Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Every American woman who was ever a Girl Scout knows that song:

Make new friends
but keep the old
one is silver
and the other’s gold

I don’t remember much about being a girl scout, except the mean girls who would turn around and walk backwards when I looked over my shoulder at them as we all trekked the short distance from school to the church basement where we had our meetings.

I was never one of those girls who had a lot of friends, a big group that went everywhere and did everything together. In some ways that was a good thing – I avoided a lot of the pain of cliquishness that middle school girls inflict on each other. I came to enjoy my own company, and grew comfortable being alone, or with just one good friend at a time. Eventually that one good friend and I would outgrow each other, or my friend would suddenly abandon me for reasons I never understood, but I got through it.

Mike was my best friend, one of those rare people who really “got” me, and with whom I shared a similar sense of humor. But we came from very different backgrounds, which made our marriage difficult. There were long stretches of time when we didn’t feel that mind-meld connection that many happily married people have. There were years on end when we both, as Mike once said to me, were lonely in our marriage.

There’s been a lot of research lately about how social connection is essential to health and longevity, which is one of the reasons I started a MeetUp group. That group now has 268 members, but so far, only a core bunch of 8-12 people have shown up at events.

But that’s OK: just having a chance to go out and talk, do karaoke, play trivia, or take a guided walk in a forest preserve has done me good. But it has also made me restless, thinking about time again, and how little of it there seems to be to invest in getting out there and making friends.

I’m feeling that post-pandemic awkwardness, as if my social skills are a little out of whack, like I’m overdoing it or being “too much” for people. It makes me anxious that the whole thing will collapse and I’ll be back where I started, lonely and isolated again. But I’m going to push through and keep trying to make new friends.

In my adult life most of my good friends have been men. I don’t have one of those close, sisterly relationships many women have, with that one special girlfriend they can talk to about everything. I’m not sure I’d even be comfortable with that kind of friendship, but at this point in life I’m not going to rule it out.

The men friends I’ve had over the years have all been coworkers, people I just kind of clicked with at work. But as I moved from job to job, or they did, we always lost touch.

Which is why it was so delightful to run into a former coworker on Friday night, at a place I’d never expect to have seen him. I’m plenty old enough to be this young man’s mother, but when we met at work something just fit. I don’t really know why, or what it was, but this guy is easy to talk to, and interesting, and smart, and he seems to think the same of me.

But when he left my current employer, I didn’t expect to ever see or talk to him again–that’s just kind of the way things like that go. But there he was, in the same spot on Friday night where I was hosting my MeetUp group for some St. Patrick’s Day karaoke fun. I didn’t get the chance, when he left my employer for another job, to ask him about that, where he was going and why and all that, and I almost forgot to do that Friday (it was loud, not the kind of place conducive to conversation). But I got that done in a brief text exchange after I went home.

I’m not sure I’ll ever see this young man again, but running into him seemed serendipitous, like a sign that I don’t have to give up on friendships, or always expect them to fizzle out. And although this one probably will (he’s a kid, he’s got a lot of life to live) it gives me hope that connection is possible, and could happen unexpectedly.

Trying to stay hopeful, making new friends and keeping the old, in as far as that ‘s possible, I remain,

your too loud, too much, overdramatic, scene stealing, trying to dial it back and give others more space to click,


3 thoughts on “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

  1. I was lucky to have had an ongoing very close relationship with my husband- not idyllic, there is no such thing, but a partner willing to work on our issues both as an individual and as a couple. That saw us through the tough times, and because we got together when I was 16, he, 18, we both had a lot to learn about how to love ourselves let alone somebody else. Since he is gone now for five years, I miss having a real friendship with a man. To my amazement I have made several new really close women friends here in my retirement facility and have four very close women friends of old still going strong as we age together yet apart. (Yay, zoom.) I have just started making friends with one man who is married to a wonderful woman who I wish I had met before she started down the path of dementia. I really enjoy them both and am rooting for them as they navigate this new crook in the path together. There are many men here with whom I have a warm casual connection and for now, that fills in the gaps. I say, yes, keep open and reaching out as you are doing already and I applaud your efforts just as you are and delightfully so.


  2. You said it very well, but Guest said it best, in his poem on the making of friends. “…And the joy of this world, when you’ve summed it all up, is found in the making of friends.”


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