Best friendship options for a middle-aged man - gym, Spanish meetups, Movie meetups or something else?
September 20, 2011 11:10 PM   Subscribe

I have quite a limited social life, partly due to lifelong social anxiety, and would like to try to make more friends locally (I enjoy some online contacts, but friends IRL is my focus at the moment). Since I am not working, and likely won't be in a position to for some time due to a mental health challenge, my funds are limited for going out so I need to be selective. For what it's worth, I live in Glasgow (Scotland), I'm male and age 41. I think I could pursue one of the following three options, but not them all.

1) Gym. This would have the benefit of making me healthier, and I am definitely overweight. However I'm not so sure how easy it is to strike up conversations at the gym - if you go to the gym, has anything come of it friend-wise or do people just work out with their Ipod headphones on? If you have been able to make friends at a gym, how did you go about it?

2) Spanish meetups. This is something I used to enjoy until around 2005, when my depression got a bit worse and I wasn't enjoying much, so it's been neglected for several years. There's a Spanish Meetup group once a month, and I think attending would motivate me to study again which would give a benefit in terms of personal development. I think the meets last for about 2 or 2 1/2 hours of conversation. I'm not sure what my odds would be of making friends this way but the reviews for the meetups seem quite positive. On the downside due to various circumstances I can't actually foresee myself being able to visit Spain for several years to come - maybe I'd be green with envy hearing all the Spain-lovers talk about their holiday plans!

3) Movie meetups. I would like to be able to appreciate films better and also be able to discuss, in an enthusiast's way and not a film snob way, films after I've seen them. At the moment I usually go to the cinema by myself. There are two fairly active Meetup groups in Glasgow. I prefer the arthouse and world cinema type films but most of the films in the meets are more mainstream, however some would suit me and I guess it wouldn't hurt to try and broaden my tastes. I have been to two meets so far and didn't feel too SA, but could do with some background reading on film appreciation to help me understand the films at a deeper level and have something interesting to say. The movie meets are more frequent than the Spanish ones but on the downside people tend to chat for just 30 minutes before the film and 30 after, so it could take quite a while for friendships to develop at such a slow pace.

Does anyone have any thoughts on choosing between these, or other hobbies for someone in my age range where I could make new friends? I do like reading but I don't like fiction (I prefer self-help stuff like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project) and there doesn't seem to be a local book group that caters for me.
posted by AuroraSky to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. I go to the gym, and I am there wearing headphones and not looking to make friends. If your local gym offers it, I think you would have more luck finding a group class to take at the gym, rather than just going in to use a treadmill/etc. However, even if you don't meet people at the gym, the health and perhaps self confidence benefits might be worth it.

2. Definitely a great idea, I'd say the best of the three options presented. Many of the others at the meetup will be looking to make at least friendly acquaintances, in my experience. And most of them will have no more spanish holiday plans than you do :)

3. Also sounds good, but has an intrinsic cost. I'd prioritise this third.
posted by jacalata at 11:19 PM on September 20, 2011

Since you like the artsier films, why not consider volunteering at a local theatre for plays and such? Here in Canada I've been an usher, ticket-seller or worked concession for many plays and they're fun. Doesn't take much effort to do those jobs, and you can see the play for free. Often afterwards it's easy to meet the other patrons and actors who hang around to talk, and may even go to the pub. I've seen so many interesting plays, they're even better than the art films because the performers and director are right there to discuss it with afterwards. And they love volunteers.
posted by ergo at 11:52 PM on September 20, 2011


A language class, if it's done properly, should get you talking to one another and becoming familiar enough with one another to relax. And sign up at to give English help while receiving Spanish help. You can do the basic stuff for free, so it won't cost you anything but your time and the computer connection.

But exercise is good for you, makes you look better, helps you fight off depression, and gets you the hell out of the house and away from your family for a change, so you should also get out and exercise (maybe with a Spanish-for-beginners or self-help recording coming through your headphones).
posted by pracowity at 11:59 PM on September 20, 2011

Salsa! Exercise, and more fun than the gym, AND the added bonus of being completely irresistible to women when you get good at it.

A male friend did salsa for a while, he said they often went to the pub after so there was a strong social element, and he was in the minority as a male, so always got to dance with different ladies.

He showed me some moves once, it was awesome. I'm happily attached, but I had a momentary crush on him right at that time.
posted by greenish at 2:36 AM on September 21, 2011

You might also looking into board gaming. The games vary wildly from seriously challenging to light party games and the folks are generally friendly and laid back, or at least that's been my experience.

posted by Awfki at 4:24 AM on September 21, 2011

Seconding dancing on the combination of getting in shape and socialising front. Salsa and tango spring to mind for the Spanish connection, but there's no reason to limit yourself to these. You could check out as many places as you like (try to find places which allow for a taster-session, or drop-in places), and pare them down depending on the vibe of the place, on whether the people who seem to go there are up your alley, etc.

Either and all of the options you ennumerated in your post seem like good ideas. Depending on how much time you have available, on your own inclination, and on how easy it is to manage the logistics, you could also try to join all manner of sports groups. Also, hiking/rambling groups, etc., basically take anything that piques your curiosity and check if there are groups out there doing it, or events which focus on your interest and where you might meet like-minded people.

On film-theory: I cannot suggest anything specific to the medium, but it might be worth your while to find books discussing narrative. Most of the ones I know of are text-specific, so the discussion centers on literature/fiction, but the approaches can be easily extrapolated to narrative in other media such as film. Going down this road could make you more aware of all sorts of subtleties, and/or enable you to discuss aspects of the films you enjoy in more nuanced ways. An added benefit could be that you develop a taste for fiction, which would add bookclubs to the list of possible settings for making friends or friendly aquaintances. Also, good fiction has this thing going for it: it allows you to experience all sorts of interactions and social situations in a safe way, offline, as it were, thus contributing, potentially, to increasing your social repertoire and decreasing your anxieties.
posted by miorita at 5:29 AM on September 21, 2011

I think the movie meetup group sounds like your best bet for making friends. Going to the gym would still be good for your health, but as mentioned above, most people don't go there to socialize. Book club or a board game club might also work well.
posted by emd3737 at 5:43 AM on September 21, 2011

1) Gym.

Rather than just go to the gym and flounder around, I would recommend joining the type of class that you commit to going (ie pay for a set of classes up front, and the class progresses from week to week) every week for a certain number of weeks. This type of class generally has a better sense of camaraderie than running on parallel treadmills, or drop in classes.
posted by fermezporte at 5:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

seconding the board games. There's so many fantastic ones out there, and I'm sure there's a meetup group near you for that topic.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:13 AM on September 21, 2011

Thirding board games, it's not just Monopoly kids.

How about a reading group? Honestly it'd be better to find something you already have a passion for and go with that sort of group instead of trying to 'create' or force an interest that isn't there. It sounds like that's what you're doing so kudos. But honestly, I've found that once you delve into any hobby/passion beyond the entry level you'll find great people willing to overlook alot in the pursuit of their enjoyment, be it beer/wine making, shaving with straight razors, collecting movie memorabilia, or working on old Volkswagen vehicles. It's these people that keep my faith in the world alive...

I'd skip the Gym-as-a-means-to-friendship choice. It's just way, way too easy to come across as a creepy stalker. Add on top of that the fact that at least a certain % of people in a gym will be motivated, time-conscious people who would probably see 'making a friend' as counterproductive to their already packed, 'take over the world next month' schedule.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:42 AM on September 21, 2011

I don't think the gym is a good place to make friends. Most people are there to get in their 3 mins of treadmill and get out. I think the movie meetip is your best bet. It sounds like it happens more frequently then once a month (which I see as the major drawback to the Spanish meetup). Volunteering for a cause you care about is free and a great way to make friends.
posted by bananafish at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2011

Seconding the salsa lessons. And if you feel too inhibited to dance, that's just another good reason to do it! Once you start dancing those inhibitions will melt away and you'll start to relax and laugh and have fun; and that's a perfect recipe for connecting more easily with other people.

Spanish class is also a good idea, but there are also loads of other adult evening classes you can do (arts, crafts, IT, music, mechanics, fishing, photography, juggling, etc etc). I've taught one of these classes (juggling), and all my students have been just the most lovely friendly enthusiastic people; I guess because they all share a desire to learn and try new things. You'll meet people easily at a fun adult evening class, and they'll be people worth meeting. :)

Also, congratulations for taking this step. Many people live their whole lives with social anxieties and depression and do nothing concrete about it. You're choosing to make positive changes, break old habits and rewire your brain. And for that you should be genuinely and thoroughly proud. Way to go bro.
posted by pablocake at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2011

Volunteer in a charity shop. The ones with foreigners and community service people are the most interesting.
posted by fraac at 9:16 AM on September 21, 2011

Instead of the gym, where people don't usually talk to each other, can you look into a local walking/jogging/running/hiking meetup group? Those people are usually friendly, because they are there to exercise and talk to people in the group, and you'll introduce yourself and meet them all before setting off on your hike/run/walk, instead of wondering how to approach someone at a gym to say hello. But even if such a group doesn't exist (can you start one??), you should still get out and exercise outside or go to the gym, it'll help with your self-confidence.

And both the Spanish and movie meetups sound like a good idea. Don't make excuses for not going to either one. The good thing is you don't have to commit to them, so don't think too hard about whether or not it's worth to go to a meetup once a month, or to a meetup where you only chat for a half hour. Just go to one or two of each and see which one seems like the right fit for you. Good luck!!
posted by at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2011

During the half hour after (or before) the movie meetup say "anyone want to go out for dinner or a drink? " and see what happens. Be prepared with some suggestions or to say "no worries, maybe next time " depending on the response.
posted by CathyG at 10:00 AM on September 21, 2011

You've really defined two separate needs here: exercise (which, along with obvious health benefits, is good for depression) and more social activity. I think you need to do both, finding a way to work with that in your budget.

Gyms are fairly expensive (at least they are everywhere I've lived), not particularly social environments, and you can get exercise just by stepping out the door and going for a walk or a run. I'm still a little hesitant to suggest skipping the gym, though, because maybe you need the more structured environment to actually commit to exercising.
posted by 6550 at 7:49 PM on September 21, 2011

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