Awkward First Dates

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This week my friend Emily Flanagan shares her experience of saying “yes” to awkward first dates. Emily is fierce in her friendships and will make you nachos when you have a bad day (the best, right?). If you have a chance you should check out her awesome blog too:

I bet you read this title and thought that I was going to talk about my adventures in dating apps or a set up by a couple of well-meaning friends that didn’t result in a second date but did get my french fries paid for… which is a win in my book. Well sorry to disappoint but the date I’m talking about isn’t the one that ends with a future spouse. But that’s right folks – I’m talking about the awkward first FRIEND dates.

Making new friends as an adult is a skill that few are good at and the rest of us just stumble through until you find a group of people who don’t judge you for the amount of times you eat Chipotle throughout any given week. If you’re extremely skilled at making new friends as an adult, then you are a unicorn. Because making new friends all grown up is about as enjoyable as a middle school dance: you know later you’ll look back with fond memories of bonding over weird pop music during this time but when you’re in it you’re just painfully aware of literally every insecurity you have.

I knew that my topic needed to revolve around pursuing new friendships as an adult when Katrina asked me to participate in Summer of Yes. This is because of the rant above, but also because I am a woman of my word. In order to put my Flanagan Stamp of Approval on something then I have to actually do it, and making new friends has been something I’ve been avoiding for too long.

Because entering any relationship – friendship, romantic, or even working – is scary! You must risk being seen long enough to be known, which means all your mess is out there in the open. When you’re that exposed, you risk being hurt by not being enough. It’s an irrational fear because we’re all just a collage of weird and beautiful experiences making us into who we are. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned how nervous everyone is to be found out that they mess up and sometimes they let people down. I feel that. All the way down in my guts, I feel that. I would rather play it safe alone in my introverted corner, protected but not satisfied.

I’m glad I know a God who far more often tells me to be brave rather than to be careful. And to build community you’ve got to show up. So I sent a text to some people I’ve been wanting to get to know better, I went on few awkward coffee dates, and we’ll probably hang out again in a few weeks when we’re free. Because we all know life speeds up and slows down all at once when you’re 24. When I got home I did a little happy dance because I did it! The Awkward First Date was done!

But then I realized that just because you go on an Awkward First Date, that means there might be an Awkward Second Date. Or Third Date or Fourth involving other people (contrary to popular belief, I DO NOT thrive in large groups and my awkward turns into overcompensating… it’s equally hilarious and mortifying for everyone). When does the newness stop and you become actual friends? When do you define the relationship as people who are friends rather than casual acquaintances? And a whole new level of social anxiety sets in as I submit to the realization that friendship from here on out just might be uncomfortable.

As I gave myself time to feel through the emotional rollercoaster of “I did it! Oh, wait I have to do it all over again?” Truth decided to pipe up through some dear friends of mine. Jesus knows what we need, and I am forever grateful for the time when friendship was able to organically grow through the daily encounters of brushing your teeth together and how these same people who know my flossing habits also know my heart. Here’s what I learned from them about why braving the Awkward First Dates are worth it:

We all crave being known.
You can be a part of a “close” group for a while and not feel like they truly know you. You can stay on the surface and talk about your favorite coffee shops in the area or work, or you can get REAL awkward on a first friend date and get down to the nitty gritty – breakups, fears, let-downs, honesty. That’s the stuff I like. Yes, I do want to know if you and I have similar taste in Netflix queues, but I would rather bond over the lost-and-found feeling of “Me too!” any day.

We all want to be wanted.
The reason I’ve put off building community for so long was because I wanted the invitation. I wanted someone to see ME and come to ME and be friends with ME. How selfish does that sound? It’s also not reflective of my Jesus. He went to people’s homes. He reached out to his disciples and invited them along to join in his work. He didn’t sit in the synagogue and wait for people to approach him about healing or because they wanted to see the water/wine trick. He put himself out there and sometimes people rejected him, but most times they wanted to get to know him more. Don’t let the bitterness of not being invited first take root in your heart. Get uncomfortable. Reach out. Be the invitation. It really is what Jesus would do.

We all are worth knowing.
You are worth knowing. It’s true! You have unique skills, experiences, thoughts, and opinions that other people need to hear. Who you are and who God has made you to be is a GIFT to the world. The fact that you even exist is a miracle. Why would you hide something so special away from others? You have galaxies within you bursting out ready to inspire the rest of us to dream bigger. So the next time you get a little afraid of the awkward first date, think about the stars and how you’re one of them.

If you’re going to say yes to anything this summer, I hope it’s to an awkward first date. Heck, if you want to practice, then I would love to be that person for you! Let’s punch our fears in the face and make new friends.

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