Making friends…

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Making friends…

We moved to Iowa three years ago.  While there are many things I love about living in this state, there are some things that have been very difficult as well–one of which is making friends.  Iowans are renowned for their friendliness and I wouldn’t disagree with that at all.  There’s never a lack of people who say hello or politely hold a door open.  Iowans are very welcoming.  But Iowans are not terribly inviting.  The relationships I have made here have been very surface and shallow, there’s very little “investing” going on in the few friendships I have.
I think part of the problem is that my frame of reference for friendships is quite skewed.  My husband was an active duty Navy pilot for more than 10 years before he left the service and we moved here.  In my experience, making friends in the Naval community was a breeze.  It went something like this:
Me:  Hi my name is Gina.
Girl:  Hi my name is Amanda.
Me:  You seem really nice.  Not at all like a crazy animal hoarder or a drug addict.
Amanda:  You seem nice too.
Me:  We should totally be BFFs!
New BFF Amanda:  Absolutely!!  Want to come over for Christmas dinner??
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but honestly not by much.  It might have been that our husbands were all going off to places unknown to fly jets onto aircraft carriers.  It might have been that the Navy life lent itself to the same kind of women signing on for the craziness.  It might have been pure loneliness from not having a single family member within an 800 mile radius.  Whatever it was, the years we spent as a Navy family gave me some of the best friends and best memories a girl could wish for.  Friendships were created with near total abandon and were kept tight until one party or the other proved unworthy.  Those friendships are part of what has made moving here so much more difficult.
In Iowa, I have found that it’s quite the opposite when it comes to making friends.  (Yes, I realize it’s taken me nearly 3 years to learn this.  No one ever accused me of being quick on the uptake.)  Friendship is not automatic.  To call someone your friend means they have earned the honor, over time.  There are several women who I have met and would like to be friends with, but cultivating a new friendship seems to be waaayyy down on their “to do” list.  The women I have met all seem to have very full lives–full of children’s activities, extended family obligations, good friends from high school or college nearby, appointments, and jobs–with no time, energy, or desire for new friends.  As a result, I know and recognize many women, they know and recognize me.  But we are merely acquaintances; nothing more, nothing less.  I’ve found this to be the case at church, in my children’s school and in my neighborhood.
Slowly, very slowly over the past three years some of those acquaintances are beginning to precariously tip into the friendship zone.  Those relationships can’t come soon enough for me.  I’m ready for some real friends.

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4 responses »

  1. We just moved to Iowa in November . . . both my wife and I are former Navy Supply Corps Officers who worked in the Naval Reactors program, and I grew up as a Marine Corps brat, so I have often had that deep experience of being a military newbie in a variety of markets. We actually have made some great friends in Des Moines in our first six months here, which (frankly) surprised me a little, so hopefully that follows in due time for you too. Hang in there!

    • Thanks! There really are so many things I love about this area! It would just be so much more enjoyable if we had a group of friends to belong to. Thanks so much for reading!

  2. Thanks for following my blog!

    Making friends is hard, I can completely agree. I think every region has its own downsides to making friends. In Boston, people are reallly hard to get to know (we’re all pretty bristly and unapproachable), but once you get close to a Bostonian, they are your friend for life. My husband and I are still figuring out the best way to get those really close friendships!

    • Yes, there are very definitely regional differences. That’s one of the things we are adjusting to! I’m originally from Oklahoma which has more of a “Southern hospitality” feel. I think finding those “couples” friendships are the most difficult! 🙂

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