My doctor has given me orders: Go thee forth and socialize and multiply your acquaintances and friends by the buckets-full and do it fast. She’s concerned that, now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of 67, I’ll turn into a recluse and get depressed and feel sorry for myself and cause her more headaches. She has a point — I do live alone, after all. Well, there are the cats but, really, doesn’t that just add to the overall picture of the pitiful, lonely old lady? I imagined my doctor having visions of a future “me” all alone in my house, being measured up for supper by the cats — or maybe that’s my vision. (I told the cats that story one time — they responded that they had better taste in meat than the likes of me. I felt reassured.)
It was actually quite sweet that the doctor would be concerned about the whole me. I was touched until the thought flitted through my head that maybe this solicitation was just because she couldn’t find any outstanding physical problems going on and, truth be told, she always has to find something to lecture me on — or something besides the more-than-five-ounces of wine I drink in the evenings. So, in her very straight-forward, stop-pissing-around attitude, she told me to get cracking and meet more people.
I started to protest until I heard echoes of those tiny violins of old whining that I’ve been carrying around with me far too long. The litany never changes — But I’m shy! It’s too hard for me to find new friends at my age! I don’t know how to do this. Even though I didn’t verbalize any of that, Frau Doktor must have picked it up by osmosis — she’s very clever — because she continued: “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Eh? Rejection? Boredom?” Well, yeah, I wanted to say, but didn’t. Sly lady that she is, she threw in a compliment at the end just to win me over: “Ann, you’re a lot more interesting than most of the other people your age. Spread it around.” I was quietly flattered and gave her round one.
So how hard can this be, really? Don’t other people do this every day — socialize that is? It’s not that I’m totally bereft of friends — I have a handful of terrific friends all of whom are incredibly busy so trying to get together to do that “socializing” that the doctor prescribed requires weeks of juggling schedules and hoping nothing comes up that will send us back to the Socializing Drawing Board. So, as much as I hate to agree with Herself, she’s right — I have to find other people and opportunities to socialize. Yes, I will take on her challenge! Why ever not? Just Do It, Annie — as that obnoxious Nike commercial used to shout at us. And, besides, haven’t I been amazing with the exercise challenge and working with Take-No-Prisoners-Trainer, Christina? I sure have been but … there’s always a but when it comes to me being social: Exercise I can do all by myself — socializing requires at least one other person.
I needed new ideas rather than just recycling all the old, unsuccessful avenues of meeting people that I have been using over the years. I decided to solicit suggestions from new-folks-in-my-life. I started with my trainer who is even more straightforward and no-BS-Ann than my doctor. She fired back a quick response to my email. “Learn another language!” Yeah, right, and forget all the Spanish I just learned, eh? “Volunteer to pet cats at the humane société.” She, I think, purposely wrote the word “society” in French to influence my choice should I select her first suggestion. I thought I’d get the cats reaction to that one. They reminded me that I was not particularly generous with pets, pats, neck rubs or cuddles at home so why, pray tell, should I be going out giving them to absolute stranger cats? They vowed to take their outrage at this suggestion up with Christina when she comes next month. I should warn her — but I won’t. Then she suggested lawn bowling. Lawn Bowling? What kind of people bowl on a lawn? I only know of one pitch?, field?, acre? for lawn bowling in Toronto. I’d have to buy ugly white shoes and a little white hat. But, maybe, she thinks after doing her exercise programs for five months, I have potential to excel in this particular sport — or not. She finished off her list with “bowling club.” Is that what they’re calling bowling leagues these days? That I would try if I could wear one of those spiffy little shirts and got to roll a blue marble ball down the alley — or, more likely, the gutter.
My social-media-and-all-things-technical guru, Sarah, always one to point out the positive to me, said she thought I was already doing a lot to expand my sociability. Wasn’t I doing aquafit twice a week which meant hanging out in the locker room for conversation before and after splashings? And, less I forget, having breakfast with her and Pixel and Robyn every Sunday certainly counts as socializing. Yeah, I thought, she’s right — again. Think about it, Ann. Didn’t you just volunteer with Margaret to plant and care for those herbs at the hospice down the street? And, and, and what about the Excellent Cat Sitting business? Are you not meeting new people — and cats — doing that? And, weren’t you incredibly brave and sociable last Sunday when you volunteered to sit with fellow American-Democrats who you did not know at that street festival for three hours? And, aren’t you meeting every Wednesday with sweet, funny Clara to habla Español? And did you not show up the yoga class today? Yes you did! Best of all, didn’t you connect with Judith, one of that handful of friends of yours, this week? There you were just hanging around the art gallery, leisurely chatting about lives and paintings and where to go for lunch. A sweet day of easy joy and sociability that even my doctor would approve of.