“Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for QuirkyLiving” is a weekly guest column by the authors of the brilliant blog Onely. It appears every Monday. When you’re making up your own road map for (quirky)living, you need thoughtful advice. We’re here for you. Quirkyalone and Onely welcome your questions; send them on to onely AT onely.org.
Many of my friends are having children, and this is putting pressure on our friendships. Not only do they have next-to-no time to catch up, but all our conversation centres on their children. So it’s time to find new friends –but this is proving really really difficult. Can you talk about the phenomenon of having very few friends and where and how to make new friends (either single or childfree friends)? Thanks.
–Singal (in Australia)
I think many readers will identify with your problem. But before I answer your question, let me offer some annoying unsolicited advice: don’t give up on your friends right away. Friendship is about weathering life changes together. It’s normal for people–especially Quirkyalones or Quirkytogethers–to develop different goals and interests through life (would you want to be friends with them if they didn’t?). Consider yourself lucky that your friends are not taking up B.A.S.E. jumping (or something more terrifying, like scrapbooking). Some relationships can survive such shifts in interests, and others can’t. In any friendship, one person will sometimes tax the other’s patience–think of vacation slideshows. But when a friend really hurts or neglects you, try to decide what would be least stressful: abandoning the friendship, or taking action to fix it–whether through a frank talk with your friend, a simple apology, a monetary stimulus, interpretive dance, whatever. Use this handy formula:
(Cumulative joy obtained from interactions with friend) – (Total angst acrued from friend’s transgression) > (Anticipated angst of addressing the issue)
Your friends simply may not realize that no matter how smart and cute they think their children are, other people will never find them quite as interesting, unless the kids poop sparkle turds. So next time you tire of hearing about the baby, try gently saying, “Hey, I do want to hear about little Sally’s croup soon, but actually right now I was hoping we could talk a little bit about this book I was reading, because it reminded me of our trip to Gettysburg that one prom night. Once I get that off my chest I’ll be able to pay closer attention to the subtleties of Sally’s hacking.” After a couple of these suggestions, your true friends should get the hint that you’re feeling neglected, and they’ll act accordingly.
But supposing they don’t make more of an effort to incorporate you? Well, then, I like meetup.com. (It’s in Australia too.) The site helps connect groups of people share a common interest, such as Italian language, basketball, or astral travel. It’s not a dating site, so you seldom encounter the meatmarket mentality (disclaimer: Onely takes no responsibility for any very rare occurrences of smarmy arm-stroking and close-talking).
However, the best way to make new friends is to focus less on meeting people and more on pursuing your own interests. Let the connections happen naturally from that. For example, get a puppy because you think dogs are adorable, not because the dog park is a good place to strike up conversations.
If you do meet someone you think has friend potential, remember that making friends and dating share many of the same strategies and pitfalls: Show interest but not desperation or fear. Maintain eye contact. Let them sniff your hand first. (Oh wait, that’s dogs.) Laugh at their jokes unless they’re not funny. Share parallel details from your life (but don’t interrupt with your own stories or try to trump someone’s ancedote with your own).
Readers, how do you maintain old friendships and form new ones?
–Christina at Onely
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