I thought it was a good idea at the time.
The boorish Scot and I were the only white devils in a building of thousands, a shipping conglomerate sitting high amongst rusty containers that stretched for miles along the Hong Kong coastline.
And I couldn’t stand him.
I was spending most weekends alone in a ground floor apartment, fawning over HELLO’s socialite pages, inhaling chocolate biscuits through a green haze of envy.
So when the accounts lady twice my age, with a quiet mutual hatred of our colonial boss, invited me out to lunch one weekend, I said yes in lonely desperation.
I regretted it midway through the chicken feet soup. If it were a tinder date, I would have been excusing myself to prise open the bathroom window.
It wasn’t her fault.
She was a sweet, tiny, middle-aged Chinese woman with one child (go figure) – super timid and painfully shy. But a strained conversation through stilted English and awkward silences was too excruciating for a recovering shy introvert.
I felt terrible when I politely declined her horrifying suggestion to meet again, with her teenage daughter!
But when I look back, I have nothing but admiration for this equally lonely lady. Despite being extremely shy, she summoned the courage to invite me out even with nothing in common but the depressing environment we were both trapped in.
And for me, starting from scratch with no friends meant I couldn’t afford to be picky.
I was reminded of this when someone commented recently that making friends is a bit like buying new clothes – you’ve got to try them on for size and see if they fit.
Sometimes they don’t, no matter how much you want them to (generally my experience of clothes shopping in Hong Kong).
But when you’re cold and naked, you need clothes – any clothes to start with, to meet your basic need for warmth (and dignity).
It’s tempting to instantly dismiss clothes on the rack as the wrong size, shape, colour or style because you have a preset notion of what you’re looking for, what suits you, and what works.
But as with clothes, sometimes you have to try people on for size, give them a twirl and a chance, then decide – instead of rejecting them from the outset.
Our primary need as humans is connection, and whilst this friendship didn’t fit me, someone thought I was worth getting to know, which bolstered my confidence enough to survive that period of isolation.
Not every encounter will blossom into friendship, and that’s ok. You may not be a good fit, but you won’t know until you try.
Grab every opportunity you can to connect, especially when starting from scratch. Not only is it good for the soul, but you’ve just gotta start somewhere.
p.s. Want to find friends for more fun, laughter and happiness in your life? Download the Quick Start Guide to finding fabulous friends in your 50s for meaningful connections that will bring you joy. It’s FREE!