Creating a Social Life

(Afternoon Tea, Charles Soulacroix)

Awhile ago, Hortensia, who works in a different unit, asked me for help with a small project. Of course I said yes. Then she told me that I needed to pick the day and time and place, and she would see if she was free. Hmmm.

I suggested a coffee shop near her house and when we met, I explained how to do the needed work, then (I thought) had a nice conversation. At the end, I said, “It was nice to chat; we should have a coffee again sometime.”

Hortensia said, “It has helpful to meet you.”

Hmmm. Ok. Good that Hortensia was clear that she didn’t want to meet again, but at Etiquette Central, we recommend keeping up social pretenses if possible. “Yes, it was nice to talk. I hope we can meet again,” is all that is required. Polite but vague enough that I will not make a note in my calendar to call her.

A few weeks ago I ran into her by chance and she said, “We should have dinner!”

Of course I said, “Yes, we should have dinner,” content in the certainty that she would make no effort to arrange this.

I think of this issue in terms of Big Bang Theory: there are people who don’t want social interactions, people who want social interactions but don’t know how to arrange them and people who are adept at socializing. Different skill sets require different adjustments. Those who want friends need to ask questions and follow clues. Those who are adept need to be patient.

At 28, awkwardness is still to be expected and must be dealt with calmly, but after 40… sigh, you should have figured out how to arrange your social life.

Hortensia was able to organize herself when she needed help with work, but get-togethers, that is someone else’s responsibility (if they want to take it on, which I don’t).  If you want to meet up, give specific choices: “let’s have coffee I am free Tuesday and Thursday afternoons” or “let’s have dinner, Thai or Mexican? Sunday or Monday night?”

Yes, it would be nice to chat with Hortensia again, but bearing the entire burden of arranging meet-ups is something that happens with long-term friends when one of them is going through a rough patch, not a new acquaintance.

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