Loose Ends: How Not to Make Friends

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 10:15am
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I am really bad at making friends.

This wasn't always the case. For most of my life, developing a large posse of nerd pals was almost second nature. Even though I moved a lot, picking up new ones was never a big deal. It's not difficult when you live with, study with, and often work with the same group of people. It's easy enough to find someone wearing a shirt you like or carrying a book you've read or just someone who says hello to you in the hall every day. It's built for that.

The school environment is so easy to make friends in that my closest friend and I met because we were both wearing shirts referencing science fiction television. She mutely pointed at my shirt, I pointed at hers, and told her we were going to be soul mates. Now I'm going to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. See? Easy.

But then I graduated college and things got harder. Without something that forced people to be around me, I realized that there were just so many, many more people in the world and I didn't have any great ice breakers. No longer can I just point to people and say, "We are friends" and then it is so.

Part of it is the transitory nature of the Block Island summer. Every time I speak to someone who seems cool, they're inevitably either a tourist or work here just for the summer and work all the hours I do not, thus ensuring that I will never see them again. It changes my process. Now I sidle up to people and the first thing I ask is "Where are you from?" If they say something other than "I live/work here," there is no other choice but declare that they are dead to me and walk away again.

When you live in a place where 90 percent of the people in your age range only stay for five months, making lasting friendships is difficult. Even short term ones are hard. You know it's going to end, sooner rather than later. You know they're going to go off to wherever they live and you'll still be here, so what's the point?

The other part of it is that unless someone is really into video games and third-wave feminism, I run out of conversation topics really quickly.

But none of it really stops me from trying. I go out, I have a drink, I get bored so I usually pull out a book. Then I become that weird nerd in the corner drinking and reading. More often, I write, something I refer to as "pulling a Hemingway." Advice for aspiring writers out there, do not try to emulate Hemingway. All you get are headaches and really bad writing.

So if ever you see me scribbling away anywhere around the island, say hello and I'm sure that within five minutes I will make the conversation awkward and weird so that can be fun for all of us.

... And How Not to Get a Date

A couple years ago, my grandfather bought me a book called "Crap Dates." In any other family, this would either be a funny joke or kind of a weird gift from a grandparent. In my case, it made perfect sense. I lived with my grandfather in New York City for a year and he is very well aware that I have a lot of crap dates.

He also got me "Pride and Prejudice" and Zombies and a book on the science of alcohol, which tells me that my grandfather knows basically everything about me.

It's not that I have bad taste. At least, I don't think I do. It's not that they always turn out to be jerks or that I always make it weird. I don't have emotional issues that I bring up on first dates, usually. I don't say things that scare people away, usually.

I believe it is because my dating life is basically a sitcom.

I'm not sure what I've done to deserve this. See, I tell people things about my rare and, to me, quiet nights out, and they tell me that "that doesn't happen in real life." But it does in my real life.

Potentially it is because when people compliment me, I tell them I already know I look pretty. Or because I have an unfortunate tendency to try to say the most inappropriate thing possible and then laugh about it while they stare at me in shock and horror. Or maybe because I do this thing with my face where all of my expressions look really unattractive all the time...on purpose.

Or maybe it's just a curse.

Dating on Block Island is something I actually try to avoid. For one thing, I live with my lovely and wonderful mother (sorry, Mom, I know you want me to stop writing about you but it's too late) and that's always something that makes potential dates do this thing where their eyes get really wide and they back away slowly. Another is that people my age are, as previously stated, mostly transitory, so there's no point. And the last, and most important, is that everyone knows everyone else and I don't really want to have a crap date and then have everyone know about it.

I'm not necessarily saying people here are gossipy. I'm just saying that when there are only 900 people on a small rock in the middle of the ocean, it's hard to keep your private life private.

It's okay though, because I babysit the sweetest, nicest dog in the entire country and no one will ever love me the way he loves me. Who needs people when you have dogs? So to humans trying to pick me up, be warned that your competition will always be cuter than you.