Why Is It So Hard to Make Friends?

You'd think at a party with free wine and bowling, someone would speak to me, but you'd think wrong.

Nov 20, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

Last week in therapy, I was discussing why I prefer staying at home over going out. Again.

“I just hate parties,” I explained. “It’s always the exact same thing. With the exact same people. And that’s fine,” I said. “I mean, they’re all nice. But for the most part, I’m just as happy if I stay home. Truthfully,” I added, “I’m happier.” 

You see at home I have my nice, clean apartment. I have pajamas. And television. I have enough books to entertain me for days. I have wine, cookies and the best couch in all of the land. Do I have human interaction? No. But since when is human interaction that great anyway?

“All anyone wants to do anymore is talk about himself,” I told my therapist. “I can’t even tell you how many dinners I go out to with friends where we spend the entire meal talking about their lives and then, as we’re paying the check, they finally turn and ask me how I’m doing. Every email I get? It’s someone asking me for a favor. Wanting me to help them. It’s shocking! I can’t even imagine taking taking taking, and yet it’s all anyone seems to do anymore.” 

“So maybe you need to make some new friends,” he suggested.

“Maybe,” I said. “But ugh. Meeting new people. Who wants to do that?”

Which is how I ended up at the launch party for Thorny Rose Wines last Thursday night.

“I really don’t want to go,” I told my therapist.

“Just try it,” he said. “And don’t worry about being 'on' or making people laugh or all of the other stuff you do when you go out. Let other people take the reins on that for once.”

“Well it is free wine and bowling,” I said. “And I do love both of those things.”

So I RSVPed yes. Just me. No guests. Bowling solo, as it were.

As I got dressed, I imagined how it would go. I’d walk into the swanky bowling alley (yes, such things exist in cities these days) and I’d be greeted by a representative from the wine company. That person would perhaps have heard of me since I was deemed “influential” enough to get the invite. Regardless, he or she would introduce me to one or two other people and within minutes I’d have a glass of wine in one hand and a bowling ball in the other. Everyone would be friendly, ambitious, eager to meet new people. I’d bowl a strike and a former-stranger/new-friend would high five me.

I mean seriously people: I am THAT naïve.

Here’s what happened instead.

I walked in and gave my name at the door. The person crossed it off and said nothing. Not: go inside and grab a drink. Not: hope you’re ready to bowl. Just: nothing. So I walked inside where the party was already in full swing. People were bowling, chatting, and swigging wine, while a photographer captured the action with his camera.

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Bowling and wine... What dreams are made of.

Meanwhile, no one even glanced in my direction. I plastered a small smile on my face, one that I hoped was inviting and friendly, but not creepy. I looked around the room taking it all in. Then I headed straight to the bar because if I was going to do this, I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it sober. Once I procured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (which, to their credit was delicious –- and it’s cheap at only $10.99 a bottle), I decided to wander around a little bit in the hopes of striking (sorry: bad pun) up some conversations.

First I wandered to the area where people were getting their bowling shoes. I leaned against the counter. Tried to smile at a few people, but it was near impossible since everyone was avoiding eye contact. Then I moved to the other side of the counter and repeated with the same results. I took my jacket off. I put my jacket on. I stood by the stairs pretending to take in the view.

In short: Remember the scene in “Clueless” where Tai is standing on the edge of the dance floor by herself and she rearranges her button-down shirt in 17 different styles while staring longingly at the crowd? Yeah: THAT WAS ME. Except, I’m 35 and not in high school.

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This is actually more social interaction than I had.

Finally, I decided to just take a seat at the bar and hope that someone would see me sitting solo and take some pity on me. I made sure to keep my head up and keep my iPhone in my bag so as to seem open to chatting. After 10 minutes (and two glasses of wine), a woman joined her friends and took the empty seat next to mine. “Oh, are you here alone?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said and smiled.

“Well feel free to join our conversation,” she said. “ Don’t let me box you out.” And then she swiveled her bar stool so that I was staring at her back. Seriously. “Don’t let me box you out AS I DO JUST THAT.”

All I could think about was when I flew to New York in September to go to the Jets game and there was a woman on our party bus who was alone because she was meeting her friend at the stadium and how I went out of my way to invite that woman into my conversations. How I made sure she was never alone. How she had someone to sit with when the tailgate food was served. How she didn’t have to stand there and wonder why no one was talking to her. And I didn’t do it because I felt bad for her; I did it because it was the right thing to do. And because it’s fun to talk to new people and hear their stories and not have it just always be about me me me me me. I did it because I would hope someone would do that for me if I were in the same situation. Alas. Not so much.

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Look at the bar. Now look all the way to the right. See that girl sitting alone staring off into the distance? That's me.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave at this point -- I actually did have a friend meeting me at the party in an hour and a half because he was taking me to Louis C.K. (who, by the way, was hilarious and I died laughing the entire time). And another part of me was determined to at least stick it out so that I could say I tried.

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Plus, I had this adorable topiary piggy to keep me company. Seriously, how cute is this little guy?

Luckily, another friend eventually showed up and saved the evening. I explained to him what had happened and he shrugged.

“I guess that’s just San Francisco,” I said. He nodded.

I know this topic isn’t a new one to xoJane. Making friends is hard. It is so very much harder when you’re in your 30s. I work from home. I don't belong to any “clubs.” As I've mentioned, I really like being alone. Plus, people seem to have sort of settled into the groups or their relationships and I guess they feel content.

But what about people like me? Single girls who need other single friends? I mean, I am happy doing almost anything by myself -- in fact, there are a lot of things I prefer doing alone (see: going to the movies and drinking). But when, recently, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go with me to the theater or the baseball game or even take a bike ride to the beach, that’s when I realized I needed to expand my friend circle.

All I wanted to do at that party was meet a few people, bowl a few games and drink some good wine. Instead, I met no one and didn’t even get as far as putting on the required shoes. At least the wine was tasty and free.

So how do you do it? How do you make friends in your 30s when it seems like everyone else’s friend groups are all filled up? Please give me your advice before I turn into a total agoraphobic. 

Also, please follow me on Twitter @daisy so that I don't feel like a complete failure at life. Thank you for all that you do.