My social relationships start out as acquaintance with classmates, coworkers, and roommates. Then they progress to casual friendships, in which I hang out in bars and do small favors (help carry stuff, give rides). Then they stagnate or die. I have little in the way of family, so "chosen family" is an ideal that appeals to me a lot. Sadly, I have no one like that and things aren't moving in that direction at all.
I'm in my late 20s and for most of my life I've been shy and rather lonely. I work to overcome my shyness and do my best to be an active listener and participant. I avoid bold opinions and dislike snarky chatter. There are things I care about, but I admit they're obscure: " ‘Enh, what're you listening to lately?’ ‘Oh, that Wendy Carlos album
. It's pretty cool!’ " I am more of a doer than a talker, but I do like to talk one on one or in small groups. I am a helper and a fixer, within reason. I am not particularly reserved about myself and do the best I can to express interest in others and be considerate about their feelings.
I seem to provoke angry, irritated, or dismissive reactions from some people. I'll inadvertently say something wrong, like "I like Final Fantasy 8" or "I'm not actually a big fan of Wes Anderson," and cause consternation. I am, seldom but regularly, told I am difficult, "ornery," unapproachable, "a robot," etc. Acquaintances have pointedly told me that they've become better friends with others who they met after me. Sometimes I'm talked down to in ways that are very transparently designed to manage my reaction, like a doctor delivering bad news or a teacher trying to talk down an obstreperous student: "Even very smart people sometimes blah blah blah…"
I don't really have any "old college buddies" or "friends since grade school." Once I move on (new job, new address, etc.), my friends rarely look me up. I reach out a couple of times and then let them show interest in staying in touch. After one-two email exchanges or canceled arrangements we lose contact. Probably my longest-lasting friendships have all been online. Someone I first chatted with almost ten years ago regularly keeps in touch with me via a private message board. I really appreciate that.
I know that I don't thrive on socializing, but I miss the caring, mutual growth, understanding, guidance, and the support network that close friends can provide. I grew up with a steady litany of "why do you have so few friends," "why don't the other children like you," and "what's wrong with you," so there is also an element of moving on from childhood disappointments and proving to myself that I can have the life I want to live.
How can I improve opportunities to develop more lasting and meaningful friendships? I've checked Meetup periodically and appealing choices near me are very few, as are IRL meetups. I'm queer and single. I have no interest in spirituality, sports, or campaigning on behalf of candidates for office. I live near a large East Coast city.