When I was new to San Francisco eight years ago, I still remember standing at a café window on Polk Street watching a group of women inside, huddled around a table laughing. Like the puppy dog at the pound, I looked through the glass, wishing someone would pick me to be theirs. I had a phone full of far-flung friends’ phone numbers, but I didn’t yet know anyone I could just sit and laugh with in a café.
It hit me how very hard the friendship process is. I’m an outgoing, socially comfortable woman with a long line of good friendships behind me. And yet I stood there feeling very lonely. And insecure. And exhausted at just the idea of how far I was from that reality.
I knew I couldn’t just walk in there and introduce myself to them. “Hi! You look like fun women, can I join you?”
I would have been met with stares of pity. No one wants to seem desperate, even if we are. We don’t have platonic pick-up lines memorized. Flirting for friends seems creepy. Asking for her phone number like we’re going to call her up for a Saturday night date is just plain weird. All the batting of my eyelashes wasn’t going to send the right signals. I wanted to give them my friendship resume, my vast references from past friends who adore me, assuring them how lucky they would be to call me a friend.
But it doesn’t work that way. And so I turned away from the scene of laughter and walked away.
No, unfortunately, friendships don’t just happen.
So several years later when one of my coaching clients said to me in exasperation, "Ugh! I can line up three dates on Match.com for next week if I wanted to, but far be it from me to figure out how to meet new female friends," it tapped a chord in me. I remembered the feeling.
I went to bed that night just trying to thinking of who I could introduce her to that I knew, and woke up with the entire GirlFriendCircles.com concept in my head.
I woke up and wondered what it would be like if all of us could share our friends who live far away from us with other women who needed them in those new cities. I woke up wondering what it would be like if none of us felt any embarrassment at all about fostering the friendships we need. I woke up wishing there were a way for all of us who were open to new friends to raise our hands and find each other. I woke up and wanted to make it easier for women to find new friends.
And I knew I didn't want it to be like match.com where we were left picking our best friends from profiles. For seriously, how many of my current friends would have made that cut? It was time together that made me love them, not their cute photo or what they did for a job. Besides who wants to be left relying on awkward emails back and forth to set up a first date?
And I knew I didn't want it to feel like big happy hour parties where rooms full of women mingled, shook hands, and made small talk. Shivers. I'm an outgoing person and I still hate working a room. I hate that feeling of looking for the next conversation... feeling like everyone else knows someone except me. No thanks.
So I decided that the way I wanted to look for friends would be in small groups. Over real conversation. In casual cafes and wine bars. With a format where we all got to share a little and hear a little of the stuff that matters. So we do ConnectingCircles-- small groups of women matched up in local areas for an evening of conversation. And we provide sharing questions so that everyone gets to participate. (Because trust me, while it may feel awkward to pick questions, it's waaaay more awkward having one talkative woman monopolize the conversation or having everyone talk about their favorite movies all night or having the shy girl leave never feeling seen.) So it's become our popular process-- 3-6 women connecting, talking not about the weather, their jobs, or the news-- but about themselves. Love it!
Thus GirlFriendCircles.com was conceived. It would be a good seven months before I launched the first online version. And several months from that before I felt like it was working. And several months after that before I started blogging. And another six months before we got any press. And many months later before we were improving our systems based on what we were learning. And many more months.... you get the idea. We're still growing and becoming.
And if it's been a while since you've visited our website, we welcome you to come sneak a peek as we just gave her a bit of a makeover today. :) And please, help us tell a few more women to raise their hands with us if they want a few more meaningful friendships in their lives.
Today, I'm thrilled that we have had nearly 15,000 women sign up for female friendship in over 35 cities across the U.S. And we're preparing for our biggest year yet. Thanks to all those who have journeyed with us, even through growing pains. We're honored. We haven't given up on you! We are looking forward to some fabulous highlights in 2013!
To all of us who have known that feeling of being ready for some good friends but felt at a loss for knowing how to develop them-- this one's for you!