>I’m sure you’ve all noticed this, but allow me to state the obvious: making friends as an adult is hard. My social circle here in Rust Belt is tiny. There’s Bullock, of course — and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for him, because otherwise I would probably be miserably depressed! But Bullock isn’t the be all and end all of my life here. There’s also Victoria and her husband (who needs a pseudonym), as well as Milton (who I need to make more of an effort to hang out with), and our economist friend, and Smartass Poet and his wife (though Milton and Victoria are closer to them than we are — Bullock and I need to make an effort to include them more and get to know them). And that’s about it for the people in our 30-something age group.
There’s also Will and Beck (not their real names), the unofficial parental-type units for me, Victoria, andMilton (because we’re all in the same department and, currently, the same neighborhood, and they’re Boomers). They frequently feed us and ply us with copious wine. In the summer such feasts are held on the huge porch of their late Victorian home in Rust Belt Historic District. And Will hilariously tells students that I’m his “protege.” Since we’re in different fields, I think he’s being playful, and since we have different styles of teaching, the smart students think this is hilarious as well. But Will has been generously supportive of my work, especially when he’s been on the research council in charge of handing out funding. I’ve heard told that he’s my “biggest cheerleader.” I’m deeply grateful for that. But Will is a tenured prof with significant authority, so I can’t be too chummy with him or his wife Beck. Social, yes. Intimate and revealing, no. There are things I wouldn’t tell them.
In short, the social circle is small, so I should welcome the chance to enlarge it, right? So when Buffy, a tenured colleague in another department who’s just a little older than I, called me to invite me to a luncheon, I should have been delighted, right? She’s a friendly and sweet person who, I think, genuninely likes everyone. In fact, I don’t think there’s a mean bone in her body. But it’s just…well.. we really don’t have all that much in common. She thinks we do because we like some of the same TV shows. Or rather, she’s obsessed with some of the shows I like (e.g., see the pseudonym I gave her). But beyond that, I fail to see the common ground. For instance, she’s a mom of two kids she still calls her “babies” and she belongs to scrapbooking clubs. I’m pretty sure there’s a huge gulf of cultural differences between me and the world of scrapbooking. (I’m getting the heebie-jeebies just writing “scrapbook” as a participial verb, frankly.) I think she thinks she does this all in an ironic hipster kind of way. But from my point of view she seems very much a devotee of the cult of American (or at least midwestern) motherhood.
And before I get trolls telling me I clearly hate mothers and America and apple pie, let me say this is not about those with and those without children. Bullock and I have a lot of friends and family with kids and we dig hanging out with them all, kids and adults alike. The point I’m making here is that this particular mom of two and I don’t have enough in common to be the buds she thinks we can be. If I had kids, we still wouldn’t. The moms I’m friends with don’t do scrapbooking, for instance. (Not to chalk it all up to scrapbooking — that’s just a handy example.)
So what do I do??? This feels so much like high school, but then my tactic would’ve been to ignore her, and I can’t do that. And it’s not like a guy you’re not interested in asking you out, where you can find some polite way of saying “no thanks.” How do you turn down an offer of friendship? Or should I stop being such a snob and see if there’s more common ground than I think. (For the record, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Buffy in semi-social situations on campus, so I do know quite a bit about her and her interests.) I really don’t want to hurt her feelings, but…but…argh.