Sunday, May 18, 2008

The look of friendship

A good friend and I have an expression that we often use when talking about new acquaintances whom we've hit it off with: "she looked like me." This description has nothing to do with a person's physical appearance and everything to do with who she is inside. A person can look like me in philosophy or parenting style even if on the surface we look entirely different. A person can look like me in her wardrobe choices or her preferred reading material, her sense of humor or her passion for chocolate. Sometimes it's entirely intangible and undefinable why a person looks like me. But I know it when I see it, and those are the people I seek out as friends.

When we made the decision to move to London for a few years, I worried a lot about whether I would find anyone who looked like me here. I'm the kind of person who needs other people around me to be happy, and I don't tend to do a very good job of faking it with people for whom I don't feel a natural affinity. If I couldn't find anyone who looked like me in London, if I couldn't find anyone who I could be real with, I knew that these would be two very long, very lonely years.

I worked hard at making friendships when we arrived in London. Sometimes I could spot the ways in which the people I met looked like me easily (the other ex-PR mavens from New York were a slam dunk), but I also saw reflections of myself in the Swedish mother who thought about parenting almost as hard as I did, in the English woman who refused to wear stylish, uncomfortable shoes when she was just going to pick up her son at school and in the Israeli neighbor who knows that a quick cup of coffee or glass of wine with a friend can make any day infinitely better. I have also met plenty of wonderful people here who don't look a blessed thing like me here, however, and I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that it's been possible to form great friendships with a lot of them even without that initial click.

Last night, Paul and I went on a London Walks Hampstead Pub Walk with a big group -- mostly friends, with a few friends-of-friends sprinkled into the mix. For every person who looked like me on that tour there was one who doesn't, but it was a congenial, well matched group all the same. We all had a great time getting to know the area that we call home a bit better, and along the route we traded our own stories and observations along with the guide's official patter. As we stopped in front of a local theatre toward the end of the evening, I commented that Paul and I had once seen a singularly unimpressive production there. "I desperately wanted to re-write the whole damn play," I said as I described why it hadn't worked for us. "What else is new?" a friend standing next to me replied wryly, and everyone within earshot started to laugh.

I threw an arm around my accuser, laughing along with the group. Two years later, there's no question that the friends I've made here know me well. They know that I'm blunt and often forthright, they know that I'm obsessive at times and they obviously know that I have a bit of a bug up my butt where good writing is concerned. They may not look like me, but they're willing to look at me and they like what they see. And that, I now realize, is far more important in the making of a friendship than the similarities ever were.


Blogger Patois said...

I love that expression. Ideal in so many ways.

1:56 PM  

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