ON: MAK­ING FRIENDS IN YOUR THIR­TIES Daisy Buchanan breaks out of her comfy so­cial cir­cle and makes new pals

DAISY BUCHANAN breaks out of her SO­CIAL BUB­BLE and finds friends – and self - con­fi­dence – in un­likely places

ELLE (UK) - - Contents -

I’M NER­VOUS.

The wind is blow­ing my hair out of its ‘re­laxed, un­done’ style into some­thing more Bon­nie Tyler circa 1983. Adding to the full To­tal Eclipse ef­fect, I’m wear­ing a long, white maxi dress. I thought I was ref­er­enc­ing an old Ro­darte Vir­gin Sui­cides-in­spired col­lec­tion. Now, though, I’m wor­ried I look like a weirdo in a nightie. I dig my nails into the palm of my hand to quell the anx­i­ety, which is at ‘first date’ lev­els.

In fact, go­ing on a date would be re­lax­ing by com­par­i­son. What I’m about to do seems far scarier. I’m meet­ing a new friend, An­nie, and her pals. ‘We’ll be at the bar on the seafront; meet us there,’ she texted. I’m hop­ing I seem much more ca­sual than I feel. What if no one likes me? What if I have noth­ing to say? A year ago, when I was liv­ing in London with my hus­band, I would never have put my­self in this sit­u­a­tion – a Satur­day night with strangers – but since we moved to Margate, a town filled with other new­com­ers, I’ve re­dis­cov­ered the joy, and ut­ter terror, of mak­ing new friends.

More than one per­son has de­scribed it to me as like go­ing back to univer­sity for fresh­ers’ week. Only now, we all have the ben­e­fit of an ex­tra decade of ex­pe­ri­ence. I adore my old univer­sity friends, and I’m still very close to most of them, but it’s good to meet peo­ple who have never seen me throw up on my own shoes.

An­nie is one of th­ese peo­ple. She’s also a writer whom I first met on­line be­cause she’d writ­ten about liv­ing in Margate. She was al­ready fol­low­ing me on Twit­ter, which made me feel slightly less awk­ward when I took a deep breath and mes­saged her, ask­ing if she fan­cied meet­ing for a drink. We hit it off straight away – as a jour­nal­ist and in­ter­viewer, she’s used to putting peo­ple at ease – and she has since in­vited me to var­i­ous nights out and par­ties. Through An­nie I’ve met Re­becca, a jew­ellery de­signer, Char­lie, an artist, and Mi­randa, a for­tune teller I’m con­vinced I might have known in a past life, even though it was sheer co­in­ci­dence we met in this one.

Mi­randa is a cheer­leader, a force of na­ture and proof that mak­ing friends in your thir­ties is one of the best ways to break out of a friend­ship echo cham­ber. Her per­spec­tives have changed my world view, whether it’s about when to raise a fam­ily or the ben­e­fits of turmeric tea. Ad­mit­tedly, there was one awk­ward mo­ment early on when she read my palm and told me she saw two mar­riages in my fu­ture, not know­ing my ‘first’, cur­rent hus­band was on his way to meet me. Luck­ily, he saw the funny side.

But along with the highs of mak­ing new friends at a time when friend­ship sur­veys say I should be shrink­ing my so­cial cir­cle, there have also been crush­ing lows. When I was new to Margate, I went to a vol­ley­ball party on the beach that al­most put me off try­ing to make new friends ever again. Per­haps the new set­ting made me feel un­easy – I’m not es­pe­cially sporty, and I’m par­tic­u­larly tense when I’m meet­ing new peo­ple while wear­ing a bikini. How­ever, I turned up full of en­thu­si­asm, ready to smile, tell jokes and ask ques­tions. All the other guests had known each other for at least a year, and ev­ery time I tried to make con­ver­sa­tion, it felt like play­ing ball with some­one who had turned their back to the net. I was de­flated and, for a mo­ment, I won­dered whether it was pure fluke I’d ever made new friends.

At school, I’d strug­gled to be ac­cepted, let alone liked. Even when I was with my friends, I felt lonely. The books I read and the mu­sic I loved made me ‘weird’, and I longed to be nor­mal. As I’ve got older, I’ve been able to em­brace the weird­ness. But th­ese peo­ple made me feel all wrong and like an id­iot for even con­sid­er­ing that the cool girls might want me in their gang. It was one of my best friends, Lau­ren, who re­minded me that things were dif­fer­ent now.

I’ve known Lau­ren for five years. We met on Twit­ter af­ter her brother, who followed me, got in touch with us both to say, ‘Lau­ren, this girl sounds ex­actly like you!’ At first I wasn’t sure Lau­ren would want to be friends with me – ac­cord­ing to her feed, she was the coolest girl in the world; a suc­cess­ful jour­nal­ist, with a di­a­mond nose pierc­ing, hair like a mer­maid’s and seemed to spend ev­ery night in a dif­fer­ent London res­tau­rant. Ac­cord­ing to my feed, I spent a lot of time watch­ing re­al­ity TV and mak­ing stupid jokes about it.

Yet, her brother was right. Ev­ery­thing that comes out of Lau­ren’s mouth makes me think of the C.S. Lewis line: ‘Friend­ship... is born at the mo­ment when one man says to an­other, “What! You too?”’ Lau­ren might be as cool as I am weird, but she’s my twin soul. She’s said: ‘You’re 32, and your own woman, not 14 and des­per­ate for friends. You’re a joy to know. And you don’t need to bother with any­one who makes you feel less than that.’

She re­minded me I wasn’t tak­ing part in a pop­u­lar­ity con­test. I could af­ford to be picky and pa­tient, and I’d find my peo­ple. For ev­ery painful party I at­tended and mean girl I en­coun­tered, there was a chance I might meet some­one I loved as much as Lau­ren. I’m not for ev­ery­one, and not ev­ery­one is for me. In fact, as I get older, the pool of po­ten­tial friends prob­a­bly gets smaller be­cause I’m more de­fined and less mal­leable than I was in my twen­ties. New friends will be drawn to me be­cause of who I am, not be­cause they may have an im­pact on who I might be­come. Now that I know my­self bet­ter, I’m able to choose friends from a wise, in­formed place.

Friends are con­nected with dif­fer­ent strands of your life, and a per­son doesn’t need to have known you dur­ing the big­gest mo­ments in or­der to be close to you. With most of my old school friends, our paths have di­verged dra­mat­i­cally. Yet the pla­tonic idea of friend­ship seems to be about main­tain­ing those re­la­tion­ships. The older the friend­ship, the more pre­cious it’s sup­posed to be. For a long time, I be­lieved I was meant to strive for the friend­ship equiv­a­lent of an im­mac­u­late wardrobe filled with per­fect piles of beloved, aged, soft grey cash­mere. Yet, when I think of my friends and how they’ve all come into my life, I pic­ture a riot of se­quins, fake fur, car­ni­val masks, musky bits of vin­tage and stuff that still has the tags on.

Evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gist Robin Dun­bar had a the­ory that you can main­tain a sta­ble, in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with only five peo­ple, which then in­creases by a fac­tor of about three, so you’ll have 15 best friends, 50 good friends and 150 ‘just’ friends*. My life is filled with friends, and some­times I wish I knew fewer peo­ple bet­ter. How­ever, there is joy in em­brac­ing the chaos and al­ways look­ing to ex­pand your cir­cle rather than shrink it. Friend­ship is tribal, but we’re all ul­ti­mately fol­low­ing our own path, and when our life changes di­rec­tion, it’s OK to choose a new tribe for that part of the jour­ney. The peo­ple from my past are pre­cious, but I don’t want to be brack­eted by them. I don’t want to for­get who I was at 22, and I’m glad I have friends who still see the ghost of that girl when they look at me – she’s part of who I am. Hav­ing old and new friends lets me see my old and new selves com­ing to­gether. It makes me ex­cited for the fu­ture, and makes me won­der who I’ll know in an­other year’s time – and who I’ll be.

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