Wes: I’ve done some of my best writing at Panera. It may be the unlimited coffee, but I prefer to think it’s the people.
They come for more than the panini of the month. They want to be together, to get to know each other a little better. People don’t come to my office to discuss how great they’re getting along with others, so I find coffee shop friendship inspiring.
Recently two teen girls sat down next to my table to share lunch. Literally. They split a sandwich and soup off the same plate, and these girls were priceless.
Clearly not sisters, they appeared instead to be the closest of friends, familiar and connected. Actually, they didn’t even look like they belonged together at all. But they did.
They reflected on their week, discussed their impossible parents and plotted the impending school year.
“Hey, tear that bread over the bowl,” one admonished the other. “You’re getting crumbs everywhere.”
“OCD much?” the other giggled. I’ve no doubt they often keep each other in line this way.
It was a beautiful communion of love: true friends lost together in the space around them. Yes, they played with their iPhones, but they did it together, passing them back and forth to share texts and pictures.
We talk a lot about dating here and maybe too little about the love between friends. I can say from personal experience that real friends are rare because true honesty and integrity are rare. It takes great caring to keep each other real, to communicate, to challenge each other and to grow together.
When you find such a companion, dear teens, keep him or her close. One is never lonelier than in the presence of mere acquaintances and never more fulfilled than in the company of real friends.
Kendra: It’s far easier to acquire the food pictured on the coffee shop menu than the kind of friendship Wes depicts so vividly. I have a friend who, for the past couple of years, has been steadfast and true. We’re constantly told of our differences, but we share something in common: We know we can trust each other 100 percent.
Whether you’re starting at a new school this year or simply expanding your circle, here are five slightly outside-the-box tips for finding that kind of friendship:
• Get to know people with whom you think you have nothing in common. Although I could be classified as a nerd, one of my best friends is a cheerleader.
• Try the people wearing school colors. People who attend every football game or go all out for themed school dances may be among the friendliest of students. Approach them at games. There can never be too large a cheering section.
• Volunteer or work a part-time job. You’ll meet people from different schools and of different ages there. My retail job has allowed me to become a sort of family with my co-workers, even though I am the only high-schooler there. I enjoy a different discourse with my college friends.
• Be the kind of friend you want to have. Intimacy among friends starts with one person or the other taking an emotional risk. Random acts of kindness have a wonderful cascading effect, making you and the other person feel good and open the door to the kind of relationships that you’ll keep into adulthood.
• Look around your school as if you were coming there for the first time. You might just see a whole new group of people you’d missed before. If I had not opened my mind to a new friendship one day, my life would be far less rich right now.
While all of these tips may not work for you, be sure to try at least one this year. If you’re open to new friendships, you’re sure to meet someone else who needs a new pal as well.
— Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, is author of “Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens” and “Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens.” Learn about his new practice Family Psychological Services at dr-wes.com. Kendra Schwartz is a Lawrence High School senior. Send your confidential 200-word question on adolescence and parenting to firstname.lastname@example.org. Double Take opinions and advice are not a substitute for psychological services.