How To Make Friends When You're 'Old'

In addition to the many messages you will begin to notice comin' directly at your brain-face as you hit your late twenties/early thirties about all the things that will get "harder" for you as you get older (ever being skinny again, finding the right dude to impregnate you with the right, skinniest baby) a big one bemoaned in "the culture" is how hard it is to make friends. "It's just harder," people and magazines will say/whine. But that's a lie. It's not harder. It's just different; so different that you need to take a look at what you used to call making friends and burn it to the ground and then stomp on it (then Vine it).

Here's the thing you have to realize up front about your life: In high school and in college, you didn't really have that many friends. Not as many as you think. Not really. No. Not really, and I can't hear what you're saying right now to the screen anyway? You weren't really doing anything to make friends then either. I know you think you were: You did have to leave your dorm and talk to other humans on occasion. You did have to go to football games or make scrapbooks and show up and sorta try.

And you had to keep going out and talking to these people to maintain the thing you were calling friendships. And while I know you did have some actual good, real, close friends, I'm talking about all the other people you mentally grouped into that mix: the illusion you have created in your mind that your young days were nothing but scores of besties at all your best times, that life was a fuckin' endless stream of besties from which to choose.

But all you had then that will never come so easily to you again was a built-in system of revolving people who were more or less programmed just like you that you didn't really have to seek out. Together you were a captive audience, and that backdrop practically did all the bonding/sameness work for you.

In fact, that conveyer belt was so reliable, so automatic, so taken-for-granted by you and everyone that you might have even mistakenly thought it was a fact of life, when it fact it was merely a fact of high-school/college. And the funny thing about that misleading-as-all-get-out conveyer belt was that it made you think friendship was something effortless and automatic and driven totally by interests as if by magic hands.

Sometimes it is, make no mistake, but effortless friendship is rare at any age, and what you really had your whole life was a built-in conveyer belt group of people going through the same conveyer belt as you, and you all called that friendship, when really it was a conveyer belt.

Realize that the days of being stuck for an hour three times a week with the same ne'er-do-wells in "Intro to the Modern Novel" is never going to happen again with such a similarly positioned group of people. RIP, conveyer belt. The sooner you see that conveyer belt gathering dust in the recesses of your mind, the sooner you can get down to making friends. On your brand new adult, grown up, shiny-ass… swift-o-matic conveyer belt.

OK so I tricked you. The trick to making friends is that you have to find a new conveyer belt. Life is a conveyer belt; it's always a conveyer belt. Sorry. But the conveyer belt is different now. And if I hadn't taken you through that you wouldn't have listened.

THE CONVEYER BELT IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

  • It's smaller.
  • There are actually a hundred thousand more of them if you want them, but you have to find them instead of them finding you.
  • The people move in and out more often, and therefore must be acted up on more quickly.
  • The conveyer belt no longer moves toward you, but away from you.

Maybe you're in a new city with unknown conveyer belts; maybe your old friends are heinous jackanapes you have no idea why you just hung out with for the last decade. Either way, you have to think of making friends at this age in this world with this head as a different game. Here's how to do it.

Change the way you think about how to make friends.

See above. Also see this: I think of it as interviewing for a job I am obviously qualified for and don't give a fuck if I ever get cause I already have a job I love. And it's magic. What I'm doing is talking to you with my best most honest but considered self, and I don't care if you like it, because I like it, because it's intrinsically of value. Dig? You can like it too! If not, I will so go on living.

Go to all kinds of places and do things you like doing.

That's pretty obvious advice, I know. But it's real because it's true. You have to recreate a series of meaningful new conveyer belts for yourself so that you're in the company of a revolving door of people long enough to make some inroads. This is just like meeting potential fuck buddies, husbands, wives, rabbis, or whomever it is you want to meet. Leave your house, walk down the dorm hall, and go to a place where you have a reasonable interest in the thing being done. That way you will have natural, real opinions about it like a person with a fuckin' life, which makes you a thousand times friendable.

If not, then get a life.

If you have an active existence that involves doing things, you will see the same people over and over again. That's kind of the whole point with the conveyer belts. You just need a lot more of them to max out your exposure, and by cultivating interests, you are a person who does things and therefore will meet people and when you meet them you will have sentences to form. Decent ones that people want to actually hear.

Don't use too many sentences about you without alternating them about the other person.

There is a balance between talking about you and asking about them and I bet nearly the whole universe works on that line being straddled right. Don't be a you-whore but don't be a them-whore. Be a whore-whore. You know what I mean.

Decide what kind of friends you actually want.

You're like, duh, I just want friends, but this is key to figuring out how to nail down a bud. See, there's a bajillion kinds of friends. Are you missing a close friend who knows you, who you can laugh with, who you can bond with deeply and begin to nurture a lifelong relationship with to weather life's ups and downs? You may actually already have that and need to just revive it.

Or maybe you want a friend who happens to like sitting around drinking wine late at night after your kids are asleep who will talk to you about the best British shoegaze from the '90s. KNOW THYSELF. Because this determines everything.

For deeper connections, you might need to start going to the sorts of places where people are open to this kind of connecting. This means self-betterment types of places; classes where you learn about personal growth. Where people are open and receptive to thinking in more meaningful ways. Drinky friends can be found at drinky places, but I recommend daytime drinky places if you're really just trying to forge connections, like beer festivals or grocery store wine aisles where you can start conversations based on actual interests. You never know.

BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW

Friends come out of all sorts of weird interactions. The last person you thought you would end up talking to at the party. The lady at your work who initially seems the most irritating. I have friends from all kinds of conveyer belts, and we nurture the relationships accordingly.

Understand the different variation of friends; nurture accordingly.

This NYT piece from last year about it being hard to make friends laments this transition from "BFFs" to "KOFs" which stands for "kind-of friends." But I think that a.) these people sound picky and awful about what constitutes hanging out for a hot minute and enjoying yourself and b.) kind-of friends is the best version of friends you can have as an adult! Kind-of friends are full of possibilities and virtually none of the obligation. It can go somewhere or not; you could have tons in common, or not. It can fit into your life when it fits but not when it shouldn't. P.S. The gray area of everything is a vast, elastic, get-away-with-shit zone, why don't more people see this?

Attitude is everything.

You made stickier friends when you were younger because you were all riding that terrifying rollercoaster of who knows what the fuck is gonna happen together, but now you have figured some stuff out, and you can satisfy your own needs, and you probably already have a relationship with a person or pet or art or whatever that is immensely enriching. This makes you a non-desperate would-be friend who can hang or not hang. Be the water! Don't force it!

Don't take it personally.

This is probably the most important aspect of making friends as an old. If you meet someone and add them on Facebook and then you hang out once or twice, and you get too drunk that one time and a make a handjob joke in mixed company and everyone's like "Oh" and then you think like, fuck, it's over, who the fuck cares?!?!?! You have to be able to make your handjob joke, do you see? Everyone has to be able to make their equivalent thing that is their way of being, and if it doesn't jibe, it doesn't jibe, no bigs.

So go meet people. Add them on Facebook, see if you have interests in common. Try to hang out. If you don't get together, who cares? Try again if you want; if you don't; don't. The thing is, at this stage in your life you should be spinning so many plates that if one of them isn't dropping, you're doing something wrong. Drop the plates. Let 'em shatter. Pick 'em up, if you want.

If all else fails, have a baby.

Kidding! Put down the torch. I'm just going to leave a link right here that says having a baby adds NINE FRIENDS to your social circle. And yeah, sure: this conveyer belt is almost as good as college, because the built-in time you'll spend dropping off, picking up, taking classes, navigating resources will put you smack dab in the middle of tons of new fresh maybe-friends people who also have babies and get your particular beefs of late. This is not a reason to breed (what is, really?); it's just a thing to note if you're wondering how you'll ever make a friend again when you're in a baby hole. Get yourself one of them babies and you'll have more ladies who also had sex once in your company than you ever wanted. (I am sure this theory also applies with dogs, right?)

Be yourself, but really this time.

You know how when people say that they never really mean it? As this piece on the friends we make in our twenties explores, getting older helps making friends in a sense because being yourself aligns you with more like-minded people. If you're boring, be boring, go to the boring places to meet other boring people who like staying in like you. No need to front a disco queen vibe when you want a quilting friend.

Furthermore, you were too much of a basketcase to know what you were really looking for in friendships when you were younger; now that you're older, you realize that things settle just fine, and it all kind of shakes out alright. That's why it's so important to go to places and do things that reflect your actual you-ness. Otherwise, you're just showing up again, hoping it all works out, like in college. Remember where that got you? Reading this.