I'm on the hunt for a new best friend. Not that I'm replacing my old ones, mind you. BFFs aren't like cell phones, traded in for an upgrade every two years. Best Friends Forever are, well, forever. They send you flowers for your professional successes. They spend $160 on a dress they may not even like (but, of course, say they love) so they can perfectly match the flowers as you walk down the aisle. They drive uptown at 1 a.m. to bring you a clean T-shirt when your father is dying and you've spent 48 hours in the same tank top you were wearing when you learned you had to fly home from vacation to say goodbye.

But one of the best things about best friends is that they aren't romantic partners. I don't have to pick only one for as long as we both shall live. So now that I've moved 800 miles away from my be-there-whenever-I-need-them friends—which makes it a lot harder for them to physically be here whenever I need them—I'm in the market for a new addition to the list. A new old friend.

So how do I do that? What does it mean to not dive but rather cannonball into a sea of best friend prospects? In the few months I've been on the prowl, I've learned it means doing exactly what I would do to find a husband or a job. It's about putting myself out there. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But if it were simple, I'd be out drinking coffee with my very own Monica and Phoebe instead of watching them in reruns from my couch.

My first foray into the girl-dating market starts with the woman behind the counter at a boutique downtown. I met her six months ago, and she was the perfect mix of friendly and sarcastic (we shared great banter about the tragedy of Chicago weather making it hard for girls to dress up as candy-stripers and Superwoman on Halloween). My husband tried to convince me to ask for her number, just to see if she wanted to have lunch sometime. I was too shy at first, but now I'm in my I'll-find-a-best-friend-or-die-trying phase. I've returned to her store five times, and she's never again been behind the register. I guess she's the one that got away.

5 tips for making friends


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