I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends

In sixth grade, I transferred to a new middle school. My classmate, Kyle, was the only other person who transferred from elementary school with me, and while we got along, we didn’t have a ton in common. At recess the first day, Kyle left with a group of boys to play football and I sat down on a bench and stared at the dirt.

After about five minutes, a girl from my class sat down next to me. “I’m Alissa!” she said.

“I’m Stephanie,” I said. We both stared at the dirt.

“Can you see those ants?” she asked. “Sometimes I feel like I have some kind of super bug vision because I can zero in on them no matter where I’m looking.”

“I see a lot of bugs, too!” I said, and suddenly we were friends. We had sleepovers and played foursquare during recess, and when I moved to Hawaii at the end of the semester, she wrote me letters at my new address.

English: Carpenter ant, Camponotus sp.

Ants can lift 20 times their body weight and bring people together.

I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot lately, because in a matter of months, I’m going to be fresh out of friends. That sounded bad. Mine aren’t dying mysteriously or anything. We’re just moving on with our lives and away from each other. Each of my friends is at a point in their life where they have to make choices about the future based on their burgeoning career or stable relationship or young family.

I was going to use a corny metaphor about how our paths were parallel and are now diverging, but that makes it sound a lot smoother and more predetermined than it was. It was actually more like someone yelled, “SCATTER!” and we panicked and ran different directions and smacked face-first into the rest of our lives. Of course we’ll try to stay in touch, but I’ve realized that if I want a social life that doesn’t revolve around my cat, I’m going to have to make some new friends.

I'm 100% ok with spending all my time with Winston. He's less into it.

I’m 100% ok with spending all my time with Winston. He’s less into it.

The only problem is that I have no idea how to do that.

Due to some charmingly crippling shyness, I’m usually the passive member of the friendship-forging process. In the past, the more outgoing person has come up and sort of made friends at me, so all I really have to do is smile and nod.

That strategy hasn’t worked for a couple of years. Since graduating college, I don’t spend as much time with tipsy kids who have time for shenanigans like friendship. Now I’m surrounded by adults who worry about things like bills and window treatments and get sad when they drink. It’s clear that I’m going to have to step up my game and get friendly.

I just wish I knew where to start.

Where Does One Meet Friends?

– Through mutual acquaintances? If I had any mutual acquaintances, I’d just be friends with them.

– While participating in a hobby? When I bought my house, I unwittingly bought 30 new hobbies that take up all of my time now, including yard work, plumbing and dryer vent cleaning. I don’t meet many new people in my backyard.

Nor do I want to. I have enough trouble keeping those damn kids off my lawn.

Nor do I want to. I have enough trouble keeping those damn kids off my lawn.

– Online, maybe? Craigslist has a “Strictly Platonic” section in its personals, but that seems murdery. Are there any mobile friendship apps out there? Like Tinder, but for learning about people’s hopes and dreams and quirks? Is that suggestion somehow more murdery?

– At work? Will that ruin our professional relationship? Won’t our co-workers be jealous of our inside jokes and easy rapport?

– Just… out? I go to the hardware store a lot. Maybe I’ll meet my next best friend shopping for sprinkler heads or testing stepladders. We’ll accidentally reach for the same wrench and my new friend will laugh and make an awful pun, and we’ll dance hand-in-hand through the aisles of leaf blowers and faucets, knowing it was meant to be.

Once I find someone who seems like friend material, how do I seal the deal?

How Does One Make a Friend?

– Should I ask if they have bug vision?

– Should I invite them to dinner? It will have to be buttered noodles because that’s the only thing I know how to cook and I keep forgetting to buy sauce.

– Should I lure them in by learning everything they like and pretending to like it too, then snatch them up into a net until they agree to be my friend?

– Should I condition them into friendship by handing them candy every time we talk?

– Should I ask outright if they want to be my friend? Why does this method feel like the creepiest one?

– Should I lay a complex trap for them by staging the kind of life-or-death, survivalist situation that forces people to become close, like a zombie apocalypse or a wolf attack?

That's the sound of friends being made.

That’s the sound of friends being made.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s starting to look like I’ll have to quash my agoraphobic tendencies and go outside and participate in a hobby with other humans. I’ll join a tetherball team, maybe! Or a book club! It’s going to be totally great and not at all scary or horrible! I’m feeling good about this. I’ll have so much fun.

Oh my god, you guys. I just read on Twitter that mutant super wolves have attacked every major city on earth and everyone is dead except us so we’ll have to band together to fight them.

Guess we’ll have to be friends now. Would you like some buttered noodles?

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  1. red1263

    I think if you can make people smile, if not laugh, then that’s a sign of a good friendship, for example, your wolf apocalypse has most definitely made me smile. But I’d agree with the idea of doing things that you like, and you’ll make friends that way, you’ll already have something to talk about walking in there.

  2. Laura

    I dont know if I want to laugh or cry because I exactly know how you feel. Moving around and friends moving on with their lives eventually leaves you stranded – alone. I need to go out and make friends. Maybe we’ll meet at a book club ;)

  3. Sarah

    Would you believe that i’m in the exact same situation as you? It’s true. I am. Except that i don’t go to hardware stores much. I go to stationery stores. Where i see mostly kids, buying stuff for their school projects. Also, the last time i went there, a sales person stared at me weird when i asked where they keep letter-pads and, told me that they’ve stopped keeping them because nobody writes letter anymore (apparently).

  4. aka gringita

    I’m sitting here trying to think about my friends and how we met, since I’m totally shy and awkward and although completely likeable, not necessarily a natural at making new friends. Hmm.

    This is extra challengy because I’m an introvert… I tend to have just a few really good friends, real deep true friendships,, and not an entire circle of good what-I-would-call-acquaintances-and-someone-else-would-call-casual-friendships. (And that’s OK with me.) So that also colors my response (your mileage may vary).

    – My best, best friends are women I met at church (when that became part of my life), and then joined a small group (aka an accountability group, house church, home fellowship group, bible study, etc) and got to know a few of them really well. Friendships grew from there, and have lasted since.
    – I have a few good work friends. The thing about work friends though is that most of those friendships will only last as long as the job. Still, you can forge a few that will be real and true and last beyond the last day at the office, or the ups and downs of office politics and hierarchies. (Not meaning that to sound negative; work friends are great but it took some early lessons to figure out they are not “real” friendships most of the time. But sometimes they are, and that’s really nice.)
    – College friends. OK, mainly one, and when I’m honest it’s because she is so good about continuing the connection and keeping the bridge between us there, even through the years that our lives looked very different and it would have been easy to just let things go.

    I don’t know that that helped. Almost sure it didn’t. Maybe this will.
    What’s worked for you before is likely will work for you again: allow yourself to be in places where meaningful conversations can happen, and respond to the openings that come.

  5. ninjasinstitches

    I’m not very good on at the one chance meet friendships… most of mine are from things I’ve done routinely.. like fitness classes.. After the 3rd class if I think I’ve clicked with someone I’d be like “Want to go for a smoothie or something?” but that’s as far as my skills go

  6. cupcakenova

    I had this same issue when I moves this past summer there are a few ways I started meeting new people. One was just by looking to see what events are going on in the area and just showing up. I know it is really scary to do at first but it works.

    also there is a website called MEET ME. where you can find groups with similar interested that you can join. These groups usually host get togethers or events that allow you to meet new people.

    I hope this helps!

  7. pensitivity101

    My Hubby is my best friend, and we met through an ad in the paper (honest).
    We have found that if we are out walking the dog, people will stop and chat to us, and whilst our intention was to socialize the dog, in fact it is us being socialized!
    We have conversations with the check out staff in supermarkets and shops, have good relationships with our tradespeople (boiler maintenance guy, coal man, postman etc). We know a lot of people, but making friends is iffy as those we thought were friends, were not. It’s a minefield, but I agree with some of the comments above in respect of meeting people in groups. It’s difficult going into a room of strangers on your own, but sometimes there is someone in the same boat and that gives you common ground to start a conversation. Good luck!

  8. theliteraryhorse

    This might sound murdery and creepy? You possibly just made a new friend. I have bug vision! I love buttered noodles! My favorite adventure park is a hardware store! I have a zillion hobbies no one else on earth finds fascinating. Plus, with the wolf apocalypse and all, we have to band together. I can totally make a sweater out of wolf fur. Whoops. Think I just crossed the murdery/creepy line. Damn.

  9. NotAPunkRocker

    Most of my offline friends I met online, through message boards and even blogging (!) It would be too easy for me to hole up away from the world if given the chance, so I do have to force myself to make contact once in a while.

  10. nfroio

    Every real friend I have; I definitely did not make any sort of actual ‘friending’ effort with. I have found it hold mostly true that friends just come (and sadly, go) naturally and usually when you are least expecting their arrival – just like friends to drop in unannounced! :)

  11. sland24

    Part of me thinks this is something everyone goes through, but if everyone is going through it why aren’t we finding each other? I feel the same way… Especially being out of college, it is so hard to find people!!!

  12. Random

    I’ve been in a similar situation a lot lately. With me, it’s because I’m the one who has been moving away from the friends I’ve made. The one thing that has helped me connect with new people is doing improv. Now, I know that improv can sound scary to someone who is shy. I know because I’m one of them. But, it’s surprising how many people I’ve met who are shy and have managed to get past the hurdle of *trying* improv and they love it. So, yeah, maybe try improv if there’s any in your area.

    If we lived near each other, I’d be open to being your friend, but it probably wouldn’t last since I’d just move. Again.

    (By the way, thanks for your posts. They are incredibly entertaining. You’re very talented.)

  13. Greg

    Have you heard of couchsurfing before? It’s a website where you can travel the world and stay in other people’s houses, but as well as that function you’ll find in most major cities (not sure if this is applicable to you, but on the off chance…) they organise meet and greets, where most everybody is a stranger looking to make new friends. Sometimes they can be a little meat-markety but usually not, and besides you can check out the site and decide from there pressure free.
    Best o’ luck to yer!

  14. Little Miss Menopause

    Did you just make up the word “murdery?” I love that! I have been bemoaning the fact that adults can’t just knock on someone’s door and say, “Can you play?” for years now. It’s really hard. I scarcely retained any friends from high school and have had to start over as I’ve grown and my interests drastically changed. Also my tolerance level changed. I won’t put up with much. That’s fifty for ya. Oh well, maybe I’ll check out the website that your commenter, Greg is talking about. But he says it’s a bit Meat-markety. “Murdery and Meat-Markety.” My new blog name!!! Thanks for the fun!

  15. Rodney's Saga

    Small world. I love Listful Thinking & The Literary Horse*. We need to form a band & call ourselves The Wolf Apocalypse. Then we can become friends during the long hours on the tour bus. (*I shineth you on not. LT: inspired my post on 4/1/14 http://rodneyssaga.com/2014/04/01/a-list/. TLH: I have sent this post http://theliteraryhorse.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/would-you-like-some-fries-with-that/ to more than one person, saying Here, you need to read this blog.)

  16. chrysaliswithaview

    Why yes, yes I would. Can I bring my wolf? Actually, I don’t have a wolf, but I have 3 wild kittens, so that’s about the same thing. I got pretty much all the friends I have when I got married. I had some others but did the moving away thing. Mind you, it was harrowing. I didn’t like him at all, tried to get him to go away, but he wouldn’t until I worked out he was actually quite nice, and then I didn’t want him to go away … so yeah, getting friends, not so easy :-) I also have a bunch of people like you, whose posts I read and and say things like ‘oh Stephanie!’, or if I’m cracking up and my husband walks in, I’ll say wanna hear what’s happened to Stephanie now? So it actually seems like I have a whole bunch more friends than I do. For which, thank-you by the way :-)

  17. maurnas

    I have a really hard time making friends too. Now that we’re adults it’s impossible. I don’t even know how I ever had friends. But I also wouldn’t recommend Craigslist. You’ll get murdered for sure.

  18. glen van alkemade

    Friendmaking List:
    1. Join every league the Park District offers. Start with Croquet.
    2. Join every book club the Library offers.
    3. Walk Winston on a leash. Probably fastest way to make friends in your neighborhood.

  19. amberleyanglican

    Wishing you all the best with friend-finding. How about volunteering? You will meet people with similar values and you already share the feel-good factor of doing something good for your fellow human beings. Also, it can help to put one’s own problems into a different perspective.

  20. Lorna's Voice

    I think friendships happen naturally. You can’t force them. Two people (or more) just meet and the rest is history. There’s no formula that I know of…

  21. Becki

    I have the same problem! I’m in my mid-30’s and all my long-term friends are married or have kids or a combination of that, while I still can’t commit to a coffee flavor. I have met a couple new friends though meetup.com (My obviously cooler and more sociable therapist told me about the site). It’s a place where people form groups based on interest and then schedule events for the members of the groups. I’ve been on it for over 2 years and now I even run my own group. Definitely check it out (but I suggest you stay away from any group that offers free taxidermy for your deceased…learned that the hard way!) :)

  22. twaldron2014

    Like so many of the other comments, I likewise have faced a similar dilemma and tried one or more of your delightfully described solutions. I love your writing style and your sense of humor.

  23. James Thorne

    This is hysterical!! Totally fell what you said ” It was actually more like someone yelled,“SCATTER!” and we panicked and ran different directions and smacked face-first into the rest of our lives.” I feel like that’s going to happen to me next year. Plus the fact that both me and all my friends are terrible at keeping up non-enforced relationships even when we aren’t busy sounds like a recipe for loneliness, drinking, and watching lots of old movies.

  24. thebitchdesk

    A few years after my divorce, I stumbled upon a site posted on Craigslist for a social group to meet friends: http://www.meetin.org. Our group was very social for a number of years, however, we don’t all get together as often as we used to. I hear meetup groups are also a great place to make new friends. Good luck!

  25. whackywriter

    I guess I just connected with you from paragraph three and you made me smile (faint one) like forever after that! I sure do not have a bug vision but we can be friends. :D

  26. my life and other tragedies

    It’s at times like this, when I too am in a similar predicament, that I wish I had a cat. I don’t. But there is a spider living in an unreachable corner of my kitchen that I sometimes address my rantings to… But, seriously, anyone who can write witty, humorous blogs wont be without friends for long – you’ll be fine!

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  29. Tdoor

    Reblogged this on Your Amateur Genius! ;-) and commented:
    You know… it’s funny how the most simple things lead to you the best of friends. It’s odd: Stuff just happens when you least expect it! Anyways, I better get back to work, here’s the post I just read though just in case you’re interested! ^_^

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