I have no friends.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. That’s actually a hugely hyperbolic statement. Who do I think I am? I do have friends. They are some of the greatest people to exist on this planet. I worship the ground they walk upon and the air that carries the vibrating energy of our group chat messages. My friends are the best.
It’s just that my friends don’t live in my city. They don’t live in my country. They don’t even live on the same continent as me.
So, disregarding the people I have only been able to virtually communicate with for the past year and a half, I have no friends.
And that’s a weird, uncomfortable feeling. For a lot of folks, you go through your first 21 years with a warm and fuzzy cushion of friends. You have your childhood friends and your high school friends and then maybe you have your college friends. You meet them in your neighborhood because your mothers arranged a playdate, or they sit next to you in first period band rehearsal, or you partner with them in some morning TA session and discover you both hate the same people. These are your friends, and they sort of just happen, and it takes very little effort on anyone’s part, because the paths of your lives magically create opportunities for friendships to ferment and brew.
And then you’re thrust into the rest of your life, the one that exists outside of academia and is for all intents and purposes “real,” and suddenly you don’t know how to make friends. You know how to make dates. Because really, you have the best friends in the world that any gal could possibly want. You’re not really looking to fill a gap in the friendship circle. You’re looking to fill other well-known gaps, right? You’ve got apps for hookups and sexy meetups and specific weird little kinks. It takes 17 muscles — which is nothing in the context of muscle movement — to tap twice on a screen, and those two taps are all it takes to gain yourself a sexual partner for the evening, or the rest of the year. But does that app find you a friend? No, not really, not unless it has benefits.
This is knowledge that has terrified me to my very bones. I know how to find a partner. It’s stupid easy to do, and it takes very little effort on my part besides downloading something on my phone or making a profile on my computer. But I have no idea how to make friends. None. I don’t even know how I made all my friends the first time. It’s not like I was following social cues or particular rituals. I didn’t find them on an app because they were 0.5 km away from my current location. I wasn’t thinking about the best way to have a meet-cute, or practicing my brooding looks so we’d lock eyes across a room and never let go. They just… happened. And now that I’m in a city with no friends and no leads and no classrooms full of shared experiences, I have no idea how to replicate those experiences.
“Okay, well, just go out. Meet people in pubs or something.”
But people who are drinking aren’t usually trying to make friends. Most of them would rather get laid. And if they’re there to ‘make friends,’ it’s kind of weird. Even in a country of friendly pubgoers, there’s a fine, fine line, and it’s usually been crossed by 10 PM. Plus, alcohol doesn’t make me feel more comfortable or friendly, it just makes me want to sing Bruce Springsteen and think about how much I miss all of my friends.
“Join a club.”
What kind of club? The magical more time club? Dude, I am working. I am working all the time. I am Bette times thirty thousand this month, I have time for nothing and I am fucking in an elevator or something, it’s hot in here. I am so busy that I can’t even remember what my outside interests are, or whether or not they would have an associated club.
“Do a sport.”
I cannot do a sport. I am bad at the sport.
“Just talk to people. It’ll naturally happen.”
I am impatient. And lonely. And sometimes I realize that saying thank you to the bus driver was the extent of my non-work social engagement for the day, and I feel really bad about it.
I am in a wonderful relationship. Being with that person is super awesome — there is no denying that we love doing things together and I never get sick of her, like, ever. But I’m an adult person, and sometimes an adult person wants to do a social activity with a friend. Or maybe that adult person wants a group of friends to just hang, or take a walk, or go to the pub and be silly. It feel so, so sad and kind of pathetic when I type it out, but it’s true. I don’t know how to make friends, and yet something inside of me desperately needs to make friends. It makes sense, but I still feel this weird little shame about it, like I’m not adulting right. Other adults must have lots of friends, right? And other adults must be able to just live independently and do cool stuff by themselves, right? I know it’s bullshit, but the crazy thing about life is that the bullshit sometimes feels exactly like the realest thing that’s ever been real, and it sticks to you quicker than mud.
So, I have a proposal: I’m going to try to make friends. I’m going to do it for me, and for the rest of us adults who are adulting in places without friends, in new jobs and new lives and totally befuddling social situations. But I’m going to do it with apps and technology, so that the process is replicable for the rest of you. I’ll record my experiences and rate my success at each stage. You’ll see me try four different methods, and you’ll figure out if that method might work for you, too. More than likely, this will be humiliating for me on multiple levels. It will no doubt get awkward. But this will be very entertaining for y’all, so I do what I must.
Here’s to meeting people, making friends, and successful adulting! And not spilling something on the other person when we interact. Prepare for spillage on this journey.