Photo of Liz Lazzara
Raise your hand if you feel like you want to make new friends, but have no idea how anymore.
Oh, good. It’s not just me.
I look back at college, and it seems like all I had to do was go to a party, have a few drinks, and I’d have a new “best friend” by the end of the night — with the Facebook pictures to prove it. When I waitressed after college, making friends was as simple as joining in on a trip to the bar after a shift. We could complain about how much money we didn’t make and the customers (and coworkers) who pissed us off and go home feeling a bit better about our lives.
But when I got my first “adult” job in an office, everything changed. I wasn’t working with people my age anymore, so the odds of finding someone to spend time with after work reduced dramatically. Many of my coworkers had families they wanted to spend time with, while others didn’t live a similar lifestyle or were simply out of my ideal friendship age range.
My social circle shrunk dramatically as people I knew and loved moved away. I felt lonely and desperate for company.
Not everyone may feel as gloomy as I sometimes do about this, but I know there are at least 37 others who agree to some extent. When I started writing this piece, I decided to create a series of questions about making female friends as an adult. The results I got were striking. Even though the ages of my respondents ranged from 22 to 62, the vast majority felt the same way I did. 89.2% felt that it was harder to make friends after leaving school. 64.9% felt that they had fewer femme/female friends now that they were an adult. Most people (37.8%) felt it was easiest to make friends in college.
However, what most moved me wasn’t the numbers. It was how people described their feelings.
Noley misses “knowing someone deeply, the physical touching, the absence of worry that I won’t know what to say when together.” Emily feels “isolated.” Jess said that as an introvert, she’s “often too scared to try." Caitlyn thinks “it is my fault that I can’t make friends, so I feel like a failure.” Lauren asked, “Is there something wrong with me? I wish I could have girls' night, but I have no one to call.” Ellie is “scared” and “sad a lot.” Cassandra said, “I don't like appearing desperate! It drains my self-confidence,” and Jennifer feels like she’s lost “the ability that younger people have to make friends boldly.”
Research has shown that female/femme friendships are crucial when it comes to both physical and mental health. At least 22 studies have shown that when you have a larger friendship-based support system, the typical reactions you have to stress are lessened and you’re less likely to develop stress-related illnesses like heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. This is most likely because, according to a UCLA study, women (and other people who produce estrogen) don’t necessarily react to stress by diving into “fight-or-flight” mode. Instead, their estrogen levels boost, and they want to spend time with other estrogen-producing humans instead. Without a supply of such friends at hand, you don’t receive the calming, warm feelings that estrogen brings.
There’s a video called “Making Friends” that sums up this struggle perfectly: Chelsea has just moved to New York City by herself and is having a hard time finding a new social circle. After several attempts to meet people at work or bars, she speaks directly to the camera in a mini-monologue that could have come right out of my mouth: “How do you make new friends when you’re 29 years old? I mean, it’s not like we’re in college anymore and I can just walk around my dorm room, knock on some doors, and it’s like 'Oh, cool. We’re friends now.' If I did that in my apartment building, people would think I’m legitimately crazy. I mean, I guess I could get a new hobby. I could take a class somewhere. Maybe join a club. Like a book club. Oh my god, would I love to join a book club. But where do you even find out about those without having previous friends who started one?...I mean, New York City is so big. There are millions of people, and it’s very lonely here, and I just want to make a connection with one. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
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So what do we do, then, if we want to make more female/femme friends, but haven’t the foggiest idea about how to go about it?
1) Harness The Power Of The Internet.
There are plenty of websites and apps that you can use to find friends — and no, I’m not talking about using OkCupid. GirlfriendSocial and Patook are websites designed specifically for making female/femme friends, and they’re simple to use. You fill out some basic questions about your hobbies, interests, and favorite shows, books, movies, and then you get an “About Me” section to talk about yourself in detail. From there, you can browse the profiles of people near you and get to know them through messages.
If you prefer apps, there’s Hey Vina. It’s a lot like Tinder, but don’t let that scare you off. You upload a picture, write a profile, and then you can take quizzes about your personality that help other people understand you better. From there, it’s just the normal swipe-left-or-right experience until you find someone with whom you click.
2. Take A Class.
Even though the monologue in “Making Friends” scoffs at taking a class or picking up a hobby, it really does work — and the longer the class, the better. I’ve met some great friends through writing classes/workshops when I lived in Boston, and I’ve noticed that seeing and talking to the same people for multiple weeks helped me feel more socially connected. Some of them are still my friends today.
Once you’ve enrolled in a class, here’s how to turn them into a friend-making opportunity. Even though it may seem awkward, try to chat with someone sitting or working near you. If they seem fun and interesting, follow-up by introducing yourself. If it becomes easier to talk over time, ask if they want to do something class-related afterward or at a different time. If it’s a dance class, ask if they know any fun places to go dancing. If you’re in a comedy workshop, maybe check out some stand-up. If you’re doing something crafty, shop for supplies. All it takes is one ‘yes,’ and then you can take it from there!
3. Be Brave And Ask.
There are a few ways to do this. You can put a new spin on an old-school idea and ask your current friends to set you up on “blind friend dates.” They think of someone who you might get along with and send the two of you off for coffee. It takes a bit of courage, but knowing the other person is in the same situation helps to shake off the nerves.
If you’re feeling bolder, you can ask a coworker to hang out. If there’s someone you’re always talking to about The Bachelor, ask if they’d ever want to hang out and watch with you. You can grab some snack foods and wine and bond over the drama at your place or theirs. If you’re both baseball fans, see if they want to meet at a bar after work and catch a game with you. If it feels awkward, it was only one night, but if it goes well, it could become a weekly thing.
And if you’re a parent dying to make friends? Reach out to a fellow mom when you’re out with your kid at the park or a school event. Any place works, so long as they live close by and you’ll probably see each other again. The best part about this strategy is you can always talk about parenting stuff first and then move into more personal things. Remember though that it’s a bonus if your kids like each other, but don’t force a friendship if your kid is friends with theirs — and don’t force your kids to become friends either! This is for you.
I’ve updated my GirlfriendSocial and Patook accounts, and I’m going to ask my friends in the area if they’ll set me up on a blind date. I can’t say that my anxiety about making new friends is 100% alleviated, but I’m going to take Jess’ advice on this one: “Just try. Don't be scared. I think there's a lot of women out there in the same boat, especially once you reach your 30s. Be friendly and show genuine interest in their stories and lives. A lot of us have been through the wringer, and there aren't as many social differences like when we were younger. Connect with, love, and inspire one another. We need to stick together!”