This one is for the Galentines. If after this Valentine’s Day, you found yourself lonely, you aren’t alone. Up until recently, I found myself increasingly sentimental about my network of girlfriends—missing them dearly and quite honestly, lonely for their company. So I took a leap. For people who don’t have a significant other or even those like myself that do, I’m here to tell you that you need to meet my new bestie: BumbleBFF. This is how I made friends during a pandemic.
When we made the decision to move to the windy city, it was before the pandemic hit. We had no idea that the dreams of romping around the city during summertime would be only during instances of protest or extremely rare runs to Trader Joe’s. The idea that we would have a few fabulous years in a major metropolitan with like-minded young professionals we’d meet while drinking wine on patios was in the end, a very distant fantasy.
Instead, we left a place that was familiar and abandoned our social support structure completely behind for months of quarantine with just the hubs and I to amuse each other. Luckily, we had plans to get Lemon in the late summer, so our lives felt full. But still, it would have been nice to talk to someone who wouldn’t bark back at you.
Over the years, I’ve watched my number of “close” friends become a handful whom I can dedicate time and energy. No matter what is happening in our lives, or where we are, we always manage to organically connect. For a few months, I merrily amused myself at home alone while the hubs went *quite* stir-crazy.
But eventually, I started to miss the companionship that only nearby friends can provide. And even FaceTime and Zoom began to stretch the distance between me and my besties. So, I did what any red-blooded millennial would do in the same situation… I turned to the apps.
Dating apps appeared on the scene much like Snapchat… well after my time when such tools would be the most useful. I find myself lucky that I didn’t have to search for love this way. Even so, I’ve heard some really amazing success stories. I figured it might be a great opportunity to find a pal who could commiserate with the local challenges my girlfriends from home can’t understand.
You set up a profile on Bumble BFF and it prompts you with questions to help you identify matches. Everything from shows you quote too much (Schitt’s Creek), to your drinking frequency (socially), to how far away you’d like to search all help filter through profiles. If you find someone you find interesting, you swipe right to connect. Then, you have 24 hours to start a conversation with them (or they with you), and hopefully magic ensues.
I’d heard of Bumble BFF and tried it once in Omaha, but the usage wasn’t as common. Essentially it’s a way to meet people interested only in friendship—although sometimes there are people hunting for roommates or creeps that sneak their way into the shuffle. Regardless, I gave it a shot when we moved here and my results were… interesting.
Like any other first date, there’s general etiquette that should be observed when meeting up with a stranger. For me, I struck out with a first “date” that was late, and overall seemed like she wasn’t a match. At this point, COVID cases had begun to spike and while socializing seemed fun, going out felt unwise. Although I had a decent time, I didn’t find the connection I was craving.
I took a break from the app for a few months but decided to bolster my profile by adding some key info. My intensity, level of busyness, and democratic ways are non-negotiable. I realized I must not be communicating myself well if I wasn’t matching with other people who I thought would be on my wave-length, so I made some tweaks and the results were shocking.
In January, I had a chilly outdoor 1:1 brunch with a lovely woman who, despite getting along well, we haven’t been able to connect again quite yet. It’s funny, because while I’m not actually “dating” any of these other women, I find myself experiencing a small amount of loss for the relationships that just don’t work out due to the ups and downs of everyday life. I’m sure in the coming months, we’ll meet again. And thanks to my profile updates, I found more matches with strong, independent women who also understand the scarcity of free time.
Merely a week later, I organized a last-minute outdoor brunch with a few different BFFs. I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next.
I invited a small group because 1:1 can be… awkward. For a brunch date, it’s easy to not know when to leave. Politeness requires that you don’t look too eager to bail if you like someone and want to hang out with them again. At the same time, it’s brunch (because when you’re in your 30s, the weekends are gems not to be fettered away with strangers unless you really, really like them), so theoretically you have the whole day at your disposal.
I figured with a group, the pressure would be more evenly distributed and the conversation wouldn’t be contingent on any one person speaking. And, in the worst-case scenario, if I wasn’t a match, but my companions were, I could leave them to their blossoming relationship, like the millionaire matchmaker I am.
My group brunch was, to say the least, an outrageous success. Bumble must be doing something right, because while I invited my 2 dates independently, they had actually happened to match with each other on their own, too!
One of the dates invited another friend (so we totaled 4), and she also matched with the other date. What are the odds? Pretty good according to these results, I guess!
I could wax poetic about the women I connected with, because in every way, we brought as much of our authentic-selves to the table and it resulted in magic. I sought out women who were strong, independent, busy, and funny. And at this stage in my life, I need people who are also confident (at least for the most part) in their identity.
I don’t presume to have “it all” figured out. But finding a group of people who are experiencing similar hurdles in their life, and want for-nothing besides mutual respect, and support has been a game-changer in how I feel about Chicago. It’s no longer a place we just ‘live’–it’s a place that’s beginning to feel like home.
The pandemic has been hell on everyone’s social life (at least it has if you’re doing it right). Chicago specifically has observed some pretty solid COVID restrictions. And while I won’t be going to the club anytime soon, I have found that outdoor dining in zero degrees is worth the emotional lift I’ve felt in the last few weeks.
I’ve created a bubble with people who reflect similar values regarding safety precautions. While it seems counterintuitive to go anywhere, it’s also important to remember that the hospitality industry is struggling right now. In ways that delivery or take-out options really can’t solve for, either. So I’ll gladly freeze my toes off and don my mask whenever an employee is at my table if it means bridging the gap for an industry that used to be my livelihood.
Yup. Sure is. It took me a long time to even want new friends. My friends are amazing. They get me, and our relationship is a well-traveled two-way street. As someone who also enjoys being at home taking a bath and listening to audiobooks like the introvert that I am, it took me a long time to realize that sometimes you need to find people who can meet you where you are.
There’s a reason people inherently form their own tribes and villages (literally or figuratively). Having a network of people who can match (if not understand) the challenges you’re facing in your life, presents a valuable opportunity to glean lessons from the community’s wisdom.
Having a blog, while working full-time, with a puppy, and a husband isn’t a combination that fits everyone’s emotional capacity. One of my new gal-pals has a new puppy, too. She and I can talk forever about the challenges we face and commiserate about our sleep deprivation. For my sister, who loves dogs, but doesn’t have a new puppy, it just feels like I’m taking up her time with complaints.
When in reality, it’s just that my pee-pad dramas are less relevant to her. It doesn’t mean she loves me any less, or that I don’t enjoy talking to her (seriously, she’s one of the funniest people I know), it’s just that she doesn’t get it as another new dog mom does. And that’s okay! That’s why I’ve built another network with people who can understand these trials and tribulations.
Hell to the no. Anyone who truly loves you, will love seeing you happy. Period. Finding
new more friends has been a gift. As someone who believes women should always empower other women, I’ve maintained a network of people where jealousy isn’t part of our manifesto.
I’m certainly not replacing anyone, and in fact, look forward to the day I can bring all my worlds together to collide again. I know with all my heart that I’ll look like a mom on Christmas Day watching you open the present she swore she wouldn’t get you when I’m able to facilitate one giant gathering.
Ultimately, I’ve found as I evolve as a woman, my relationships shift and change. My interests, needs, morals are essentially the same, but I find value in developing new relationships along the way, too. I learn from every person I spend time with. Sometimes it’s a blatant lesson, but other times it’s just a new perspective.
Other times, we outgrow relationships that were attached to pieces of ourselves that no longer fit. Or perhaps we’re rediscovering ourselves and don’t know how to allow anyone else on that journey with us. And because the people we surround ourselves with become a part of our identity, that can be a scary experience. And in some cases, it’s simply a matter of timing that makes finding common ground complicated.
But what I’ve come to realize is that the lasting relationships are the ones that naturally ebb and flow. It should be easy and uncomplicated to show your love and support. And in that kind of environment there’s no room for jealousy to flourish.
Nah. For now, I’ve found a group of babes with whom I’m comfortable spending my time. I still have plenty going on, and we’ve found a good rhythm for hanging out, communicating, and supporting each other. I’ve taken a pause on the app so I don’t overwhelm myself. Because there are SO MANY amazing people out there to be met, and it’s hard for me to not be interested in connecting with them!
It’s weird to suddenly stop talking to people. Because in truth, it’s just awkward to say, “Well this was a nice try but sorry… this conversation is boring”. Ghosting isn’t a new concept, but I feel like the natural flow of a conversation will lead to a good connection. That being said, when conversations fizzle, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve just disappeared (like a ghost, hence the term). So for now, to avoid becoming a legit Casper, I’m on pause.
Same, girl, same. But just a reminder that all things in life require nourishment, including your social life. And I wholly believe that spending time with friends is an important way to reaffirm your identity outside of your role as a child, significant other, parent, and employee (etc.). Making time to talk to friends (new or old!) can fill your cup, hopefully leaving you recharged, and inspired.
Today is the start of Women’s History Month. And I challenge you to consider expanding your social horizons by meeting someone new. Given the opportunity to flourish, I truly believe creating a tribe stacked with women who support each other, is one of the most beautiful assets we can acquire in our lives. As one section of society that’s been consistently oppressed, what better way to celebrate the history of the women who sacrificed and fought/fight for our freedoms than to continue lifting each other up so we may continue striving for greatness in our everyday lives?
In a season that can be incredibly lonely, building and maintaining relationships is challenging. Opening yourself up to someone (or something) new may seem counterintuitive, but I hope you’ll give it a try. Because now, more than ever, we could all use a friend.