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November 02, 2021

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I sure wasn’t there to read her body language or interpret the conversation at your coffee date, but for what it’s worth I don’t read her response as about you, AT ALL. The exclamation point makes it friendly, and with the life you describe, I would interpret "Maybe next semester!" as hopeful, perhaps with a soupçon of overwhelm and possibly desperation (as in, "Maybe next semester I’ll finally manage to get a half hour for a friendly coffee with someone who understands what this is like!!!!"). A rising inflection on 'semester,' not flat with an emphasis on the 'maybe.'

Is there any possibility that there’s a bit of insecurity/imposter syndrome in the mix, too? You were doctoral students together, but you’re tenured and she’s not, yet, and your kids are older and maybe *she* had a small voice inside wondering whether *you* were just being polite?

I am also 50-something, and it is hard to make or even have friends. I’m just barely emerging (I hope) from intense parenting and work phases of life enough to realize I don’t have that many either. Like you, my closest friends are geographically far away. I would definitely have coffee with you if, you know, we lived in the same general vicinity and knew each other in person. Not in a weird stalky way.

Well. I came to make a comment and I find that Maria has said pretty much everything I wanted to say, so there's that.

I sympathize with this, and I'm not even forty yet. One thing that's unexpectedly started helping in my case has been going back to work on campus. It's maybe a little easier for me because I'm "professional staff" instead of faculty, so I'm in contact with various colleagues a lot (masked, basically all of us vaccinated...whereas many of my college's faculty are still fully remote). But our admin assistant has been great about inviting people to do socially-distanced lunch, and our new coworker (new to the area and unmarried, so not getting a ton of social interaction at home) seems to have gotten into the spirit of it, too...and then, last week, another colleague had a "bagel break" and invited several of us plus a friend from another department. So maybe if you deliberately start some gatherings at work, you'll find people who'd really like to start doing that again?

(I mean, I know you invited your work friend for coffee. But I guess what I'm saying is, even as an introvert, I've enjoyed work's small-group gatherings lately.)

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