I recently moved to a new town, and found myself in the position of needing to make new friends. Of course, I have my wonderful internet friends (that I consider family) and my husband. Still I had lived over 25 years at my old home. I hadn’t needed to make new friends since before Facebook was invented. I wasn’t sure I remembered how to do this “make friends in real life” thing anymore.
I checked the local paper for groups to join. That’s what most “How to Make Friends” advice columns suggest. You find people with “like interests”. Since I am partially disabled from my arthritis, my “interests” are not “Ski jumping”, “Mountain Biking” or “Lay Your Own Tile and Save Money!” (all offered as groups at our local recreation center).
My interest is more in making friends than learning a new skill. That is why I decided to go to the “Cookies, Coffee and Coloring” group. Certainly the description seemed tempting. Free cookies and coffee and coloring pages plus a variety of pens and pencils were offered. I had received an adult coloring book
for Christmas, so I thought this would be a good way to test pens and pencils before purchasing my own.
But, the best part was I figured how hard could it be to color? Obviously “Cookies, Coffee and Coloring” was just code for “Chat and enjoy getting to know each other!”
Little did I know….
I showed up at the recreation center with a cool tote bag holding my lone coloring book. I was dressed nice casual. Dark jeans, a turtleneck and sweater and even wore a tad more make up than usual. I wanted this coloring group to know, I’m middle class and ready to chat! Don’t be afraid of me, I’m a nice person!
I was a little bit early, but the tables at the room were almost filled. There were about 20 women in the room, all already fully focused on their coloring pages. I looked at my tote bag and felt underdressed and under prepared. These coloring artists each had at least half a table filled with various coloring pages in multi color binders. They had large tupperware containers filled with gel pens and others with color pencils. A few women had professional grade magnifying visors and their own special Ott light lamps.
I had obviously made a mistake. I wasn’t in chat and friendship class, I was in PROFESSIONAL LEVEL COLORING MASTER CLASS. A few of the colorists looked up at me, and they could tell I was a newbie The looks I got said “She doesn’t KNOW COLORING.”
I found one of the few empty table spots and put out my sad lone coloring book. I then walked over to the nearby table with a pathetic offering of pens and blunt and dull color pencils. There were also a few Xeroxed sheets with Spring themes. I picked up a sheet and grabbed a few gel pens and the least dull pencils I could find. I looked for a pencil sharpener, which I supposed would be a needed item, but there were none to be seen. This was a class where you brought your OWN coloring gear, because what was offered wasn’t worthy of even a prison arts and crafts room.
I sat down and gave a smile to my table partner and said “So, this is my first time here, do you like color pencils or gel pens? I am still undecided what to purchase.” (As an opening line, I thought it was safe). The woman looked up at me, her eyes magnified to bug size via her magnifying visor and said “We usually don’t speak during the coloring sessions, this takes a lot of concentration. I’ll be glad to talk to you after the session about coloring art.”
At this point, my own hell began. The gel pens I had picked up were for the most part empty of gel. I made a little mountain of ones that did not work. The color pencils were gritty, they seemed to be of the dollar store quality. While the professional colorists around me were working with top quality Swiss pencils in fancy tins, I was stuck with 10 pencils with the blunted points. The gel pens that did work had the unhappy effect of making the Xeroxed black outlines on the copied paper run. The black ink from the poorly copied page was even coming off on my hands and sweater.
I looked up at the clock to see that all of 10 minutes had passed of the hour session.
Everyone was glued to their seats, focused on their pages like they were generals studying maps of the purposed Normandy invasion. I then remembered, the name of the “Session” was “Cookies, Coffee and Coloring”. I could get coffee and cookie! I stood up and went over to the Kurig and made myself a French Vanilla decaf. Then I grabbed a small chocolate chip and a napkin and went back to the coloring table.
As I put down my coffee and cookie, my table partner swooped all her pens, pencils and binders into her arms and dumped them on the next table. As the women at the next table quickly made room for her, all three of them gave me the LOOK OF DOOM. Then one woman looked at me and said “We don’t allow liquids or crumbs near our work!” Another one said “We spend a lot of time with our art, and you could ruin it with just one spill!”
I sat alone and watched the clock slowly tick. At one point, a few women did get up to have a coffee, but they drank while standing far far away from their “art”. Later I noted others sharing their latest creations. They had binders full of colored pages in special museum quality vinyl page holders. They admired how the combination of gel pen and pencils to created a “shiny look on the fish!” and “oh that makes the petal glow, like they have dew!”. I had a vision of their children inheriting their mothers and grandmothers priceless collections of coloring. Other children were going to get quilts or knitted blanket sand sweaters, but the lucky children of these mothers were getting binders full of colored pages. (Yes for some reason they brought ALL the binder of ALL the work they had done to the session).
I have been to sketching classes, I have been to painting classes, I have been to pottery classes and knitting classes, and NEVER EVER did I feel the intensity and dedication as I felt in the coloring session. There were no names exchanged. There was no sharing of knowledge or secrets (I still have no clue, gel or color pencil?). There was nothing but distrust of this newbie stranger who did not know the rules. I also had an overpowering urge to giggle more than once. I just wasn’t feeling ashamed enough about bringing coffee to the table, and know I was not being careful enough about staying in the lines.
I saw I had been there for 30 minutes, and despite coloring one page and eating a cookie and nursing along a coffee, I had run out of things to do. All I could think of was going home to a nice soft chair and reading a book. Or perhaps knitting a hat for the babies in South Africa (a charity I support). Anything but coloring. I just wasn’t serious or dedicated enough to be a coloring book artist. I left and gently said “Goodbye!” so as not to disturb the artists. No one looked up.
I will use my coloring book. I’ll have to find out for myself if I like colored pencils or gel pens. It will be something I probably will do with my daughters, as we laugh and drink tea or coffee. I may even throw in some cookies. We can be as messy as we please, and if I spill on my coloring page, well my children’s inheritance will just come with stains.
As for finding new friends. I may try another group. I’m not giving up, but if I’m going to meet friends, they need to be ones I’m desperately trying not to laugh and giggle at.
My coloring book has written on the cover “Coloring! The relaxing hobby!”
The publishers obviously have never met the Recreation Center coloring Master Class. (Perhaps I should call and ask if they have a beginners class?)