A boomer with a life too full for new friends?

A baby boomer by this time of life often has a lot of friends. Some of us think we actually have too many, and like other forms of downsizing, want to spend more time with the ones we like the most. That’s how occasional contributor Leslie Handler of the Philadelphia suburb of Fairless Hills feels. Or, felt. She writes now about A Life Too Full for New Friends. But adds, Think Again.

What would you do if you received the following note written on a yellow Post-It note?

“Good Morning, I like you! You are down to EARTH!…I am down to EARTH good person. Please is it ok if I call you sometime? or we can go to lunch…? My number is ###-###-####.”

If I didn’t know who it came from, I might have thought it was written by a school-age child. Or a foreigner trying to scam me. But more like one of those notes that sixth-grade boys wrote back when they were still innocent and stricken by puppy love. You know the kind …

I like you. Do you like me, too?
_______ yes
_______ no
(Please check “yes.”)

Writer Leslie Handler

Writer Leslie Handler

The sticky note wasn’t puppy love, but it did tempt me to wonder, just as it did in 6th grade: ‘How do I let this person down easy?’

Even when I was in college, I hadn’t learned to deal with these situations any better.

There was a boy in my freshman science lab who followed me every day after class trying to carry on a conversation with me. It’s not that I had a boyfriend at the time. I just found this guy to be rather creepy, and he didn’t travel among my circle of friends. I kept trying to avoid eye contact with him, but then his desperation kicked in and the following line came out of his mouth:

“Do you think that sometime between now and the end of the year, you could find a time to go out with me?”

OMG, how do you answer that one? “Nope, sorry, I have plans every day for the next 365 days”? I didn’t want to totally deflate the guy, so I just scooted away as if in a terrible hurry and told him I was so sorry, but I had to go, and I’d see him in lab the next day. I ran off to intramural co-ed softball.

But lo and behold, the guy was stalking me. I went into shock mode when I spotted him across the softball field. He had followed me! I explained my problem to a friend on the team, and he immediately put his arm around me and gave me a tight snuggle. By the time stalker-dude made his way to the bleachers, I introduced him to my “boyfriend,” and it was quite clear to him that I was taken.

OK, so I’m guilty of lying — I just couldn’t see hurting this guy’s feelings, but at the same time I certainly couldn’t see going out with him. Problem solved.

Now that I’m happily married, it seems quite easy to me to avoid even potential male interest when I put off a regular “I’m happily married” vibe. But I still find myself having to lie my way out of awkward social situations.

Several years ago, when some gal pals and I were short by a girl for our regular game night, I invited another friend to fill in. One of the regulars shot me an email saying that she didn’t want any new friends. She didn’t have time for any new friends, and she didn’t want to be forced into making a new friend.

I’ll never forget how stunned I was. Who doesn’t need friends? Besides, it was one night. She didn’t have to entertain a lifelong friendship with the girl!

I don’t do girl drama well, so I lied to them both. I told the regular that my friend couldn’t play after all, and I told my friend that, even with her, we still didn’t have enough people. I can still feel the back of my hand wiping the sweat from my brow as I dodged that bullet.

So imagine when a temp at my office handed me that yellow sticky note that said “I like you,” and will you be my friend.

It’s a tiny little office. A few reporters come in, log on, type for eight hours, and go home. It’s truly the least social office I’ve ever worked in. For me, it’s just fine. I only work there part time, and I’ve got my circle of friends, lots of family, and a full nicely rounded life.

But it wasn’t so good for this temp, a woman in her mid-to-late 60s — we’ll call her Catherine. It appears that I was the only one who said hello and good morning to her when she arrived or when we passed in the kitchen. She’d mentioned to me that she had lived here for seven years and still felt like she just moved in. I’ve lived here for two and feel all settled in.

A touched life?

So there was Catherine, with tear-filled eyes, handing me a note— “I am down to EARTH good person. Please is it ok if I call you sometime?”  — and standing there at my desk waiting for a reply.

Immediately I stood up and gave her a hug. But where do you go from there? How could I possibly say no? How cruel would that be? I looked into her puffy-eyed, tear-stained face and said, “Yes, of course,” and she went back to her desk to work.

I tried to go back to mine, but I sat there dumbfounded as I read the note again. It really threw me for a loop. I felt so badly for Catherine. Was I becoming like my regular game-night friend? Was I too busy and self-involved to allow a new person into my life? Would I tell another lie to get out of this?

It reminded me of a story I’d heard about how one life can so easily touch another. A boy, who was a high school valedictorian, gave his commencement speech honoring his best friend. He told of the day the two of them had met. It was the day he had planned to kill himself. But his first interaction with the new boy changed his life forever.

How could I turn away from the raw emotion in this woman’s face?

Within a few moments of my encounter with Catherine, my boss told her to go home for the day. I knew I wouldn’t see her the next time she was at work. I shot out a text to my friend Lisa, who had just recently complained that she had too much time on her hands now that she was working part time and that she didn’t have anyone to go do things with. I told her I wanted her to meet Catherine. She agreed to stop by for lunch with us the following week.

Then I texted Catherine to tell her about Lisa and to confirm her availability. This was her response:

“Thank you so much! Hopefully we can do more in the future! I am so happy, I pray that we will remain friends like my friends back home for the rest of our lives. Take care, have a nice evening!”

I’m not quite sure what I’m in for here, but I’m done telling little lies. Perhaps there’s a life that’s been touched here. Perhaps it’s mine.

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11 Comments on "A boomer with a life too full for new friends?"

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bobj
Guest

Great story.. Great advice.
As I get older.. I wish I had kept more of my old friends. I missed out on a lot.

Cindy
Guest

Great article. I only have two persons that I can depend on, my husband and my son. Sometimes I wish I had a friend but I have been hurt way too many times and trust no one. Therefore, I have no friends. My mother passed away last summer and now I don’t even have her to talk to. When my son was young, I had lots of friend through school but have lot touch. And when you don’t work, it’s hard to make friends.

Eric Mondschein
Guest

Thanks for reminding us how a little kindness can go a long way.

Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Guest

Absolutely brilliant, Leslie. Can’t tell you how moved I am by the power in this. Sharing – widely.

Nancy Petralia
Guest

Thanks for the reminder that it takes so little to make an enormous difference in a stranger’s life.

Lucie Bryar
Guest

Great story! I, too, sometimes feel like I have too many friends to spend the time I would like with each one — I know I’m very lucky at this stage. But I’ve learned that as life takes twists and turns that people divorce, pass away and move away. Makes it sound like I think we should “bank” some friends? No…just that we shouldn’t be quick to turn away an offer of friendship , as you so poignantly point out. Thank you.

Lynne Spreen
Guest

A fine post, and you’re a kind person. But I was hoping you’d share your tips and strategies for making new friends in this second half of our lives. As I navigate these waters myself, it strikes me again and again that it’s so much like dating! This dance between potential new friends…very delicate.

Yvette
Guest

Thank you for sharing! I feel her pain – I have always been a shy person, and wish I were more outgoing, although once I get to know someone (and vice versa) it gets better. It gets a bit lonely sometimes. If you have a lot of friends, be thankful! I hope you, Lisa and Catherine have a great time! Maybe Catherine could use an email buddy 🙂

Terri Merritts
Guest

I always have room for new friends. I have a huge mix of people I went to elementary school and high school with (in different cities), college friends, grad school friends, and people I have volunteered with or rescued animals with. We have traveled to over 100 countries and have friends in all of them. I am super busy in my career, marriage, parenthood, hobbies, volunteer work, travel, and more but it thrills me to get to know new people and become friends. It is a real gift to receive a friendship.

Renee
Guest
I’m also a busy professional. I am a younger baby boomer and, as most of my closest and long- standing friends are in their early sixties and older, I find they are becoming less and less available for socializing due to illness, travel and family involvements. I’m pretty outgoing, but finding other women my age for friendly socializing is starting to seem difficult . I like going to museums, movies, restaurants, fairs and walks in parks, interesting talks and theater. I’m married happily and have some pets, but no kids. I’m self employed as a counselor and can spot crazy… Read more »
Renee
Guest

Hi Terri,

What part of the country are you in?

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