If you’ve missed the onslaught of posts about Cincinnati being burdensome on new people to make new friends, and a response about our “inbred smugness” count yourself among the lucky ones who didn’t have to read the asinine back and forth online commentary of “no we’re not” and “yes we are” bouncing back and forth totaling over 190 individual comments like children pushing responsibility on to someone else. This recent post was an actually interesting Citybeat follow up but all of these articles point to the issue of friendship, neighborliness, and the human desire to not be alone.
In a frustrating email to fellow co-workers about these nonstop Cincinnati identity articles that keep popping up, articles like those mentioned above, and articles like 31 Ways You Can Tell You’re From Cincinnati and this and this I threatened to write my own version of how to tell you’re from the city you’re from (and I might!)
Allie responded that a post that did need to be written was one about relationships, a defense of Cincinnati, and in defense of personal responsibility in making friends. I had to share her wisdom here:
I was thinking this could also be a good time for a post about the idea of personal responsibility in making friends. Like, how many of us have thought “why won’t anyone talk to me,” then when we started doing this work, realized that’s what everyone is thinking and we’re all just walking around alone, wanting friends, and wondering why nobody will talk to us.
We get so focused on waiting for someone else to initiate a conversation that our brains miss the fact that we could be that someone.
Maybe we’re not a smug city; maybe we’re just a city of waiters, because humans are waiters. These articles aren’t about people who are or are not included, they’re articles about a bunch of people who are waiting for someone to step up and be ‘the Nice Expert.’ They just need people like us to tell them the only difference between someone who feels isolated and someone who is a Nice Expert is the bravery and what-the-hell mentality to start a conversation or toss out an invitation.
So, to follow up Allie’s words — friendship and connectedness is not a secret science. There is no mysterious formula that natives in the city of Cincinnati are keeping from outsiders. It’s not a matter of family legacies in the Queen City, which high school you went to, or unfriendly churches, exclusive mom clubs/book clubs/running groups/PTAs. Sure, all of those things exist, and all of those things exist in every city.
I think a lot of us at Starfire have learned that many people are just waiting to be invited. Friendship comes with a certain dose of chance and spontaneity, and a big commitment to saying yes.
The next time you’re wondering why you don’t have plans, didn’t get invited, weren’t asked to coffee, didn’t get cookies on your doorstep from neighbors perhaps take a step forward to make the plans yourself, make the invitation to others, ask someone to coffee, and bake some damn cookies to share.