A few weeks ago my best friend from high school and I decided to have a typical girls night out. We were still new in town and had the goal of meeting new people. We were hopeful that the local bars might have some fresh faces for us to befriend.
Unfortunately, the male population was slim pickings all around. There was one guy who was taking pictures of everyone without permission. There was another who thought Austin was the Jersey Shore with the amount of hair gel he had. And still more men thought it was cool to creepily stand in the corner, hands in pockets, and observe.
When we diverted our attention from the men, though, we were pleasantly surprised to see some women who looked fun. They were dressed in outfits that were flattering but not skanky, clearly had imbibed in some spirits but not to the point of sloppiness, and were dancing like no one was watching. They looked like they could be the perfect set of new friends.
That was until we realized these girls were out with a bachelorette party and clearly already had friends. While this did not deter our efforts, it did make it more difficult to engage.
I walked up to the girl who looked to be the ring leader of the night. She was blonde in a zebra striped halter dress. I took the same approach I did when trying to pick up men in a bar: straightforward.
"You look fun and we should be friends!" I yelled over the pulsating Ciara song playing.
She thanked me while walking away and I realized that I haven't a clue how to make girl friends anymore. I have not successfully made a female friend since freshman year in college. It was simple then; you all lived in the same dorm, had similar classes, went to the same parties. There were new people almost everywhere you went who were all open to friendship. Friends were almost built in to college.
It turns out that the man hunting skills I had been perfecting over the last few years do not at all translate to friend hunting. It is back to square one. Similar to man hunting, though, there are some online sites available to help. When I got to my new city, MeetUp was the one and only source I could find for a starting point.
The way I explained this service to friends back home is that it is like online dating but for making friends. Except that there is no actual online part other than listing events that other friend-needing people will be at. Then you can show up and meet people who are having the same problem you are and hopefully click with some of them.
While our friend making skills have been stagnant and need work, our friend chemistry skills are usually still intact. We know what kind of people we like, what common interests will foster good conversations, and what qualities in a person absolutely drive us insane. I personally love people who are open minded. Someone who will jump at the chance to try something new with me, whether it be a new cuisine, a new art gallery, or a new hiking trail. Luckily you can garner how adventurous a person is very quickly during that awkward get-to-know-you conversation.
Meeting a new person that you click with is not the final hurdle of a friend making journey, though. I have found that the awkward length of time between deciding to be friends and having an easy going comfortable friendship is also a lot of work. In college you were with people constantly. Friends saw you at 3:00 a.m. drunk and stumbling within a week, they saw how you handled stress when that first big paper came up and you had three Monsters in an hour, they also saw how much of a baby you turned into when you got sick. There are few situations in adult friend making where you can learn that much about a person so quickly. We typically all go our separate ways after any given activity. This difference in social culture causes us to need more effort in order to really understand a new friend.
The biggest lesson I have learned in making new friends as an adult is that it is work. I did not expect so much of my energies to be directed to that portion of my life, but I am glad they were. I have met some amazing new friends here, none of them in a bar.