I often read comments on the internet about how hard it is to make friends as an adult, how hard it is to make female friends, etc. As someone who used to be incredibly lonely and is no longer so, I feel fairly qualified to comment on this topic.
Throughout most of elementary, middle and high school, I had 0-5 friends at my school at any given time. I loved the friends I had, but I always longed for a medium-to-large, tight knit group, and that never happened for me. This was not because I only hung out with boys; I didn’t lose my v-card or have any serious relationships until after high school. I was just a big, awkward weirdo who went to school with a bunch of people with whom I had little in common.
Next, I went to college in New York City, where I made a few more friends. These friends were awesome, but they were also independent people who weren’t always down to explore the city in the intense ways I wanted to. (In fairness, they also had a ton of schoolwork to do.) I ended up going to a lot of concerts alone. Do you know how long a subway ride from Bushwick to Harlem can be at 4am without anyone to talk to? So long. Probably kind of dangerous, too.
It was around this point in time that I began hanging out in the downtown club scene with people who were not my friends. They sure were fun, though! So fun they sometimes pretended not to recognize me if there was a tough door that night. So fun they didn’t help me pay for the morning after pill when I needed it to avoid having their abortions. So fun they…ugh, you get the point. Drugs are not necessarily tantamount to fun.
I began lamenting how I didn’t have more female friends, but what I was really lamenting was not having more friends, period, because guys who want to sleep with you don’t count. For about a year, I was in a codependent relationship where we literally only hung out with each other, which did not help things on the social front. But then I graduated and moved to Brooklyn, and, like the underpants gnomes, somehow jumped ahead to step three: profit! Now I’ve got a large crew of delightful folks whom I love so, so much (and who love me back, WTF!) and I’m still not sure how I got so lucky.
Like romantic love, the subconscious alchemy of platonic love can be mysterious, but here are some things that I think might have helped. I’m putting them in the imperative form so they can be more easily absorbed and acted upon.
1.) Learn social skills.
I know, I know. If this were easy, you would’ve done it by now. But it’s not impossible. My social skills used to be really, really terrible, to the point where I was convinced I had Asperger’s. But as I got older, I got a better idea of what was, and wasn’t, waaaay more than people wanted to know about me, and learned to control my nervous tic of talking about myself to fill the silence. (And to keep from being misunderstood, which kind of backfired sometimes.) And the more I forced myself to interact with people, the easier it got.
2.) Live somewhere hospitable.
If you want to make friends you have common interests with, move to a place where there are lots of people who like whatever it is that you like. This is not rocket science. For me, it meant moving to North Brooklyn, because I love rock shows, house parties, and being pretentious about my taste in everything.
3.) Don’t be afraid of the internet.
I know it’s super dorky, but online communities can introduce you to some really rad people. I met most of the friends I have now, directly or indirectly, through a Williamsburg-centric message board. Some of the people on it were kind of terrifying, but it was worth it to get to the good ones. I also met one of my best friends, and a ton of the people I’ve hung out with while traveling, via nudie site Suicidegirls. My roommate has met some interesting folks via turntable.fm.
4.) Realize other people are shy, too.
You see that tall, blonde girl in the Joy Division t-shirt who seems way too cool to ever want to hang out with short, bubbly, un-stylish you? She’s probably having the exact same anxieties. Go over and see how she’s liking the show. And don’t be intimidated by her because she’s pretty. You’re pretty too, and anyway, it’s not like you’re trying to have sex with her.
5.) Do things.
I know, I know, doing things sucks. But if you have even one interest or hobby that causes you to leave the house and interact with others, it will increase your chances of making friends one thousand-fold. Join that book club. Take that Spanish class. Worst case scenario, you’ll read some good books and learn a new language. [tagbox tag="friendship"]
6.) Reach out!
If you think someone is cool and want to get to know him or her better, it’s as easy as inviting them to dinner. Write an email if you’re too shy to ask them in person. I bet they’ll say yes, because you’re interesting and have obtained better social skills since high school.
7.) Offer to share.
In kindergarten, true friendship meant sharing the best crayons. Now it means offering someone a beer out of your six-pack that you brought to the party, a cigarette, a shot of whiskey, whatever.
8.) Summon some liquid courage.
Another fun thing about making friends as an adult is you can be drunk when you do it. But not too drunk! It’s hard to make friends when you’re busy hugging a lamp post/some strange dude’s penis/the toilet.
I think those are enough suggestions for now. I hope they aid you in your friendship-quest. And if you’re the type of person who cares more about finding a boyfriend than finding friends, a.) I feel sad for you, but b.) you should make some friends anyway, because you might not find a boyfriend right away, and also, one of your friends might introduce you to someone who turns into your boyfriend. That’s how I met mine! But I didn’t ditch my friends for him, because they are the best, and also because I learned my lesson in college. Friend-love forever.