I’ve always been a little nomadic (I think I’ve counted nearly 20 different addresses so far), but I’ve never strayed too far away from my close-knit little bunch of mates. However, as life has gotten more complicated (marriages, divorces, kids, high-pressure-long-hours jobs) it has felt harder and harder to stay in touch with my old friends in the same way. Throw in a move that took me an hour (yes, I know that’s not far in the grand scheme of things) away from my best girls, during covid, and I started to feel really isolated.
I no longer had friends on my doorstep who could pop in for a cuppa and a chat or an impromptu glass of wine in the evening. To make matters worse, we were in the middle of our squillionth lock-down. I spent far too much time on my own in the evening with a glass (bottle) of wine and my dog, Bella, for company.
As soon as the lockdowns finally ended, I knew I had to put myself out there are go and find some female company asap. My youngest daughter Harriet was now in Year 5, so Mum friends from school were tricky, as even though I tried hard to ingratiate myself to the Mum’s friend group, these women already had their set of school mum friends and were not on the look out for anymore.
I was at a loss as to where to start, when I read an article about Bumble BFF. I’m no stranger to online dating. After my divorce 7 years ago, I jumped headfirst into the dating apps and went on my fair share of horrific first dates (that’s another blog post in itself!), before meeting my now boyfriend, Ben. But how would it work for friends? Would I end up choosing my friend circle based entirely on their attractiveness?!
After downloading the Bumble BFF app, the first thing you do is set up your profile. If you can think of something more awkward than writing yourself a bio on a dating app, I’d love to hear it. “Hi, I’m Andrea, I like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain… no seriously, although I do like pina coladas I’m more into wine, cheese, reading and taking long walks with my dog”.
After several rewrites of said bio, I decided to stop overthinking it; added some pics to my profile that I’d probably used on Tinder and hit publish. (Side note, you also had to answer some question prompts like “Yoga or Hiking”, “Night owl or Early bird” – I did warn you it was cringe).
I was then able to begin my swiping. Much like dating apps, you are presented with their profile pic, location, and age.
I quickly realised that I needed to be more selective with my swiping as there were hundreds of potential friend matches and quite frankly, I didn’t have the energy to message and attempt to build up a rapport with everyone!
I started swiping on people close in location to me, with similar interests. I passed on anyone who didn’t drink (don’t judge me – I find any first date less awkward over a glass of wine!) I looked for other women who liked live music, long walks and red wine and cheese. I could afford to be ridiculously specific, there were that many women on there. I realised that feeling lonely was clearly not rare – thousands of other women in my area were in the same boat.
My first “date” was a nerve-racking experience. I’d been chatting to a girl for a week or so, but much like dating, I was keen to meet IRL to see if we had any kind of connection. I was horribly anxious about going and nearly cancelled all day. We met at a local wine bar and shared a bottle alongside a huge cheeseboard (which I consumed most of). Conversation flowed, she was easy to talk to and never left space for an awkward silence which I appreciated. At the end of the night, we agreed to meet up again soon but were both realistic about busy lives and schedules. We caught up again about 3 weeks later at a comedy club and it was much less awkward, we laughed a lot (it was a comedy club after all) drank crap wine and had a really fun evening. I’ve seen her a few times since and really enjoy her company. She’s different to other people I hang out with, and I love that.
Much like Tinder I also went on ‘dates’ that didn’t last long or go that well. There was the really lovely girl who wanted to give me a complete makeover (thanks but I’m fine) and the girl who was so shy she couldn’t say more than two words together (I really felt for this girl, but she also told me she really didn’t want to be there).
Interested to see how else I could explore new friendships; I joined several local Facebook groups who regularly hosted local events where you could go along and hang out with a group of women. This is much less intense as there is a whole group of you. My favourite event so far has got to be the Drag Queen bingo we went to. I laughed so much all night; the drag queen was absolutely savage, and we were all terrified of getting ‘bingo’ as she tore apart everyone who was called up. Of course, I got bingo and was so nervous when I went up to collect my prize (a bottle of prosecco) that I told them that I was worried I’d ticked off the wrong numbers after a glass of wine. She promptly decided I must be hammered and made the bingo call “Andrea’s sh*t faced” Cue the whole venue shouting that line repeatedly for the rest of the night. That cringeworthy experience to one side, I met a really lovely girl that night who I’ve stayed in touch with, and I really get on with. Again, she’s different to other people I hang out with, and I really value that.
Like anything worth having, creating friendships takes time and effort. Its in spending time together that memories are created, and bonds are formed. But know that if you are feeling lonely, you aren’t the only one and I can bet there are lots of other women in your area feeling the same isolation who would love to meet up with you for a drink, a walk or drag queen bingo. It’s time to put your big girl pants on and put yourself out there. Failing that – message me, I’ll come hang out with you.