon and I have 33 channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. At least 10 of these channels are in Chinese, Vietnamese or Spanish; there’s even French news and a KPop channel; coming in clear, crisp, beautiful HD. Comcast, I’ll be sending back that standard piece of crap you sent me. What a joke.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I cut the cord and while I do admit to missing the ability to flip channels to find random content to watch, and I keep making phantom DVR movements (what do you mean I can’t rewiiiiinnnnd?!), I am surviving. I haven’t melted into a puddle yet. I’m not going through withdrawals. Eventually, I may want to invest in purchasing my own DVR/Tivo, but that’s a bit of a pricier endeavor. I am even at relative peace with the fact that I’ll not be able to watch my biggest TV addiction, The Real Housewives, in real-time, especially given Beverly Hills (real estate porn) and Atlanta (ROTFL-type shade) return soon. I’ll miss my fairly new habit of nerding out to Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on weekend mornings, but I’ll be okay. I’m happier and less cash poor since I changed the terms of my relationship with Comcast.
Have you gotten rid of your cable? Do you have any tips for surviving life after cable?
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.