Several weeks ago, I moved not only out of state, but across the country to an island on which I have no friends or family that don't take a plane ride to reach. My boyfriend and I are newly cohabiting in a studio space, and to make things even more claustrophobic, we both work from home.
We realized early on that in order to avoid murdering one another, we need to make some friends, and fast.
Unlike college where everyone is looking to connect, when you're a transplant, everyone already has their own social circle. And unlike work where you often become friends with your colleagues as a side effect of so much together-time, outside of work you need to create reasons to spend enough time with someone to get to know them. I would like to pretend making friends is easy, but it most certainly is not, especially when you're the new kids in town.
While stewing up ways to make friends, I was reminded of a something that happened to me back in New York a month or two before the move.
I was camped out in my fav bagel place working on a screenplay when a little girl, maybe four or five years old, wearing a helmet moseyed up to me. Standing at the edge of my table she looked directly into my face and said “I have a scooter. AND a helmet.” Then she flashed a grin.
It was endearing, and we had a nice little chat. If only, I thought, making friends as an adult was that easy. If I were to try something like this on my new neighbors, it would not be endearing. Actually, it would be the opposite of endearing; they would probably think I was some entitled braggy East Coast bitch.
So how have I made friends? It's been trial and error, but by following the methods laid out below, it seems we have accumulated a small group of possible play-mates.
1. Get yourself a source of shareable entertainment.
The exact source of entertainment will probably vary on your community. Our small subdivision is wedged between the jungle and the coastline of the big island of Hawai'i, and the community is mainly made up of a spiritual late-twenties-early-thirties crowd, and retirees.
After much speculation, we noticed our locals like to congregate at drum circles and pot lucks, ride their bikes, smoke lots of weed, and that games like volleyball seemed popular. I am awful at anything that takes too much coordination, but my guy has some serious ping pong skills (ha) so we got a ping pong table.
It has been weirdly successful in luring in new friends. We made small talk with some neighbors and invited them over to play, and then they began inviting their friends over to play, and all of a sudden, we had a small social group. Just decide on something you think will make you the cool kids, go and do/get that.
2. Provide alcohol and/or food and/or other favorable substances.
Once you get people to your place, you want to keep them there. This is not bribery -- it's just a way to keep your new possible friends around long enough for them to realize how fucking awesome you are.
A bottle of Jack Daniels and some snacks helped turn some of our ping pong games into social gatherings that ran late into the night. Or until 10 pm, when I needed to go to bed so I could get up at 5 and make my East Coast deadlines.
These tactics -- cool toys, food/booze -- are basically the same tactics that little girl back in Brooklyn used to charm me, except we were a bit more sly about it. Had I said “Hello, I have a ping pong table AND a bottle of Jack,” my neighbors may have wanted to play ping pong and drink my booze, but they most likely wouldn't have wanted to be my friend.
Now, if a month goes by and your “friends” still only show up to drink your booze, you have a problem. Most likely, if you make a connection, you'll soon be in on the cool kid bike rides and pot lucks and nude beach trips. And if they aren't total asshats, they will begin contributing their own booze.
3. Get an animal.
Everyone in our neighborhood has animals. Our next door neighbor has four dogs, a slew of weirdly friendly ferall cats, chickens and 15 (!) rabbits. EVERYONE is always congregating at their place. If they run out of things to talk about, they just start talking about the dog. Or even better, TO the dog. “What a good pup pup. Look at that good pup butt! Pup pup pup.”
If your space, budget or sanity can't afford a menagerie, at least consider adopting a dog. After our film wraps in August, I get to fly my kitty Zucchini (who I miss heinously) out here, and we plan to foster a pup from the local shelter. 'm going to name him Rooster. Pup pup pup.
4. Talk to everyone.
When possible and not too awkward/forceful/intrusive, strike up a friendly conversation with people who look interesting. This is easier or harder depending on where you are located. Here in Hawai'i, everyone I've met has been friendly, and when I went to school down South, people were extremely social with strangers. Not so much in Connecticut or New York.
Obviously having a social network is not just about desperately bribing people to hang out with you. You want to find friends you actually wish to spend time with, and who actually want to spend time with you.
However, it's hard (and awkward) to just mosey up to strangers at the coffee shop and ask them to hang out. Additionally, you can't really get that selective about your company until you actually have company to select from. Our method of sprinkling out the seed and then only selecting the plump ones for slaughter has been working. Wow. That was a disturbing analogy. I take it back.