Au­di­tion­ing for a new bestie

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

My makeup was pol­ished, but not too high main­te­nance; my hair ef­fort­lessly un­done. I’d se­lected an out­fit nei­ther too ba­sic, nor too chal­leng­ing, a fra­grance mem­o­rable, yet not over­pow­er­ing, and my nails and tan were on point. As per first date pro­ce­dure, I’d ac­ti­vated Find My Friend on my iPhone, which shared my lo­ca­tion with my two besties, and I’d had a vodka soda to take the edge off. Yet here I was, stand­ing in front of the mir­ror, sec­ondguess­ing ev­ery­thing.

As some­one whose job it is to have in-depth con­ver­sa­tions with strangers, first dates don’t typ­i­cally faze me. I know how to lis­ten while for­mu­lat­ing my next ques­tion, and I have a quick wit that’s con­ducive to good ban­ter. Why the nerves, then? Be­cause I wasn’t meet­ing some­one with whom I hoped to spend the rest of my life, or even go home with at the end of the night. I was sim­ply look­ing to make a new friend.

So­phie and I had matched on Bum­ble BFF — the pla­tonic ver­sion of the pop­u­lar dat­ing app Bum­ble — about a week ear­lier. She was from Fort Laud­erdale, Florida, in Auck­land on a gap year. From her half-dozen pro­file pic­tures she looked like some­one I’d vibe with. Her self­ies were all taken from the right side which, me pre­fer­ring to be pho­tographed from the left, made us selfie com­pat­i­ble. Tick. She also had im­pec­ca­ble style, long blonde hair, and in her short bio pro­fessed to en­joy a wine. My own bio read­ing “Blair seeks Ser­ena”, in ref­er­ence to the ride-or-die pro­tag­o­nists of

Gos­sip Girl, So­phie was, on the face of it, ex­actly what I was look­ing for. She ob­vi­ously thought the same, be­cause when I swiped right, we were an in­stant match.

As dis­tinct from Bum­ble, where women have to make the first move, either party on Bum­ble BFF can ini­ti­ate the con­ver­sa­tion. I was sur­prised to find that this lev­el­ling of the play­ing field made me un­easy straight off the bat. My al­pha per­son­al­ity dic­tated that I would take the lead, but not be­ing able to fall back on my more flir­ta­tious open­ing lines, I ag­o­nised over what to say. “Hey, how was your day?” felt just as un­likely to spark a friend­ship as it did a ro­mance. The key, I fig­ured, was tap­ping into some clas­sic fe­male bond­ing fod­der.

“I have a hair ap­point­ment to­day and I’m think­ing of get­ting bangs. Thoughts?” A minute later, So­phie shot back an en­cour­ag­ing “Yaaassss girl, Alexa Chung, is that you?” com­plete with per­fectly cho­sen emo­jis (scis­sors; heart eyes; ap­plause). Had I clocked this app on the first round? After all, I’d just found my­self a hype girl, and as far as I knew, that’s what fe­male friend­ship was all about.

Let me back track. In sign­ing up for Bum­ble BFF, I was pri­mar­ily look­ing for a good story. Dat­ing apps are noth­ing new — they’re now re­spon­si­ble for 17% of mar­riages, and in the US, al­most 50 mil­lion peo­ple have looked for love on­line in the past year. But on­line friend­ship-dat­ing is still largely un­charted ter­ri­tory, which made me cu­ri­ous enough to give it a go. Worst-case sce­nario, I’d have to sit through a dull din­ner with a woman I’d be able to erase from my life straight

af­ter­wards with the tap of a touch­screen. Best-case sce­nario, I’d meet some­one whose path I might not have oth­er­wise crossed, and who might add sig­nif­i­cant value to my life. One can never have too many friends, I fig­ured. Be­sides, when I thought about it, it’d been a while since I made any new ones.

The sim­ple rea­son for this is that be­yond the friend­ship in­cu­ba­tors that are high school and uni­ver­sity, it’s not easy. Google ‘how to make friends as an adult’ and you’ll get hun­dreds of ar­ti­cles from hun­dreds of re­la­tion­ship ex­perts, all in unan­i­mous agree­ment on this. In the work­place you could get lucky, as I did. Much of my in­ner-cir­cle now con­sists of Fash­ion Quar­terly team mem­bers and a hand­ful of peo­ple from the wider fash­ion and me­dia in­dus­tries. Hell, I’m pretty sure one of them is even listed as an emer­gency con­tact on my med­i­cal records. But if your col­leagues are in the ‘peo­ple I’m paid to hang out with’ cat­e­gory? Your op­tions for cul­ti­vat­ing new friend­ships in your late 20s, 30s and be­yond, are lim­ited.

Many ar­ti­cles sug­gest get­ting a hobby, so I sought out a col­league who has one that ex­tends be­yond sit­ting on the couch and binge-watch­ing Net­flix. “Hey!” I said to Ken­dall, of­fice ball­room danc­ing en­thu­si­ast. “Do you so­cialise with any­one from your dance stu­dio?” “No,” said Ken­dall, also of­fice snob. “It’s way out west. You know you can’t get a de­cent espresso mar­tini be­yond Grey Lynn.”

Com­mon ground is im­por­tant for re­la­tion­ships, and even if you both have dreams of be­ing the next na­tional salsa cham­pion, in­com­pat­i­bil­i­ties to do with ge­og­ra­phy, sched­ul­ing or in­ter­ests will be dif­fi­cult to over­come. The in­verse is also true, as I gleaned from a con­ver­sa­tion with sev­eral moth­ers of preschool­ers, all of whom dread su­per­vis­ing play­dates with women they have noth­ing in com­mon with apart from hav­ing had a child around the same time and in the same sub­urb. “When Madeleine starts school I won’t be above in­flu­enc­ing her friend­ship choices based on whose mum looks like the best time,” said one. I con­sider some of the nut­cases I was forced to play with while our mums knocked back the chardon­nay and I think, yep, clearly a strat­egy that’s been in play for some time. Not that I be­grudge this. If I had kids to ex­ploit in pur­suit of friend­ship, I would. I don’t, which is why I was all dressed up to meet some­one I found on the in­ter­net.

We’d de­cided upon a cen­tral, rea­son­ably rowdy Ital­ian bistro with an ap­peal­ing happy hour pasta spe­cial. One up­side of a friend­ship date is that noth­ing is off the menu. Nei­ther of you will be mov­ing in for a pash later, or wear­ing an out­fit that re­quires Spanx. Gar­lic and carbs are on the menu. Hav­ing ar­rived a few min­utes be­fore me, So­phie was scrolling through her phone when I ar­rived, and with re­lief I honed in on our match­ing mono­grammed phone cases — hello, in­stant ice-breaker. From there, the con­ver­sa­tion flowed eas­ily and be­tween mouth­fuls of po­lenta fries we pro­ceeded to cover off all the usual first-date top­ics — jobs, fam­i­lies, which episode of The Bach­e­lor we were both up to, pets (in­clud­ing manda­tory swap­ping of pics), and travel sto­ries. She be­ing more of a glo­be­trot­ter than I, this was a fairly one-sided con­ver­sa­tion and my in­ter­est might have waned around the sec­ond trip to South­east Asia were it not for the rev­e­la­tion that Bum­ble BFF was the modern girl’s new OE es­sen­tial. Ev­i­dently a must-have for find­ing one­self a wing­woman when trav­el­ling solo (par­tic­u­larly cru­cial in lo­cales where go­ing out

alone is ill-ad­vised), for So­phie, the app also sim­pli­fied the task of find­ing fe­males with whom to roadie around New Zealand. Stranger dan­ger? Maybe. But no less risky than mak­ing plans with the back­pack­ers you met the night be­fore, and with the ben­e­fit of be­ing able to vet ev­ery­one’s Spo­tify playlists be­fore even float­ing the idea.

Later, I would mes­sage a male friend on a work visa in the Loire Val­ley to ask how he’d gone about mak­ing friends when he first moved, and if a friend­ship find­ing app was some­thing he’d con­sider. He wrote back that in the UK, where he’d spent his first six months abroad, he’d made fast friends with friends of friends. The lan­guage bar­rier was mak­ing this harder in France, but as to whether he’d give Bum­ble BFF a go? Not to put too fine a point on it, but he reck­oned that if he got that lonely, he’d get more bang for his buck on Bum­ble.

It’s not a sur­pris­ing stand­point. Since the plat­form launched in 2016, men have been slow to take to Bum­ble BFF, with fe­male users sig­nif­i­cantly out­num­ber­ing males. Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence (AKA a bunch of Red­dit threads) sug­gests that us­ing the app as a busi­ness net­work­ing tool is the key thing mo­ti­vat­ing men to sign up, the un­der­ly­ing im­pli­ca­tion be­ing that any­thing else might come across as a bit, well, gay. “Men are very shy to ad­mit they want male friends,” clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Rob Garfield told GQ in 2016, cit­ing fears of friendly over­tures be­ing mis­taken for sex­ual ad­vances as the main rea­son. Speak­ing with an­other male friend, I dis­cov­ered that it’s an at­ti­tude that car­ries over into real life. “I met a guy at a house party the other week­end and we were get­ting along re­ally well,” said Tom, a 35 year old prop­erty de­vel­oper. “I wanted to give him my card at the end of the night, think­ing we could get a beer or some­thing, but I knew it would look like I was com­ing on to him.”

Aside from its bro­man­tic comedy po­ten­tial, there was noth­ing I en­vied about Tom’s predica­ment. Freed of the silly taboos that men have to nav­i­gate, I could sim­ply give a tam­pon to a woman-in-need in a club bath­room and have my­self a dance­floor com­pan­ion for the rest of the night. Play my cards right (i.e. send her a Face­book friend re­quest and make her ac­cept it on the spot), and I could even segue my would-be one-night-BFF-stand into a brunch date, and more.

Maybe that’s a lit­tle ide­al­is­tic. But putting one­self out there is prob­a­bly the way to go. Some­how we all man­aged to do it as new en­trants, so per­haps we need to think of our cities as gi­ant play­grounds. That woman on the bus with the flaw­less eye­brows? Ask where she gets them done. The girl at the gym with the del­ish look­ing smoothie? Ask what’s in it, and have an anec­dote up your sleeve about be­ing on a mis­sion to find one that doesn’t cost half your wages and taste like dirt. And at your of­fice’s Fri­day drinks, ask the new hire in ac­counts how many hours she’s had to spend on the phone with IT so far. Es­tab­lish a bit more com­mon ground, ex­change Instagram han­dles and — here’s the deal clincher — upon go­ing your sep­a­rate ways, so­lid­ify your new­found friend­ship by tag­ging her in a re­lat­able meme. You’ll have your­self a new BFF be­fore you can say: “Lololol, you AF.”

So­phie and I weren’t des­tined for a long and beau­ti­ful friend­ship. We had enough to talk about over din­ner, but a friend­ship also needs fire­works, and be­tween us there just wasn’t that spark. From our date though, I found the in­sight into the world of on­line friend­ship-dat­ing that I was seek­ing. I also found clar­ity in the form of a re­ply to an In­stas­tory I’d posted ear­lier that night, mid-date prep. It was from a real-life friend who I’d been ne­glect­ing, and she was jus­ti­fi­ably pissed. “I thought I was your Ser­ena,” the mes­sage said. Eek.

You can never have too many friends, sure. Equally though, if you can’t give the ones you al­ready have the attention they de­serve, cor­rect­ing that should be your first pri­or­ity. Here’s hop­ing, in my case, an in­box full of apol­ogy memes and danc­ing twin emo­jis will be enough to re­pair the dam­age. If you catch me next week on Bum­ble BFF, you can as­sume it wasn’t.

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe helped pal Ella Fitzger­ald by con­vinc­ing a club owner to book the singer de­spite its seg­re­ga­tion pol­icy. MM sat front row ev­ery night to pull crowds.

Satur­day night di­vas: El­ton John and Bette Mi­dler get up close and per­sonal.

Liza and Michael: her bestie and the best man at her wed­ding.

Richard Gere and Diana Ross took their friend­ship next level — but only briefly. Top left: best of the besties — the women of Big Lit­tle Lies.

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