Remember we're all in this alone
May 20, 2011 8:01 PM   Subscribe

What can I do right now, to reduce my loneliness?

My marriage ended amicably after 20 years, maybe even sooner, but I moved out recently. My social life was almost completely built on my family & partner (I have an online community that I participate in, in another hemisphere/timezone). Well, yeah, that was my mistake.

I've been trying to connect to people on dating sites. That's quite a challenge, in that people don't seem to select based on profile information, but just randomly on who's online. There's a certain proportion who wish to send pictures of penises in action, another non-insignificant section for whom mutual conversation and ideas exchange is irrelevant [if you don't want to go drinking with them right now or give them your phone number, then you're an evil troll and shouldn't even by on the site (slight exaggeration)], and another group who are argumentative about who you are or should be or what you should think or that you need to smile.

I've signed up for (and due to go on a meetup at the Greek festival in Brisbane tomorrow with All My Friends Are Couples And I'm Single' Group) but I'm worried about a couple of things:
1. it will be simply the dating site situation multiplied and I wonder if I have the internal fortitude to deal with unwanted pick-up attempts (I've not dated in 20 years, how do you knock someone back politely without them going off at you?)
2. the very opposite, I will not be able to make even minor conversation - sometimes the loneliest place is a crowd.

I can't really imagine walking into a pub to drink alone with the hope that I can break into a social group. I have plans to join a volunteer group eventually and the local photographic club.

I'm 43, female, overweight (but losing), living in a country town (Ipswich, Queensland, Australia). I am a research assistant which means I work from home, mostly, but go onto campus, once or twice a week, with a three hour each way commute. Introvert (with some social anxiety) reliant on public transport (which is intermittent after dark here).

What can I do, right now, today, this afternoon, to feel less lonely? What can I do nights (which has been the hardest) to feel less lonely?
posted by b33j to Human Relations (51 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
I can't really imagine walking into a pub to drink alone

re: drinking alone. bring a book, and chat with the bartender. I've had success meeting friends/dates this way ( including making great friends with the bartender!)

Also, please remember it will take TIME. I've been single approximately forever and I'm very used to it. But if you go out alone and it's a bust, or go to a meetup and it's weird, please know it will not be like that ALL the time. It's hard I know, but you can do it.
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on May 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

Make your first FPP.
Skype with someone.
Research and get lost in an interesting history of Ipswich, perhaps even visiting a certain spot.
You say you suck at music, but try anyway - people on the black (mefi music) are looking for collaborators, and a female voice would likely be much welcome. I bet Flapjax at midnite would love to collaborate on a song.
There was a postcard exchange in meta a while back. Also, I think there are a number of users that love getting postcards and would love one from you.
posted by cashman at 8:22 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not helpfull, but hobbies and sports?

Tonight? Local bars. Don't be hangdog, see if the bartender is having a light night and be "nice" and not needy. Tip well, and engage the bartender. Express your newcommer to the locality.

If you're into sports that your local bars are into, being a "regular" who isn't a bigmouth but know enough about the teams involved will insert you into a new circle...

You're a research assistant; you ought to have lots of peers that you should run into day in and day out. Are any of these people interesting?

Make an OKCupid profile.
posted by porpoise at 8:23 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

is there a local coffee shop where people hang in the evening? bring a book or a laptop

is there a museum which has a late night nibbles/drinks evening?

perhaps not for tonight, but is there a class you've always wanted to take? cooking/knitting/rockclimbing/language/wine appreciation? beginners classes are fantastic for meeting people without the "singles" pressure, and adult ed courses are usually held in the evening.
posted by wayward vagabond at 8:45 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Are you a user of reddit? r/brisbane looks somewhat active with six posts in the last day and 1300+ subscribers. You could ask a question or start a conversation about something. Maybe along the lines of "So what's going on in Ipswich this weekend?"
posted by codswallop at 8:46 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great ideas, keep them coming - even if it doesn't suit my situation, maybe someone else will be able to do it.

I have plenty of work, study and creative pursuits to keep me busy - I'm not bored. I recently bought a guitar and am teaching myself to play. I have all sorts of research that I pursue. There are plenty of things I can do by myself and with online people.
You're a research assistant; you ought to have lots of peers that you should run into day in and day out. No, actually, I usually work from home, and when I'm on campus, I'm working, not socialising - it's a flat out day. But even so, the great people at work, they tend to live 3 hours away from me.
I'm not sporty or interested in sports at all, and I've tried, because that attitude is practically unAustralian.
I have an OKCupid profile– the last message I had was someone offering to pay to give me a sexual massage.
No nightlife (cafes, museums etc) in Ipswich. It all shuts down at about 6pm.

However, you think going to a pub with a book is a good idea?
posted by b33j at 9:04 PM on May 20, 2011

Absolutely go to a pub with a book. I do it all the time. Just make sure you look up and smile or chitchat somewhat often, otherwise people will think you just want to read and not socialize.

My last okcupid message was from a 75 year old man (I'm 40).
posted by Melismata at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was single, I looovved going to a bar or a nice restaurant's bar with a great book, ordering some fab food and a nice drink, and eating there. There were plenty of opportunities for conversation-people next to me, bartender, but if no conversation happened, it was still a really nice way to spend the evening. Out of the house, good food and drink, good book-so look at it like that's the worst case scenario. I never felt desperate or lonely in those situations (and I sure sometimes miss those times now!).
posted by purenitrous at 9:20 PM on May 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

Write to me. My current situation is kind of weird... I am 21, I work in a research lab with a grad student that is depressed. I eat all three meals alone, and usually in the back room of the research lab. Everybody I know is away during the summer, and I have no family in this country. I also do not have a car, so I pretty much walk for hours everyday by myself.

So yeah, I would like to hear from you. Would that make you feel less lonely?
posted by kuju at 9:27 PM on May 20, 2011 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think going to a pub with a book on a Friday or Saturday night is a good idea if your social scene is at all raucous like ours is, but other nights, sure, and maybe your local mileage will vary a lot from mine. Walk in, sit down, read your book, look at your watch like you're waiting for someone and if it feels really awkward, fake a phone call and bail.

If online dating is not working for you right now, you could take it as a sign from the universe that it's premature for you and simply withdraw your profile. Concentrate on building a basic social circle before dating. For me, this means making the effort to make women friends even though this is not my natural social inclination. Women I like tend to enjoy knitting, join book clubs and like wine and food. Those might be things you can look into, though it won't solve your problem right now.

In terms of right now right this second, I think that can be about an overwhelming need for human connection. The internet can be a way to hide from people, but it can also be a very immediate way to make connections. Join Twitter! Skype someone! Call old friends under the guise of updating your address book. Hunt down old, old friends on Facebook and leave them wall posts! Find an online project for sending postcards or knitting socks and join right now. Write an Amnesty letter.

FWIW during a lonely moment in my life, I read that the average happy person has 22 interactions a day. This can be saying hello to the bus driver, smiling at a kid or taking or making a phone call. I made it my mission in life to hit this number every day even though I was working from home and it made a stupidly huge difference.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2011 [27 favorites]

This has been posted here before but it's so lovely it bears reposting.
posted by headnsouth at 9:33 PM on May 20, 2011 [30 favorites]

Okay, I know you're not sporty, but how about a gym? I don't know whether Ipswich has these kind of gyms (or any gyms, sorry, I've never been able to go to Australia), but in some cities, the gym is like the secret singles (and non-singles) hangout spot. You could easily blow an evening there without doing all that much sporty -- do a little treadmill while watching the TV, go to the steam room and sit there chatting, do five laps, go sit in the hot tub. I know it sounds very body-centric, so if you're losing weight you might imagine you'd feel awkward but even in those situations, there were all kinds of body types.

Hmm, well, I guess if you don't belong, it might not be super easy to go tonight. Okay, thinking more......
posted by salvia at 9:35 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

However, you think going to a pub with a book is a good idea?

I see this suggested constantly. And I often see others reading books at the bar; it's not unusual. If anything, people will think you're either a friend of the bartender's and waiting for him or her to get off work, or they'll think you're extra confident by relaxing at the bar without the need to talk, talk, talk.

But I actually recommend sitting at the bar with a notepad. First, it lets you write or sketch in an environment where some nervous energy (if you're not yet used to being alone and still) will prompt you to generate some content. Your question shows that you're great at expressing your thoughts and, for better or worse, telling a story; more writing may ease the feeling that your thoughts are rattling around your head without an outlet.

Second, one or more drinks will likely suppress your inner editor, so that your content will flow more freely. I go to a nearby bar to write articles, because the noise level breaks me out of writer's block, and the presence of others brings a richness that helps with composition.

Third, writing/drawing/sketching, rather than passively reading, lets you look up appraisingly once in a while and be friendly to the bartender or anyone else who catches your ear. And if you get unwanted attention, it's easier to deflect (at least in the US, perhaps Australia is similar) when you could plausibly say you're working rather than "leisurely" reading.

Fourth... I forget what came fourth, because I'm having a drink myself. But at least the exercise made me feel less lonely. :)
posted by Mapes at 9:40 PM on May 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with Darling Bri that you want to read on the nights the bar is not insanely crowded. But tonight would be an interesting night to sit at the bar. You'll probably hit that 22 interactions goal in about 10 minutes. Don't think about your goal as "trying to break into a social scene," just as "seeing if I like this bar, and having one random conversation."
posted by salvia at 9:40 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Every time I go to a bar with a book, I cannot seem to get any reading done, as everyone wants to talk to me! A dear friend has the same problem, to the point where he's started reading ebooks on his phone rather than actual paper books, because people leave him alone that way.

Other than often do you get out of the house? I live alone, and am underemployed for a portion of each year. I made a rule that I have to leave the house at least once every day, otherwise I can go days without seeing or talking to another person.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

If nothing else materialises for you, listen to a good podcast or radio show that is interesting and familiar. It can be like being the silent party in a group of friends.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: But even so, the great people at work, they tend to live 3 hours away from me.
I would move. Moving feels good when things are going bad, and if you plan it right you can move into an area where there more people like you. Move really close to the schools or research areas or where ever lots of people work or move to where lots of people play. Good luck!
posted by Drama Penguin at 9:43 PM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

FWIW during a lonely moment in my life, I read that the average happy person has 22 interactions a day. This can be saying hello to the bus driver, smiling at a kid or taking or making a phone call. I made it my mission in life to hit this number every day even though I was working from home and it made a stupidly huge difference.

This is perfect advice. When I've been unemployed or lonely or working from home, I aim for an hour of face time with one person EACH DAY. One of these is my therapist, but also friends, maybe a yoga class or massage. We're social creatures and it's extremely therapeutic to do these things.
posted by sweetkid at 9:46 PM on May 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

1. If you are at all religious, or open to religion -- church!!! I'm shocked that nobody has suggested this. A small, friendly, non-judgmental church will be really good at making you un-lonely.

2. Go to the animal shelter and see if they'll let you volunteer to walk dogs or socialize cats. They might let you foster the animals too, sometimes even just for a night. It is hard to feel lonely at night with two dogs in the bed, especially two dogs who are overjoyed that they're spending the night in a bed and not a concrete pen.

3. Are there any youth/traveler's hostels near you, or in the town where you work? Spend a few nights there. They're wonderful for meeting people, even if you are shy you can just sit in the common area and eventually someone will talk to you.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:08 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

4. If your social anxiety isn't too much for this, put up a profile on Couchsurfing and offer your couch for someone to stay the night! You don't have to accept everyone who requests, you can only accept college age girls or whatever makes you feel safe. I'm not sure how out of the way your town is for the typical backpacker, but you might get a lot of interest!
posted by Ashley801 at 10:11 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've been in a couple of Ipswich pubs, and to be honest, reading a book there would make me feel worse. And speaking of things that make me feel worse, online dating has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for me. I know it's worked for some, but I shudder at the thought, remembering the stalkers and weirdos and old-enough-to-be-my-grandfathers I've encountered.

Email me. I get into back'n'forth email chat sessions at night, when the kids are in bed (Qld doesn't have daylight savings, right?) and I can relax with a vino and unwind. I'll send you my email address. Tell me about your day, I'll tell you about my day, we'll laugh and whinge and unload as required.

You need face-to-face contact though. Volunteer? Local nursing home, offer to help serve dinner just every now & then? It needn't be a full-on commitment, just ring the office and say "could you do with some help tonight?". (Also a good way to meet younger relatives, perhaps of the male persuasion.)

Walk around the neighbourhood. Slowly. Smile at the oldies doing their gardening, and make yourself stop and chat if they smile back. Just say "hi, I'm b33j, I love your roses/daisies/flowers there, what are they?". They love a good yarn (and may have younger relatives of the male persuasion).

It's difficult for an introvert, but you need to push yourself, get yourself out there.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:20 PM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Buggered up the goddamned small font thingy again. Sorry.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:21 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you like dogs and it is feasible given your current circumstances, I would recommend adopting a dog. For one thing, they're good company. It's nice to have a creature be excited to see you and want to play and be petted and all that. For another, having a dog gets you out of the house. They like to go for walks, and being out with a dog is a great way to increase your interactions - they're conversation starters. People will ask you about the dog and want to pet it. You can chat with other dog owners at the dog park. Finally, having the responsibility of caring for another creature is both rewarding and gets you out of your own head a little. I'm not suggesting this as an alternative to seeking out relationships with humans, but as a supplement - if you are happier and get out of the house more and talk to more people, it can be easier to form other connections, and in the mean time it's generally a lot faster to find and bond with a pet than a human, so you get a head start on the loneliness problem.
posted by unsub at 10:38 PM on May 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

Well B33j, I love reading your responses here and since I'm at least on your continent, if not in Ipswich/East coast, I'd love to Skype with you. Memail me if you want to chat and I'll give you my number.

I've suggested looking after dogs n joining Couchsurfing on AskMe before, but they really do help with loneliness, and get you up n out of the house. Or you could do Air BnB which is also good - no waving penises there :) I've found it really good for me to show people around and hear their stories.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:12 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say you're learning guitar. Here in Austin, that might lead you to open mic nights or to an Irish Session, depending on your musical tastes. Even if you don't play, it gives you something to talk about with people and you may enjoy yourself and/or meet someone interesting.
posted by Mad_Carew at 11:30 PM on May 20, 2011

Best answer: After 20 years of marriage, you have no idea who you are with other people.
You certainly are not who you were in the marriage, especially while it ended.
It will take time. Try to be selfish: it's who you are, after all.
There is a certain joy in refusing to make smalltalk;
the risks of speaking truthfully with strangers are 'way overrated.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:54 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Keep at it with the dating sites, but NOT with the chat part as my experiences with chatting on dating sites are the same as yours - mostly penises and guys just looking to get over. Try Match or eHarmony and look for profiles that are interesting - then message the guys that look good instead of waiting for the right one to happen upon you. I found my partner this way.

Personally I wouldn't feel comfortable reading in a pub even though I'm fine with doing other things alone (going to restaurants, movies, etc) so if you don't feel you can do that don't feel bad about it.

Meetups are great but don't pin all your hopes on just one. Meeting people is a numbers game - meet as many as you can and some are sure to "stick" but don't worry about it if the first few don't, the important thing is just to keep putting yourself out there.

If you're far from civilisation (I wasn't sure from your question) and reliant on public transportation I second moving. Or can you stretch your budget to getting a cheap runaround car? I think having the freedom a car can give you of going anywhere and doing anything would help me to feel less lonely.
posted by hazyjane at 11:55 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Right now, today, tonight, to feel less lonely? IRC (Internet Relay Chat). It has always helped me to have a community online, and having a regular chat channel to go to works perfectly for that because it's there, day and night, anytime you want to stop in, with the same regulars who you get to know - a virtual local corner pub. It's a lot easier to cope with loneliness when you're never without nice people in the computer to talk to, and chat is more immediate, satisfying, and interactive than message boards - at least I think so.

You can start with channels full of current MeFi members: #bunnies (unofficial MetaChat channel) or #mofirc (leftover from MonkeyFilter). Both are on SlashNET. (You can access SlashNET channels in your browser here.)
posted by flex at 11:57 PM on May 20, 2011 [17 favorites]

I know you're asking about tonight, but some broad advice -

Take guitar lessons.

If it floats your boat, go to those seminars that St Lucia have or see if there are things on at the Ipswich campus.

On the weekends, come up to Brisbane and do the museum/GOMA thing.

Go travelling on your own. Even if it's just a weekend.

I have personally found the dating scene very blerg and just tend to do things that interest me and meet people that way. It's far less pressure and you don't really have to know all the Dating Code, you just meet people and see where it goes.
posted by mleigh at 11:57 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

To second flex, #mofirc on SlashNET is something you can do right now, and talk to (checks) two Queenslanders, a Canadian mum with a fussy week-old, and a token seppo who REALLY should be asleep.

There'll be a couple more Aussies in channel as the night progresses, too. Come on in! (Bring your own beer).
posted by coriolisdave at 12:06 AM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Hey b33j you are only 858 miles away from me!

IRC saves my sanity in regards to actually having interaction with live humans (who are older than 3 years old) and there are a couple of Queenslanders on #mofirc.

A photographic club is a good idea - have you also had a look at local flickr groups in your area too? That might be an easier start to get to know people online first.
posted by gomichild at 12:08 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have no Australian friends, but I would like to! I'm one of those dorks that likes giving/receiving postcards. If you want me to add you to my list of folks to send to, you can get semi-anonymous internet American friend postcards from me! Just memail me a valid address (PO box, work, amenable neighbor, whatevs if you don't want to give out your real address).

I'd also like to say I love the ideas in this thread about the bars. I hadn't thought of showing up and just reading as a way to scope out the place, but I'm totally stealing that idea.
posted by Heretical at 1:13 AM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

If at all possible, get a dog! You've have a companion and a reason to go outside. Plus, people will stop and talk to you, and you can hang out at the local dog park and meet other dog owners. And I'm sure you can find pet-friendly meetup groups.

in other words, what unsub said.
posted by emd3737 at 1:16 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have had a fab idea and have memailed you. Go look.
posted by taff at 1:36 AM on May 21, 2011

As to what you can do to not feel lonely tonight, I'm afraid I don't have any good suggestions, but things like IRC, or maybe some form or online gaming, might take your mind off it for a few hours.

Less short-term, however, I think you should consider getting out of Ipswich. Move to Brisbane (or Melbourne).

I'm not from a country town myself, but I've known plenty of people who have been over the years. I haven't been to Ipswich (that I can remember), but if it's anything like Bendigo, or Ballarat, or Goulburn, or any other place where the main way the young people entertain themselves of a Saturday evening is driving blocks around the main street because that's all there is to do, then you probably want to start considering an exit strategy.

Basically, the numbers in Ipswich are against you. The number of people who aren't already coupled off and domestic, especially the over-30s, is going to be few. And I suspect that, even under the best circumstances, Ipwich isn't overflowing with like-minded people. Reading a book in a bar in Brisbane is going to be much more likely to lead to a social encounter (and significantly less likely to lead to getting glassed) than doing so in Ipswich, I suspect.

Moving to a town where you don't know anyone (much) is both exciting and scary (but more scary). But it also forces you to explore your social opportunities. It did for me, anyway.

I moved to Canberra from Melbourne for work. I knew exactly one person here, and ended up sharing a house with her. But because I knew one person, I wasn't forced to go out and find new friends. My one friend then went and got herself a boyfriend and moved in with him, which was great for her, but left me with no real social network in Canberra. That eventually encouraged me to dip my toe in internet dating (via RSVP, but I have no idea if it's still the best option), through which I met the wonderful person I've now been with for almost five years. That, in turn, encouraged me to get involved with more social activities, and now I have a really nice little group of friends here. But none of that would have happened had I not been ditched by by friend (probably).

And yes, I'm the typical intellectual introverted antisocial nerd that you find here on MeFi, and all this forced socialisation was difficult, and occasionally demoralising, and often terrifying, but so, so worth it.

All that is probably terribly unhelpful in the short-term, I'm afraid, but maybe hatching a medium-term plan to maximise your chances of happiness might make the short term more bearable.
posted by damonism at 4:02 AM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Are you, like me, a huge nerd? If so, try getting into a fandom for your favorite book, movie, TV series or game. I stress that this is just an adjunct solution, to be applied together with all the activities listed above. Nonetheless, many fandoms have naturally evolved online into female-heavy, supportive, fun environments. Of course, if there are a lot of teenagers into the particular fandom, you'll feel old and excluded, but grown women are the mainstay of many a fandom.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:34 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing I'm trying to do is to speak every day with someone who loves me - either a family a member or a good friend. It's shocking how easy it is to do that when you're married/living at home, and how difficult it can be to do that when you're single and living hundreds of miles away from your family (which is all spread out anyway) and closest friends (who are also all spread out).
posted by Salamandrous at 7:56 AM on May 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I found that going to a bar with a pool table gets me out of my shell, because I can watch whatever game is happening, and I often wind up chatting with the participants or being asked to play. (I'm not that great at pool, but no one seems to care.)
posted by hermitosis at 8:12 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you don't already have a cat you could get one, they are great for not feeling alone. It might sound silly, but I also suggest popular online multiplayer games like world of Warcraft or Rift and pick a heavily-populated server. Just seeing all the characters of all the people moving around and doing things can make you feel less alone, plus you can make some friends (carefully though - tons of idiots, children, etc) to talk to. It's a little hard to start off if you're not really a computer gamer, but after that it is easy, and hey, I'm an older divorced overweight person who met their wonderful new spouse in World of Warcraft so that can happen too.
posted by meepmeow at 8:33 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does your local public library host social events? Perhaps a stitch-and-bitch, or a game night? Check out coffee shops and bookstores, too.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:21 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Raise the priority of volunteering on your to-do list. You will meet awesome people (selfless!) who share an interest with you (animal rescue! diabetes fundraising! whatever!) The awkwardness is diminished because you're there to do work and meeting people is just a byproduct. In my experience, charity volunteers are pretty 'together' people. If someone is living from crisis to crisis, they can't spare time or energy for others.
posted by workerant at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Meetup is great if you have a common interest with people. I hooked up with a great group for running and it's turned into a social outlet as well as reinforcement of my running goals.

Spekaing of which... you might find it very rewarding to combine fitness and social. Sign up for a local beginner's class in almost any activity that seems fun. My wife has found some great new friends in spin class and boot camp at YMCA... including a super-supportive trainer. Two birds, one stone.

Good luck!
posted by mikewas at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding church. Depending on where you are, there should be some churches that are either in line with your beliefs or able to tolerate you not being exactly in line with theirs. For example, I know of atheists who go to Lutheran or Episcopal churches. Even a semi-large church puts you in touch with a ton of people who will hopefully be friendly and welcoming, in addition to the potential for group activities - choir, soup kitchen, etc.

Take a class or join a reading group. Meeting new people can be awkward and having a purpose / format can help ease the way.

Set up a profile on a dating site such as okcupid, and specify that you are looking for friends to hang out with, nothing romantic (this may be in addition to a profile for actual dating). I've successfully met friends this way. Don't be shy about reaching out to people who seem like they'd be fun to hang out with.

Go to a coffee shop or casual diner - drink some coffee and read a book or work on a crossword or crochet. If you take a book, take something that is likely to spark conversation. Maybe you'll wind up chatting with someone or maybe you can just enjoy the hum of chatter and relax with your coffee.

When you start to get to know a few people through various activities, host potlucks, happy hours, or dinner parties.

Get a roommate (carefully vetted!). I was often incredibly lonely before I moved in with my current roommate. We have our difficulties and we are not really simpatico in some ways, but she's a good-hearted person and we support each other through crises and watch TV together and share the kitchen - and I'm seldom lonely now.

Or possibly, get a mellow dog or cat. Dogs get you out and walking, which means talking to people, who have something to say to you because you have a cute dog.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself - some of the things you try will work and some won't - it's all an experiment. Be gentle with yourself and give it time. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 10:49 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the pub! Bring a book in case you feel bored, but I recommend getting in or watching a darts or pool game. Sit at the bar, not at a table. Go there a few times at the same time every day - it will be almost impossible not to chat with someone. In fact, being a "regular" just about any place is a great tonic for loneliness. Find a quiet restaurant you like, go there regularly for lunch or dinner. It won't take long until the staff knows you. Some days, just being known and welcomed by someone who recognizes you can take the edge off that invisible feeling.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this is EXACTLY what you're looking for, as it sounds like you are hoping to go on an outing (and I think it's either tomorrow or yesterday in Australia right now), but when I'm feeling lonely or disconnected, I write thank-you notes. I got the idea after reading about the guy who wrote one thank-you note every day for a year. I really brainstorm for anyone I can write to- I've done one to the guy who did my root canal (thank you for making it so painless!) and one to someone who runs a club I'm in (thanks for putting up with all our crap!). I always feel more like a part of a community afterward.

It's also easier for me than writing just a regular letter, because I can never think of anything to say.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:21 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Are there any pub trivia nights near you? They can be a fun way to knock off an evening, and should satisfy your inner nerd a bit. Note: in my experience, you're not very likely to be able to wangle your way into a team of random strangers, so you'll need to invite people along to be part of your team. Usually, they'll end up bringing friends & your social circle can expand a bit, with some beers & pub grub & a game thrown in.

Speaking of games, you know this Wednesday is the State of Origin, right? Do you have anything maroon to wear and even the slightest interest in football? I can guarantee you won't be alone that night!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:18 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, fantastic ideas. I think the key thing for me to do is get out of the house everyday, on the days that I do go into work, the loneliness is not an issue. Moving is not on the cards right now, nor getting a dog (I don't have a fence) and I don't think church is an appropriate place, really for an atheist. But I do have a cat, and I visited the local pub yesterday for a drink (no, no, no, it is not a place to read a book, but it was worth checking) and I have lots of lovely memails to get through as well as seeing how I can apply this thread to my specific circumstances. Thank you.
posted by b33j at 3:55 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Whenever I find myself lonely and alone, I think of the sagely words of Kafka:
When it looks as if you had made up your mind finally to stay at home for the evening, when you have put on your house jacket and sat down after supper with a light on the table to the piece of work or the game that usually precedes your going to bed, when the weather outside is unpleasant so that staying indoors seems natural, and when you have already been sitting quietly at the table for so long that your departure must occasion surprise to everyone, when, besides, the stairs are in darkness and the front door locked, and in spite of all that you have started up in a sudden fit of restlessness, changed your jacket, abruptly dressed yourself for the street, explained that you must go out and with a few curt words of leave-taking actually gone out, banging the flat door more or less hastily according to the degree of displeasure you think you have left behind you, and when you find yourself once more in the street with limbs swinging extra freely in answer to the unexpected liberty you have procured for them, when as a result of this decisive action you feel concentrated within yourself all the potentialities of decisive action, when you recognize with more than usual significance that your strength is greater than your need to accomplish effortlessly the swiftest of changes and to cope with it, when in this frame of mind you go striding down the long streets - then for that evening you have completely got away from your family, which fades into insubstantiality, while you yourself, a firm, boldly drawn black figure, slapping yourself on the thigh, grow to your true stature.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2011 [38 favorites]

If you're comfortable with animals, get a dog maybe? Caring and walking a dog is company even without other people, but it's also a way to contact new people, either via puppy school etc. or just by walking outside with your dog.
posted by Harry at 5:05 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go get pampered. Get your eyebrows threaded, get a wash and blow dry, get a massage or facial, nails done, any of those things (whatever's in your budget). Do one primpy thing a week and engage the primper in converstaion. I find that people that do that kind of work love to talk. the one exception would be a massage, but they are so relaxing and with someone constantly touching you in such a relaxing way, loneliness will probably go to the back of your mind.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:16 PM on May 23, 2011

hi there - Unitarian Church welcomes athiests - mine has tremendous amount of activities that will put you in touch with people. also, it takes time, be patient with get used to being alone over time, and feel less lonely and eventually you'll have a solid group of friends and something to do every night of the week! get out and take a ballroom dancing class...
posted by dmbfan93 at 4:20 PM on July 31, 2011

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