I’m kind of back to not liking living in San Francisco.
Part of my disenchantment is probably my fault. I arrived here with big dreams I’ve yet to see realized. For one, I thought I’d fall into a good group of friends. Instead, someone I considered a good friend ghosted on me. Though I have made a few good friends whom I am grateful for, they’re from disparate circles. My social life is unrecognizable to me.
I also thought I might finally meet someone I can see a future with or at the very least someone whose company I’d enjoy more than Netflix and chillin’ solo. After all, they say San Francisco is one of the best US cities for singles. I don’t know if they actually talked to anyone who lives here because while I know many single people of different genders and sexual orientations whom are lovely, lovable people, they are not in a relationship, and most are actively searching.
I suppose if they mean this a great place to for singles if you want to remain single, that makes sense. Dating mostly takes place on apps here, at the expense, in my opinion, of people sharpening their in-person social skills. You can take your Tinders, Bagels, soul connections, rings and dings or whatever the hells and put ’em somewhere not on my phone.
When reality doesn’t live up to your high hopes, an emotional crash isn’t all that surprising.
There’s also the fact that everything here is so.damn.expensive. I think I must blackout when I pay my rent every month. That’s the only way I can understand how I continue to pay more than some people’s mortgage.
Of the people: I don’t get the seemingly dominant personality of passivity in this city. Just last week, I was at the drugstore in my favorite aisle – the candy aisle – when I noticed a woman walking toward me. As she neared me, she paused and started rummaging through her purse. I know she was faking. She walked with purpose down that aisle until she saw me. Now, I’m not very wide and I’m generally aware of the space around me, so it’s not like I was completely blocking her path. I’m not one of those oblivious aisle-blocking asshats.
A simple “excuse me” would have sufficed to get me to scoot the inch or two more needed for her clear passage. Instead, this lady acted like she had an urgent need to reapply lipstick or find a tampon. Who knows?
I could have moved preemptively, but I’ve done this dance before. I’ve been in many an aisle in this city and had this same scene go down. What is the deal with people? Is it timidity? Are they afraid to make contact with an unfamiliar human being? Politeness is appreciated, but there is such a thing as being so polite you make people want to scream.
The woman continued to dig in her purse – finding nothing because she was looking for nothing – until I finally inched forward, making sure to sigh heavily and roll my eyes at the absurdity of it all (hi, petty). There I was minding my business, trying to determine which pack of Sour Patch Kids would be the freshest, and here comes Timid Tammy ruining the experience with her fish spine.
I’ve also had people here give me that “Oh my” pearl-clutching glance because I dared speak up about something.
On the bus one afternoon, after a particularly tiresome string of hours at the day job, a budding-grey-haired woman with a folding shopping cart packed with several large black plastic bags, decided to throw a tantrum as she exited. She’d situated herself right by the door, so she only needed to make it a few feet to the steps. Each and every step she took came with a cranky grunt and dramatic muttering.
A minute later, she’d only progressed a few inches, so a kind man offered to help her the rest of the way.
“Noooo!” she shouted, mimicking the Wicked Witch of the West, “I don’t need YOUR HELP!” If she’d carried a cane, here is where she’d have shaken it at him with menace.
The defeated man backed away like a kicked puppy.
Around me, other passengers looked toward the rear window to see if another bus was coming. Nope.
A couple more minutes ticked by. The shopping cart and it’s pusher had yet to reach the steps.
Is NO ONE going to say anything? This is fucking ridiculous. This woman is holding up a bus full of people with lives because of her pride and stubbornness. Not even a peep from the bus driver – whose arm she threatened to bite off. She didn’t actually say that, but the quickness with which he recoiled like she’d hissed at him, indicated as such.
I couldn’t take anymore.
“Get off the bus!” I hollered.
A young woman across the way turned toward me with a furrowed brow. Oh stop clutching your damn pearls!
“Yeah, get off already!” the bus driver repeated, regaining his voice.
Soon other passengers chanted, some quieter than others, as the woman grumbled her way down the steps.
A few passengers clapped and whistled once the last of her landed on the sidewalk.
I hadn’t meant to start an uprising on the bus; I just wanted us to get moving. But, I bet you those people felt good taking control of their lives. We endure a lot of bizarre and sometimes frustrating encounters on these city buses.
Lastly, but most importantly, there’s the race thing. To put it bluntly: being black in San Francisco is existentially exhausting and socially isolating like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve written about that on multipleoccasions, so I won’t rehash it here.
With all of that said, I do not regret moving here. It’s still one of the best decisions I’ve made. My life now is incredibly different from the life I lived in Los Angeles. If I felt stalled in L.A. and wanted to push past the stagnancy by trying a new city, I got what I asked for and more. I’ve evolved in ways I never imagined. I believe moving here was a necessary step for my personal, emotional and career growth.
Barring some freak joyful miracle, my time in San Francisco is nearing its end. I had hoped this might be a place I could stay put for a long while, but I want to get out before I am driven completely mad. I also fear becoming one of the passive. That works fine for some people, but it gives me the itchees.
There’s only one US city next on the list. I’m not quite ready to reveal it yet as I’m still planning. I will say that it’s not happening this year, but if you’re a regular reader, you can probably guess which one it is.
October will mark 3 years here. I think I gave it a good shot.
Have you ever lived in a place you didn’t like? Also, if you are a passive aisle-passer, tell me why please, I’m curious.
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Making friends as an adult is difficult for many of us. People date, marry, procreate, change, drift and relocate. Growing up, my family moved at least four times and I lived in three different states. While being the new kid often isn’t easy, it seemed so much simpler to make friends in school.
My first day of college, I befriended two girls in my dorm who I noticed chatting with the door open. I introduced myself, cracked a joke, and they invited me to eat dinner in the cafeteria with them. It turned out they had just met each other. Our trio became insta-friends that day.
I landed in San Francisco two years ago this month – after over a decade in Los Angeles (and several cycles of friend-finding) – armed with two cats, a new job, and the friendship of only one other person in the city. Making friends in San Francisco took more effort and perseverance than I ever anticipated. You could say I’ve learned a thing or two – sometimes the hard way – about making friends as an adult.
Perhaps you woke up one day and realized, “Holy loneliness! I don’t have any friends! (And I don’t know how to make new ones!)” Or maybe all of your friends seem to be married, paired up or wrangling children, with no time for single you. It could be you simply feel your social life needs a boost. Whatever the case, we’re social creatures. Even the most solitary of us crave regular, meaningful interaction with others. We needfriends. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned in my friend-making efforts, I can spare you some of the obstacles often encountered on a quest for new friends.
Laying the Foundation
Before you undertake your search for new friends, here are a few things I recommend to lay the groundwork for being a friend magnet.
1. Be A Friend To Yourself First
When you meet new people, you’re marketing yourself in a way. The you that people meet is the whole package they intake from what makes you laugh to how you dress to what interests you. If you’re going to get out and meet new people, it’s important that you like yourself. How can you convincingly “market” yourself as someone’s next BFF if you don’t believe in the package you’re presenting?
What do you like about yourself?
What do others say they like in you?
Take time to think about what you offer as a friend. Friendship is about give and take.
What are your strengths? Are you loyal? Funny? Adventurous? A good listener? Nurturing? Embrace whatever it is that makes you you. Those strengths are what draw people to you. Lean on those strengths – your best traits – if ever you need a reminder of why you’re likable and lovable.
2. Make a Friend Wish List
You know you want to make friends. But, what does that mean? As with any activity we undertake, it’s helpful to have goals to guide us and keep us focused.
What does friendship mean to me?
Think about what you’re looking for in a friend. Not who you think you should be friends with, but the kind of people with whom you think you’ll truly connect.
What kind of friends am I looking for?
Do you want a group of friends to chill at “Central Perk” with? Are you looking for a travel buddy? Are you longing for a confidante, a best friend, someone whom you can call to help you move a dead body, no questions asked?
What do I like to do for fun?
What kinds of activities do you hope to do with new friends?
Think about the friends you do have: How did you meet them? How did your friendship evolve? Being realistic about the investment involved in building a friendship will help temper your expectations.
3. Make Time
Finding new friends and building relationships takes time. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate toward your friend-making efforts. Decide how important this endeavor is to you. Much like a romantic relationship, if you want new friends, you have to carve out time and space for new people in your life.
In my search for new friends in San Francisco, I met several people who confessed they wanted friends, but didn’t really have time to put toward the effort. One woman I met traveled for work several months out of the year. Another spent much of her spare time studying for the LSAT. Or as I’ve encountered many times over the years, the person who laments their lack of friends, but spends nearly every free moment with their significant other.
If your co-workers invite you out to happy hour and you routinely turn them down, one day they’re likely to stop asking you.
Spending all your time at work or even at home and not meeting people, will not get you closer to seeing your friendship wish list come true.
If you ditch or flake repeatedly, not only do people begin to see it as a pattern, often they take it as a direct offense.
Making time for friendship can be as simple as deciding you’ll dedicate one afternoon a weekend to making friends and socializing. Maybe you can target one or two lunches a week – or even coffee – for getting together with people. Find a way to integrate friends into your daily routine. For instance, if you have to study for a grad school exam, find a study buddy. If you’re a parent, find other parents with similar schedules.
If you’re serious about making friends, it requires time and effort. It’s worth it.
Ask Yourself: Does my busy lifestyle indicate to others: “I don’t have room for new people in my life?”
4. Keep an Open-Mind
Your next best friend, brunch buddy or running pal might arrive in a package you don’t expect. Life loves to throw surprises our way, so don’t immediately discount someone because of their age, how they dress, their socioeconomic standing (or god forbid, their ethnicity) or whatever other arbitrary factors we sometimes use in judging and assessing others. One of the benefits of friendship is how much we stand to learn from each other and our diverse experiences. Opportunities for friendship are everywhere. Don’t blindly turn away from what may be your chance at a rich friendship.
One of my closest friends is a white baby-boomer, 30 years my senior, from a farm town southern California. I met her at work, over a decade ago when I was just transitioning out of acting into my new career in tech. She is a treasure and I never would have expected a friendship like ours. When I join her and her husband on outings, sometimes I notice we get curious looks from people. On the surface, we couldn’t seem more different, yet as it turns out, we are far more similar than not.
Once you’ve laid the foundation for your friend search, it’s time to get tactical. How do you meet people?
5. Use Your Network
Who better to recommend your next friend than a current friend you like and trust? When I moved to San Francisco, I was very open about my loneliness and difficulty in making friends here. A few of my friends in other cities reached out to connect me with their friends in the area. One of my new good friends is someone I met that way. What’s nice about using your network is your friends have already done some of the hard labor for you: they’ve vetted this person. Chances are your friends won’t hook you up with ax murderers or stalkers (unless ax murdering and stalking is what you have in common).
Don’t be afraid to let people in your life know that you’re on the hunt for new friends. There’s no shame in needing companionship. Your (true) friends have your best interests at heart and want happiness for you. Often you’ll find they are more than willing to help you expand your circle and relish the opportunity to connect the people they value.
You job is a potential friendship minefield. Some people recommend not mixing work and friendship. I think that’s unrealistic given many of us spend such large chunks of our lives at work. Obviously, one should be careful whom they choose to befriend at work. Be smart about it; use your instincts.
If you work for a large company, often there are intra-company clubs and communities you can join for everything from volunteer work to ethnicity-based groups to foodie outings to career advancement support and LGBT clubs. Smaller companies may have offsite events, happy hours or even poker groups, as I had one job. Some of my dearest friends are former co-workers.
6. Follow Your Interests
Another easy avenue to explore begins with you. Your interests. We like to have things in common with our friends, it strengthens our sense of belonging. Make a list of your interests, paying special consideration to activities you can share with others. Use this list to direct your search for activities.
If you’re athletically inclined, your options are many. There are sports leagues for adults of all ages for the fit and unfit alike. While I am not athletic – sometimes my anxiety dreams involve being back in middle school P.E. – I did join an adult kickball league in Los Angeles at the recommendation of a friend. He promised I wouldn’t suffer humiliation and trauma if I sucked on the field. He was right. I had a good time, met a lot of new people, and when earlier this year – in a San Francisco league – I scored my first run, I felt so proud and vindicated.
An added benefit of taking part in activities you like, is that your positive energy will show through. Imagine how much more enthusiastic and engaged you are when doing something you enjoy vs doing something you dread or feel forced into. Like baking cupcakes vs. watching football. People are attracted to positivity. It makes them feel good.
If you like taking photos there are Flickr meetupsand instameets all over the world. Maybe you’re really into your faith. Many religious organizations have social groups and events calendars for their communities. If you have a dog, take your dog to a dog park and let Fido’s cuteness guide you to your next friend. Perhaps you want to learn a new language. I enrolled in Spanish coursewhen I moved to San Francisco. It gave me a reason to leave the house, kept my mind active, and I planned to reward my efforts with a trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Not only did I make new acquaintances in the course, a classmate asked me out!
I met a real-life Bronythis year. If men who love My Little Pony can build a community, surely you’ll be able to find something to do around your interests. I’ve listed helpful resources at the end of the post.
7. Take Initiative
Have you ever met someone at an event or maybe a conference with whom you really clicked? Maybe you exchange numbers, email addresses or Twitter handles, and you agree you “must hang out again!” but nothing happens? You never hear from each other. Why did neither of you follow up? Could be any number of reasons: we’re too busy, too tired, too stressed, too lazy, too whatever. What if we missed a prime opportunity to bring someone new into our lives? What if next time someone says, “Let’s hang out soon” you say, “Ok, I am free next week on these days, how about you?” Make a plan. Set a date. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move.
If you hear of an event in your area that you’d like to attend, invite someone you know to join you.
Maybe there’s a co-worker you’ve wanted to go to know better. Invite him out to grab a beer.
The girl in your yoga class who always smiles at you? Strike up a conversation with her. Ask her where she got her yoga mat and how she likes it. Once you open the door friendly conversation, you can work your way up to asking her to join you for a post-workout protein shake.
If you like to entertain, throwing a party is a great way to bring new friends into your world.
Being assertive and taking initiative can seem daunting, especially if you are shy. If you don’t feel confident, fake it. The truth is, many of us get nervous when meeting new people, we just assume we’re the only ones. Other people always seem so at ease with strangers. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. It’s just as possible that they’re just good at appearing comfortable under unnerving circumstances. Don’t be FAKE, just channel the comfort and self-confidence you feel when you are with friends. Remember what makes you someone people want to be friends with. No one has to know how awkward you feel, if you choose not to show it.
If you get nervous, ask yourself:
What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?
Be an active participant in building the friendship network you want.
Cultivating and Maintaining
Once you begin meeting people and making connections, how do you build on your efforts and cultivate your new friendships?
8. Say “Yes!”
There may come times when you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to make friends. Look at it as an opportunity to grow.
If you get invited to a party, go! Even if the idea of going to a party where you don’t know many people terrifies you, go! You won’t gain anything by not trying. Parties are a fantastic way to meet a lot of people in one setting. You always have the option of leaving when you like. Whenever I find myself at a party or a mixer, I challenge myself to meet at least three new people. That way I’ve given myself a goal. Three is a manageable number and after I meet my “quota” I can relax the rest of the evening knowing I’ve potentially made three new friends. If three seems overwhelming to you, start with one person and work your way up.
My motto is: I’lltry almost anything at least once. A few years ago, I went to a Thai restaurant famous for their insect delicacy, with a group – some my friends, some strangers. Eating scorpions, crickets and beetles was never on my list of “things to do before I die”, and I don’t feel compelled to do it again, but the experience was as unforgettable as I anticipated. Today I can reminisce and laugh with my friends about our buggy meal. Shared experiences, especially unique ones, are the building blocks of strong friendships.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Say “Yes!” to the opportunity to expand your horizons.
9. Let Yourself Be Vulnerable
Sometimes we worry that if we let on that we’re lonely, we’ll appear desperate. Almost everyone can identify with feeling the pang of loneliness at one time or another. Whether it’s that you’ve moved to a new city, are newly divorced or broken up or you find yourself drifting apart from your old friends, we endure friendship lows.
Years ago, I found myself looking for a new group of friends after an unfortunate break up with a best friend, followed shortly after by a break up with my long-term boyfriend. As my relationship had progressed, I’d neglected to direct enough energy toward maintaining and nurturing my friendships. I woke up one day to a desert of a social life. A triple whammy of loss that hit me like a sandbag.
I looked for a book club to join because I like to read. I ended up befriending a group of reading, traveling, foodies in Los Angeles, many of whom are still my friends. I recall during one book club meeting, how a discussion over the book Marrying Anitaled to sharing of relationship stories. I admitted how lost and confused I felt after the loss of very important people in my life, to which others could relate. I began to look forward to our book club meetings and am grateful to the members for helping me get through such a difficult time. It’s scary to open up to others about our thoughts and feelings. It’s healthy to open up though. When we do let go, often it makes us feel better and it builds intimacy in our relationships. When a friend opens up to you, listen and make them feel comfortable sharing with you.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is key to cultivating a friendship. Self-disclosure brings us closer.
10. Don’t Give Up!
The search for friends can feel a lot like dating. Not too long ago, I accepted a lunch invitation from a potential new friend. After lunch, I remember dejectedly texting another friend, “I don’t think she liked me. She didn’t laugh at my jokes and she looked bored. Kept looking off at other things.” It felt like talking about a guy I’d gone out with! Imagine my surprise when a week later, she invited me out for drinks. She did like me! Turns out what I misread as disinterest was introversion at play.
Developing a friendship takes patience, resilience and repeated contact. Meeting someone once does not a friendship make. The more time you spend with a friend, the more you communicate with them, the more you self-disclose to them and create shared experiences, the more likely you are to grow closer. Friendships move through stages, from acquaintance to best friend. Not all friendships will traverse each stage. Consistency is key to deepening bonds of friendship.
Finding and making new friends isn’t always easy. If you’re one of the lucky ones, someone will take you under their wing and invite you into their circle. Overnight, you’ve got new friends! More than likely though, you will experience setbacks while on your friendship quest. That’s okay! Where there’s a valley, a peak is sure to follow. If you find yourself discouraged, keep in mind that making friends takes time. Not everyone you meet will become your best friend or even more than an acquaintance, but with each experience you have, you’ll become more comfortable with meeting new people. Over time, you should begin to notice your efforts paying off.
Have you found it difficult to make friends as an adult? What have your experiences been like? What are some of your challenges? Do you have tips for others looking to make friends?
Running Clubs – A friend of mine met her fiancé through a Nike run club. Whether you enjoy running or want to start, it can be a fruitful place to meet people and get your workout in. Select Lululemon locations have run clubs (and yoga classes) and often local athletic and sporting goods stores will too. You can also find local running clubs at Road Runners of America.
Play Recess – another co-ed social sports organization. Currently, they only have leagues in San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. In addition to dodgeball and kickball, they have volleyball, ultimate Frisbee and soccer games.
Search for hiking and biking groups in your community. The Sierra Club has chapters across the country for hiking, outdoor and environmental activities.
Meetup – Meetup has been around for a while. It’s a large network of groups across the country organized by locals. Meetup types run the gamut from hiking to singles to art lovers to parenting to books. I find meetups require a greater level of proactive-ness than other avenues. This is largely due to the often ad-hoc nature of events that don’t engender repetitive contact among the same group of people. With that said, I know several people who’ve met with success on meetup.
Girlfriend Circles – Girlfriends Circles connects women looking to build female friendships. I’ve mentioned before how I met some cool women through the site. Members are matched with other members in their area based on age group. Monthly events are planned for groups of up to 6, so it’s manageable number of people to meet. Community members also organize their own events.
Volunteer Match – Volunteer Match connects volunteers to the organizations that need them. Search for volunteer opportunities in your area based the cause(s) that interest you.
Idealist – similar to Volunteer Match, you can search for volunteer opportunities or post your own project ideas. Additionally, they have internship and job listings for non-profit organizations.
Check your local weekly paper (e.g., LA Weekly, Austin Chronicle, Chicago Reader, etc.). Use the Calendar of events to discover fun and new things to do in your area.
If you’re a college grad, see if there’s an alumni chapter if your area. My local alumni chapter has football game watching parties, BBQs and networking events.
Yelp has anevents calendar and an active social community both on- and offline.
If you like dancing, find a local dance group. Another friend of mine met her husband and many of her friends through ballroom dancing.
Taking an improvisation or beginner’s acting class will allow you to learn a new skill and meet new people.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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!
The group of girls I went tohappy 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
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 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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…
I’ve been living in San Francisco a little over four months. I had five immediate goals when I arrived:
Unpack box-partment and decorate within six weeks of move in – Did it in five.
Don’t get fired (or maybe it was “do well at work”. Still, end result is, don’t get fired.)– still employed
Find a gym – found
Make friends – well, see…so…but I, err…
Possibly finally trade in bitchy, useless, freeloading, ungrateful second cat.*
*still debating this one
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?
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. I 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.
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.
One 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)?
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!”
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.