Gray crane and Canadian geese.
In the past week I went to three events that were equally about getting me out of the house and possibly meeting a man of interest. As things go with me, at each event I met a wonderful person, albeit, a woman. It was the same at the event for non-fiction writers, as at the hike across the Potomac River, as at Saturday night bowling. As location location location applies for homes, timing timing timing seems to apply to friendships.
The writers’ event was a dinner with a guest speaker, at one very long table, so your possible chat mates were the people who arrived right before or after you. Both of the nearby men were married and they seemed to be there solely to learn about the writers’ retreat that was being discussed. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t feel like expending talk energy with people who didn’t see me; besides, as soon as the speaker finished answering questions, I started talking to the woman on my left and she was too interesting to abandon for any attempt at equal-opportunity chatting. It wasn’t just that she said she is a psychic and sees the dead, but we clicked in such a way as to enable casual conversation hopping from talking about writing to work to children to places we’ve lived and back around again. There is nothing quite like a free flow of ideas whose essence is pure flow. It reminds you that there are interesting people in the world and that you have a few “interesting” cards up your own sleeves.
The Saturday hike was glorious. It was an April day in February, a break from the polar vortex. The 75 of us who had signed up for the event through a Meet-up were meeting at a point under the Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, Virginia. As usual, I got there early. Three other early-arriving women began talking once we identified that we were part of the group and together we walked to the meeting spot. As more and more people came, women and men, we stayed in our group, joined by a few more single women. It felt comforting to be formed into a group within the group, to no longer be alone, wistfully wishing not to be alone, noticing so profoundly all of the people who arrived in couples, even if they were the minority.
As we began our walk, we paired off, and Nan became my hike partner. How did it work out that the woman I walked with had an ex-husband who was eerily reminiscent of mine, and how is it that she filed for divorced around the same time I did, and how is it that she was here for the same reasons as I was (this one I think I can figure out)? We walked seven miles, over to Maryland and back, with a stop for coffee, tea, and bathroom, with nary a break in the conversation.
That same night I went bowling. When I left the bowling alley to wait in my car because, once again, I was too early, another woman came out of her car and said that she, too, was early for bowling. So together we went back in and talked, and joined up with other people as they came in. For the rest of the night it was as if we were old friends, encouraging each other, as we hit strikes or the gutter.
As much as we are alone in the world, we are not. Who needs six degrees of separation when the person who just happens to come stand next to you, if given the chance, could become a close friend.
Which makes me wonder why it’s so easy to make friends with women, and so hard to find a man with whom I want to sit around a table sipping coffee for more than an hour?
When I meet a woman I have no walls to guard and I am as me as a person is in public. More importantly, I take her for who she is and how she presents herself. I am not critiquing her for transgressions of my own rules. I am not scrutinizing her to catch moral lapses. I am not evaluating her, wondering about her job stability or any stability for that matter, and I am certainly not considering if I could be with this person for longer than the moments of this moment. It is a friendship based on this experience and the honesty that temporary relationships enable.
I used to think that this ease of conversation was because women are better at conversation and making friends, but I think that the error is mine. These are not apples and oranges. How can you compare an interaction with a person for whom you have no expectations to an interaction with a person for whom you have partner-for-life expectations? Imagine getting dressed the same way to meet a man as to meet a female friend. But I wonder if that isn’t what I need to do: stop trying to meet my future and try to engage my present. Perhaps I am the one who is failing in my own expectations, focusing so much on that alternative commentary in my head that I don’t give men a chance.
On Thursday I have a coffee date. I am going to challenge myself not to challenge him, but to meet him as I would a friend. Try to give us each a chance to be, in a sense, girlfriends before bedfellows.
Clothes, I’m thinking that I won’t abandon going for cleavage just yet.