Woman Enough for Friendship
A year ago today, Phillip came home from work and hustled me out the door so I could work on a book proposal at the nearest coffee shop. (Funny side note: that proposal did not become a book, but I called it “Woman Enough” and it has since become this column.)
I sat at a table with my laptop in front of me, trying to be like those hip moms who work best at a coffee shop. Instead, I failed miserably. I was distracted by people watching and, particularly, by the conversation taking place one table over.
Three healthcare professionals were discussing strategies to make nursing more accessible in Mississippi hospitals. Two of them were black women, the other a white woman from the Delta. Being the breastfeeding junky that I was, I knew that, statistically, far less black women tend to nurse their babies than white women, although that number is getting higher. As a newbie in town, I was on the lookout for support after my eleven-month-old had weaned himself prematurely. But I am also an introvert, which meant there was a one-percent chance that I would actually walk up and introduce myself.
Then, the one percent happened.
One of the black women stood to refill her coffee, and I followed. “I’m sorry for eavesdropping, but . . .”
And, just like that I met my new doctor.
Making a New Friend
I love talking about the way that I met my husband. It’s a well-choreographed story, because, being newlyweds, we have told it often. I don’t love telling our story because of its particulars; anyone’s love story is sweet. I love it because it shows that God has a special way of orchestrating the most important relationships in our lives. And we can’t mess up his will.
For instance, when I first met Phillip, I was completely unimpressed with him—as he was with me. He was dating someone else, I was fresh off of a terrible relationship, and we weren’t interested in each other at all. There was no chemistry. He even tried to interview me for a podcast and I gave such flat answers that we were done in less than fifteen minutes.
A little under a year later, when we saw each other again, all of that missing chemistry was present. I still remember the little butterflies of, “Am I the only one feeling this?” “Will he make a move?” “What’s going to happen next?” Thankfully, I wasn’t, he did, and we’ve lived happily ever after.
For women, though, “meet cute” stories aren’t always about romantic infatuation. One of the most common questions asked of my out-of-town friends when they visit is “How did you and Jasmine meet?” I have always done better with out-of-town friends than local ones. There’s something about distance that makes it so much easier to go deep without the initial dance of small talk that has to happen in up-close relationships.
It’s like standing against the wall at a school dance waiting to be asked out to the floor.
To me, that’s not where the similarities between finding a new friend and finding a new spouse end. The dance of “Does he like me?” “Will he ask me out?” “Do we feel the same way about each other?” is not dissimilar to meeting a new woman and thinking “Does she like me?” “Will she hang out with me?” “Is she having a good time or is she looking for the nearest exit?” There’s the initial spark of shared interest, followed by the awkward first step from acquaintance to something more.
You meet each other—maybe at church, maybe on Twitter—and you think, “She seems really cool. I like her perspectives. I would love to continue this conversation.”
Then you exchange numbers and you think, “I want to text her, but I should pace this . . . maybe she’s not a really huge texter. Maybe she hates emojis as much as I love them. Is Bitmoji too much too fast?”
If she’s an in-person friend, you plan a get-together and hope your jokes don’t fall flat, that there isn’t too much awkward silence, that you click. And when you part, you analyze every single thing that was done or said in hopes that you made a good first impression.
Eventually, you’ll take the friendship to the next level by sharing some really intimate struggle you’re having. And that’s the ultimate test. If you can make it through the intimate-struggle-sharing, you’re golden.
But that’s the scariest part for me.
I’ve lived in Mississippi for two years. In that amount of time, I’ve had shockingly few friend-dates.
It’s not for lack of trying on the part of others. I get soft offers for play dates all the time, but I tend not to move on them. It isn’t because Texans think they’re too good for Mississippi company. It’s not even because I don’t want to make new friends—I do. The problem is that I have a huge fear of passing every friend-vetting test, arriving at that last step, and bombing it.
To be real with you, I’m in an interesting season right now. Everything I write about here is a fresh journey for me. You’re getting my thoughts, struggles, and the cries of my heart in real time. And what I fear most about making new friends is that, when I share my struggles—my fears of miscarriage, my cluttered home, the stress of my shame on our marriage, my parenting worries—it may be too much. I will dive too deep too soon, because I’m fresh out of small talk right now. All I’ve got is deep end stuff. And homegirl might just say, “Listen. I don’t know you like that.”
And she might not want to know me like that.
In my mind, other women have it all together. They know exactly who they are and who they’re striving to be while I’m wrestling with the basics of my womanhood.
We’ve all heard the stereotype of women as masters of the comparison game. You may not fit that mold, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t me! I constantly look to others to gauge what is normal.
But that’s part of the reason we need friendships, to remind us that other people aren’t merely for observation and comparison, but that they are image-bearers on their own journeys of growth and discovery. Remember when I wrote about Adam and Eve’s companionship as more than simply romance? That we were made for community beyond romantic relationships?
That goes for me too.
So I’m trying to stand up more in coffee shops. I’m trying to initiate more conversations. And I’m trying to say “yes” to playdates and “no” to hiding my journey. Because doing it alone and writing about it from the comfort of my apartment for strangers to read won’t cut it unless I’m breathing life into my physical relationships and allowing them to breathe life into me.
So I’m going to go make new friends. Slowly and steadily. Awkwardly and nervously. Determinedly and by God’s grace.