816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider - Tales of making friends through the years

When we started making friends in grade school the methodology was fairly simple: A smile and interest in eating only the black crayons? Best Friend status.

Things got slightly more complex in high school: people connected based on interests and clubs we belonged —or didn’t belong — to, by sports teams or by entertainment idols. I know my teenage daughter has begun friendships solely due to a shared devotion of Taylor Swift and/or Doctor Who.

College was easy pickings for pals. Study groups, part-time jobs, classes, dorms...the well of potential chums was deep.

Once graduated, new friends were harder to come by. Perhaps our criteria were stiffer. Or maybe the place we spent the most hours — work — was rife with social, political and business obstacles. Maybe an in-box full of responsibilities was getting in the way of establishing bonds.

“Darn it, what’s with all this work? Can’t you see I’m trying to make a friend here?” I remember mumbling sarcastically. My husband and I met at work. Friendships were possible, but it was getting difficult.

Then came the biggest challenge of all: Mom Friends.

I dusted off a lot of the skill set I used when dating to make Mom Friends. Instead of flirting, there was witty banter about baby antics. Instead of barometers gauging physical attraction, were our parenting styles similar enough that I wouldn’t want to smack her with a diaper bag during a playdate?

After ascertaining compatibility, there was The Close. Not too quick, too desperate, too needy — the exchange of contact information and plans to meet again was complicated.

And my skill set was faulty. I was about as good at making Mom Friends as I was at dating, but I muddled through meeting women through activities with my kids.

But now? Where to turn when the kids are established in school and I work at home?

The internet.

Online dating is a billion dollar a year industry. Over 40 million people in the U.S. have tried it. Finding women friends might take a version of the same social skills as dating, but friending sites don’t exist…exactly.

I met Denise online. Twitter, actually. We do the same type of work, are both mothers, both from the East Coast and about the same age.

We are also quite different. She lives in the neighboring state in an upscale area; I live near a cow pasture. Physically she is tall, dark haired and willowy, I am…not. She has two sons, one off to college and one a senior. I am still wondering what to bring to elementary class parties. She is reserved and quiet, I am…not.

So how do two women start a friendship with Twitter’s allowed 140 characters or less?

Veeery slowly.

Almost a year after we started joking around on Twitter, she came to my birthday party. But really? Who can talk at a party?

Eight months later, we got our act together and met for coffee. We claimed a spot at One More Cup in Waldo and there we sat for the next few hours.


140 characters be gone! We shared stories of kids and families, acclimation to the Midwest and hot flashes. She imparted wisdom about college obstacles ahead of me; I encouraged her to challenge herself professionally. We laughed and groaned about a shared work situation that was mutually awful; we talked about where we have been and where we want to go.

We cemented a friendship.

Was it a morning of old wives tales? Bold wives tales? Odd wives tales? Maybe all of the above.

All friendships have tales of how they began, this was ours.