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3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From An Unlikely Friendship

One of my closest friends is a white woman 30 years my senior – a Baby Boomer. We shared a cubicle wall back in the ’00s when we worked in IT at a large insurance company. I hated that job so much that some mornings I’d sit in my car and cry before leaving for the office.

It was the type of job where I had a micro-managing relic of a supervisor whom on a daily basis would periodically stroll by unsubtly peeking at our screens to make sure we weren’t surfing the internet. God forbid we take a break from the mind-numbing, inconsequential grunt work we were doing.

This is the same supervisor who for some reason couldn’t get my name right and would often refer to me by the name of one of the few other black female employees, who looked nothing like me and were at least 15 years older. I would pretend I didn’t hear him; after all, my name didn’t come out of his mouth.

Five days a week, I’d toil for hours at my desk in the large, window-deprived, cubicle farm boxed in by drab, ’70s-brown walls. An inappropriately loud middle-aged man who bang-typed on his keyboard and always seemed to be on the phone with his doctor discussing his various prescription meds, including one for ADHD, which explained a lot – sat in front of me. The back of his head, where unkempt gray hairs fought black for dominance, greeted me each time I looked up from my boxy monitor.

I worked in a Dilbert cartoon.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"
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I’d often wonder, as I looked upward, “Why am I here? Why do I have to go through this? I am miserable almost every day!”

I wondered what lessons I’d learn from this job, what I would take away from it. I figured there had to exist a reason beyond the below-market paycheck.

One afternoon, feeling trapped in the office and trying to make it through the day without screaming, I eavesdropped on my surrounding co-workers. To my left, on the other side of my cube wall, my neighbor ranted about yet another blunder of then-President George H. Bush. I heard her say:

“Of course, he’s from Texas. I’ve never met a person from Texas who I like.”

I stood up, peered over the wall and interjected shyly, “I’m from Texas. Well…kinda…I lived there junior high through college.”

My neighbor, JC, a blonde woman with a kind face, bright expressive eyes, and a voice that brings to mind your favorite elementary school teacher replied, “Well, I like you, so maybe Texas isn’t all bad.”

A friendship was born.

As we got better acquainted in the following months, we discovered that despite our age difference we shared more than a few commonalities. Our friendship cemented, when on a Friday night she came out to West Hollywood – risking traffic misery – to celebrate my 27th birthday with me and a bunch of my twenty-something friends. My friends liked her and I loved that she was game for anything – even hanging out with people who whine about being old at the age of 27.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"
Me with JC in 2005. One of my younger sisters was in town visiting and JC took us on a nature drive through the Santa Monica Mountains

In the many years that we’ve been friends, JC’s seen me through heartbreak, job changes and career struggles, supported me through growing pains and has taken me in on holidays since I don’t have family in California. She is like family to me.

It’s an unlikely friendship. I notice the curious looks we get sometimes when we’re out in public together – often joined by JC’s husband, to whom she’s been married almost as long as I’ve been alive. It’s difficult to quantify how much our friendship has enriched my life. However, there are valuable lessons I’ve picked up which I’d like to share.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"

1. Don’t Take Your Body or Health for Granted

A few years before I met JC, a man having an epileptic seizure while driving lost control of his car and plowed into her parked vehicle where she sat paying bills in the driver’s seat. The accident nearly killed her and almost destroyed her body. She spent nearly a year in the hospital undergoing multiple surgeries as well as physical and mental therapy.

A self-proclaimed nature lover and outdoors girl who grew up in the California desert, JC had to re-learn how to walk and use her body – now rebuilt with skin grafts and enough metal to alarm an airport detector.

Her life as a maven of the outdoors was never the same after the accident. She can’t hike the way she used to. There’s always a mobility walker in the trunk of her Prius which she uses to help with her balance. She suffers through pain almost daily due to lingering nerve damage.

In discussing her accident, JC always reminds me of the importance of appreciating my body, health and youth. Not taking for granted how hard my muscles work just so I can walk, run and jump. To respect the vitality and mobility youth enables. As we all know, that mobility and vitality isn’t everlasting.

Staying physically fit and healthy is a priority for me. I use my youth to my advantage. I want to be that 70-year old no one believes is 70 because she’s bursting with energy and in fantastic shape.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"

2. You Can Be Friends with People with Different Belief Systems

JC is friends with nearly everyone. She’s warm, talkative, vibrant and very likable. Souls are drawn to her open heart, even those who don’t share her firmly liberal beliefs, about which she is quite vocal.

Conservative friends of hers will send her inflammatory memes and Snopes-worthy articles which they’ll vehemently debate knowing neither party will budge. Yet, they remain friends, despite their warring political beliefs of the type some friendships fall out over. It’s a testament to the fact that she accepts people for who they are and genuinely wants the best for everyone.

Some of JC’s friends she’s known since her childhood and early adulthood – though that doesn’t keep her from making new friends. With those she’s close to, she keeps in touch regularly – even talking on that device we use to text and check our social media. I aspire to be able to say the same when I hit her age. Maintaining friendships is important.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"
In 2012 at Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton, California. JC and I both love animals.

3. Always be Learning and Seeking New Experiences

From time to time JC will remind me of a conversation we had years ago that changed the way she views people in public spaces. She’d invited me to an art festival in Orange County, about an hour south of Los Angeles. If you’re unfamiliar with the OC, many cities there aren’t exactly diverse. Driving to Orange County is sometimes derisively referred to by Angelenos as “crossing the orange curtain” because in several ways it’s the polar opposite of L.A.

Though art is totally my thing, I declined the invite and explained why. I’d had some uncomfortable racial experiences in the OC. Particularly in the region where the festival took place, which was and still is overwhelmingly white. Some people would stare at me like they’ d never seen a black person before or they’d just not even acknowledge my existence. It’s quite alienating.

JC said that she’d never thought about it that way before. She’d never really had to. She’d see a sprinkling of people of color in a crowd and think “ah, diversity.” She hadn’t given much thought to how it’d feel to always be the minority in public spaces and endure the weirdness that sometimes occurs. I laughed when one day she emailed me about an event she’d attended and how all she saw were “old white people.”

We’ve spoken fairly candidly about race over the years. She’s been open and receptive to learning about my experiences and how the world looks through my eyes. Likewise, I’ve learned a lot about her lens on the world.

As an avid traveler, JC’s always encouraged me to see the world. I recall one afternoon visiting her wonderfully quirky, ranch-style home up in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains and flipping through old photo albums as she narrated.

One album was full of photos taken on an African safari she’d gone on with her husband. As I turned the pages, I imagined how amazing it would be to visit Africa one day. For so long it had seemed like an unrealistic dream. Talking to JC about her experiences made it seem a more real and attainable goal to me.

In 2012, I visited Africa for the first time – Tanzania, specifically – and went on a safari. The entire trip was more incredible than I could have imagined. In the years since I met JC, I’ve visited countries on four different continents. I hope to make it to all seven by my 40th birthday.

Sometimes you find friendship in the most unlikely people. | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "3 Important Life Lessons I Learned From an Unlikely Friendship"
2012: On a safari in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania with zebras grazing in the background.

Sometimes, the reason we’re placed in difficult situations isn’t immediately obvious. I never imagined in all those mornings I wept over how much I disliked my job, that I would one day be grateful for the experience. Without it, I never would have made one of the best friends I could ever ask for.

Do you have any unlikely friendships? What lessons have you learned through your friendships?

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10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult

Photo cr: Rufino, flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/t9gZo | 10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is Black
Photo cr: Rufino, flickr.com

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 need friends.  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.

10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is Black

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?

Embrace What Makes You You | Inspiration | 10 Tips to Make Friends as an adult | The Girl Next Door is BlackTake 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.

Ask Yourself:

  • 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.

Time | Clocks | Photo cr: Sean MacEntee, flickr.com from 10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is Black
Make TIME in your life for friendship.
Photo cr: Sean MacEntee, flickr.com

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.

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Meeting People

Once you’ve laid the foundation for your friend search, it’s time to get tactical. How do you meet people?

Photo cr: Sue Waters, flickr.com Network from 10 tips for making friends as an adult | The Girl Next Door is Black
Lean into your network of friends and acquaintances to help you meet new people
Photo cr: Sue Waters, flickr.com
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 meetups and 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 course when 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!

A "Brony" Photo cr: Quinn Dombrowski, flickr.com from 10 Tips for making friends as an adult |The Girl Next Door is Black
A “Brony”
Photo cr: Quinn Dombrowski, flickr.com

I met a real-life Brony this 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.

Don't Wait for someone else to make the first move quote | 10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is BlackBeing 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’ll try almost anything at least once. A few years ago, I went to a Thai restaurant famous for their insect delicacywith 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.

Typhoon restaurant, Santa Monica, CA.  Crickets | 10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is Black
I said “Yes!” to crickets (with garlic rice to balance the taste) during dinner with new friends. (Typhoon restaurant, Santa Monica, CA.)
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 Anita led 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.

 Don't Give Up quote | 10 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult | The Girl Next Door is Black10. 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?

RESOURCES
Sports Groups
  • World Adult Kickball Association – a co-ed social sports organization, WAKA has leagues in 35 states for kickball, dodgeball and other “social sports.”
  • 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.
Social Groups
  • 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 Resources
  • 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.

Other Resources

  • 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 an events 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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Simple Tips for Hosting a Fabulous Girls’ Night In

Back in March I realized two things:

Photo cr: hmidweekpowerup.tumblr.com/
Photo cr: hmidweekpowerup.tumblr.com/

1. My personal life was like, “Hey girl, where you been?” My days seemed to consist of either being at work, thinking about work or recovering from the exhaustion of an intense workweek that left me so spent all I want nothing more than to recline on the couch, watching cartoon movies and other non-mentally taxing fare. In addition to that, most Thursday nights in the winter I played kickball with the company team. “I need to get a life!” I told my sister, N, during a phone chat. She chuckled. “I’m not insulting myself. I mean I actually need to get a life. This is pathetic. This isn’t me.”

2. A year and a half after moving to San Francisco, I kinda actually have some friends. Imagine that!

I decided to throw a party. Well…ok, not really a party, but a small gathering in my home – a place the size of one of Oprah’s walk-in closets at her Montecito ranch. A partini? A partito? Parties are even better with a theme so I settled on a “girls’ night in” since I’m acquainted with more women than men.

www.paperlesspost.com
I used Paperless Post to send the online invitations.

For nine of the years I lived in L.A., I threw an annual post-holiday party. Sadly, the last two holiday seasons sailed by without an event. I didn’t know enough people to legitimize throwing a party.

Who would I have invited? The mailperson who insists on cramming grocery ads in my mailbox even though I have unsubscribed from the junk? (You are not fooling anyone by crossing out the apartment number!) The Spanish teacher whose class I took when I first moved here? Would he insist on conversing only in Spanish? My chatty, eccentric chiropractor? She’d be trying to recruit clients all night, no doubt. (“Stand here. Look in this mirror. Now, do you see how lopsided you are when you stand up straight?! It’s incredible, isn’t it? Come to my office; I’ll fix it! Life changing!”)

Or maybe the inquisitive, cherub-cheeked young checker at my local grocery store who always comments when I buy Now & Laters, “Oh! I haven’t had these since I was a kid.” The same comment every time. Well, I still eat them because my one true addiction sugar. I’m trying to get the monkey off my back, but it’s clinging to me like Spanx! And anyway, I hate when people feel the need to make commentary on my purchases.

Sometimes you just want a fun night in with your girlfriends. Here are simple tips to plan a girls' night in your friends will love! | The Girl Next Door is Black

 

I bought a new bench for extra seating space; it also functions as a storage trunk!
I bought a new bench for extra seating; it also functions as a storage space!

THE GUESTS

I limited the guest list to 12, including me. A mix of women I know from work, friends of friends who are now my friends, a few women I met thanks to Girlfriend Circles and friends from L.A. who now live here. A fun, diverse group of women in their early to mid-30s (and one late twenty-something).
Tip: I always invite more people to a party than my place can handle. Unless you’re throwing an “I’m handing out free cash and weed!” party, the acceptance rate will probably be around 60 – 70%. This is not a scientific figure, I just know from experience throwing many events. Plus, there are almost always last-minute cancellations.

THE SOUNDTRACK

Have you ever been to a party without music? I really don’t understand it. What kind of party is that? A wake?

DJ Keisha Keish streamed a mix of hip-hop, hip-pop & top 40, prompting song requests from the group and shameful admissions of liking music you know is offensive and sometimes downright misogynistic, but the beat is so damn good you can’t help yourself. See: almost anything by Juicy J.

Tip: Prepare a playlist in advance, keeping in mind the mood you wish to set. Consider asking guests for their favorite songs to add to the playlist.

This UE Mini Boom speaker is one of my best purchases in recent history. Love it!  Great for us during a Girls' Night In. See more on The Girl Next Door is Black
This UE Mini Boom speaker is one of my best purchases in recent history. Love it!

BITES & BUBBLES

Inspired by friends who are avid Pinterest-projecters, I turned to the site to find ideas for the food and drink menu. I decided on a combination of fun finger foods like tangy barbecue meatballs, one “sophisticated” dish, recipe by Martha Stewart; and a bubbly, easy-to-make Kir Royale as the signature drink.

Tip: I created a Pinterest board to save ideas for appetizers and drinks. 

Follow Keisha | The Girl Next Door is Black (a blog)’s board Are you NOT entertained? on Pinterest.

I saved prep time by shopping for most of the groceries on Instacart. Thanks to Google Shopping Express I also ordered party supplies online, including a couple of serving dishes I neglected to purchase and ordered the night before the partito for delivery the next morning.

GAMES & GIGGLES

The party gave me the perfect excuse to break out the Cards Against Humanity game gifted to me on my last birthday.

The first player (The “Card Czar”) is determined by answering the question “Who pooped most recently?” Of course, this means as a group you have to actually talk about when you pooped. I learned more about my new friends’ bowel movements than I could never have imagined or necessarily wanted to know.

“I think at like 10 this morning after breakfast?”
“I go every morning like clockwork!”
“If I don’t poop daily I get really cranky!”

Games and candy "tapas" are a good idea for Girls' Night In snacks foods ...Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Games and candy “tapas”

After titters, giggles and me being teased for the many faces of disgust I made each time someone said “poop” (damn my vivid imagination!), the game commenced.

Cards Against Humanity is a fun "adult" game to play during a Girls' Night In...sea more ideas on The Girl Next Door is BlackWe spent most of the evening talking and laughing, digressions in conversation alternating with each round of the game. Topics veering from secrets of aging well to the details of G’s recent engagement (“How did he ask?” “What a pretty ring!” “Were you surprised?”) and careers (one of my friends is a urologist which always fascinates people) and every single gal’s favorite topic: dating (blech).

I’d intended to have Magic Mike playing in the background. My friend E surprised me with the DVD for Valentine’s Day this year, knowing my uncharacteristic affinity (read: crush from afar of embarrassing proportions) for Channing Tatum. What a pal!. However, the WORST ELECTRONIC DEVICE I HAVE EVER PURCHASED aka my Blu Ray player wouldn’t play the movie. Gotdamn piece of nothing good.

Tip: Something inevitably will go wrong at a party; roll with it and adjust. Don’t freak out and be that host(ess).

The party wound down naturally after hours of belly laughing and too many champagne cocktails on my part. My guests left with smiles, new acquaintances made, good times had, exchanges of hugs and “We have to get together again soon!” As I closed the door behind the last guest just before midnight, I grinned with the satisfaction of successfully pulling off my first party in San Francisco.

On Being Black in San Francisco: A Snapshot

Photo cr: massiveselector.com
Photo cr: massiveselector.com

Last night, my sister, my friend “Mercy” and I were on the bus returning from Oakland’s First Music Festival (a blast!). We were exhaustedly babbling, trying to figure out what to do for dinner (sleep sounded like a great option!) when a young guy behind us interjected:

“Excuse me ladies…”

Oh lord. Don’t let this be some lame line. I am too tired.

“Excuse me ladies, but I just have to tell you how refreshing it is to see three African-American women on this bus. On any bus here really.”

Oh. Well…yeah. 

We all nodded laughed knowingly. We get it. There are so few of us here – particularly the young and upwardly mobile. You get so used to being the only one on the daily. It’s like we’re unicorns, aliens or endangered species; so, when you see another, it makes an imprint.

We chatted with him for a little while (he did, not-so-subtly, but charmingly, try to get one of our phone numbers indiscriminately) about the festival and his job at one of the museums in the City.

No numbers were exchanged, no wondrous epiphanies had, just a pleasant and notable encounter among strangers on a bus.

Side note: I’ve visited Oakland four or five times in the 11 months I’ve been living in San Francisco and I gotta say, Oakland just might be cooler than San Francisco. *Ducking flying objects*

You’ve Got a Friend…in San Francisco?

I officially have my first San Francisco friend! I’m a couple of weeks shy of my 6-month marker of living in the City and I can now boast a new friend. This friend was hard-earned. I am not a hermit, I am not shy, I smile at strangers, I say nice things to people, I shower regularly and smell good. Should be a friend magnet, right? No.  Hhhhheeelll no.

I couldn’t even get hit on here. Usually if there’s one thing I can count on in life, it’s that a creepy guy with no sense of personal boundaries will hit on me. Not only did I feel friendless, but ugly. Maybe I don’t smell as good as I think I do.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
The city is pretty cool, but what about the people?

As I often do when I have questions about life, I turned to Google. Google, why is it so hard to meet people and make friends in San Francisco? Google had all kinds of answer for me from the condescendingly unhelpful (“It’s so easy! Just get of your house and talk to people.” Shut. Up.) to a post titled, “Top 10 Reasons I Hate San Francisco. The reasons listed didn’t really resonate with me and I believe it was written with humorous intent. However, the comments section was a revelation. In a city where some residents seem to have a cult-like passion and exuberance for said city – akin to the insane levels of excitement you’d find in Oprah’s audience on a “My Favorite Things” show; nobody is giving you a car, calm down – I was surprised to find this seemingly small faction of San Francisco dissenters. One commenter stated:

I also loved the city when I first moved here (because I was still a tourist), but it got worse over time, not better. I have lived in San Francisco for two years now, and I hate it more than I ever did. Don’t get me wrong – I love the city and the bay area, but the people really suck here. I have never met so many cold, distant, unfriendly, rude, selfish, insular, stuck up people in one place! The east bay is a little better, but not much.

Cold. Distant. Unfriendly. Insular. I felt all those things.

Another commenter added:

I have never felt more strongly about something in my life. San Francisco is extremely clicky[sic]. It could take 2 years to get on the inside of a click because people are so distant and self preserving and guarded. Everyone has their forcefield up and it is designed to keep you out, along with everyone else they don’t know. My advice would be not to bother. Just cut your losses and leave now before you get bitter about the people here.

Hmm. Sounded like people at work. I could also feel the bitterness building. This anonymous poster was speaking directly to me.

For advice, I called an L.A. friend who moved to Seattle almost two years ago. At a party, if I’m cracking wise in a small group, she is

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
Not just the city that’s cold?

the party. If anyone could give me advice on making friends, she could. She told me about the “Seattle Freeze.” The Seattle Freeze is a newer term for the feelings of exclusion and insularity newbies feel from Seattleites. She theorized that Seattle residents encounter so many transplants, it tires them; they become desensitized and seek refuge in their cliques. Others blame: the Norwegians?

She admitted that after only a year and a half, having been adopted into a couple of cliques, she was guilty of perpetuating the ice-out. I don’t think we have an above-average number of Norwegians here, but it sounds like San Francisco to me. She reassured me that I was doing all the right things: saying yes to (most) invitations, trying to infiltrate cliques, taking initiative and extending invitations to people, being friendly when I’m out and joining activities. Just one thing though: it’s going to take time. I hate time. Take your time and shove it! Time is never on my side. When I’m lying prone on the floor, bawling and rolling around, desperately wishing for the heart-squeezing pain to end, because some guy broke my heart, the clock ticks like it’s mocking me. Hours seems to take years to pass. Snails laugh as they sail by. On the other hand, when I’m on vacation, thinking how much I love life and never want to leave, and why can’t I have Beyonce-money and just travel all the time, suddenly time is on speed, running as fast as it can, like it’s a damn race. Jerk.

Time. Ugh. But, it is what it is (don’t you hate when people say that?).

During this time, there are four avenues I’ve taken toward making friends – with varying levels of success.

Work

Some will warn you against making friendly with co-workers. I say bullshit. Several of my closest friends are former co-workers. I wouldn’t give them back. Just be smart about whom you associate with and trust. The heifer down the hall that gives you looks that say she hopes you fall on your face in a pool of acid-rain wastewater and is constantly throwing others under the bus, is not a good candidate for friendship.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
How I sometimes feel in San Francisco. Photo cr: kainr, flickr.com

The weekend after the torturous wine-tasting with the private social club, I was feeling particularly black and tired. At less than 6%, San Francisco’s black population is the smallest I’ve ever been among, having lived in seven other major US cities. The city has been hemorrhaging so many black folks in the past 40 years, a task force was created to determine the cause and nip it. It’s weeeiird. I’ve written before about how I feel people treat and approach (or don’t approach me) me differently here. Crystal Sykes wrote a thoughtful piece about hipster racism in San Francisco and how awkward it can be as the only black person among a group of friends (read the comments; the discussion is fascinating). As a black male friend and former Berkeley resident summed up:

“…I always would think it’s just in my head or I’m being hypersensitive, until I would leave the Bay Area. Despite being the only Black person I saw in my several trips to Santa Fé, NM, everyone there made me feel like I belonged – and it wasn’t at all forced. I merely concluded that they made everyone feel like they belonged there, and that was just the culture. But I was suspicious that I had a doppelgänger in Santa Fé who had been a longtime resident, and everyone thought I was him. Los Angeles, New York, even Houston – none of those places gave me that out-of-place feeling that shopping at Andronico’s on Shattuck in North Berkeley or waiting in line at Cheeseboard pizza gave me. Only on campus or on Telegraph Avenue was that feeling relatively absent. It’s such a subtle thing, and virtually impossible to explain to someone who isn’t experiencing it, but cumulatively it weighs on you.”

Amen.

In December, I wrote about going dancing with one of my co-workers, whom I’ll refer to as Mercy since I am listening to the song as I write this. She is also the first co-worker who mercifully extended a hand of friendship to me when I was aching for human interaction two months in. After the dancing night, we’ve had lunch at work a few times and were friendly. But, recently our budding friendship hit a major milestone: self-disclosure.

I ran into her in the office the weekend after the wine tasting fail. Mercy is also black (one of the 3% in the company) . When she asked me about my weekend I told her about the wine tasting weirdness. Then, I blurted out, “I have to ask you something…how do you deal with being one of so few black professionals in San Francisco? I just don’t know if I can take this or want to take this.” We chatted about it for a little while, but we had to get back to work.

The following weekend, I received a surprise text from her saying, “We need to finish our conversation about being black in SF.” A weekend text out of the blue? This is MAJOR. It was particularly poignant given I’d just finished eating lunch at a restaurant, alone. She asked if I wanted to grab tea and continue our chat. We met in Japantown at the cutest tea shop/café and I just exhaled a lot of the stress I’d been feeling over the past 4-5 months. She totally got it. She said that after over 7 years of living here, she’s gotten used to it, for better or worse. She relies on her friends for support. Her friends treat her like Mercy, not black Mercy.

It wasn’t all about me though. I am not that person. She disclosed some stuff of her own, which I will not be sharing for the sake of her privacy. Tea led to us seeing a movie (Life of Pi) and tentative plans for all the cool things we can do in the future. It was like a cool, awesome date. We’ve hung out since then too (and did some more self-disclosing). I like her. She’s intelligent, thoughtful, fun and has an appealing mix of openness and strength that I don’t encounter often enough. She’s affable and she’s my new friend. And look what I came in to work to find from her one Monday morning!

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
How sweet is this?

The group of girls I went to happy hour with a couple of months ago, have continued extending happy hour invites. A few months ago people were rudely discussing their excitement, in my presence, about the happy hour I wasn’t invited to after work. Now, I am regularly being invited to happy hours (By a different group. I didn’t want to hang out with those other people anyway. Humph!). They remind me of some of my friends from college.

I sit in a new prison cube and my current neighbors are much more sociable than the former. The old neighbors were (mostly) nice enough, but quiet. Silence makes the day draaaaaag. On one side of my new seat, is a woman around my age from a country in Latin America. She’s been in the US for less than two years. She is very expressive, open, a close-talker, somewhat unfiltered and effervescent. I was drawn to her pretty immediately because I loved her energy and she also seemed open to friendship.

She often (hilariously) laments to me how she doesn’t understand people here. But, “here” for her is the United States. She’s only ever lived in San Francisco. Having lived in several different cities across multiple states, I felt quite confident in telling her: This is San Francisco; the bizarro behavior you just witnessed is not generalizable to the US as a whole. We’re both feeling like fish out of water, but for different reasons. It’s comforting having her to talk to when I have those “WTF?!” moments. On the other side is my neighbor who wants to put *NSYNC posters up on our shared wall. I could not be happier…with my neighbors.

Private Social Club

You will not be advancing on my tour of friendship.Get off my bus. Bye.

My Friend Has a Friend

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
My friend, L, arrived in San Francisco when I was really missing the comforts of home. Mood booster x 10.

I am so in love with my other friends (and my family) right now. They have been the biggest source of support for me during this adjustment. Whether it be supportive comments on my blog posts, Skype chats, phone calls, emails or visits, I have never been more grateful for the knowledge that someone else out there cares about me. A few of my friends have kindly offered to hook me up with other friends they have in the City. There’s no guarantee that your friends will like each other. I have friends from all kinds of groups and I know some of them do not like the others. Hehe.

When my L.A. friend “E” came up for a visit, she introduced me to her former co-worker, J, at brunch. It didn’t take long for me to like J. Her energy is enviable. If I could bottle her into a trendy energy-drink I’d have baller money. The feeling seemed mutual as we exchanged emails and phone numbers that day. I’ve made plans with J for a follow-up brunch. So, there’s potential.

One of my L.A. girlfriends/co-worker/work wife moved up here two months before I did. We actually work at the same company – again – but, in different departments. Unfortunately, she has some family stuff going on and a boyfriend that’s kept her busy, so we surprisingly haven’t seen each other much. Though that is changing. I’m so thankful she was here to celebrate my birthday with me! She grew up in the Bay Area and knows some people here. She’s shared one of her friends with me, another former Angeleno who owns a trendy boutique in the city. I like that she’s not in tech as I’m starting to really tire of tech people (if I never hear the word “start-up” again…). She seems to know an interesting blend of people and set up a good social network for herself in the few years she’s been here.

Girlfriend Circles

Girlfriend Circles has been the best route for making friends, of the XX variety at least.

I’ve been on the site for just about two months and met some really dynamic women. I moved here in hopes of meeting, um, more uh, intellectual people (I’m not saying they don’t exist in L.A., some of them are my friends!) and I definitely have with this group. During one dinner I was grouped with two published authors, one of whom was also a chocolatier (seriously, how many people can claim that as a career!), a software engineer, a physician and a paralegal. They were all in my age group as many events are segmented by age; it really helps. It was a fun and engaging dinner and we all agreed we’d like to meet up again as a group.

In addition to attending official “circles”, I’ve hung out with some of the girls outside of the circles , after the initial meets – which is ultimately the point.

There’s M- (the paralegal) and Ra-(also a software engineer), whom I met around the same time and had met each other a couple of months prior. They’re chill and down-to-earth. I’ve gone hiking and to dinners with them.

CC is an enigma to me. She’s an accountant by profession, but loves to sing and listen to opera. She’s quirky and dresses fabulously avant-garde. It’s fun to see what she’ll wear next. I have a feeling she’s not for everyone, but I think she’s interesting. We went out to have dessert one night and she casually mentioned Kim Kardashian. I have never been so happy to hear that vacuous girl’s name. Yeah, I like to be intellectual and hoity-toity and all, but I am also the girl who loves her US Weekly. A good pop-culture chat does an overly-taxed mind good (spending all day in a staid corporate environment, where I have to be on my best behavior all the day long, means I need some levity and fun outside of work). You can also combine the two and arrogantly wax on about how Kim’s popularity represents the downfall of societal values.

The dinner group had scheduled a brunch for a couple of weekends later. Unfortunately, only Jo, H-, Ra- and I could make it. Brunch was fun; the conversation flowed freely. Ra- had to leave early, but the rest of us lingered awhile after the bill was paid. We somehow ended up on the topic of shopping (go figure) and decided to check out the shops in Jo’s neighborhood. At one store,  I found a hot pair of shoes and as I debated buying them, they both encouraged me to go for it since they were on sale and so cute. These are my kind of girls: shopping enablers. After shopping, Jo invited H- and I to her apartment for a drink. We spent the next few hours planted on her comfortable chairs, listening to music, and chatting about all manner of topics: cooking, dating, marriage, careers and how I think I’m having an early mid-life crisis. They were amused by my random knowledge from falling into Wikipedia holes. It was supportive, engaging, funny and comfortable.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
These make me happy

I knew this trio really had potential when we were talking about cutting the cord from expensive cable and H- said, “I want to get rid of cable, but I need Bravo.” She didn’t say it ironically and pretend like she would never dare watch such treacle. She was sheepish, but owned it. Did I mention I’m a Real Housewives junkie? I’m an OG viewer. I started with episode one of The Real Housewives of Orange County all those years ago. She’s more into Top Chef, but I can dig it. I love good food, but it frustrates me to watch people cooking good food on TV that I can’t eat with them! Bravo disciples know there is something not right with the hold that station has on their viewing habits, but most of us accept it, ignore our feelings of cognitive dissonance and tune in. Jo, H- and I hung out again this weekend and had just as much fun as the last time. This shows promise, but I’m not counting my chickens just yet…

I’m nearing the point where I’ll have to shift focus from meeting new people to building the friendships I’m developing. It’s already becoming a challenge to fit in repeat dates with the new dates. I understand what Rachel Bertsche meant in MWF Seeking BFF. It’s a great problem to have though; it certainly beats sitting at home contemplating ways to reuse all the fur my cats shed (I’ve got nothin’!). Besides, meeting new people all the time is exhausting. However, I’m not going to pull it back just yet. This is just the beginning. It’s finally starting to become fun. I am hopeful and curious to see what’s in store over the next few months on my tour of friendship.

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Making Friends: Paying Dues

Much like dating, the search for friends is filled with highs and lows, wins and losses. If you’re lucky, you meet your soulmate(s) right out of the gate. Unfortunately – and probably more likely – you end up wading through a lot of muck in search of your new mate(s).

I joined a “private social club” a few weeks ago. I read about it in a blog post on ways to meet people in San Francisco. I didn’t know such things existed outside of Ivy League enclaves, the East Coast and thrillers where club members are evil and plot to kill each other. The idea intrigued me. It sounded like a co-ed frat for grown folks.  Could be awesome, could be horrible.

I applied on their website and the next day received a call from a member coordinator for a brief phone screening. She asked me basics like why I was joining (I’m new to SF and largely friendless), what I was looking for (friends, obvs) and what adventures I like to do for fun (most things that don’t involve heights, but even then…). I passed and made it through to the hour-long phone interview with a member rep.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
I’m ready for adventure!

I should have known from the awkward conversation I had with the member rep that no good could come from this endeavor. You know how you can talk to someone and you just don’t vibe? They don’t laugh when things are clearly funny, because it’s a given that you are hilarious; they aren’t really listening to you because they ask you questions that you’ve previously answered and there are uncomfortably long pauses that leave you going, “Uh, hello, are you still there?” Work with me dude; it takes two to have a conversation!

Despite the laughably unfun interview, I did well enough to garner an invitation to join the club. I accepted, as they sold me with their 30-40 scheduled events a month, promise of adventure (kayaking! hiking! skydiving! trips to Belize!) and, of course, potential new friends (median age of members is 35). They boast a member roster numbering in the hundreds. Visions of my future awesome life flashed before my eyes.

There is a three-week membership trial period. During that period if you attend three events in your first three weeks and don’t like it, you can opt-out and get a refund.

Oh yeah. That. None of this “awesomeness” is free. There’s a one-time initiation fee and a monthly fee, like with a gym membership. I figured, worst comes to worst, I’m out the first month’s fee.

It’s been a month. I’ve attended all three events and, well, you can guess whether I jumped ship.

Event One

Wine tasting in Santa Rosa. Eight hours spent with strangers.

I like people. When I’m not hating the awful things we do to each other (Steubenville, ugh), I find us fascinating. From that perspective, more often than not, I can find a common thread to connect with people I meet. I met a mathematician a few weeks ago. I hate math. It’s an awful subject put on this earth to make my life more difficult and drag down my SAT scores in high school. Yet, he and I had a fun conversation. But, during this event, I was at a loss.

When I showed up at the designated meeting spot, three of the group of 10 who’d signed up were seated at a table in a nearby restaurant. “We ordered mimosas!” the enthusiastic hostess told me (each event has a host). I joined the group at the table. They were engrossed in a dull conversation (I don’t even remember what about, dust or some shit). The lone male made a joke about Chinese food that I thought was vaguely racist. However, I couldn’t be sure. Let the fun begin! I wanted to like him, but his social skills were questionable, which made it tough. No one acknowledged my presence.

The mimosas arrived: three glasses for three people. The waiter was off before I could ask for one myself. No one, but me, cared about my mimosa conundrum. Fifteen minutes after my arrival, one of the especially chatty women, who spoke with a Kathleen Turner-esque rasp, stopped talking and laughing at her own “jokes” (I think they were meant to be jokes, but they weren’t funny, so who knows?) for a nanosecond. I introduced myself. They gave me their names and continued their conversation about mothballs or the fur that grows on kiwi. Kathleen Turner-rasp and her female buddy became the dominators of the group that day with their incessant chatter and over-the-top enthusiasm for all things uninteresting; this was not a good thing.

Filling out the group was a trio of two men and a woman, hippie-ish types, who mostly kept to themselves; a woman who was either 45 or 54 and seemed incredibly and uncomfortably (for others) insecure, which is very unappealing in a person over the age of 30.

[An aside: I have a natural inclination to take in social outcasts. Perhaps it’s from having moved around so much and repeatedly having the experience of being the new girl trying to fit in. I hate for anyone to feel left out or bullied. But, it’s dangerous. More than once I’ve ended up with an overly attached, energy-sucking, take-everything-too-personally friend that I have to remove from my life with a surgical knife.]

I had to keep my distance from madame insécurité.

Lastly was a very perplexing youngish woman. She could have been an extra in The Craft, but, when she spoke, she could have passed for ditzy-ish sorority girl. She wore black thigh-high garter belt-ready tights, thick black clogs and a dark black suede dress. Throughout the day I wondered if she was hot. I was hot in lighter colors. She seemed nice enough, but we weren’t a match. I’m also pretty sure I was the youngest person of the group and I am no calf.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Hook & Ladder Winery

A few years ago, I realized I’d developed an allergy to wine. It’s generally not worth it to me to put myself through the pain and suffering wine-ingesting causes. I’ve always been more of a beer or vodka girl anyhow, so don’t feel pity for me. But, this was the only event of the week I could attend.

Despite the allergies, at each winery I tried to drink copious amounts of sample-wine, knowing I’d pay dearly for it later, especially that spiteful red wine. I wished I could have just suckled straight from the barrels. Unfortunately, we were wine tasting, not wine guzzling, so I had to maintain some decorum. I needed to get as drunk as possible as fast as possible to deal with this… day.

At the last winery I’d finally drank enough to increase my patience by a tenth. I made chit-chat with the host, who hails from a state I’ve not yet visited and find curious. As such, I peppered her with questions. I actually liked her, but as she’s employed by the club, her job isn’t to find friends.

Kathleen Turner-rasp’s pal joined our conversation. Inevitably, my “favorite” question was posed, “How do you like San Francisco?” with the familiar tone that indicates the expected response is, “OMGitssoawesomeIloveit bestcityever, go hipsters!” I gave her my standard spiel about how it’s an adjustment and it’s weird that there are only four other upwardly mobile black people in the city and people get all “OMG, a black person who speaks “well” and has a white-collar job, I don’t know how to handle it!” (Or perhaps I just said it could get uncomfortable at times, people treat me differently, etc.)

She replied with this gem:“But, doesn’t it make you feel special?” In my head, I bitch-slapped some sense into her; in real life I laughed, trying hard to contain my derision and answered, “Nope, I would rather feel normal just like everyone else.” I don’t have a lot of patience for people who I think don’t take the time to see the world from outside of their personal prism.

You try feeling “special” for years on end and see how fast that gets old. (“Does your skin get darker in the sun?” “Did you get your job by affirmative action?” “Oh your dad has his PhD? I don’t know why I assumed he’s got a blue collar job.” “Can I touch your hair? It’s so cool!”)

Although, she could be on to something. If I’m special, I need to act like it. “Bow down, bitches,” indeed. I’ll demand reverence wherever I roam. At work, I can refuse to do the things I think are beneath me because “I’m special.” I should be getting a discount on my rent because, dammit, I’m special. They’re lucky I deign to live in their building!

I felt hostage in the van on the ride up and back. I was forced to listen to adult contemporary music, which, in my view, induces premature aging and thus terrifies me. They didn’t seem like the Top 40 crowd (I wouldn’t have dared gone as far as hip-hop) so I didn’t object; it wasn’t worth expelling the energy. I suffered in silence.

I later found out one of the hippie-ish guys found Kathleen Turner-rasp and pal, as well as most of the rest of the group, equally annoying. This explains why he and his trio opted out of dinner after wine tasting. I also opted out of dinner. Fuck no, I wasn’t sitting through more of this torture. As we parted ways, the host said she hoped to see me again with a knowing look. She had to have known it wasn’t the best.event.ever! for me.

When I got home, I hugged my cat and my couch. Ah, comfort.

Event Two

Moroccan Dinner

Well, it was supposed to be a Moroccan dinner – one of their more calm events. The day of the event, the hostess (a different one) called and informed they cancelled the dinner. “We’re all going to Bar X to celebrate a member’s birthday.” I didn’t know the member from a random on the bus. But, I had three events to attend and this was the only one I could make that week.

When I arrived at the bar, the hostess texted me that they were on the patio. The patio was packed. She told me they were seated next to a guy in a giant tophat, so I approached a group with a man wearing a large Uncle Sam hat. They were not part of the club. You mean to tell me there is more than one dude here wearing an oversized attention-seeking costume hat? The answer is yes.

As I made my way through the crowded patio looking for them, a giant elbowed me in the head. Okay, perhaps he wasn’t a giant, but at 5’1”, anyone above 5’10” is gigantic. He had to have been at least 6’4”. He didn’t apologize, so I gave him a look that said, “Mofo, you WILL be apologizing.” Instead, he patted me on the head(!), the way you would pat a curious, precocious child on the head as you tell them to be on their merry way. I’m a grown ass woman and this asshole just patted me on the head. I glowered and kept it moving.

I finally found the hostess. Part of the hostess’s job is to introduce you to the group and help you to not feel alone. She quickly introduced me to five people and then stated, “Ok, I am heading out with my friend. Have fun!”

Great. You’ve introduced me to five people, one of whom is the middle-aged low self-esteem (LSE) woman from the wine trip. Another is the guy who head-bowed me and then child-patted me. He also happens to be the birthday guy and guest of honor. Awkward!

Given my options, the fact that LSE was talking to a black woman (the only other black person I saw) and my new hobby since moving to San Francisco is collecting black people, I joined her group. LSE was enthusiastically retelling the saga of her broken hip and its healing.

Here’s the difference between a simple injury and aging: when you’re young and have a simple injury it’s usually because you’ve for instance, blown out your knee from overzealous, improper running. When you’re aging, if you break a hip, it’s because your body is like, “Look, hon, we’ve been around a while. Shit’s about to start breaking down. All that abuse you piled on me in your youth is coming back for you. Body karma. Get ready!” She was describing the latter.

I had nothing to contribute as my hips are fine. The black woman walked away shortly after we exchanged greetings, having seen an old friend. I desperately looked around for people to talk to who appeared to be my age. No one from the club. It would probably have looked bad if I joined a whole group of strangers not-related to the group instead. I stayed put and pretended to be interested.

There appeared to be only one waitress working the patio. She was nowhere to be seen for 20 minutes. When I finally flagged her down, she hurriedly told me she’d return. I waited for another 20 minutes. In that time, I continued pretending to be fascinated by unstimulating conversations while I daydreamed of the more interesting places I wished I was. Finally, I told the group, “I’m going to see if I can track down a waitress.” I headed toward the bar, walked out of the restaurant and straight to my bus stop.

Bye people, just bye. I’m not exactly proud of that behavior, but I hate feeling trapped.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Oh sweet, sweet, alcohol – how you help make awkward social situations a little bit better.

Event Three

Barbecue

I was weary and full of low expectations for this third (and last?) event. On their website, they hail it as a great way for members, especially new ones, to mingle and enjoy some grilled grub. I arrived 45-minutes after start time to find a pitiful scene of just five people, including the blonde guy who made the vaguely racist joke from the wine tasting; a really loud older man who was practically shouting at the middle-aged woman sitting right in front of him and a little yappy dog.

Each day, I grow to dislike yappy, tiny dogs less and less. I blame the brainless, socialite-wannabes who carry them around like accessories, as well as the dogs’ generally annoying predilection for acting like they are bigger than they are and yapping with their laughably tiny little barks. I know how it is to be little and want to make sure people take you seriously. I get it. But, you don’t see me yelling at people bigger than I in a wee voice as I puff up my chest and preen. (There is one adorable chihuahua in Austin who is like my dog-niece. I adore her. She is exempt.)

There was no food ready and the cash bar hadn’t been set up yet. Oh, yes, the cash bar. Despite the not-insignificant initiation fee and the monthly dues, they charged a nominal amount for beverages, though food was included.

I tried to make conversation with the blonde, but it was painful. It was like he was wearing Keisha-repellent; I just could not like him. Finally, about an hour and fifteen minutes after start time, the cash bar was set up. The beer options were Heineken and Pacifico which is like Mexican Bud Light – water. Having thrown a party or ten in my life, I know that if you’re going to provide few beer options, at least choose one light and one dark for variety. I’ve nothing against Heineken, but I resent paying for one of two beer options.

The older man with a penchant for yelling announced to the women at the bar with delight, “Hey ladies, I’ve got a chick drink for you. It’s called a winemarita! Harharhar!” He laughed loudly and proudly at his comedy. Lame and offensive: two traits I love in potential new friends. I ignored him and my desire to “show him” by asking for a big-ass glass of scotch and asked for a Heineken, which I finished in about 10 minutes and had to ask for another. Oh, what I would have done for a Belgian ale right about then.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Now *this* is a beer selection! (I took this photo when I visited Bruges, Belgium a few years ago.)

I ended up in conversation with a woman whom I found out is 55. I am not ageist, (here comes my, “I am not _____, my best friend is _____” qualifier) one of my dearest friends is nearing 70. But, I am not looking for sexagenarian clique (or in this case, a quinquagenarian clique) any more than she wants to actively seek a crew of thirty-somethings whining about how old they are when they don’t even know how good they have it.

I was just beyond frustrated that while they claimed their median member age is 35, I seemed to only meet members well above the line. I asked her why she joined the club. She was recently divorced and looking to meet people as a newly single woman. As she told me about the first disastrous event she attended (only three people showed up for what was supposed to be a medium-sized event) and mentioned the founder called her to see if he could assuage her concerns about the club, I detected more than a hint of bitterness. She didn’t seem anymore excited about this motley crew than I.

She suggested a couple of non-meetup organizations I can join centered around travel and philanthropy, my twin loves. We talked for about half an hour. While she was interesting enough, I wanted to mingle to make sure I gave this club a fair shot. We broke and I make a beeline for a group of people who looked to be around my age. I heard them talking about skydiving. A guy protested, “But, it’s $300 to do it!” A woman rebutted, “No it’s not, it’s like $50!” Upon noticing my arrival, he put his fingers to his mouth, looked at the group, looked at me and then motioned, “Shhhhh.”

I think two things about this. First, homie is freaking rude. Second, what kind of sketchville stuff is going on here? I remember noticing the large discrepancy between what I paid for the wine tasting three weeks ago and what I read the event actually costs for the general public. Were they discussing the club’s markup on skydiving? And newbie me may just have overheard discussion of their sketchy practices to generate more income? I didn’t give a flip. I don’t have patience for ridiculous rudeness. I said with annoyance, “Ohhhhkaaaaaay then,” and walked off.

I chatted with another woman briefly, who was nice enough, but clearly painfully shy and I didn’t have the energy to be the one making most of the conversation. Someone announced that some food was ready. Great, I was hungry after drinking all that Heineken! I walked down into the backyard to find fresh off the rack, grilled chicken. No burgers, no hot dogs and a few sausages. Who the hell leads a barbecue with chicken?! The most boring meat on the planet?! Nobody comes to a barbecue for chicken! Very few Americans invite you over to their house for a barbecue and try to tantalize potential guests with the lure of boring-ass chicken. Where are the damned dead cows?! We have a ton of cows all over the state. I’ve seen them, go to the Central Valley!

I grabbed a sausage and walked over to a young Japanese guy. He told me he just arrived in the US a couple of days ago and he and his friends/classmates are here for a few months to study. Again, agreeable enough, but I am not trying to befriend people who have a definite departure date. I have enough friends in other cities and countries. That is not the problem.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Boring-ass meat

I headed back upstairs to make one more round. I saw another woman my age. She looked oddly SoCal-ish, wearing a light cover-up top over a bikini, long shorts and flip-flops. I asked her, “Did you just come from the beach?” She replied, “No. It’s just comfortable.”

What.in.THE.hell?!

Far be it from me to judge someone’s comfort fashion, but is it not a little odd to wear a bikini around when you aren’t doing anything remotely related to water? And San Francisco is almost always chilly after 4pm?

She then asked me, “Are you wearing one too?” I looked down at my outfit: an obvious tank-top underneath a sweater, jeans and boots. What exactly led her to believe I share her interesting choice of comfort wear?

I decided I was through. I gave it a shot. I stayed for almost two hours, mingled with various groups of people and played nice. As it happens, the member coordinator who initially screened me into this club, was doubling as bartender. I told her I was leaving and to avoid lying I casually mentioned I had other plans (my other plans were not being in that clubhouse, but at home, sitting on my ass, catching up on the week’s DVR’d shows).

She loudly asked, “Keisha, what’s your next event?!” She knew it was my third event and could be my final. I mumbled something about having to look at the calendar. She yelled out a few of the upcoming events. I repeated that I’d check out the calendar. I knew damn well by that point that I was never coming back. I had no intention of putting myself through more painfully dull and/or aggravating situations with that group. I can meet weird, awkward people lacking in social skills for free.

As I walked out, a true giant walked in. He had to be at least 7’ tall. Sorry dude, I won’t be around to hear the sure-to-be-told tired jokes about how the “air is up there.”

The next day, I prepared my cancellation letter.

There you have it. I’m out of the club. These encounters qualify as the lows of friend-finding. But with lows come highs, of which there have been a promising few, and which balance out all the fuckery of the lows. To be continued…

A Friending Frenzy

Friendship Knot in Little Tokyo, photo by Sam Howzit, flickr.com
Friendship Knot in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, photo by Sam Howzit, flickr.com

I’ve been living in San Francisco a little over four months. I had five immediate goals when I arrived:

  1. Unpack box-partment and decorate within six weeks of move in – Did it in five.
  2. Don’t get fired (or maybe it was “do well at work”. Still, end result is, don’t get fired.)– still employed
  3. Find a gym – found
  4. Make friends – well, see…so…but I, err…
  5. Possibly finally trade in bitchy, useless, freeloading, ungrateful second cat.*

 *still debating this one

The sun loooves SoCal!
The sun loooves SoCal!

Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are going well. Number 4 hasn’t been as smooth, which I foolishly did not anticipate. When I moved to San Francisco, I was full of hope and enthusiasm. In just two months, those feelings were replaced by boohoo and what the hell did I do?! Los Angeles was a perfectly fine place with beautiful weather, wearing of open-toed shoes and sleeveless tops almost year around and a world I understand, for good and for bad. I miss my friends, my burger places, Koreatown, ramen, mid-priced quality sushi, seeing and hearing Spanish everywhere, cheaper rent and not sobbing when I write out my rent check and not being the only upwardly mobile black person for miles. So what if I felt suicidal in traffic some days? There are plenty of doctors willing to prescribe me drugs to handle those emotions!

I get asked a lot whether I like it here. Sure, it’s a beautiful city. But so are many others I’ve been to or lived in. What’s got to make San Francisco stand out from the places I’ve lived and visited is the people. My default answer is usually, “I don’t know yet,” and I’ll explain that I’ve found it difficult to meet people. I’m either met with looks of confusion (how is it possible that you don’t love it here?!), nods of understanding and agreement or the not at all novel: “Have you tried meetup?” An L.A. friend who is a former SF resident shared that it can be hard to break into a clique in San Francisco, but once you do, the friendships you make will be more genuine than you’ll find in Los Angeles. That’s…comforting?

Playing Nice

Volunteering a couple of weeks ago, I went out for lunch after with some of the other volunteers. I met a lifelong Bay Area resident who, once I told her I moved here from L.A., delighted in telling me how much she hated SoCal and the people in it. “They’re so fake.” You know how you can talk all kinds of shit about your crazy uncle who wrecks family events on the regular, but let someone outside of the family chime in and you’re cracking your knuckles, ready to throw down? That was me; hiding my hands under the table. can talk shit about L.A. all day. I earned that right as a long-term resident. She, however, visited once or twice and dismissed it. Humph! 

“What are you unsure about?” she asked me.

“Well, it’s supposed to be diverse here, but there are no black people here (I waved my hand around the black-less the restaurant as I said this) and that’s kind of uncomfortable for me.”

I laughed to lighten the weight of my words. Uncomfortable chuckles from the group followed. It’s funny how awkwardly some people react when a minority brings up race, especially blackness. Sometimes I just wanna say, “Blackitty black black afro negro blackish black black blaaaaack. I AM BLACK! Feel better? Now can we move past your discomfort and talk about this?” It’s like they’re afraid you’re gonna know they secretly rap the “n-word” in hip-hop songs when no one black is around. The SoCal-hater had an immediate solution to my discomfort, “It’s plenty diverse here. Just go to the Tenderloin. Ha!” I thought to myself, “Did this chick really just tell me to go to the Tenderloin to see black people? The Tenderloin where everyone warns you away from due to the huge likelihood of being asked repeatedly for money, seeing someone pooping on the sidewalk or seeing a drug deal go down, Tenderloin? Does she think it feels good for my soul to see downtrodden black people?”

I told her, “Yeahhhh, there’s that…but, I think we have different interests.” This dumb, clueless chick. Diversity isn’t just about counting numbers of people of the same group. How well are those people represented and integrated among the population being measured? I just can’t with her foolishness. But, when meeting new people it’s better just to grin and bear it, put on your happy face and complain to your out-of-town friends about her flippant tone. I don’t tell her I’ve heard complaints that San Franciscans can be snooty and pretentious and that her bitchery isn’t helping to disprove that stereotype. Be nice now, save Keisha Fierce for later. 

Guerilla Socializing

MWF Seeking BFF - reading this reminded me just how much I appreciate the wonderful friends I have
MWF Seeking BFF – reading this reminded me just how much I appreciate the wonderful friends I d0 have

In response to one of my posts a few weeks ago, a blog reader suggested I check out Rachel Bertsche’s blog (thanks!), which led me to her book: MWF Seeking BFF (I recommend it if you’re in the friend-shopping business). In the non-fiction book, Rachel is a late twenty-something relatively new to Chicago, having moved there to be with her husband. Upon realizing she’s lonely and lacking in close girlfriends, she vows to go on one new friend date a week for a year. Throughout the book she details – often hilariously – the women she meets and their dates. Interspersed throughout the book are interesting friendship factoids and tidbits such as: “minorities are more open to friends outside their race than white people are” (ch. 7). Did I mention that San Francisco is almost 50% white? Oh, this will be fun. Good thing SF has a large Asian population and a smaller Latino population!

A co-worker moved here a little under two years ago. She told me that while she’s met people through activities here and there, she hasn’t yet found anyone that she’d call up for last-minute plans or to confide in. That’s…sad, and unacceptable for me. Another couple of women told me they felt it took them three to four years (one said six!) to feel they had a good circle of friends and felt comfortable here. Ain’t nobody got time for all that! I know there are other places where the weather is warmer and so are the personalities of the residents.

Inspired by Rachel Bertsche’s tenacity and my own rebellious nature that refuses to accept it taking years to find good friends, I decided it’d be fun to see just how many friends I can amass in a year. If I make it a competition (with myself), it’ll be more thrilling. Because, trying to make new friends once you’re out of school, is not really a joyride. Once it becomes a conscious effort it becomes work, especially when you’re seeking to create a social circle you don’t have. When you’re hoping to meet at least one person to be the Gayle to your Oprah (or better yet a Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy, Rose quad!), you’re putting in work!

I’ve been friending my ass off. Well, maybe not friending as much as meeting-new-people my ass off. I was out socializing five out of seven days last week and I had a couple of moments of fun, but mostly it was work.  Last week alone I met or re-met so many new people I was exhausted come Thursday and I wasn’t even done! Sunday was my day of rest, cocooning in my box-partment. The groundwork I laid a couple of months ago is finally paying off. When I started my job, I made it a point to eat lunch with people I want to get to know at least twice a week. Every meeting is a chance to show off my stunning personality. People need to know what richness they are missing.

At a work Valentine’s Day party, we had to meet at least one new person to be allowed to enter the raffle. I used it as an opportunity to speed meet people. People are starting to wave and smile at me in the halls! I’ve even gotten a few lunch invites. Unexpectedly, a co-worker, L –  with whom I’ve rarely interacted except during a training class and a few run-ins in the kitchen – invited me to happy hour last Thursday. My first happy hour invite! I could have cried. I double-checked the IM to see if she really meant to send it to me and not someone else. She meant me!  At happy hour, K, with whom I’ve gone to lunch once and was also in training with me and L, told me, “I loved how during training you told HR “no” when they asked if we thought the training was helpful. That was awesome! You go, girl.” L, the girl who invited me, nodded in agreement. Yep, that’s me: no bullshit. This no-bullshitter could be your friend!

A few weeks ago, I joined a women’s group that helps connect women looking to build female friendships. I’ve been to a couple of small events and met some cool women. A few of them have given me their phone numbers and invited me out outside of the group – unprompted. If I were a straight dude, I’d really be feeling myself. I’m getting those digits! I also joined an adventure group that seems promising. My calendar is slowly filling up again.

coffeeOne of the new women I’ve met asked me to go for coffee sometime. Coffee is not an activity, it’s a beverage. It’s the means to a caffeinated end. Why coffee? Why not drinks? I’m skeptical when people suggest going out to drink beverages and the beverages don’t include at least the option of alcohol. Recovering alcoholics get a pass. But, I’m wary people who don’t drink because they just don’t drink. I don’t drink anywhere near as much as I did in college or in my mid-20s when I was trying out every single club in L.A., but that party girl is still in there. She’s lying dormant, judging my more sober lifestyle, my “please God don’t let my friend have her birthday party at a bar-ness” and old lady o’clock bedtime. But, she’s ready to get the party started if the moment presents itself. It’s fine though, as the intro to MWF mentions, there are different types of friendships and they are all valuable. Maybe she’ll be my friend I do healthy, productive stuff with. Like I’ve said before, friendless beggars can’t be too choosy. 

At the same volunteer event where I met the snooty, clueless girl, I met A. I liked A right away. She was warm, lively and very sharp. When we talked about diversity in San Francisco she passionately said, “Oh, it’s bull! Everyone talks about how many Latinos are here, but they’re all Mexican. I’m from Central America. I’m from the East Coast where there are people from different Latin countries all over the place. And the food? I can’t get good Central American food to save my life! My boyfriend’s family has lived in the Mission for generations and the techies with money are probably going to price them out.” She worked in youth outreach in Bayview-Hunter’s Point and has seen first hand just how segregated and economically lopsided this city can be. With each word, I swooned. She gets it! She gets me. We exchanged numbers and email addresses. A few days later, I emailed her offering to grab a drink (with alcohol) or dinner. It’s been a month and she hasn’t replied. Maybe I scared her off? Maybe she thinks I’m a lesbian, read my email and thought, “Oh hell no!” Or maybe she’d rather go out for coffee? Can’t win ’em all. 

Who Will Stand Under My Umbrella (ella, ella)?

I'm not giving away any friendship bracelets just yet.  Photo by ilovememphis, flickr.com
I’m not giving away any friendship bracelets just yet. Photo by ilovememphis, flickr.com

All the people I’ve met have been nice, but as Rachel said in her book’s introduction, “I can be nice, but I don’t want nice friends. I want funny, gregarious, sarcastic and smart friends.“ To that I’d add: socially conscious, opinionated, adventurous and easy going. If you’re a pop culture fan we’ll probably be insta-besties. My ninth grade English teacher lectured “nice” out of our arsenal of adjectives. And she was right too: nice is fucking boring. However, I know it can take time for some people to warm up, chill and let their good crazy show. I am learning to be patient. 

I haven’t yet hit that pivotal moment of friendship with anyone, when you crossover from perfunctory greetings and awkward small talk to this is my homegirl, ride or die. You’ve heard of Bonnie & Clyde? We’re Bonnie and Bonnie! Psychologists call it: self-disclosure. I can vividly remember those tipping points in many of my cherished friendships. You feel all warm and fuzzy and bubble up with joy around your buddy. It’s a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to experience it again. 

Despite this not being the smoothest transition, I’m glad I moved here. Shaking things up is healthy. I’ve amped up my friendmaking ventures. I am meeting people, I’m not exactly having fun yet, but it’s gotta pay off at some point. I eagerly await the moment when I can rush up to a new friend and say, “You will not believe what just happened to me! I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!”   

10 Ridiculous Business Terms

I was IMing with a co-worker last week about the absurdity of business jargon. How ridiculous is business-speak? I envision that somewhere there is a committee of Seth Rogan-types who secretly hate their jobs and sit around in a slacker lair inventing dumb shit for business people to say. Stuff that will secretly crack them up when they hear the words repeated. I remember when I started my first big girl business job. I’d hear people speak in a seemingly foreign language and I wanted to quit. It was Office Space: Live!

(sidenote: OMG you guys, a co-worker and I IM’d about non-work stuff, this is such progress in the work friendship department. This deserves Rachel Zoe levels of excitement: This is so “major!” )

Business Jargon
Business Jargon

10 laughable business terms

1. Putting Out Fires

Usually said by a self-important middle-manager as she/he runs around spreading her/his frenetic energy to everyone else. “People, we have fires to put out!” *Yawn* Call a damn fireman then! Why are you talking to me about it? Keep your stress ball to yourself and get back to me when there’s an actual fire. My hair might be flammable.

2. I don’t have the bandwidth for that

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto. You are a machine right? That’s why you’re talking about your bandwidth? You got a panel on your back we need to open to increase your bandwidth? Do you know Vicky from Small Wonder? I have always wanted to meet her. She wore prairie dresses like nobody’s business.

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto (ロボット人ありがとう)
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto (cr: Daniel Y. Go)

3. Circle Back

It means to um, I think, like, revisit something? Oh who cares! You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna make a circle all right, a circle around a bar as I get multiple rounds of beer ‘til I get so drunk I walk in an arc. Yeah, circle baaa – I’m so wasted. Heeeeeeee!

4. Think Outside the Box

How long have we been saying this now? I think everyone is outside of the stupid box. That box is probably skanky as hell now. All kinds of germs and shit. People passing the flu back and forth to each other. Gross. Now, who’s gonna be different climb right back in? That’s a real trailblazer. Enjoy the box. Looooove the box. Empower yourself to circle back to the box.

I do not want to be in a box with this guy! cr:  califrayray, flickr.com
I do not want to be in a box with this guy!
cr: califrayray, flickr.com

5. Let’s Touch Base

Is there a reason business people never reference things actually related to business? How about “hey, come to my cubicle where everyone can see and hear our business! Good times, man, good times!” In business, we “touch base”, we are cool like baseball players. But, no. You sir, are no Sammy Sosa, weird-looking face notwithstanding.

6. On the radar screen

Again! You are not a pilot. You do not work for the FAA. You’re not directing air traffic. You’re not flying anywhere, but I do secretly think you like to get high. So high. I see it in your eyes when you talk about putting out fires. You really wanna blaze it up! Give in to your inner smokey!

7. Let’s “parking lot” this discussion

Great, I’m out. Dueces! Peace out, suckas! Oh, you mean we can’t go home? Say what, now? “parking lot it” means to discuss it later? %)*%#)^&_)&%^@!

8. Let’s drill-down to the fine points.

I like to drill. Actually I love Home Depot. The place is amazing. Did you know you can buy toilet seat covers there? Like with cute little duckies on them and everything?

9. Utilize / Incentivize

Stop. Just stop. Stop making up words, biz. You don’t need to “utilize” anything. You can use it. You may have used it. It may be even be useful. You should find a way to incent yourself to stop using the worlds “utilize” and “incentivize.”

10. Value Add

GTFO!

We speak a language only we can understand.  cr: IIP State, flickr.com
We speak a language only we can understand.
cr: IIP State, flickr.com

San Francisco: Not a Treat (Yet)

I’ve been feeling pretty lonely and lacking regular human interaction the past few months. You know you’re desperate for human interaction when you look forward to visiting your new chiropractor because you know that as chatty as she is, she’ll also be a captive audience.

La, La, La, I Can’t See You!

Photo by epSos.de, flickr.com
I know monkey, I’m lonely too
cr: epSos.de, flickr.com

I think people in this city, at least the parts I’ve been in, are deathly allergic to making eye contact with others. As though meeting the eyes of another human might suck out their souls. I know there are many reasons why people may avoid eye contact: some are shy, some have social anxiety (or just regular anxiety), others wary of strangers, I’ve heard some say that they are afraid of being asked for money, but everyone?!

When walking down the streets, I’ve found people to be aloof and sometimes cold. I’ve met friendlier people walking down the streets of Manhattan and Paris. I’ve made more connections here with the thousands of gorgeous and no doubt very pampered dogs that live in the city than any of their owners. They happily wag their tails at me the same way I do internally when I see another black person on the street. I treat other black people in this city like they’re endangered species. I am shocked by their presence and have an urge to capture them and protect them like I may see another ever again. NatGeo voiceovers play in my head: The black American, endangered in these parts, is seen walking into a Starbuck’s, where we must assume, they will purchase a caffeinated beverage.

I’ve started missing the comfort of Los Angeles. A city where I know how things work, how people behave and (for the most part) how I fit in. An article in The Atlantic quoted a study that found:

…withholding eye contact can signal exclusion. … Even though one person looks in the general direction of another, no eye contact is made, and the latter feels invisible.

Yup, pretty much.

New York City gets a bad rap as an unfriendly city
New York City gets a bad rap as an unfriendly city

The friendliest resident I’ve met to date is an older black panhandler named Mike. I was in the Castro trying to find a nail shop I was Christmas-gifted with a manicure to, when he asked me for money. I told him I didn’t have any change and noticing me]y peering around, he asked me what I was looking for. (I legit didn’t have any change. One of the best lessons I learned last year was not to forget the humanity of the homeless and down-and-out. I try to at least smile at and acknowledge those that I encounter.) I told him the address and he walked with me trying to help me find the salon since as he told me he’d been “on that street corner for 10 years!” If anyone could find it, he could. He didn’t find it, but he gave me his phone number, sweetly asked when we’re getting married and made me promise to come back and show him my nails (I did, but he wasn’t there when I returned). Meeting him was the highlight of that day. “Mommy, another human spoke to me today!”

We Are the World?

I’ve read discussions online about the supposed diversity of SF. The city is largely white and Asian (majority Chinese) with those two groups comprising over 80% of the population and Latinos being the third most populous ethnic group at ~ 15% (give or take some percentages depending who’s reporting). We also have the largest gay and lesbian population in the US. Yes, this is a lot of different groups, but whether this is considered “diverse” depends on your perspective.

I often wonder if the “diversity” is touted by people who aren’t used to feeling like a minority in a US city. [Indeed: “Ideas of what is a diverse neighborhood differ by race.” ] Online, one commenter will lament the mass exodus of blacks from a city that used to have a large population of them (down to less than 6% from over 15% in 1970 and less than the US population of 13%). Another will rebut that there are plenty of blacks in Hunters Point (also known as Guns Point) and Bayview (a mostly working class neighborhood, with high poverty rates and called one of the most violent neighborhoods in the City by the New York Times).  Neither are neighborhoods you’ll see mentioned in glossy guidebooks or in hipster-foodie conversation.

Then the discussion inevitably devolves as some asshole puts in his or her racist two cents about how they are glad the “ghetto black thugs” keep to their habitat in Oakland. I (mostly) resist the urge to reply and instead fantasize about pulling a Tina Turner and getting the hell out of the US altogether . But, I’ve already covered that. (Please do not misunderstand, I’m an equal opportunity friender, but being the only black person [or one of few] in many of the places you frequent, gets really old after a while.)

To some, “a lot” of black people is 10 out of 300 white people. When I think of cities that are diverse, Houston, Los Angeles (though I think LA is unfortunately pretty segregated) and New York come to mind. Not just diversity of ethnic groups and sexual orientation, but economic diversity. It seems there are two kinds of residents here in SF: those with money and those without. The middle class is continually shrinking because the city has become so unaffordable.

There definitely aren’t a lot of black professionals living in SF. I went from working at a company where the staff was admirably diverse, including 15% black employees and 50% of women (in Santa Monica, not exactly a diverse area in itself). At my current office, I am one of 7 or 8 black employees, less than 3% of the total workforce. Some days I feel like walking around the city wearing a big ass sign that says “token”.

What About Your Friends?

Let me iiiiiin!cr:  stevendepolo, flickr.com
Let me iiiiiin!
cr: stevendepolo, flickr.com

On the friendship end, my attempts to reach out to the few people I already know here have mostly failed: multiple cancellations on their ends and one non-reply after dates to meet up were discussed. The kickball league I signed up for was cancelled. My coworkers are still cliquey.

A couple of weeks ago the cube people around me loudly talked about the happy hour they had planned. No one bothered to invite the new girl. This happened twice in the same week. Previous to that, on my way home one evening, I ran into a manager who asked me if I was going to the happy hour one of my project teams was having that night. That was the first I’d heard of it. Further, last week in the office, I walked by a woman whose tag was sticking out of her shirt. Trying to be helpful, I told her, and her response was “Oh.” No “thank you”, just “oh”. Later I ran into her on the elevator and she averted her gaze. Bitch, fine, look raggedy with tags sticking out all over the place, next time I’ll say nothing. So its been less than a treat, to say the least.

In the coming weeks, through convergence, I am signed up for a few meetup events, a speed-friending event (yes, I think it sounds lame too, but lonely beggars can’t be choosers) and an event with a service that helps women find girlfriends.  Supposedly the new kickball league I was transferred to starts in April. I am not holding my breath.

Is this really my life?

Hope Floats

I am not giving up though. I’m charming, dammit, and people in other cities like me. Funnily enough, thanks to a crazy boiler blowup in my apartment building, I ended up having a drink with my (married and retired) building manager who’s lived in San Francisco all his life. I was probably a little much as when he asked how I was doing I sighed so heavily you’d think I was recovering from an asthma attack. This is what having few friends does to someone who’s a Myers-Briggs ‘E’. All my thoughts came gushing out like a busted fire hydrant. Chatting with him was a pleasant reminder that behind the non-gaze of San Franciscans are people who like and even wish for human interaction.

Hope is nigh! I think I may have finally cracked one of the cliques at work. And I may have a couple of new lunch buddies. Last week, I had a girl date with someone who lives in my neighborhood that seems promising. My neighbors have been nice and a couple even helpful. I’ve met most of them (and their dogs).

I am the chapter leader of the black employee network at work (for all few of us, though the other outposts of our company have many more). It’s only been three months. I just need to be patient (though telling myself this is like telling Rihanna to keep her damn clothes on: you can try, but you know she ain’t listening) and not let myself be overcome with bitterness. Sharing this with the world is testament to my optimism. I know that in a year or two I’ll reread this post and be thrilled with my progress and laugh about my former loneliness with my new friends.

New City, No New Friends

Friendship meaning

I forgot how hard it is to move to a new city where you know virtually no one. It’s my sixth time doing this. I think it gets harder each time.

When I moved to Los Angeles years and years ago I dreamed about the fabulous life I’d have hobnobbing with celebrities, meeting other actors, falling in love with my hot male castmates in all the leading roles I’d get and generally just living a flyass life. None of that happened. The closest I came to meeting a celebrity that early on was during planning for a charity event. We were looking for star power to amp up the interest; someone offered, “My friend is friends with Ryan Seacrest. Maybe we could get him to host?” At the time, Seacrest was a drivetime DJ for Star 98.7 in L.A.. He declined the offer. The next year, he signed on as host of American Idol; of course he wasn’t going to host our rinky-dink, ill-planned, never-happened charity event.

I threw myself into friend-making in Los Angeles. I met some weird people the first couple of years. I attached myself to a social butterfly through a women’s group I found. She knew a lot of people, was exceedingly outgoing and talked a lot about things that were foreign to me yet intriguing like reiki and chakras. But, not too long after I met her, I found her “crazy”. (Everyone has something “crazy” about them, it’s just a matter of deciding if you can deal with their brand of crazy.) She hooked up with the boyfriend of the sister of a friend (got that?). When confronted about her trifling behavior, she said, “I am friends with her, not her sister, so I have no loyalty to her sister.” This was my first encounter with “LA Logic”:  basically it’s illogical, full of specious arguments, but allows one to justify behaving like an asshole. I, and the friend believe(d): you hurt people I love, you hurt me. I also soon realized she was a bit of a flake, a wee bit too new-agey for me and always seemed to have a relationship with a “soulmate.” Problem is she seemed to have a new soulmate every few months. After a while, I stopped caring about her latest soulmate, how she finally found love and how her life was now complete. Oh and she might move to another state to be with the latest one! She was like a starter friend. A friend to help make the transition easier, show you around, introduce you to other new people and generally make your new home a little less lonely. Then as time passes, you gradually part ways. I would like to skip over the starter friend phase here in San Francisco and just find friends.

One year early on in elementary school, I was transferred to a new class for the “gifted and talented.” (I know they meant well, but how the heck does that make the kids feel who aren’t in those classes? Slow and awkward?) One of the popular girls in class invited me to her birthday slumber party. My life was made. At that early age I was already strategically navigating my social life. I figured if I could get in with her and be entertaining at this party, I would be guaranteed invites to the other kids’ birthday parties. I really wanted everyone to like me. We had a great time at the party. People laughed at my jokes. The next morning the birthday girl said to me, “Keisha, you are fun! I want to have you at every birthday party!” Who was the winner? The winner was me. I had this. I would be popular. A couple of months later, my family left New York for the promise of a safer life in Georgia. All that work and I had to start all over again. Sigh.

I’ve been in San Francisco for two months now and I have no friends. Now that I’m no longer spending my weekends getting my apartment together, I have time to think about this. Zero. Zip. No click for anybody to fuck with. Okay fine, I have one friend. But she’s busy, she has a man, her family lives here and I don’t want to attach myself to her like a canker sore. “Take me wherever you go. Don’t leave me! I’ll make you feel pain!” I’m a big girl, I can fend for myself. But, it’s lonely. I spend too much time with one of my cats (the other one is a useless, skittish, waste of fur and cuteness). A few weeks ago, I was taking a bath. I never take baths. I am not that wine, bubbles, soak, cucumbers-on-sockets, bathtub-time girl. I like showers; no sitting in my filth. This cat I’ve had for 10 years has only seen me take a bath a few times, so when I hopped in a tub full of water, he was curious. I watched him pace around the tub examining the water and the bubbles, reaching up to peer into the tub. He looked at me as if to ask, “Is okay I jump?” “No, kitty, no jump.” I could just imagine the ensuing hilarious hijinks once he realized he was voluntarily in a tub full of water. If by “hilarious” you understand I mean “a naked, painful, mauling by cat incident.” He didn’t jump in. But, the fact that he thought about it led me to the conclusion that he and I are spending too much time together. He’d probably be speaking English and quoting rap lyrics along with me if his mouth could form the words.

I network. I smile at (almost) everyone, including the guards at all the banks in the financial district on my way to work. I’m probably now on some government watch list. People who case banks for robberies probably act all friendly and shit. One guy likes it though. He always gives me a big grin and a “hi” now. Weekdays, people in the financial district brisk their way down the street like work drones. No smiles, no stopping to look at the architecture, no flashdancing; just singular focus on getting to work. Why? The office ain’t going anywhere. Sometimes I like to smile widely at people just to throw them off. Yeah, I smiled at you. Boo! h

I’ve no problem doing things solo. But, I prefer for that to be a choice, not the default option because I have no others. Last week, when my hormones decided to hijack my brain, I had a mini meltdown. I saw a posting for an event I would have loved to attend: SantaCon. People dress up in Santa suits and go pub crawling. How awesome.is.that?! Then I realized I had no one to go with (let alone a Santa suit just hanging around) and I threw a fit…to myself. I have no friends to throw a fit to. Now I have to wait another 362 days before SantaCon rolls around again. I better have some Santa-suit-wearing, pub-crawl-loving friends by then. I do not want to spend another SantaCon weekend Michelle Tannering it: “This is nooo fun, noooo fun, looking at the waaaallllll.”

Ask anyone how you make friends outside of school and they’ll say: “Join a church group!” “Have you heard of meetup.com (as if this is 2005 and a revolutionary idea)?” “Take a class!” “Make friends at work!” Always said with exclamatory enthusiasm.

I don’t go to church. I’m not going to church. So, that’s out.

I’ve joined a shit ton of meetup groups. I’m not sold on meetup.com though. In L.A., I attended a few meetup groups. I met a few people who ensured I would be scared to go to another meetup again. You know the type: no social skills, weird ticks, creepily interested in you and every detail of your life, or the gross guy who is clearly there trolling for women. You’re at a women’s brunch, mofo, why are you here? Perhaps SF meetup-ers are of the more uncreepy variety? We’ll see.

I started taking a Spanish class a few weeks ago. For myself. I am tired of being a monolingual American. Bonus if I meet people. It’s a group class for up to eight people. As luck would have it, there are me and two other girls in the class. Just three people. Girls. I specify girls because a question I’m frequently asked by inquiring friends (in other cities!) is, “Have you met/seen/smelled any hot guys there?” No/No/No.

Work is…cliquey. I’m sure people don’t mean act as such, but they are not exactly inclusive. I bet karma is behind it, cackling at my plight.  The bitch. I am told I was in a clique at my last job. It wasn’t on purpose; I promise! I am proactive. I have targeted a few lucky people that I have decided I want to be my friends. They are people that I have or will ask to lunch or potentially smile at too often, making them think the new girl is creepy. Nope, the new girl just has no friends. One of my younger sisters said to me with 95% seriousness, “Keisha, you’re pretty, who wouldn’t want to be friends with you?” Ha! No one can blow smoke up your bum and make you feel momentarily less like a loser than a sister or a good frie…awwww (tear).

I just want a buddy.
I just want a buddy.

I’ve made progress! Last Friday in the kitchen at work, I ran into one of the girls that is actually outwardly friendly to me. She asked me if I had any plans for the weekend. My response: “I don’t really have any plans because I don’t have any friends here yet.” Why lie? She took pity on me, having been new in SF once herself, and invited me out. Last Saturday night, I actually had legit plans with someone who lives in this city. It turned out to be a pretty good-sized group, so I met a few new people. I had a great time! I danced, I drank, I friended my ass off. Now I await their verdict. Am I cool enough to be asked out again? I can’t seem too eager, but I can’t play it too cool. It’s elementary school all over again.

I’m on my way. I’ll get there. I’ll find my buddies. Getting there is the hard part. When I do finally have friends I think I may allow myself one really good Sally Field Oscar moment (“They like me! They really like me!”) and then dorkshame myself.

If you know of anyone who lives here whose personality you think would mesh well with mine, feel free to send ‘em my way. Yes, that is how desperate I am. I am trolling for friends on my blog which is read by people from the United States to countries I’ve never even heard of but am now intrigued to visit.