I should’ve counted my forks.
When deciding to throw an impromptu “Hanoucca” gathering for some of my new friends here in Paris—something I did annually back in New York with my elite crew—I didn’t even think twice about whether I’d have enough serving utensils to feed them all my homemade latkes. After all, it seemed like just yesterday that I was spending my first Parisian Festival of Lights alone with some latkes and one bottle of Bordeaux for all eight crazy nights. Now, here I was asking one of them to use their hands or a spoon to eat their fried potato pancake. And to think there were a few people who couldn’t make it!
Things started to look up in the friend department a month or so before I went back to New York in August. Until that point, it had been a slow, unsettling process of seeing movies solo, eating out solo and generally feeling a tad sorry for myself. For a long time, I felt like Eponine in Les Misérables—all On My Own, pretending I had friends besides me.
That question—”Have you made any friends????”—remained the second most asked question I received when someone learned I had picked up and moved to Paris. (Number one still holds strong at, “Why?” to which I always go into this spiel.) But in answering the friend question, I’d just shrug, and casually admit it’s tough while occasionally fighting back tears to maintain my rep as another Sara who sings the Brave tune.
Because, let’s be honest, making new friends—at 37, to boot!—can be challenging. People are settled. People are picky. People are busy. It’s kinda like dating. You may meet for a coffee and think you got along while sharing intimate stories about each other’s pasts, but who knows how many other people they’ve shared these same stories with? Is this someone who would understand a cheeky emoji on their Instagram photo? Someone who will remember that you don’t like parsley? Someone who will offer to lend you her vintage wedding bag? After all, you’ve felt the WE-ARE-MEANT-TO-BE vibe a number of times only to get the silent treatment as soon as you’ve gone your separate ways.
To be fair, I have actually met heaps of warm and welcoming people since arriving, all of whom have been quick to “friend” me on Facebook and share tips and trade Parisian secrets. But a few of them—mostly expats and a couple of Frenchies—slowly started to feel like true companions. Like people I could call if I were locked out of my apartment or stuck on a date with a guy I wasn’t into. One helped me hang a flatscreen television, another helped me into a corset to wear to a costume ball (as you do). Brunch clubs and writer’s groups were formed, and favors and keys were swapped, no qualms about it. There’s a certain feeling of comfort when you can admit that funny smell is coming from your shoes or let them know they’ve got a seed stuck in their teeth.
The real ding-ding-ding realization that some of these new friends were keepers, though, actually came on that eerie Friday the 13th a few weeks ago. As I sat in my chair shocked beyond belief by the events unfolding in real time before me, I was texting with one friend while about half a dozen others were checking in to see where I was and if I was OK. Despite the terrible circumstances, I had an embarrassingly shallow thought: I have real friends here! Their care and concern for me during this madness—and mine for them—validated that.
Of course, it goes without saying that my New York besties can never be replaced. I’ve known most of my girl crew back home for years—some since kindergarten. That type of devotion and companionship takes ages to develop. There’s no replacing the type of friend who sends you away with magnets for your new fridge in Paris cause she knows you collect them; or handcrafts a dreamcatcher to hang over your bed to help you sleep; or gives you a book about famous writers’ daily rituals to keep you inspired; or reads drafts of your essays even though she’s got her own to edit; or teaches her kids how to say your name and greet in you in French; or asks you to be her maid-of-honor by planning an at-home picnic with a “final rose” The Bachelor-style. They know you long time, and they love you long time.
But, when you move to Paris without any of these fantastic friends, you kinda have no choice but to make a few new ones. After all, while I am very independent and often choose to do things on my own, I also very much like to share and create experiences with others—specifically those who are loyal, reliable and want to order dessert despite being too full to eat it.
Sure, I can do On My Own, but nothing about the process of moving to a foreign city without any friends has been as humbling and gratifying as finally realizing I could—and sometimes really need—to do Together. Plus, you cannot expect an immediate response to an “OMG!” text about an episode of The Affair you belatedly watched when half of those you’re seeking to gossip with are still sleeping.
Shortly after that night a month ago, Thanksgiving came around. I hadn’t made any real plans yet, but I’d received a few offers, which filled me with as much fullness as any turkey and stuffing. This was quite a contrast to the year prior when I gobbled down a 6-course tasting menu with a golden retriever as my sole dining companion. I had only just arrived two weeks prior, so my options for where to go and who to dine with were limited. So, I arrived at the restaurant Auberge Flora around 5p.m.—American Thanksgiving-style—when anyone else who might otherwise have shown up alone was likely still working. Except, that is, the house dog.
This year, the tables had quite literally turned. Or filled up, at least. I was confident that wherever I went I’d be satisfied from something entirely different than a foie gras tartine with cranberry sauce.
Which brings me to Hanoucca; a chance for me to play host and spread some light. It wasn’t until I was setting the buffet, while simultaneously frying up the last few latkes and blending a butternut squash soup, that I realized my debacle.
Ultimately, though, it’s not about quantity, is it? It’s not about the number of invites or “likes” you receive, or how many forks you have. (Side note for context: I have 4.) It’s about feeling safe and secure, especially during these uncertain times. And it’s about patience and growth. Good friends, after all, will not judge you for your lack of silverware. But they will appreciate your effort to make do with the few you got—and applaud and recognize your intent to stock up next time. Because, of course, there will be lots of next times.