Got friends? Not many and would like to have more? Well, have I got a deal for you!! This article will be a relatively quick “crash course” in places where adults might find friendships. This includes those of you who are out of school, those with empty nests, retirees and others who don’t have access to a variety of “situational friends” to hang out and interact with. This is in response to a number of articles I’ve seen here on Medium recently in which the authors were wondering aloud, ‘how can I make friends as an adult?’ As someone who has decades of experience of making friends and being a friend I wish to pass along some of what I’ve learned along the way in hopes that other will have some luck in finding buddies/pals/’homies’.
Friends are great to have; some last a short period, such as a day/night, and other are long-term relationships that last and thrive for years. I’m not saying one or the other is better because there are merits to spontaneously meeting someone and having a great time talking and laughing for an afternoon or evening and then never seeing them again (and no, I’m NOT talking about a sexual hook-up, just a random friends-meeting). Though you might be sad to lose touch, you will have a wonderful memory of meeting someone who may have restored your faith in humanity. Because no matter how “ugly” the world appears at the moment — and it certainly does— there are still some good people out there. Sometimes you just gotta go and find ‘em (by the way, as a side note, if you want to meet friends in person, it might be a really good idea to get your nose off your phone. Just sayin’.)
By the way, the phrase “situational friends” is one I made up several years ago to describe friends we have in various stages of our lives. This can be the other parents in the PTA at school, or it can be co-workers at your job, or fellow members of a volunteer organization such as the Lions Club or Rotary Club, people you are building a house with for Habitat for Humanity, or other situations that put random people (who have at least one thing in common, that being to fulfill the purpose of the organization to which you belong, for example). Over my years in the workforce, I’ve had plenty of co-workers who I really enjoyed (no, really! not kidding!) and knew I would miss when I left. There were those who promised to keep in touch, though sadly it did not pan out that way. I came to refer to them as “situational friends” because they were friends as long as we were both in the same situation, i.e., a job, for example. I’ve heard there actually are people who still keep in touch with friends they had in high school or even college. That’s pretty cool, although as we move along in years we sometimes outgrow people with whom we were buddies in high school. Thanks to Facebook and Words with Friends, I am keep in contact with some of my classmates, and even a few former boyfriends-turned-friends.
“‘Cause we gotta have friends.” — Donkey, in Shrek
No matter how old we are we all need friends; at all stages of our life social interaction is very important. I read in the AARP Magazine several months ago about how loneliness and social isolation can lead to early death (that organization for the 50-plus set has a website, www.connect2affect.org, designed to help people find people). So it might be a good idea for those of you still cooped up at home because of the pandemic to use your video chatting app, or take a step or two higher and follow one or more of the following suggestions for finding age-appropriate friends (which, by the way, are whatever age you want to hang out with. Though I generally hang with people older than I, I like to think that I get along with just about anybody). Class is now in session and is open to people of ALL ages, races, genders, political affiliation, religion, social-economic standing, etc. Enjoy.
Following list of ideas (to add to the ones I shared in the paragraphs above) is not exhaustive, just a few that come to mind. Some have worked to varying degrees for me and others I know. I realize that some areas of the world are still in pandemic “lockdown” or are severely restricting the movements of their citizens, so maybe some of these are not an option for you right not. Although if you go out properly masked I honestly don’t see why these can’t be an option for meeting people; just keep you appropriate, respectable distance.
- Friendship apps. I’ve never used one though I’ve heard there are apps you can use to meet people for (presumably platonic) friendships. Therefore I cannot recommend — or even name — any specifically, I’m assuming that a simple Google search will yield results. One can assume that the “success” rate of meeting friends in this matter might roughly equal the perceived success you might attain using a dating app. On a related note, I read on here a month or so ago a woman’s story on her experience with an all-women’s camping group. It sounded like so much fun that I was intrigued and maybe some of you might want to look into whether there might be something like that available where you live.
- The library: Bibliophiles (that is, people who love books), you cannot only find suitable printed (or recorded) material in these hallowed halls of learning, you might even find a friend or two. For better or worse, libraries are no longer deathly still places where the librarian will constantly be telling you to “Sshhhh!!!!” with a stern look. Nowadays they have comfortable seating areas where people can just read books and magazines, cubicles where they might study, work on a laptop or read, and computer labs for those who might not have access to a computer at home. I’ve met many cool people among the stacks of books. Libraries also have book clubs; the one in our county seat has a magazine reading group, where they read and discuss articles. It also has meetings for people with hobbies, they host arts and crafts activities for various age groups, and do other fun stuff.
- A bar: Yes, I am totally aware that one can almost always meet “quick friends” in a bar. Sometimes those people can become more than just acquaintances. I have a few friends that I met in the local bar and we’ve been hanging out and sharing laughs and tears for several years. Last year I met a woman at karaoke night who became an instant best friend as we have so much in common.Word of caution, though: bar friendships might just be like Styx sang in “Too Much Time on My Hands,” that is “I’ve got dozens of friends and the fun never ends, that is as long as I’m buying.” I’m sure many of you can relate to that. Just remember those “bar buddies” may just be situational — people you drink and chat with, though they may not be actual potential close friends (as in the type that will be there for you, etc.). So, real friendships CAN happen in a drinking establishment. Don’t count them out.
- The grocery or any retail store: Don’t laugh, it’s not just a cliche; a spontaneous meeting in a grocery store can actually turn into something other than friendly chatting. I don’t recommend you ram your cart in to someone else’s, as a line in a movie I saw once said. People sometimes just randomly chat in the produce department (comparing the freshness of, say, the avocadoes or something) and may follow up with coffee or something later. Same with any retail store. I often chat with people in the store when shopping or while waiting in the checkout line. These days more than ever people might need some friendly faces and conversations, so don’t be afraid to talk to people. You never know…
- Volunteer organizations: This is a great way to meet like-minded people, one I can totally recommend because it too has been a source for long-term friendships for me. Back in the late 80s I was working on a small-town newspaper. I was out and about covering something and came across some people raking leaves. I stopped to talk to them and it turned out they were raking leaves for people as part of a Jaycees project to help elderly people with yard and house work. This chance conversation led me to join that local Jaycees chapter — followed by years in a number of other chapters — and friendships that have gone on for decades. I’m not even sure if Jaycees are still a thing, as I left them in my late 30s and joined the Lions Club. There are a number of ways besides these organizations to become involved in your community, to help and meet people. I highly recommend joining one.
- Dance clubs. These are groups of people who love to dance … in some cases, some people are there to learn to dance or to dance better. These are often, though not always, held in bar settings. There are different dance clubs with varied genres of music. There are country-western dance clubs and classical (Big Band) dance groups. I became involved about three years ago in what I call the “dance circuit,” a bunch of people who go on road trips to wherever there is a suitable band (for us specifically it’s “older country”). Along the way I’ve met lots of great people. Here you can meet people you have at least one thing in common with, that is shaking your booty, and you get to have fun and have some great exercise too. Bonus!! Obviously there aren’t many live performances going on at the moment, though hopefully some day we’ll be out getting our groove on again
“Thank you for being a friend. Travel down a road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant. I’m not ashamed to say, I hope it always will stay this way. My hat is off, won’t you stand up and take a bow … And when we both get older, With walking caes and hair of gray. Have no fear even though it’s hard to hear. I will stand here close and say Thank you for being a friend.” — Andrew Gold
So there you have it, friends: my “crash course” in Making Grownup Friends 101. Hope you all have learned some helpful ideas to look for people with whom you just might “click” forever or just want to hang out for a while. Yes it is true that it’s a challenge sometimes to find people we really want to get to know/get close to. But the time and effort of putting yourself out there is totally worth it. Please don’t let social isolation be your default state forever. The pandemic will end — I’m sure — some day. Remember, a real fun friend just might be right around the corner ….