Walking into a stranger’s house…

blues singersWe did something really crazy tonight, something that I have the feeling a lot of people our age don’t do any more. We walked into the basement of a complete stranger for a Mardi Gras-themed Blues jam house party, armed with two bottles of wine and a giant platter of olives and homemade hummus. How? Why? What? Huh?

So here’s the background story:

We are one of those crazy couples that tailgates in the north parking lot of Husky Stadium before every UW football game. In fact, I often go just for the tailgating and begrudgingly drag my drunk rear into the stadium for the games, though our seats have much improved with the stadium remodel and we no longer have to hike Mount Kilimanjaro to reach our seats. Our seats were so high, we would get wind blowing on us from the crack where the wall almost meets the roof; our seats were so high, our row was “vv” — or what I called “sloppy nosebleed W.” Now our seats are comfy and there’s a bar in our section. Whoops, I digress…

Tailgating for the Apple Cup the day after Thanksgiving, I ended up chatting with a number of people set up around us, namely because I had fresh coffee (and a bottle of bourbon) and it was a bitter cold morning. We really hit it off with our immediate neighbor Don and his group, trading coffee drinks for other drinks, snacks for snacks, Cougar jokes for Cougar jokes (and the Cougars did not disappoint us Huskies). Don invited us to a party at his cousin’s house in the spring, a tradition where blues musicians in the Seattle area get together and jam. Sure, I said, sounds like fun! And I gave him my email.

Now Seattlites are known for being chilly, aloof, standoffish, and difficult to really get to know. It’s called “the Seattle Freeze.” I didn’t want to believe it was true when I first heard of it, but reflecting on my life I realize it’s very true. I’ve tried really hard to counter it by going out of my way to follow through on chance connections, but sometimes that freaks people out. What I have learned after living here for 42 years is that exchanging contact information is often not an invitation to actually contact the person. People are a little put off in this town, like I’m a creepy stalker or something (Dude! You gave me your number and said we should meet for coffee or happy hour or whatever!).

Don was different. Don did not forget us. Don emailed us, then he followed up with a real invitation, two months after we met him. Of course we had to RSVP yes! Absolutely!

Nothing felt strange at all until we walked into this party and tried to strike up conversations with people. Don’s cousin Gary was an amazing host who went out of his way to chat with us and make us feel welcome. Don visited with us for a tiny bit, but he was one of the musicians (that’s cool!). The music was amazing. The food was great (except for the seafood soup that my gluten-intolerant husband discovered had a roux base the hard way). We had a LOT of FUN! Except…

… it was very hard getting anyone to talk with us. I understand it was awkward — these people were all good friends and we were complete strangers who showed up with a platter of olives. I get it. I’m not complaining and I trust that the crowd will be warmer to us next time. But I was disappointed to leave without having exchanged names, numbers, emails, business cards, or smiles with anyone other than the gracious host and the gracious fellow UW tailgating bass player.

Here is what has been stuck with me about this: Are we getting too old to make new friends? Are we too bold to show up to a private party without knowing anyone? Does anyone do that anymore? Is it just us?

There is an article going around on social media called “What you learn in your 40s” and it’s a good read for the most part (I want to hate her for living in Paris, by the way, but again, I digress). This part struck me:

“But you find your tribe. …By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people.”

But maybe my problem is that I had to make a drastic career change around 37, which forced me to leave my tribe and my people. I have had to find my new people and it’s been really hard. The tribes have been formed; the membership application periods are closed. And this may be exacerbated by the “Seattle Freeze.” What are your thoughts?

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