Back away slowly. Speak Softly. Use small words.

Freshly curled and showered, pre-deterioration… it’s coming though.

“Do I look okay? How’s my outfit? Am I trying too hard?”

I had on my brand new, crisp, white skinny jeans, my special polka-dotted sleeveless shirt, my favourite silver sandals, my lucky black and diamond earrings, my Fossil watch and matching (new) bracelet. I was freshly showered, my hair up, the front straightened and swept dramatically across my forehead.

I’d bumped into the occupant of the upper flat, Stephane, on the walkway by my door, just as I was leaving for my (gulp) first “fix-up” in Halifax. Actually, not just my first in Halifax, but my first in years, decades even.

I machine-gunned more questions at Stephane before he could answer the first litany. “Are you sure? Not too flashy? What about my hair? Too much???? ”

“Uh… yah? You look… good? No, not too much… I think?” he said.

Then he did that thing… he backed away from me…slowly.

I ignored the back up. I was used to it. It wasn’t the first time. The first was a few weeks ago, when I bumped into a guy I met not long after my move across the country.

It was on my morning run, just by the train station, where I like to turn around before heading home. Thrilled to see a human I knew, neither related nor in my company via FaceTime, I launched into a chat. Midway through what I thought was a great conversation, he said out of nowhere:

“Yah… I gotta get this home… and I think I forgot twenty dollars at the Sobey’s til.”

He waved a freshly wrapped steak in the air as he spoke, probably to validate his first point, but more likely, to legitimize the second … that a forgotten twenty bucks was the reason he had to go.

I would have taken the explanation at face value had he not done the other thing. He backed away from me, slowly. And he was speaking in a soft voice, using small words.

I watched him scurry away until I couldn’t see him anymore.


When I got home, I took a look at myself in the mirror to see if maybe I had a big zit, a cold sore coming or if my breakfast was on my face, anything that might explain the abrupt ending to our interaction. Nope. None of those.

And then O.M.G. I got it. The ton of bricks crashed down on my noggin.

Not even two months into this thing, and I’ve become “that lady.” You know… the back-away-slowly and speak softly so-you-can-get-away-from-her lady. That lady. The one who pins you down, sidles up to trap you in a way that you can’t physically get away, tries to keep you talking, and then asks for your number, so you can do it all again, real soon!

Do what, you wonder? Be her friend, of course.

Yah. I am that lady…

I’m very, very social. I need to hang out with people, aside from my son, his girlfriend and their friends, on a regular basis. Knowing this about myself, shortly after my arrival in Halifax, I embarked on a new endeavour, “Project Friend,” and threw myself into finding me some new BFFs, with full force.

But as the days rolled into weeks, and then weeks into month one, then month two, with no results, I must have crossed over into a new phase, without noticing. And likely, what steak/20 bucks guy must have seen and then backed away from was the current stage of the project.

Capital “D” for Desperation.

Oi! I took another look in the mirror to see myself the way “forgot twenty bucks” had probably seen me. Think single, slightly sweaty woman, in seen-better-days workout wear, somewhat unkempt, with frizzy hair scraped into a nest and talking nonstop. Then imagine her not letting you get away.

Clearly, I appeared to be a woman in a downward spiral, Catch-22 of her own making, impeding all efforts.

A full assessment was in order. The result? Three obvious deterrents were negatively impacting friendship success: hygiene deterioration, lack of a golden ticket, and no filter when talking to strangers.

Hygiene… I don’t shower, do laundry or get dressed much anymore.

Not that I don’t enjoy a good shower every now and again, but getting full body wet means washing my hair, which is a task akin to doing laundry, and if I am not seeing anyone but my kid and maybe his friends anyway, why bother? I can easily wipe the smelly bits, and I have the kind of hair that evolves nicely from clean curls to dirty bun… for days on end.

I rarely do laundry, based on a logical rationale: If a woman changes her clothes but rarely leaves her flat, can anyone see her anyway? Nope. So why bother? No changing clothes = no laundry.

…which leads directly to commentary on my state of proper dress, or lack thereof.

When your job is to write all day, why not wear pajamas or their closet relative, Lululeman-wear? Good for working out. Acceptable daywear. And you can sleep in them. Without the motivation of seeing others, it’s tough to make the move from comfy spandex into real clothes that hurt my tummy when I eat too much.

I don’t have a golden ticket.

I am Charlie at the gates of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, peering through the wrought iron fence, desperate for a taste of chocolate, except I ain’t got no golden ticket.

What is a Golden Ticket? For the-recently-divorced-woman-over-50 this is equivalent to a “Partner.”

And what does a partner provide that I can’t get on my own? Double the opportunities to meet people, access to coupledom, and, if both fail at the new friend task, someone to talk to at the end of the day. Oh, and it also stops male-friend candidates from scurrying away.

Granted, I’m currently without a golden ticket by design, but I’m seeing there is something about doubling the friend chances that may make me reconsider. On the other hand, that will only initiate another project, and I am not doing so well with this one.

No filter when talking to strangers.

Here are some of the things I’ve done lately or at least the ones I will admit to.

  • Introduced myself as new in the area to a woman in a Laundromat and then asked her how she thought I might make new friends.

Result: She told me to join Meetups, and then left the Laundromat.

  • Asked Lucy DeCoutere (after she agreed to take our picture together when I bumped into her at DeeDee’s, the local ice cream shop) if she lived in the area, and if so, if she might share how she thought I could make new friends. (Hint Hint… Will you be my friend?)

Result: She backed away slowly.

  • Brought a ring to a jewelry shop for repair. Grilled Wendy, the woman who took my ring, to see if she might fit the ‘friend’ category. Went back to pick up the ring and asked if she might want to hang out some time.

Result: She told me she was moving to Toronto.

  • Followed up on email introductions to possible friends. Okay… maybe what I wrote when I responded was something like: “I am STARVED for human contact and EAGER to make new friends!!!!!!! Want to have coffee??????? HOPE to hear from you SOON!!!!!

Result: Crickets.

O.M.G. These are the stories I am comfortable telling… there are more….

Get it now? Back away slowly. Speak softly. Use small words. I’d probably do the same if I met myself in this current condition…

And then, last Monday, out of nowhere and just when I was ready to impale myself due lack of company and the realization I was now the star of my own “Groundhog Day” movie, whereby I was forced to “get to know myself  better” day… after day… after day… an email arrived in my inbox. A time. A place. A MEETING!!!!

So, when Stefan backed away slowly after his terrified assessment of my outfit, I truly wasn’t bothered. What I was, however, was nervous about the fix up ahead.

But I had showered, dressed in clean clothes, and lectured myself about NOT appearing too enthusiastic in preparation. I had learned my lessons from all my prior friendship attempts and the back-away-slowly results.

And the short story? Her name is Deb. And it was delightful.

Two hours, and four glasses of wine later (and no, I didn’t have four myself), I silently moved Deb from email acquaintance to first-friend-in-Halifax candidate. I don’t know if she feels the same, but here’s hoping for many more glasses of wine together.

Last night, I went to bed with a big, fat smile on my face. Project Friend had finally kicked off.

PS I have no plans to change my shower schedule except if I have another fix up or Deb wants to hang out.

4 thoughts on “Back away slowly. Speak Softly. Use small words.

  1. Karalee! I am loving your blog. Good for you for doing this for yourself! It’s brave and exciting. I can so relate to this post… I recently moved to Australia for work for a few months and Project Friend is challenging and exhausting, I so get it. There’s only so much time you can spend enjoying your own company. As a super social person too it can get really frustrating to have to try so hard to make it happen. Keep going! I bet we will both have successfully completed Project Friend in no time! Can’t wait to read more of your journey.


  2. Karalee, I have so been there, when I moved to Kelowna! Only Meetup did not exist, so I joined the Running Room learn to run program. It worked, great people, and I got to watch my butt creep back up my legs. Miss you at our writer’s group. Keep the stories coming 🙂


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