She served up a beautifully cooked steak, alongside a crisp green salad sprinkled with cold-pressed olive oil, and an elegant Church Road Sav – waaaayy too posh for someone like me who existed on vegemite on toast and pizza. (I was single then and could get away with it).
Lee had answered my ‘friend wanted ad’ on the rear page of the national rag. Back then, ‘online’ referred to your washing hanging out to dry, and ‘digital’ was something you did with your fingers.
It was our first meetup over dinner at hers.
I was starting over, again.
We chinked glasses and traded war stories on our recent breakups – hers a marriage her parents warned her against, mine a relationship doomed from the start. We were two lonely souls reaching out and starting new.
We had little in common at the time, apart from our intelligence, a love of good times slurred over excellent wine, a desire for a cool friend (or any friend), and scouring the ‘Strictly Personals’ column for fun.
I wasn’t finding friends the conventional way.
A full-time office job, anti-social hours waitressing and being hungover most weekends scuppered usual avenues. I had tonnes of acquaintances, but I felt very alone.
All I wanted was one friend—a wingman.
I had made the mistake of building a new life around my boyfriend, making him the centre of my world. His friends were my friends – or at least until we split. They naturally took his side – which sucked.
So I tried something different.
I wrote an ad. I reasoned if no one replied, no one would know I was the biggest loser behind the only advertisement looking for a girlfriend without benefits.
In a country with two degrees of separation, that was too much to hope for.
I received three answers via post.
My aforementioned new best friend, another who never showed up, and a female regular at the nightclub I worked at – shoot..me..now! (We just pretended ‘ad-gate’ never happened).
It was worth it.
I never told anyone how we met until I flew to Sydney to attend her 50th birthday for the weekend. I was always too embarrassed to announce out loud I was once nigella no mates.
But when her Aussie mates asked how we met, I no longer cared what people thought (the great thing about midlife – although I was counting on never seeing them again).
In any case, it was something to celebrate.
Our friendship has spanned 27 years and counting, most of it from afar, as we transitioned into marriage, new countries and motherhood.
I was there when she met her future husband swigging a bottle of Bollinger outside the bar across from my penthouse bedsit, and she was there when her friend confided my future husband was a ‘meathead’ after a few long island ice teas (he was being a dick, that’s true).
Our lives may have travelled different paths (she thinks I’m now a hippy because I live in a shack at the beach), and we may still not have a lot in common, but we have a shared history and genuine friendship – and that’s priceless.
So why am I telling you this story?
It wasn’t easy placing that ad. It wasn’t the done thing.
I was scared that all would see my desperation in print, of crickets (confirming that I was a loser) or, worse, attracting weirdo stalkers. But I had to do something. I had to start somewhere. And I knew I just needed one friend.
I put myself out there, took a risk and tried something new. And the best thing of all?
I found out that I wasn’t alone. There was someone else just like me – another saddo who consumed the not so ‘classy’ classifieds.
You’re not alone either. Your wing-woman is waiting for you, but she won’t come to you.
You have to be proactive. You have to put yourself out there. You’ll have to try new things, and you’ll have to make the first move – no matter how scary.
Concentrate your efforts where you are likely to find friends.
I knew that if anyone replied to my ad, they wanted to find a friend too – I just had to nurture the friendship.
And through shared experiences, our differences became less obvious over time as we grew together.
Technology makes it somewhat easier to find others looking to connect now, and the web is a great place to start. The great news is, it’s no longer weird to do so. It’s our new reality.
Try Meetup.com to target your hobbies, interests and find other women like you; or search private Facebook groups local to you, e.g. [‘Name of City’ – ‘Example Hobby’ or ‘Example Interest’ or ‘Expats’].
Ex-pats, new to a foreign city, are starting from scratch and are very open to making new friends.
Have some fun researching other options…
Someone like you is out there wanting their forever friend too. You’ve just got to help them find you.
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!