NFA (New Friend Anxiety)
by Amelia Kanan
A few weeks ago I met someone. (I love pretending like I make everyone’s heart stop when I say something like that.)
Seriously though, a few weeks ago I participated in this tree planting volunteer project and was paired up with this girl. Funny enough, I had judged her (thinking she was judging me, naturally). We had both arrived a little late and I followed her into the designated area where there were literally hundreds of other people. I stood in line behind her, mocking in my head that she was wearing her marathon gear from the previous year and short running shorts in the cold morning air. I mocked her because I thought she looked cool…aka cooler than me. I mean seriously, how dare she steal my “arrive-late-to-look-cool-even-if-it’s-for-a-non-profit-event” style?
After I got my name tag and group number I went and stood as far away as possible from Ms. Marathon-Beautiful-Long-Legs-And-Semi-Cool-Sunglasses. I chose to stand alone (story of my life). Trying to seem cool but then realizing how uncool I looked. I hadn’t arrived onto the scene in my sunglasses and since the sun wasn’t out I couldn’t just put them on out of nowhere. Meanwhile, I overheard an uninteresting conversation that was happening to my right. Two annoyingly excited 37-year-old (my own age projection) moms were trying to chat up a 30-something year old man. I was annoyed for having to overhear their desperation to meet new people but thankful for the information I gained from them because when they got pulled away by their group leader, I had ammo to strike up a convo…
I had as much interest in this man as I did in his wrap around sunglasses but I was desperate to not feel alone. I strategically looked over to make eye contact once his annoying Vulchers left and I smiled, in the coolest way I know how (that means, I smile with my lips and not with my eyes).
“Happy Anniversary” I said in a sarcastic sort of way. Making fun of the ladies but at the same time giving him some respect for his 12 year stretch of marriage.
“Haha Thanks.” He said. Alright, I though, he’s cool because he picked up on my sarcasm.
We struck up a convo which was surprisingly unawkward considering his cargo khakis and posture. He had two little girls that were 5 and 3 to which I said those were “good ages”. He smiled and agreed proudly which mean he didn’t know that when I said “good ages” I meant that they hadn’t reached the annoying age yet. He went on to tell me that he had just been transferred to a different department at his company in order to hold on to a job and was struggling.. He was a nice guy but that’s it. Nice. Filler. Doesn’t really know how to talk about anything outside of his own little world and it’s people like that who I (mentally) have a hard time with. Where was Ms. Marathon? She’d probably understand me.
The group of 100’s began to dwindle as we were put into groups. Mine of course was the last group to get called since I had been one of the last ones to arrive but silly Mr. Cargo Khakis was so distracted by his conversation with me he had missed his group being called. Group 6. I had heard it called but didn’t want to get involved with telling him what to do so I acted like I was just as confused when he asked “Did Group number 6 get called?”. We said polite “goodbye”‘s and “have fun”‘s as I let him figure things out for himself.
I walked into my group. 9. There she was, Ms. Marathon. Ms. Look-At-My-Long-Beautiful-Marathon-Legs. Not only did I have to get to know her so I could remedy the jealousy inside me but also because, we were obviously the coolest ones around. Well, except for the scruffy faced guy with the Camelbak but, I was in no position to chat him up since I was looking frumpy in my jeans and T-shirt. Girls don’t judge like guys do so, Ms. Marathon would have to do for friendship today. She and I were corralled together in our group of 11 as we shuffled to get our shovels and rakes. We smiled and she even laughed with me (not at) when I accidentally stepped on the rake making the handle fly up. Then we began the normal “What’s-your-name-and-where-are-you-from?” conversation. By the time we had walked to our site where we were going to have to plant trees we had already shared a few laughs as well as a few “Me Too!”‘s. So when our leader designated us partners, I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think she was either.
As we pulled up sod, dug deep holes, moved trees into those holes, filled/stomped in the dirt and carried buckets of water to pour into our new plantings we never had one moment of silence. Our conversation was as steady as a Meg White beat. Detroit art, Detroit politics, personal backgrounds ad religion. It was the best conversation I’ve had since being back in Detroit, to say the least.
Here’s the thing. She’s in her Sophomore year of college. I feel lame trying to hang out with her. She’s young, I’m old and although our conversation was great while digging trees would it be awkward to hang out?
Oh, the best part? Not only did she and I begin in a typical “Amelia-best-friend-pattern” (aka me being extra critical before knowing the person but then becoming best friends) but also her only sibling is a twin brother (my lifelong dream) AND her parents are two lesbian moms! She screams “Amelia’s Best Friend” and yet here I am…so shy. Is she too young to befriend? Is she too cool for me? Is this weird? Ugh, I think I met my first potential new friend that I’ve made all on my own of Detroit and yet here I am not feeling comfortable about it all.
I’ll keep you posted on how this goes…