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Natalie Thomas Headshot

Making Friends Post 20-Something Is Harder Than Meeting a Mate

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I moved out to Los Angeles a little over a year ago, knowing I would take a hit in the friend department. It was my choice to move. I dreamed about it for years. I wanted to experience West Coast living, trade my winter coat for a wetsuit, pick up my tennis game, spend the whole year outdoors and take long weekends exploring the great state of California in my (obligatory) convertible. The only thing that held me back from doing it sooner was fear. Fear that I would be too far from friends and family, that I would miss them too much and that we would grow apart. Fear that I would never find anyone that would quite measure up... and fear that I would.

However, my husband and I, just married and without a family of our own yet, figured it was the perfect time to be adventurous. So, we faced our fears and booked a one-way ticket to La La Land. And, thank God we did. We love it here. Our lifestyle is lighter, healthier and, arguably, happier. But that's not to say it's been easy.

We moved in mid-December from our window-encased, walk to work, brave the elements Manhattan high-rise desperate for sunshine, and for the first two weeks it rained. Profusely. It was nonstop, side-pounding, soul-drenching hail. My husband was busy (with work events each night) and I was depressed. The few friends we had here were also otherwise engaged with job functions and holiday parties and I was left to unpack our house alone, my tears mimicking the rain.

Frantic to call home, best friends, anyone that felt warm, comfortable and knowing, I rang and rang but the time difference proved to be quite the challenge. Once I woke and was driving to work, they were already there. My lunch hour coincided with their afternoon meetings, and late-day coffee break with their dinner. When I finally got out of work and headed home, they were likely in bed already. Who knew three hours could be so alienating?

I went from working in a fairly sizeable New York office with plenty of buddies to a small outpost in LA with only a few bodies and many different personalities. People there were sweet enough but no one really meshed, nor did they care to. To make matters worse, Los Angeles is particularly challenging because the main means of transport is driving. Not only does that limit bonding to a few drinks (one, if you're a lightweight like me), but also with people so scattered, it's hard to agree on a destination. In LA, if you have to cross the 405, it's not happening.

After a challenging day at work, in need of a glass of wine and some commiserating, there was only one option: myself. (I've never been a solo drinker. To me, that's a slippery slope. It's like being left alone with an entire batch of cookies. I can't be held responsible.) I love me some alone time, but after endless nights and weekends by myself in new, unsettling territory, I craved companionship. It was clear what I had to do: I needed to make some new friends -- and stat. But how?

I thought back to the advice I'd repeatedly given over the years to my single friends looking to meet a mate: Get involved, do things you love. So I signed up for a charity, found a Pilates studio and tried a book group. And, like my friends have reported back countless times before -- which I never quite believed until now, for various reasons -- none of them worked. I also tried becoming closer with the few people I casually knew out here to no avail. I'm not sure whether it's the distance, the already-full schedule or just plain me, but any way you slice it, we're not hanging out and that bums me out.

Moving to a new city, you would think, would help. And, it does. A bit. There's more of an effort on my part to get out. (Toward the end of my stint in New York, I was content to couch-it.) But, for those that aren't, the feeling isn't exactly reciprocated. Let's face it, most people don't get to see the friends they do have all that much. The ones they've invested years in, the ones who know their quirks and flaws and accept them anyway. Why would they willingly take on new friends they have to get to know and add them to the increasing list of people they never see? We so spend much of our lives making introductions, put in awkward situations and being "on" that, when we're not, we want to be comfortable. And, if you're like me, you do so while in elastic waist pants with the aforementioned batch of cookies. It's like Cheers. Did Sam, Norm or Diane want new people in their home? No! And neither do the late-20, early-30-something Angelinos. And I can't say I blame them. But where does that leave me?

I was at Whole Foods the other day and a girl-crush-worthy fellow shopper in line behind me asked me about the snap peas I was holding. We chatted for a moment about my produce when I noticed her handbag. It was quilted. It was chic. It was Tory Burch. Naturally, I told her I loved it. She returned the compliment, appreciating my blouse. We were clicking! I imagined us meeting up for morning yoga, shopping for our organic goodies, tossing them in the car and then skipping to fro-yo and loading up on all the bad toppings together. Everything within me said to keep on chatting, that this was her: my new sidekick! But, instead of continuing the convo, I panicked, grabbed my bags and left. I didn't want her to think I was hitting on her, nor did I want to appear like a loser with no friends, desperately trolling the grocery aisles for an adult, childless play-date. I couldn't help but think it would be so much easier if it was a romantic interest. At least then, there's more of a primal urge to make the move, certainly more than swapping recipes and fashion tips!

Meeting a significant other is hard, no doubt. But, I would argue, making friends in your late 20s and early 30s is harder. At least with a romantic interest there's flirting, chemistry and incentive. And, maybe even the added benefit of making friends with or through them. Now that I'm married, in my early 30s, currently working from home and in a new city, never before has making friends been so challenging.

And, I know I'm not alone. I've had this conversation with plenty who share my plight. So, if there are so many of us in the same boat, what are we waiting for? Let's sail... to Friendship Island, grab some margs and get to chatting!

My single friends would tell me that, while I may think it's slightly easier, finding a mate is more important than another friend. And they may be right. But lovers come and go. Friends are forever. Right? At least that's what I'm banking on. Don't tell me otherwise! I'm not good at making new ones, remember?

Ultimately, I'm blessed to have many great friends both long-distance and local and I need to focus on them. But, hey, if you know of someone, preferably sane and a lover of wine and cookies, who's in the LA friend market, let me know! I make a mean snap pea side dish.