Dear QuirkyAlone: How do I make new friends?

“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.

Dear Quirkyalone,

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)

Dear Singal,

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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About

Onely is a blog that deconstructs stereotypes of singlehood. It's for singles who enjoy being single but remain open to a variety of romantic relationships, either for themselves or for others. Onely comprises two people: Lisa and Christina. Christina has an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing, but she still struggles with her participles and a tendency toward semicolon abuse. She has bravely persevered against these obstacles in her work as one-half of the Onely writing team. For most of her thirty-odd years she has been Quirkyalone, but she also has experience as a Quirkytogether, a Lonelyalone, and--most terrifying--a Lonelytogether. Currently she is contentedly single, balancing a left-brained day job that feeds her cat with right-brained writing projects that feed her soul. In Dear Quirkyalone, she hopes to share her lessons learned with other readers who want to understand and embrace Quirkyliving. The secret? Always listen to Lisa. Lisa has an MFA in creative writing and is about halfway through a doctoral program in Rhetoric and Composition. She loves writing about singles issues on Onely because it gives her a break from what she writes in “real life,” and she loves giving advice on QA because – as most academics do – she thinks she’s always right. Lisa owns a dog named Kitty, loves Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, and undertakes long road/camping trips as often as possible. She apologizes in advance for her language taking “academic” (not to be confused with “epic”) proportions, and advises readers first and foremost to always heed Christina’s advice.

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Posted in Friendship, Personal Growth, Single Life
5 comments on “Dear QuirkyAlone: How do I make new friends?
  1. As more of my own friends get married and welcome kids to the world, some of them have made it clear that there will always be a place for me at their dinner tables. I feel blessed to have friends like that. Others have grown ever more insular and act as though they’re doing me a favor just to return my call. Even my well-intentioned friends have less time on their hands, and once they have kids, I understand that. Children can’t take care of themselves, so they have to come first, even if mommy would actually rather be talking on the phone!

    However, that sometimes means that we singles find ourselves all dressed up with someplace to go but no one to go with. Also, as nice as it is to keep in touch with married friends, it can be great to have friends who understand and empathize with your experiences and perspectives as a single.

    When I was alone in a new city, I ran an ad for friends in Craigslist’s Strictly Platonic category. Believe it or not, I met a really cool person who I’m friends with to this day. Of course, all the necessary precautions of offline meetings apply, but I won’t repeat those here. Message boards–like the one here at Quirkyalone–can also be a good forum to meet people who have similar interests. If you live in a populated area, chances are that some people at these boards don’t live too far away from you. Message board communities with a lot of “regulars” can get very tight over the years, and it’s definitely not unheard of for offline friendships to develop.

    Other people have luck through joining clubs, volunteer organizations, churches, sports teams, and so on. You might find a lot of these advertised in your local paper. Many papers also feature a Calendar or Events section that lists various cultural activities like film screenings, art shows, poetry readings, etc. Many of these have opportunities for discussion and interaction that might lead to friendship. Sometimes it’s nice just to talk with new people for an evening, whether or not they become your BFFs.

    Another possibility would be to take a class at a local community college or as part of a continuing education program, although I don’t know how that works in countries outside the U.S. Again, you might not find any last friendships, but it’s a really good opportunity to socialize.

    Finally, you might try starting a group of your own, perhaps a free support group for single women. Going a step further with Onely’s Meetup.com suggestion, you might start your own Meetup! Libraries, community centers, and mom and pop stores will often let you hang flyers up, too.

  2. Scout says:

    Sparkle Turds. HAHAHAHA!

  3. This is terrific advice, Christina! This is such a common thing as people’s lives take different directions. I’ve reached the point where, when one of my friends has another child, I sort of lower my expectations of them for a couple of years. Their focus and their priorities just have to change for a while. Also, just as we like having friends who can share our challenges and perspective, they tend to want & need friends who also have children.

    My best friend of 30 years has a 14 year-old-daughter and an 11-year-old son. And it’s only been the past few months that we’ve begun to have phone conversations that aren’t constantly interrupted.

    I love, love, love Meetup.com and recommend it to people all the time. It’s an easy, fun way to connect with people who share your interests, even the most terrifying, like scrapbooking. You always crack me up. 😉

    • Onely says:

      Thanks Deborah–I think you make a really good point when you say that you consciously lower your expectations of your coupled-with-children friends for a few years. Not in a mean or negative way, but a realistic way. That way you’re not (as) surprised and hurt when your phone conversations are interrupted.
      = )
      CC

  4. Onely says:

    Singletude: Those are all great suggestions, thanks. (I had said this yesterday too, but my comment didn’t show up for some reason)

    = ) Christina

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