Dating For Friends. Making New Friends In A New City.

Brunch with Elspeth Lynn, Christina Ford and the girls In Shoreditch

Girlfriends Are Simply Put, An Essential Life Source

Girlfriends. They have gotten you through messy breakups, given you honest fashion advice (sometimes even unsolicited),  been there to let you vent.. and vent... and vent, hold your hair back when the Tequila shots are making their way back up, got you home safely, cried when you cried and made you laughed when all you wanted to do is curl up with your other best friends Ben & Jerry and drown your sorrows in a tub of Chunky Monkey.  You know that friend. You could show up at her door at 3:00 in the morning with a dead body and they say nothing as they go and grab their shovel.

I remember my early days in London talking to my wise beyond her years 22 year old daughter. I causally asked out loud (not expecting an answer) I wonder when London will start to feel like home? She replied, "when you start making friends". She is right. Friends ground you to a place. Make you feel a part of something much greater than the little plot of land you sleep upon. So how do you do that now, make friends? Younger it was simple. School you were surrounded by likeminded people, new friends a plenty.  Your job... meeting new people at every turn. Then, if you were like me you then had your kids and all the new people that you were meeting, friends you were making were all tied into playdates, playgroups, car pooling and parent groups. It was easy as your lives were intertwined. 

So now here you are, a empty nester in a new city and a zillion miles from anyone who knows you shouldn't drink tequila. So you my friend need to get out there and find yourself some new local girlfriends, in short...start Dating For Friends. 

Dating For Friends - Essential Tips

Girlfriends Hugging in Jean Jackets

I am not a naturally an outgoing person. Those who know me might disagree or find that surprising. I general don't speak until spoken to... unless someone pisses me off. I don't strike up a conversation with the people sitting next to me on a flight without the occasional "excuse me" when trying to climb over them to get to the loo. I have never made a friend at a yoga or spin class. Geeze reading this back I sound like a lonely loser.  I admire my sister Jennifer who can make friends on a elevator, literally. So I had to put myself out there in a way I have never had to before. I had to find myself a new tribe, some new girlfriends...and strangely it was not second nature to me.  So I knew I needed a plan, a well orchestrated plan.  

Reach out to Friends of Friends

Just before I moved I asked all my current friends in a massive email and Facebook message if they knew anyone even remotely interesting in London. I was up for meeting anyone they would recommend. Even if all that you got from that meeting is a recommendation for a good blow-dry salon. Worse case I lose an hour of my life with some trill small-talk...or learn which dry-cleaner to avoid.  But most people were great understanding that big moves can be daunting and were willing to meet for dinner or a drink.

Ask people on friend dates. Be forward! Say, "I have a friend-crush on you, would you wanna go for coffee or something sometime?" (didn't actually use those words). 

But I did start asking girlfriends out. You start out with a coffee or quick bite and over the course of the "friend-date" you size each other up, share some interesting but less-personal stuff that makes you look good (but not too good) and then decide if you have enough in common to take it to the next level. Dating for friends is very similar to normal dating with the exception of not wanting to see that person naked at the end of the 3rd date if all goes well. The next level I have found in "London girlfriend dating" is a lunch usually accompanied by a stroll through a art gallery. So far on my girlfriend dates I have visited The Tate Modern, The V & A (twice), The Saatchi Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery.  I read somewhere, and this is so true for me that when you are in a foreign city there are two main things you do that you hardly ever do at home, use public transit and visit art galleries. Yes to both. 

Follow Your Bliss

There are naturally activities that you’ll enjoy more than others, and this is likely where your tribe exists. Take a course in something you love to do. Painting, cooking, yoga, wine tasting. If there is something that you’ve always wanted to try, but have been hesitant about, now is the time. Anonymity is actually a wonderful gift, because in a new city, no one will even know if you make a fool of yourself trying something that you’ve always been curious about. I love to cook so I took a cooking classes. Not only only did I hone my knife skills but I asked the instructor out on a girlfriend date as a "thank you" for a teaching job well done. We are now good friends even though she recently moved to Scotland. Can you say Teacher's Pet?

Say Yes!

As you start putting yourself out there keep “maybe...let me think about it” or “thanks for the invite, but…” far from your vocabulary. Moving to a new city is the time to say, “why not!” and “that sounds great!” to whatever invite comes your way, even if it’s something you’d normally have no interest in doing. A Newcastle VS Crystal Palace football match comes immediately to my mind. 

Join A Club

Another life-saving thing you should do when you move into a new city is join a club. London has thousands of clubs diverse as the people who live there. Most cities do.  As my interests and pursuits are creative the Soho House has been my second home. I have attended lectures, learned the proper way to arrange flower (great for meeting gay friends), watched the cast of the West End musical Motown (again gay) belt out a private show, and most frequently I bring my "dates' here so we can attend some event that interests both of us. Another tip I have been given from a woman who has travelled the world following and supporting her husband's international career is find the local women's club in your city. London has a bunch of them. I joined the Kensington Chelsea Women's Club (KCWC). I started volunteering, attending some events and really have enjoyed meeting some interesting well traveled women and also...making myself useful.  

Start Volunteering

You have some free time, make it count. Volunteer somewhere you are passionate about. You love dogs...there are dog shelters that are always looking for dog walkers. Dog people are the friendliest breed on the planet. When I had my dog Hunter I would always meet people walking the dog. Hmmm, might be time to get a dog. Make friends whilst making the world a better place. Total win: win. 

Hunter and Christina Ford Chorley Park, Toronto.jpg

Pay It Forward

Once you realize that everyone at one time or another has been the "new kid in town" you’ll discover a new appreciation for those people who have gone out of their way to make you feel welcome when you first arrived. Now that you are settled into your new life, new group of friends it is time to pay it forward.  Be that person.  If you see someone who looks like they may be new around town, welcome them. If someone is straddling the edge of a conversation circle, take a step back so that they’re welcomed in.

Don't Forget To Keep in Touch With Your Old Friends

 Even if they’re scattered to the wind nothing will cheer you up faster on a lonely day than hearing a good friend’s voice or getting an email or text. New friends are great. Hell, every friend started off new. But remember there is something about an old friend that you never want to lose. Don't forget to stay in touch. 

I love how badass we think we are when we're together.

Remember, friendship in any postal code can be born out of that one single moment when one person says to another, "what you too? I thought I was the only one".  And Ta-Da, a new friend is born. 

 Happy Friend-Dating, girlfriend.