The excitement! The passion! The nerve-wracking fun!

I’m sure this is already obvious to all parties, but I’m finding that getting involved with new friends is a lot like navigating a new romantic relationship. You meet someone — maybe at a party, or at work, or maybe you were introduced by a mutual friend — and you seem to hit it off. Does he like me? * She laughed at all my jokes! * Wow, we have so much in common…

Soon you’re swapping stories of your childhood, desperately trying to demonstrate that you’re not totally screwed up. Amusing, heart-wrenching things happened to you in the past, but you’ve sensibly put it all behind you and moved on. You’re not hung up on it, truly! If you were my new friend, I would promise not to burden you with all the dark things from my past, I swear…

So you hang out — once, twice — when you casually bump into each other or when there’s some large group activity that you’re both interested in. But you’re not quite sure how to take it to the next level. It is taboo in new friendships just as in dating to spell out “I like you. I really enjoy spending time with you. Please let’s do it more often.” What if she thinks I’m a big freak * I don’t want him to think I’m really needy and/or desperate * Stay cool, man — you set up the plans last time; wait for him to ask you to do something next.

All of this, of course, strikes me as unnecessary obfuscation. I have begrudgingly come to acknowledge that humans are social creatures. In particular, having had friends in the past, not having them now sucks. The Pandora’s box of friendship has been opened, and I can’t go back to a stricly introverted state. [damn!] But I really don’t see why we’re not allowed to be frank and just flat-out ask to begin new friendships.

Not that I’m being needy, new friend. I’m not desperate for your attention. I’m not! I can amuse myself, really! Wait, please don’t walk away. Are we still going to the movies next Saturday? You’ll call me?

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