My daughter Lucy, age 6, made a new friend while we were at the beach. She made it look easy. She walked up to a boy that I would estimate was 4 years her senior, and stared at him while he dug a hole. She stood silently staring at him for what seemed to be an eternity, but neither Lucy nor the target of her stares appeared the least bit self-conscious about the invasion of personal space. Within 5 minutes, they were digging and playing and laughing together. I don’t know if she had a particularly effective ice breaker technique beyond the staring, but regardless of how she did it, it worked.
She never asked his name, and she didn’t really care. All she knew was that she had a new friend.
It was nice to remember a time when making friends was that easy. As we age gracefully, we become more guarded, more self-conscious, more risk adverse, making the exercise of establishing new friendships challenging. I have often said that the best friends you’ll ever have are made before you graduate from college. In those heady days of youth, we are less guarded, less self-conscious (at least at parties), and more risk seeking. This must be the formula for making friends.
That may be the formula, but the older we get, the less we seem to own those ingredients.
As I am riding the elevator at work, instead of looking at the ground or the changing floor numbers above the doorway, I think I’ll just stare at the stranger next to me from close range. Eventually, if I stare long enough, maybe they will be my friend. It should be that easy. Unfortunately, it is harder and harder to get past the fear that Lucy’s ice breaker technique will get me escorted from the building by security. Kids obviously don’t share that same fear, but with time, we’ll teach them.
Ding. I nod to the person next to me, and mutter, “Have a nice day” as I exit. This is my floor. I didn’t ask the other passenger for his name, and I didn’t really care. I’m a grown up now, so called.
We'll always have Facebook.