From the playpen to the playground, throughout high school and college, and up until the last first day of any new job, our moms tell us to “make friends.” Why? Because moms know that friends are people in your life that make you feel good when you can’t do it yourself.
Some of us will have more success than others, especially those with advantages like above average looks, Bill Clinton’s charisma, job security and healthy credit scores. If you fall into that camp, don’t waste your time here. Keep having all the sex, keep eating all the brunch. You’re good.
Others will be condemned to a life of loneliness wishing we’d known better than to leave the comfort of our mothers’ wombs because at least in utero we were protected, fed, and forcefully dependent upon another life that couldn’t ignore us, at least not without effort.
Most of us will find our adult lives are bereft of friendship because life happened, the people we once called friends left as quickly as they came, and even though we neglected to sustain those friendships, it doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to being lonely. It just means we need to try to make new friends.
Here are some tips to try that may or may not work, but at the very least will fill your time.
1. Learn to suffer small talk.
I have a tendency to not speak until spoken to, and at 32 years old minding this manner isn’t as polite as it was at 10. Now it’s perceived as standing in quiet judgment. And to be honest, more often than not, I probably am.
But to make friends, you’ve got to at least pretend to be interested in making conversation. That’s how people know you want to like them in spite of your challenging attitude and icy vibe.
When we were kids we made friends at school by announcing how “hard that test sucked” hoping that someone in earshot might agree. If they did, we were inclined to continue to commiserate over lunch about how the cafeteria food tasted like “dog shit.” Next thing you know we were asking each other who we’d “totally do it with” if we had the chance. Before we knew it, we were locked into full-blown friendships.
You can employ the same method today, only now you should avoid things like critiquing your boss’s decisions or making fun of your co-worker’s Dad-band. Better to do more of the listening and stick with talking about “who you’d totally do” because that’s a conversation that might get you somewhere.
2. Find religion.
Churches are full of people looking to praise and worship you into friendship.
First, start by showing up on Sunday in a modest dress or your least wrinkled khakis. Then, stay after Mass for Styrofoam cups hall full of weak coffee. Just as you’re wiping the donut crumbs off your lap, you’ll be greeted by a gaggle of middle-aged virgins and a harried child-bride in a milk-stained blouse. They’ll invite you to a potluck dinner and before you can tell them that you don’t really like to eat food you didn’t make yourself, not that you don’t trust them to wash their hands or keep their cats off the counter, they’ll say “Don’t worry about bringing anything. We’ve got it,” and you’ll reply, “Alright, see you then.”
You’ll arrive on time, but you’re the last to get there. The milk-stained hostess will clear a seat for you next to Mary Clare, Mary Pat and Mary Elizabeth, only one of whom is not a nun. At the other end of the table sit John, Thomas and David all three dressed like 1950s Irish immigrants. You’ll swear you heard one use the phrase “the homosexual agenda” and just then, a miracle: your social PTSD will begin to act up.
You excuse yourself from the table in time to spot one of the thirteen children under the age of seven dig his greasy paws into a bucket of chicken. His crusty little eyes stare you down as he licks first a wing, then a thigh. His tiny, chapped mouth nibbles a breast before he returns each piece to the bucket just in time to slide his hands down the back of his pants. Everything smells like sour milk.
You like to consider yourself open minded, but even this is too much. You sneak out the front door, your exit unnoticed beneath the din of crying triplets, a second recitation of the rosary and a fervent denial of global warming. You buy a bottle of wine on the way home. You can try something new tomorrow.
3. Take a lover.
You know what’s better than a friend? Someone that’s more than a friend. Most people who marry usually end up without friends anyway, at least until they procreate and then they make their kids make their friends for them, so you can’t really end up any worse than you started.
Of course, making a boyfriend or girlfriend might be more difficult, but the older you get, the more you find your options limiting themselves which works to your advantage barring you’re not a troll. Just make sure the person you’re dating is popular so you can use this relationship as an opportunity to ingratiate yourself to a new circle of friends. Implant yourself deeply by sharing secrets. Secrets are the glue that hold most relationships together. Unless you’re keeping secrets from your significant other at which point you should end the relationship, but not until you steal a few of their friends before the fallout.
And when all else fails…
4. Find a bar.
The older you get the more you realize that there’s nothing wrong with going to the bar by yourself. You’re an adult and by now you should know how to drink like one which means if you want to make long-term friends and not a short-term case of VD, you’ll drink responsibly. No blackouts, no barfing, no crying, no shame.
First thing you should do is remember this: the booze you drink reflects the company you keep. Drink cheap, shitty beer and you’ll make cheap, shitty friends. Down shots of rotgot tequila? You probably can’t afford to be in a bar. Stick with whiskey or gin.
Second, nobody makes friends sitting in the corner. Dark corners are for drug dealers and drunk people trying to fondle other drunk people with varying degrees of questionable consent. Stay out of trouble; take a seat at the bar.
Calmly watch the television. It’s just like at home, but now, you’re going to watch it 3 to 4 nights a week at the here, wearing pants and making small talk about whatever’s on with whomever sits next to you. On slow nights, strike up a conversation with the bartender. It’s in his best interest to be friendly to you. At the very least he’ll pretend to listen when you tell him about your day.