How To Make A New Friend

Why is this hard.

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*For Jessie & Savaria

This question has come up in my ether with an almost comedic frequency lately. Everyone wants to know, nobody has any ideas, and we’re all pretty confused as to why this is an issue in the first place. Seriously, how do you make new friends? I’m not asking for a friend, obviously, I am asking for myself. Please assist.

Preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, law school and it’s age 36 that’s going to present the real social challenges? This is some bullshit. But I’m not alone, my DMs would suggest I’m far from it. A lot of women, especially single women, are in need of new friends, and more community. So in addition to opening ourselves up to the possibility of rejection from potential romantic partners, we’re adding the possibility of failed friendships, too. This seems fine. Sure.

For a variety of reasons, making new friends is hard. Much harder than it should be, much harder than it was when the biggest decision I had to make in a day was what color smelly marker to use. Now we have walls up around us, and screens up in front of us, and connecting with new friends, at some point, became terrifying. I will confidently walk down a dark street armed with pepper spray and “don’t fuck with me” face but I can’t muster the courage to say hello to a woman in the lobby at the dentist. Cool.

We want new friends, but we also want nights with no plans. We want new friends, but we also want our old friends to pay attention to us. We want new friends, but we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable or uncomfortable at any point in time. Friendship paralysis is real and I think it’s keeping us from realizing our full potential.

The “how” is actually not much of a surprise. If you want to make new friends, you just have to try. If just complaining and feeling sad were effective methods for getting what I want I’d be living on the outskirts of London in a charming cottage with a back garden and my tall blonde husband planting vegetables in it as we speak. Alas—you actually do have to exert some effort.

I think that’s the glass in the grain sack. We might be willing to try, but we don’t know how. What are things we can actually do to try? Where are new friends hiding? Can someone Magellan me towards friendship, because celestial navigation is hard and it’s currently overcast.

I see no point in sputtering about this online if I’m not also going to offer an idea or two, so here are a few things that have been helpful for me lately. Not only is this list not exhaustive, but it is also a cry for your own ideas in the comments section.

  • Email people. Yes, out of nowhere. It’s ok. If you want to be friends with someone, it’s perfectly okay to just like…tell them that. Hint: If someone seems like they’d be fun to get coffee with, they probably are. Start with them. DMs count.
  • Facebook Groups. I have recently joined several Facebook groups that have connected me with likeminded and conveniently located women. Yes, that hellsite is probably going to bring about The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s also a vibrant resource of new humans you can meet, to the tune of about two billion of them. Look for a local group centered around an activity you enjoy or a profession you’re a part of. Suggest that people hang out in real life, and take the initiative to plan it.
  • Friends Of Your Friends. It’s 100% okay to become friends with your friends friends without making your friend mad. Think of all the coworkers and acquaintances you’ve met at weddings and parties that you never followed up with. Those could be actual friends! End the middle school stigma of worrying that you always have to include the friend who connected you. We can maintain individual relationships with people, it’s fine.
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Me and Jessie, my new friend. (PS — Savaria we need to take a pic next time we hang out.) What the fuck is happening with my bangs here.

Along similar lines, when someone else tries, you need to reward that trying by trying back. It’s scary to cold call new friends. You can help quiet societal fear and make a new friend at the same time. You can be a goddamned hero.

I often hear from single women who feel as though they’re the only ones putting effort into their friendships once their friends partner and reproduce. If that’s happening, seek out additional (not just new, but additional) relationships with people who are going to put in the same amount of effort that you’re willing to exert.

In short, it’s chaos out here. And if you’re a single woman, I’m going to go out on a very sturdy limb here and say that you wish you knew more people who were in your boat. Because that boat is literally leaking friends every time someone you know meets their partner. (While I’m at it, can we end being pissy when that happens? Obviously she’s spending less time with you, she found love—be happy for her, it’s good energy.)

Friendships are the new family. We moved away from home to a town with reliable public transit, and without the implied ties that come along with sharing DNA in common, we’re going to have to put forth some effort to build the communities we want around us. It will take a bit of bravery, effort, and vulnerability. But I have a feeling our willingness to put ourselves out there will be rewarded with eye-opening information about how pretty much everybody wants more friends. And if we all feel the same way, maybe we should all feel the same way together over a pizza. Just an idea.

Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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