I have not been in the dating pool since I was a teenager, when pairing off was more like a gravitational pull then the strategic chess match that my single friends describe. However, I have been reintroduced to it while trying to make friends in a small town. Until now, I have never considered friendships to be a scarce commodity. I had more social obligations than I could keep up with, and constant guilt from neglecting those second-tier friends that asked for my time. I’m not saying that I was super popular or anything, it’s just that when you’re in college and/or living in a huge city, it’s almost impossible not to meet people that you instantly connect to and consider part of your clan. So really, who cared if I went to a party and made a bad impression and some bitch didn’t like me? I’d meet someone cooler and more fun the next week anyway.
Small towns are not this way. When we moved here, my list of qualities for potential friends included: young (under 35), cool, childless, liberal leanings preferred, great sense of humor, being gay is a bonus. 10 months in, and I’ve pretty much abandoned everything on this list. The childless thing was the first quality to go, since apparently the only reason people below the age of 50 move here is to raise children. Now, my list of qualities has expanded to: must be young (under 45), have a sense of humor (or at least won’t get offended at my jokes), must not be a homophobic redneck and/or a member of the Tea Party. In Hendersonville, these qualifications narrow the field down to approximately 10 people.
So on those few occasions when I actually come in contact with someone I would consider as a potential friend, I feel the nervous butterflies that most people probably feel on a first date, especially after those first pangs of desperation have begun to set into their soul. I mean, there are only a few people left to meet in this town, so DON’T BLOW IT. There is a careful selection of what to wear (I want to look cute, but not like I’m trying too hard), what to serve, how far should I go with my jokes, etc. It’s nerve-wracking. And then, after our date or get-together or whatever, I can’t help but go over everything in my head that I said and wish I could take back.
All I want is for it to be like the old days: you go to someone’s house, have a few drinks, make inappropriate jokes and form lasting bonds with the people who laugh. And then you live happily ever after, until next week’s party…