I peered over my right shoulder and saw her. She was younger, and I assumed new to the job because she looked eager to please. Behind her was a large cardboard cutout that proclaimed a brand new air conditioner that cooled your home during the hot LA summer was within your reach, and to talk to an associate, presumably her, to find out how.
She was a little overdressed for the job and I watched as she smoothed her hair down. I had already avoided her on my way in, my customary routine at these home stores. No, I do not want solar. Not today, thank you though. Sorry, I’m in a rush. That one was my favorite as of late. There wasn’t much they could say to make me stay if I told them up front, I’m very important. I’m in a rush.
I was in a rush right now. I had been waiting at the order pickup counter for 7 and a half minutes and I was starting to get irritated. It doesn’t take much. Drivers with exhausts that go boom and make me think a gunfight has erupted outside my house. A haircut appointment that doesn’t happen because the stylist chose to come in 45 minutes late, and as I said, I’m in a rush. Los Angeles seems to be perfectly formulated to push my buttons and rile me up, and I’m often convinced that an entire city exists with the singular purpose to frustrate me.
“Have you been helped?”
NO. Was my emphatic reply. I told the checker my name and as he retreated to look up my order, I was distracted again by the young associate with the promising air conditioner. A family of 4 had just entered and the dad was a big burly type. He walked with purpose and strength, and I waited to see how he chose to avoid the salesperson. Maybe a new response could be added to my arsenal.
His back was turned to me, so I couldn’t make out what he said beneath his mask, but I watched as he stopped. Interesting. He was engaging with her. The family paused behind him as he began making large gestures with his mountainous arms. I heard him laugh and lean towards her. She smiled, laughed, and the dad and his family walked on, the wife with a knowing chuckle on her face.
As my checker continued looking for my order, I discreetly stole a look at the associate. She was beaming. No longer smoothing her hair down, she looked relaxed, comfortable even. Burly dad didn’t need an AC, but his 30 second interchange just made this young girls day and helped her get through the next 5 hours of her shift. A human connection. Such a simple thing, but one that I’ve found myself doing less and less.
It seems strange that 13 months after this pandemic with forced distance between me and my loved ones would finally hit, but here I was, aching with the need to connect with other humans. Matt was going to hang out with his friends, and instead of taking my usual opportunity to get more work done in his absence, I reached out.
It’s a hard thing for me to reach out. I wonder if it is for other people who don’t struggle with vulnerability in the way I do. Do other people have a hard time asking a friend to hang out in the fear that they’ll be turned down? Do other people assume that when others say no it doesn’t mean that they’re truly busy (what a tired excuse) but that they just don’t care to spend time with you?
First set of friends I texted. No. Busy. I tried one more, my vulnerability hitting its limits for the day. No response. I guess I was meant to get more work done on my project. I continued wiring my shed until after dark, fed the dogs, made a sandwich, and watched a show Matt would never watch.
That feeling of loneliness was still creeping up on me Sunday. Determined to put myself out there and have some of this connection I’m craving, I offer to bring lunch to some friends after church. They have plans. Not deterred, I send a large text to a group of friends. I give options for our time together. One by one. Out of town. Busy. Have plans. Too tired.
At this point, I’m feeling pretty defeated. I can acknowledge that I am a last minute kinda gal. And that everyone I know has their schedule planned out far ahead of time. I hate planning things out far ahead of time. It makes me feel dread. A suffocating sense of the foreboding.
I start thinking that perhaps I need some more friends. My pool is pretty small, and I like it that way. I can’t invest in too many people and do it well, so I have just the few. But one recently moved, so it’s probably time I open the pool and seek new possibilities. How does a 38 year old woman with no kids do that? Is there a group for that? Will I come across as desperate and pathetic?
My mean reds continue haunting me as I sit with my loneliness, and try to figure out what I can do to position myself better in this state of affairs. Strategy gives way to frustration, which quickly turns into indignance. Is there really much that’s more important than spending time on other people? Are people really so self involved that they can’t see past their plans for themselves? I thought we were all craving human connection after this past year?
There’s this girl who is a friend of a friend and though we’ve never really connected on a deeper level, we see each other at varied events throughout the year. For the roughly 8 years that we’ve been at the same parties, there has not been one single time that she hasn’t left the party early, stating she had somewhere else to be.
I am 3/4 convinced that most of these times she just goes home and reads a book. She must’ve read some article in Teen Magazine when she was younger that said something along the lines of-
“You should always leave them wanting more. Even if you don’t have plans, you should absolutely leave the party early, and in that way everyone will think that you are dynamic, popular, and wanted. XOXOXOXO”
For whatever reason, this always bothers me. No one is that busy. No one says yes to that many invites. I’m calling bullshit on the “I’m so desired and loved that I can only give you this tiny fraction of me, then I’m moving on to the next adoring fan” thing.
After getting riled up, fully judgmental, self righteous and still lonely, I realize that there might be a reason my friend group is pretty small that has nothing to do with my careful curation of capacity. This weekend I’ll try to plan ahead and give ample notice to the friends. And today? Well, today I need to go to the home store again. And maybe I’m not in a rush.