Making new friends = falling in love

Photo by Alex

After NYWF, I was having what is becoming an annual conversation with my friend Beth, discussing the new friends we had made at the festival and plotting how to keep them in our lives. We talked about that feeling – of meeting someone you think you could be friends with, of the delight that comes with testing that possibility. Friend crushes, we decided, are a thing all by themselves.
This seems like a strange, idiosyncratic revelation. But it’s changed the way I live my life significantly enough to feel earth shattering.
Wanting to be friends with someone is remarkably easy to confuse with a regular crush. Too many times in the past, when I’ve become suddenly besotted with someone, I’ve assumed it’s because I wanted to kiss them. And then I freaked out and backed off or made it weird. And it’s strange because I knew that I didn’t really want to kiss them. Because the feelings were different enough to realise that, or because I was quite happily kissing someone else at the time. And it’s tragic that I missed the chance to be friends because my brain made it about kissing and it got weird. I didn’t realise that the end goal was never kissing, that it was messaging each other dumb jokes late at night and drinking cheap wine together at parties. I wasn’t besotted with that person for romantic reasons, I just loved the way they made me laugh and thought maybe I could trust them with my secrets.
Acknowledging and accepting these feelings has let me lean into them, to enjoy the sensation of tumbling into friendship with someone. Plotting ways to invite them to hang out. Seeking out dumb things to message them about. Sharing parts of your life. It’s like flirting. Letting them know you’re interested, working out if they feel the same. Taking little steps, together. It’s nice and happy and so filled with joy.
When you think about it, making a new friend actually is falling in love. The love we feel in friendships is no less valid or significant than romantic love, so it makes sense that tumbling into it would be as chaotic, scary and joyful. It makes sense that finding someone you could have that with would feel so significant.
I wish I didn’t have to use exclusively romantic analogies to describe these feelings. I wish we had different words for them – words that acknowledged how significant they are in their own right. Writing and talking about friendship has made me realise how drastically we are lacking this language, how chronically we undervalue the role friendship plays in our lives, especially in contrast to romantic love.
Part of the reason it’s so easy to confuse this feeling for a romantic one is because we value relationships above friendships. We’re told, over and over, that they should come first. We’re not really taught to invest the same energy and emotion into friendship or to pursue it with the same fervour that we date.  

Wanting to be friends is not the same as having a crush on someone or as flirting. It’s different and it’s special and that’s so important. We should fall in love with friends freely and often, whenever the chance presents itself. We should pursue new friendship with joy and passion and hope. Friendship matters. Making new friends is hard. When we find someone we could have that with, we shouldn’t be afraid to relish it, all on it’s own.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year