Looking for friends

Making local friends has been one of my goals for the past few months, and I’ve been working really hard at it. I have not been very successful. It’s said that making new friends is hard for all moms, and all people over 30, but making friends as an INTP mom is impossible. It’s even harder than dating as an INTP. It doesn’t help that I’ve lived in 3 different states in the past two and a half years, and I never stay in one place long enough to develop lasting friendships. But I think the main problem is that I’m an INTP mom.

Making friends as an INTP is hard enough. I’m bad at initiating conversation, I tend to say things that alienate people, I hate small talk, and I’m not interested in things that most other people are interested in. Throw in the fact that I have a couple of small children, and that alienates the only people who I wouldn’t otherwise alienate by being me.

I’m also pretty picky about who I want to be friends with. There are some times in my life when I’m open to meeting all kinds of people regardless of their personality type, interests, or whether we had anything in common. In college I didn’t really try to make friends, it just happened with whomever happened to be in the same places I was. In my twenties I lived in such small towns that I couldn’t be picky at all, and pretty much had to be friends with everyone else in town, even if I didn’t want to. It worked out, and those friendships had their merits. But at this point in my life, I’m so low on energy and free time that I’m really not willing to spend time with people who I don’t like a lot.

The qualifying criteria for being my friend are someone who:

  1. either likes kids and tolerates my kids’ presence, or is accommodating of the fact that my availability is severely limited by them
  2. does not want to talk about kids or parenting
  3. is a Myers-Briggs iNtuitive
  4. enjoys some of the same types of activities/discussion topics as I do
  5. wants and has time for a new friend
  6. is not an anti-vaxxer or climate change denier

It has been impossible to find people who possess all of the above qualities. #2-4 are very difficult to find in conjunction, even without the other criteria. #1 is usually found only in other moms, and is almost always exclusive of #2 through 4. #5 is probably the most difficult to find because most people I’ve met either already have enough friends and don’t have the time to commit to a new one, or, as in the case of most adult INTPs I’ve known, don’t actually want to make friends and spend time with them. And #6 is surprisingly hard to find among moms. There are not many topics that really matter to me whether someone agrees with me on; I don’t care if someone has different views on religion, politics, breastfeeding, whatever. But I really can’t be friends with anyone who’s completely impervious to science and common sense.

I’ve tried everything. I created a Meetup group for people who would meet the above criteria. I joined regular moms’ groups and attended playdates, hoping to beat the odds and meet someone interesting. I joined non-mom groups that I found interesting, only to find that none of the meetings are scheduled for times that I can attend without children. I even re-joined Facebook, against strong personal convictions, for the sole purpose of joining more local moms’ groups. My last-ditch effort was the Craigslist personals, which sounded crazy at first, then seemed very promising, but turned out to be filled with the same types of people (Sensors) you can find anywhere else.

How do you make friends? Is my quest hopeless?

The New Year effect

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Making changes in your life because it’s January 1st seems arbitrary and forced, which may be why it usually doesn’t work. I don’t set goals or make decisions according to the calendar. But this month I’ve noticed a spillover effect from people who do, and I’ve realized that maybe the en masse resolution-making that happens in January is a good thing, because it can give a boost to the un-resolute.

I go through many periods of personal reflection when I make what you might call resolutions; they just never happen to be on January 1. My last such renaissance was in the fall, and I did some soul-searching and a little goal-setting. However, many of my goals did not have much success until this month, when being on the periphery of the resolution-making world has given them greater momentum.

Here are a few of my goals that have seen a resurgence thanks to the New Year effect:

  • In the fall I set out to make my Meetup group more active. I put more events on the calendar, found better meeting locations and tried to get more participation from members. It didn’t work. But now it’s January, when a lot of people join Meetup groups because they’ve resolved to become more socially active. So I’ve gotten several new members and increased interest in events this month.
  • I started doing yoga a few months ago. I really like it, but I wasn’t motivated to practice consistently. This month I’ve been doing yoga every day with Yoga Revolution, a 31-day program that only exists because it’s January and it’s the time of year when the most people start doing yoga. Somehow, having a current program to follow and knowing that a lot of other people are doing the same thing makes it easier to stick with every day.
  • In October I decided to get serious about making friends because since I moved to Arizona, I haven’t had anyone to talk to or spend time with besides my husband. I tried a few different things, but the problem is that Fall, the end of the calendar year, is the worst time to make new friends. Everyone is busy, many workplaces are heading into a busy season, and people are gearing up for the holidays and focusing on their own families. But come January, after the busyness has settled down and everyone has spent the holidays visiting relatives and old acquaintances they don’t actually like, a lot of people resolve to make new friends. I’ve met a lot of new potential friends recently.

I still think that New Year’s resolutions are dumb, but I’m glad that other people make them so I can benefit.

That time we all got the rabies vaccine

To try to get out of my blogging rut, I thought I would share more of my experiences and stories from everyday life. I usually think this type of blogging is boring to read, but it seems to be what most bloggers do, so why not.

Last summer when we lived in Colorado, my husband and I saw a bat flying around our house late one night after AJ was asleep. We chased it around for awhile until it disappeared, then KJ did what he always does: he googled the shit out of it. He read about how bats are the number one source of human rabies transmission in the U.S., how they can squeeze under doors and through tiny gaps a quarter of an inch wide, how they can bite people while sleeping without them ever knowing, and their teeth make such tiny puncture wounds that you could never know you’d been bitten. Rabies is nearly 100% fatal, has an incubation period of anywhere between a week and a year, and is 100% preventable if you get the vaccine before symptoms appear. We decided that we would all need to get vaccinated, unless we could capture the bat and have it tested for rabies. Continue reading “That time we all got the rabies vaccine”

Five years (part 2)

I’ve always thought it was hokey to celebrate dating anniversaries, but our first date is the only anniversary that my husband and I celebrate. We can never remember when we got married, and I prefer not to think about it because it was one of the most stressful days of my life. As an INTP who hates all kinds of parties and being the center of attention, I should have known better than to have a wedding at all. So I like to pretend it never happened.

At the time I thought that the day we became husband and wife would be a special occasion. It was really important for us to write our own vows and say them in front of our friends and family. Words are important to me, and I thought our wedding vows would be the most important words of our life, sealing our lifetime commitment to each other. But they turned out to be pretty insignificant, just as our wedding day turned out to be pretty insignificant.

The more time goes on, the more I realize that some words we said to each other X months after falling in love and deciding to spend our life together don’t define what our marriage means now or what it will mean in the future. The words that matter to me are the ones of consequence– the conversations we had at the beginning of our relationship that showed each other who we were, the first time he told me that he wanted to grow old with me, the words of support and reassurance spoken over the years in moments of crisis, the words of love we share daily over the din of toddler shouting. Those words are the touchstones of our commitment, and all of them hold more meaning and weight than our wedding vows. All the days we’ve spent together in the past five years are more important than our wedding day.

It’s too bad that we only recently moved to a state with common-law marriage, because that’s how I view our marriage. It didn’t start with a ceremony or a certificate on any particular day. When someone asks how long we’ve been married, I answer “five years,” as I think of the entire time we’ve been together as being part of our marriage. (And also, because I can’t remember the actual year our wedding took place.) Our love and commitment to each other grew continuously from the first moment we saw each other. If there was one day when everything changed, it was that day five years ago when we met with a handshake.

Five years

Five years ago I got on a plane to spend the weekend with a man I’d met online. The flight was delayed and as I sat there I suddenly thought, “what the hell am I doing?” It was the craziest thing I’d ever done, and I briefly considered getting off the plane before it took off. I had a contingency plan to change my return flight to an earlier one if the first day was awful.

We met in a hotel lobby with an awkward handshake, and the first thing I noticed was that his smile was crooked and he talked out of the side of his mouth. Later I would discover to my endearment that whenever he lacks confidence, he subconsciously becomes paralyzed on one side of his body. Neither of us knew how to make conversation, and we resorted to rattling off questions that made it seem more like a job interview than a date. I knew he was a Republican, so over dinner I made sure to tell him about the life-changing experience I had at a Hillary Clinton rally in 2007. He sat really far away from me and I had no idea if he even liked me until we kissed at the end of the night.

Only an INTP and INTJ could have a first date that is so incredibly awkward be unbelievably romantic at the same time. For some reason that I still can’t explain, it was love at first sight. For him, anyway– INTJs are decisive like that. 30 hours after we first laid eyes on each other, he asked me to move to his city. I couldn’t change the subject fast enough, but I knew something magical was happening. I never believed in the concept of romantic chemistry (in fact, I was totally against it), but every time he touched my arm or held my hand I felt full of fireworks.

For me it was more like love at third sight. By the end of our third date a month later, after he started talking about our future children and made an Excel spreadsheet showing why I should move in with him, I was 95% sure I would marry him. I have always found Excel spreadsheets incredibly sexy.

Five years later, we’re now expecting our second child and it feels like we’ve aged about fifteen years (having children will do that). Our life is crazy in the most ordinary ways. There have been a lot of broken dreams, and there are moments (or months) when I look at my husband and think, “what the hell am I doing with this person?” But most of the time, I am wonderfully amazed at how eminently we belong together. 

I don’t believe in soul mates at all– except, when I think about the two of us, secretly I kind of do. We worked hard to find and keep each other, but there’s still an element of magic when we look into each other’s eyes and see each other the way no one else can. I can’t explain it, but it’s my favorite thing in the world.

The awkward tribe

My husband and I wrote our own wedding vows, and one of the things we vowed was to always protect each other. There are many ways of protecting one another—protection from physical harm, emotional protection, financial protection, and even in the future for whichever one of us outlives the other, protecting the other person’s memory and legacy. But there’s one that I hold as a unique and especially sacred duty: we each protect the other from their own awkwardness.

Being an INTP and INTJ, we are incredibly awkward people. We don’t pay attention to social norms, or we just don’t care about them. We say and do things without being aware of how we’re perceived by other people. We don’t know a lot of common-sense things that everyone is supposed to know, and we make a lot of social blunders.

I often feel like I am the biggest victim of my own awkwardness. When I say or do something awkward in the presence of others, even if they don’t say anything about it (which they often do), a look of recognition will pass over their eyes for a moment, a look that says, “that was awkward, and I feel sorry for you.” That look is my own awkwardness bouncing off of them and coming back to attack me. It magnifies my awkwardness to see it reflected back in the words or expression of others, and it destroys my social motivation. It can happen with anyone and at any moment, and sometimes I dread social interactions because I fear being attacked by my awkwardness.

With my husband, I was never afraid of that. He always absorbed all of my awkwardness so I never had to face it again. He passed by every opportunity to magnify my blunders, and every time he did it felt like a gift. That was one of the first things that made me feel like I belonged with him. And even though we are both awkward, we are awkward in different ways, and our awkwardness cancels each other out because we both want to bring out the best in each other. We protect each other from being victims of our own weaknesses, of which awkwardness is one.

Of course, protecting each other from awkwardness is a fine line because another sacred duty of intimate relationships is making fun of your partner when they do stupid things. So you have to learn to quickly distinguish between awkwardness and stupidity. You have to know when calling attention to your partner’s blunders would cause them shame and embarrassment, and when it would bring great mutual enjoyment.

This intimate navigation of the sea of awkwardness has made me more aware of awkwardness in a wider sphere. I’ve taken it as my duty to protect other awkward people from their own awkwardness, especially other INTP’s, because we are the most awkward people of all. When I recognize someone making an awkward blunder, I try to absorb the awkwardness so they don’t have to be doubly punished for it. If the faux pas occurs in a group setting, I try to intercede so the conversation doesn’t linger over the reflection of their awkwardness in the stagnant looks and comments from others in the group. I resist the urge to say the words that would come the easiest, those that would magnify their embarrassment, and it feels like a sacrifice to give up the witty remarks that for me are so hard to come by.

It’s hard for us INTP’s to belong. It’s hard for us to make witty conversation, to feel a part of a group, and often the easiest way to do it is to seize on another person’s awkwardness and allow them to pay the price of discomfort in exchange for our momentary feeling of belonging. I’ve never found a true place of belonging apart from being with my husband, but when I try to protect someone else from feeling the shame of their own awkwardness, it feels like we are part of the same tribe.