A New Image of Friendship for the 30-Something Set
It was pouring rain, and my hands were full as I stumbled into the room. The last thing on my mind was meeting and greeting the other writers at the wine-tasting reception. I plopped into the first free chair, muttering unpleasant things under my breath, when she looked up and smiled. I half-smiled back and looked away. I was leaving the city in less than five days and didn't have the energy or time to make a new friend.
The next afternoon, we ended up in the same small group, waiting outside the classroom for the teacher to arrive.
"Have you been to this workshop?" she asked. She was slight of frame and freckle-faced, and had the air of being both warm and cautious.
In better spirits today, I entered the conversation. "No, I actually had never heard of it till a few weeks before I arrived in Paris, but decided since I'd be here I might as well check it out."
"I heard about it from my writer's group in Geneva. It's supposed to be wonderful."
"Is that where you live?" I asked.
"No, I'm actually from Australia, but I've been doing research in Europe all summer."
"Oh, on what?"
"It might sound odd, but I'm fascinated with this Catholic saint named Therese of Lisieux. I'm writing my doctoral thesis on her."
It was the last thing I expected her to say as we stood amid poets, novelists, and memoir writers who had all come to Paris to attend the renowned workshop.
"Hi, I'm Ruby."
Ruby and I soon discovered our mutual interests in the art of spiritual direction, and our experiences within the Catholic Church. Then the teacher showed up and we vowed to try and continue our discussion before the week ended. We didn't see one another again till the last day. On impulse, we decided to skip that afternoon session for a long uninterrupted lunch together.
Ruby and I had so much in common, it was eerie. We could have talked for hours as though we were old college girlfriends. There was no question we would exchange information and really hoped to remain in touch. But we also simply had not had enough time together to pretend that a long-distance friendship would follow suit. And yet, it was an enriching couple of hours in which we both felt met by God in one another's presence. In sharing the gifts and the challenges of our current life stages, we both felt seen anew and reaffirmed in our unique strengths and passions.
Two weeks after my encounter with Ruby, I read an article in The New York Times about the challenge of making friends after age 30. The writer, Alex Williams, makes several valid points about the difficulty various life seasons can bring to how we cultivate new friendships and maintain old ones. But though I could relate to a number of his points, I didn't agree with his rather depressing conclusion, that "No matter how many friends you make … the period for making BFFs, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It's time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.'s (kind of friends)—for now."