Deb Date #1: Rachel
In October, Rachel emails me about getting together. We’ve been emailing ever since the announcement of the 2012 Class of Debs, but we’ve never met in person. She lives in a neighborhood a few miles south of mine, but offers to come up and meet me. I tell her I’d love to meet, and suggest she join me at The Book Cellar, my favorite local bookstore, for “Witty Women Writers” night. Some friends of mine are reading, and I offer to introduce Rachel around, assuming that — even though her year of friend dates is officially over — she’s probably still interested in expanding her network of fellow writers. (Plus, my friends are awesome — who wouldn’t want to meet them?)
Rachel emails back and says the Witty Women Writers night sounds great. We agree to get a drink after the reading, and I promise to help Rachel “awkwardly network” (her words!).
Ten minutes later, she emails me again to tell me she CAN’T come to the reading, because she has to work that night and totally spaced. “Can we do lunch on Friday after all?”
An hour after THAT, I get another email from her, says she’s gotten excused from her shift, so she can join me after all. “I swear I’m not usually this scattered,” she says.
Oh boy. I’m starting to get worried — who is this girl? What have I gotten myself into? Is she going to be super high-maintenance and spazzy? Do I need to make an exit plan in case things are really awkward?
I promise to save Rachel a seat, but even though I arrive at the bookstore almost an hour early, it’s already standing-room only. I feel bad, but claim a spot in the way back, so at least we can lean against the counters. This also gives me the added benefit of being near the door, so I can flag her down when she arrives. I start worrying about whether or not I’ll recognize her — a few months ago I took an online test to judge face-blindness, and I didn’t score very well. Even though I’ve seen her adorable picture on the blog a million times, I wonder if I’ll know her in person. (Side note: last year I met 2011 Deb Eleanor in person and had to pick her out of a crowd with only her author photo to guide me. It was a stressful endeavor and basically ended with me shouting “ARE YOU ELEANOR?” at random women in the room, which turned out to be an effective, if rather embarrassing, strategy. FYI, Eleanor in person is very pretty and very tall!)
Luckily, I recognize Rachel the second she walks through the door, even though she tries to trick me by wearing giant glasses. We do the semi-awkward “We’ve never met but I feel like I kind of know you” hug, and I start introducing her around. “This is Rachel! She has a book coming out! It’s about friends!”
After the reading, Rachel and I go out for a beer, and end up talking non-stop for the next three or four hours. Success! Virtual friendship CAN translate into real friendship! When I (finally) get home around midnight, I can’t stop gushing about how cute Rachel is, and mention something about how I was worried that she would be super spazzy and awkward. My wife interrupts me: “Wait, YOU were worried SHE would be spazzy and awkward? HAVE YOU EVER MET YOURSELF?”
My question for the lovely and not-really-as-awkward-as-she-claims Deb Rachel: As a fiction writer, I find the ending to be the easiest part of a story — by the end, you know how your character’s changed and the ending feels somewhat inevitable. I imagine this is somewhat trickier in non-fiction, when you’re bound by the constraints of what actually happened. Particularly in the case of your book, when you were writing the book as you went through your year of friend-making — when did you start thinking about the ending? Did you worry that maybe nothing would change? Did you have a plan in case you didn’t end up with a satisfying ending?
Rachel: When proposing this book, I knew that one of the trickiest things about selling editors and publishers on the story was that there was no guaranteed ending. Professionals in the industry would have reservations about putting money into a book when they had no idea what the final story would be. And an ending that landed with a thud–“and then the year was over and that was it”–wouldn’t cut it.
Going into 2010, I was confident that no matter what happened at the end of the year, something would happen. You can’t meet that many new people and have nothing change. So when I proposed MWF Seeking BFF, I presented to publishers what I thought could happen. I could have a new BFF. I could have 52 acquaintances and realize the BFFs we make as kids just don’t exist in adulthood. I could realize that with a husband, a job, and a family I see often, friends aren’t as important anymore. I could decide it’s totally fine to have best friends come in the form of family. Or decide that long-distance pals are just as good as local ones.
So, to answer your question, I considered the end from the very beginning. But, pretty early on, I could tell the experience was going to change my life here in Chicago. I knew that there would at least be a personal evolution from beginning to end–whether or not I found The One.
Thanks, Rachel! And CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!
M. Molly Backes
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