I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically anti-social for the past month or so.
That’s a lie. I’ve been having grand conversations with many a person who is important to me…and lives in another state. When something significant happens in my life, good or bad (especially bad), my first instinct is still to reach out to KS and WYSIWYG before anyone else. The two of them are probably followed some combination of EY, RG, and/or BC. After all of that sharing, I might give one of my housemates a summarized version of what happened, but maybe not.
There is no one in DC I wouldn’t feel some kind of way about crying in front of. There is no one here I immediately want to call with good news. There is no one who I feel like I can call up regularly to say, “Hey, do you wanna go to [insert event/social function here] with me?” The only figure you can regularly expect to see by my side when I go to concerts or functions at Busboys is my shadow. My librarian housemate left a copy of Disney’s Brave on DVD on our coffee table before she went away for the weekend, and there is no one I feel like I can ask to come over and watch it with me.
I feel like the real world can be like freshman year all over again. There are all these happy hours and mixers and events designed to bring strangers together. You pick a person or two at random and start talking. Maybe you find some things you have in common, maybe you don’t, but at the end of the structured event you both attended, you have to make a decision–either offer a phone number or a highly coveted last name so that you can find one another on Facebook, or disappear into the crowd never to be any more than someone you awkwardly wave at for a while. At least in college, you’re statistically likely to bump into this person again. In real life, they’re gone forever.
This has begun to feel more than a little trite to me. It’s been 8 months, and this weekend is literally the first time I’ll be interacting with a random person I met at a gathering for a second time. I really hope it works out with her. I realize that’s what people say after promising first dates, but that’s almost what this feels like: a second friend-date. It has the potential to blossom into a friendship. Right now, events where I talk to the people around me but leave without a business card or a phone number, or worse, events wherein I don’t talk to people at all, feel like a string of bad dates. I want a match that finally feels right.
But after how many times of meeting up to go to an event out in the world together can I say hey, do you wanna go sit in Logan Circle and read with me? Do you want to come over and watch a movie neither of us has ever seen on my laptop just so we can say we’ve seen it? When do you cross the magic friendship line where we’re close enough that I can cook for you? That I can ask you at the last minute if you want to tag along on some adventure? That we can, in the words of the illustrious Jill Scott, “chill and just be?”
I suppose that one could argue that the above scenarios are best played out with a significant other, as opposed to a friend. I can see the logic of that argument, but at the same time, I refute it. When did that suddenly become true? In middle school, I could stay on the phone for hours with people I saw every day and somehow not run out of things to talk about, or if we did, be comfortable in the silence knowing that my friend was on the other end of the line. In high school, watching a movie was a perfectly acceptable reason to gather at someone’s house. College perfected the environment of hanging-out-but-not-needing-to-interact-every-second, in the form of meeting in common spaces with laptops and “doing homework” and internetting and sharing random thoughts or funny links that blossomed into conversations we’ll never forget.
Does post-grad life bring not only the end of homework and the beginning of paychecks (for the lucky among us), but also the beginning of the end of deep friendship? That seems absurd. And yet, I’ve yet to find a way to make new connections feel substantive or sustainable.
Maybe I just haven’t found the right people yet. I was listening to the first episode of Queer Inquiries the other night, and the part of the podcast that struck the deepest chord within me was the acknowledgement of how hard it is to find the communities we care about after graduation. On campus, it was so easy to find a Black community, and a progressive community within that Black community, and an even smaller queer community within that Black progressive community. It was so easy to find people who felt, to me, the way looking in a funhouse mirror feels–there are parts that are exaggerated or minimized and everything looks sort of different, yet wholly recognizable. With effort, it wasn’t hard even to find people who outwardly seemed quite different from me, but whom I fundamentally clicked with nonetheless.
I find it hard to find people I recognize myself in here. I really like DC, but I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted to transfer to another office of my company if a critical mass of people I feel deeply connected to were in a city we have an office in. Nothing in particular is keeping me here, but I want there to be. I joined a “Conscious Blacks in the DMV” Meetup group today, and feel equal parts hopeful and ridiculous about that. KS says I should put out a Craigslist ad–imagine “Bougie Black Girl seeks Meaningful Friendship.” There has to be a better way to plant roots.