Wait, who ISN'T married in Philly?
March 7, 2012 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I like my job, I love my life, and I have awesome friends, all here in Philly. But being literally the only person I know without a long-term relationship isn't good for my sanity. Where ARE all the single people, anyway?

My friends really are great people, and I'm certainly not interested in ditching them. But nearly everyone I hang out with on a halfway regular basis is in a stable long-term relationship, and most of them live with their significant others; I haven't run the numbers, but I'd guess that half are married or engaged. This is creating a situation where I feel weird, awkward, and out-of-place for being single at the ancient age of 27.

Just to clarify, nobody's saying or doing anything in particular that's causing me to feel this way - it's just when every single social event is "This couple, that couple, another couple, and me," it can get kind of old. This isn't just me talking; my therapist pointed out that my social circle is giving me a skewed perspective, and suggested that it would help if I had people I saw as peers who aren't attached.

So what I'm looking for some help with, is ideas for places/things to do that might give me a social environment where not everyone is paired off. I know the usual automatic advice here is "Just engage in your hobbies, and find people who are into those things," but I've done that - and, yeah, it seems like everyone I meet, when we end up meeting after $HOBBY_EVENT for drinks, brings along their girlfriend/boyfriend, or leaves early to go home to that person, and I'm back to feeling like the only single guy in the city.

It's not about avoiding non-single people, and it's not about dating - not that I'd object to that, but this is simply about simply giving myself some reassurance that, no, I'm really not that weird, and I'm no kind of lame loser just for being "so old" and not having a partner.

* I'm 27, male, and I have a techie, professional career. (And, yes, literally every single person in my (small) office is married, other than me.)
* Inasmuch as it matters, I live in Philadelphia.
* I am not in any way religious.
* Sports are not an option. While I'm more active than a lot of people, I have a non-obvious medical condition that makes, say, "join a weekend soccer league" completely unavailable.
* My job involves intermittent and unpredictable travel that makes taking classes, especially semester-length ones, difficult.
posted by "Sock puppet" is outdated and insulting to Human Relations (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm...I realize this doesn't totally answer your question, but I think you should focus on dating. Philly is a place where people settle down relatively earlier, compared to New York or DC. So your problem here is your reaction to being a little different; not the reality. Let your dating life be your dating life, and your social life be your social life, whatever it is. It's too hard to try to engineer both!
posted by yarly at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2012

Have you tried online dating? It seems tailor-made for your situation.
posted by decathecting at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude, 27 is not "old." I'm 42 and I have the same damn problem as you.

I bet, though, that there are some single people lurking in your social circle that just aren't "outing" themselves. Maybe once in a blue moon you have some kind of thing at your house that's just for them? I started doing that -- I've got a couple of single friends, and once a month the three of us get together at my place and just hang, and it makes a big difference.

Or, go retro and have a "guys night" at your place, where just the guys in your social circle show up -- and make it clear that just this once, the girlfriends are not allowed. Nothing fancy, just get a couple six-packs and play poker or Guitar Hero or something. Yes, you'll probably get some complaints from the wives and girlfirends, but - honestly, I think people need that sometimes. My ex had a regular weekly D&D thing he did while we were dating, and when he asked if I minded that, I said "are you kidding? I think it's awesome -- it lets me have the weekly knitting circle where it's just me and other women and we bust on guys." Your guy friends could use a little of that kind of thing now and then too, I bet.

It sucks being the odd one out, but there are ways out of it. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2012

Everyone in my company is married or engaged, all of my friends are married or engaged, no one here ever seems to detach from each other. You aren't weird to me, because I used to feel as you did. I think what helped me was to stop thinking of those things as creating a situation where I felt awkward, or lonely when actually, I was the one creating those feelings in myself. Turns out that while I don't NEED a partner to feel fulfilled, I deeply wanted one, so I focused on finding one.

I also tried to make friends in places that didn't facilitate bring a partner or their partner being a part of the conversation - I did a women's book club, but I hated it, but I guess a singles event would work too. Because my boyfriend and I aren't attached at the hip like most of my friends/coworkers are, I'm still working on developing my own circles and interests - perhaps seek out a short term class (like one or two classes) in something you might like to learn? I'm thinking of learning to make sushi, myself.
posted by sm1tten at 10:05 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ayup, I'm 35-bordering-on-36 and also have the same problem, although (knock on wood, throw salt over shoulder, meditate, finger prayer beads, invoke [deity of choice], bow to all four cardinal directions) I dare say it may soon be resolved. Hopefully.

I finally met someone by meeting yet another married couple. A young couple, French and Chinese, who introduced me to a Tai Chi course. They appreciated the instructor and others in the class, so I agreed. First couple of courses, I noticed a cute guy who also noticed me. You can guess where it went from there, our first date is in a few days (in France that's a much bigger thing than in the US; a first date is roughly equivalent to saying "I think I'd like to be exclusive with you, let's see how we are as a couple" – there's a good amount of prior, friendship-stage groundwork that precedes it).

In other words, look at the possible benefits of being surrounded by couples. I bet one of them knows a single person who might click with you! Or act as a sort of facilitator! The couple I met has been delighted to oil the wheels for cute-Tai-Chi-guy and I to get together, and honestly, without their nudges to both of us, I think we might still be at the stage of "is s/he single? I'm too shy/dating-wearied to ask, and s/he's kind and cute so s/he probably is with someone."

Also "do an activity you'd like to learn"! FWIW, I did online dating for years, both pay sites and free (OKCupid), and it was a big flat blah. Meeting someone IRL and in a course setting has been great: I've been able to see how others relate to him, how he treated people before we were a potential thing, how he approaches the course we're in (very seriously and yet with a charming, passionate fun - rawr!), later the things he's interested in through our friends... it's nice.
posted by fraula at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2012

How about going to a Singles Bowling Night tomorrow? It might be weird and full of people whom you definitely know why they're single, or it might be fun.

One of my close friends went to a bunch of "Singles Adventures" events put on by local-to-us companies (it looks like there are a couple of others in Philadelphia besides the folks sponsoring the bowling night) while she was single. Some of them were really fun, and she got a few dates and a few friendquaintances out of it. Some of them bit and she had to feign a migraine and leave immediately. She eventually met her husband through online dating, not through "Singles Adventures", but I think that the events helped her build confidence.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:20 AM on March 7, 2012

In other words, look at the possible benefits of being surrounded by couples. I bet one of them knows a single person who might click with you! Or act as a sort of facilitator!

Yes, seconding this. One of my couple friends came to me a year ago and told me they were going to make "finding a boyfriend for EC" one of their ongoing long-term projects, largely because I was the only single woman they knew who hadn't just given up. They're actually still working on it (the only problem, they admitted, was that the single guys they knew all prefer other guys; but they're keeping their eyes open).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: So I really don't want to thread-sit, but I'd like to make a couple of quick replies:

* Trust me, my extended social circles really are as un-Single as I think they are. There aren't stealth-singles lurking; my married friends will not be introducing me to anyone any time soon. At one point, a handful of my female friends declared their intention to Find Socky a Mate, brainstormed through a couple rounds of drinks, and concluded that the only single women they knew were 1) my ex, 2) a lesbian, and 3) a girl I don't get along with.

* This isn't about dating per se; I am doing online dating, for example. This is about the rest of my social life. There's a reason I've asked specifically this question, and part of it was my therapist encouraging me to treat it as a totally separate goal from the ongoing project of Finding a Girlfriend. I want my life to be better and happier even as a single person, and part of that is giving myself more people in my life who are doing just that.
posted by "Sock puppet" is outdated and insulting at 10:33 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

From one sock puppet to another- Try very male-based activities? Any single women you meet are likely to either want to date you, or if for some reason you don't want to date them or they don't want to date you, in either case they would probably shy away from you to avoid misunderstandings. And may end up dating someone else soon anyway, which would mean- hey another couple to deal with! So I'm thinking focusing on single men would be easier. Academics or younger people in college are often single and another option you may or may not have thought about.
posted by stockpuppet at 10:38 AM on March 7, 2012

What about an ongoing project/activity that mostly appeals to men (restoring a car in someone's garage? building furniture? forming a band? going to sporting events? going to someone's cabin in the woods?). It doesn't have to be Every Wednesday Night like a class, so it can accommodate your work/travel schedule.
posted by desjardins at 11:23 AM on March 7, 2012

I just want to say (as a single woman) that male/female friendships are awesome- and you can totally have them. Limiting your friendships to one-half of the single population just diminishes opportunities that are already skewed to your disadvantage by where you live. You can make woman friends and bring them into your social circle or get to know them one on one much easier (IMHO) than you would be able to do with new male friends.

I'm in a similar situation and it's hard, but at the same time it's just a product of being at this age-

One thing I HIGHLY suggest is finding a coffee shop/bookstore/happy wi-fi place where you can do some work and chill without the pressure of finding a friend, but in an environment where people are more likely to see what you're doing and come to comment on it or start a conversation if you make yourself approachable. You don't want to just meet random single people, you want to meet random single people that you like and have stuff in common with. Try to make your interests and personality more visible and public and give strangers a reason to approach you.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 11:39 AM on March 7, 2012

Facebook? I wonder, if you posted something like, "My married friends are awesome, but I'm looking for some single people to hang out with in Philly, anybody want to get a beer?" maybe you'd get some more distant friends or friends-of-friends who are in the same boat.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:04 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok, I don't know how removed this would be from your comfort zone, but consider finding spaces where younger people hang out or are doing things? Definitely less married and ltr-committed folks in college. Community building type projects starting up at local colleges and universities is one idea. The turnover of knowledge and manpower in these kinds of orgs is high, and it's enormously useful to have members of the greater community (not just young students) involved for longer periods than the typical two to four year arc. Being absent for your traveling wouldn't impact your commitment the same way if you were enrolled in a course. And of course you'd gain an ear into the music/dance/art scene where other younger and thus probably single people hang out. (weird to think how the arts kinda stratifies by generation..)

You may feel more "ancient" being surrounded by people in their early 20s, but we (speaking for my fellow undergrads) would really appreciate your involvement/presence and don't care about how old you are.
posted by ilk at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

*don't care about your age. you're really not that much older.
posted by ilk at 12:10 PM on March 7, 2012

Go to Meetup.com right now. Do it!

It sounds like you might be at that transitional time in your late twenties when your longtime friends and social circle drift away a little bit. It happens. People at this age get married, have kids, get promoted, go to grad school, move away, and then you just find yourself knowing fewer people who know fewer people.

The good news is that there's Meetup. Find some local events on there that fit your calendar. Attend. Repeat. Look for other events both offline and online that fit your interests: book clubs, classes, volunteering. If you already have $HOBBY and a social circle around it, it's time to branch out and try something new and outside your comfort zone.

I am not saying that you should dump your current friends. I am saying that you should expand your current friends, and that you should be looking to meet new men AND new women. Meet new *people*. Find them, friend them on Facebook, invite them out to a happy hour or throw a party at your place and invite everyone you know. Then one of these people brings a random stranger with them and you fall in love. (I can't tell you how many times this exact thing has happened.)

Meetup worked for me. I tried online dating, but I live in a small college town and it really made me feel like there was no one out there who was my age and single. Then I met a ton of people through Meetup, and through those people I met more people, and now I know many, many people who are single and cool and interesting and in their late 20s & 30s, and they all live in my small college town. And because Girl A invited Girl B to one of the Meetup events that I was attending, Girl B invited Boy C to another event, and then he and I hit it off and have been dating for a year. (It felt that random at the time, too.)
posted by aabbbiee at 12:30 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in toronto, but the things that worked for me were:
1) Improv class! Tends to attract people who are not 'settled down', and its very social, and lots of friendships came out of it. (Or something else thats artsy might be good - you'd be in a group but there's no expectation of sporty-ness.)
2) Meetup! There's a bajillion groups that specify 'single', and most of them aren't about dating.
3) Going to oddball events or lectures or whatnot? Check your local 'alternative weekly' (or Time Out, or whatever Philly has), and talk to people. I find that these types of things - games nights, interactive workshops, etc tend to attract single people looking for things to do.
posted by Kololo at 2:47 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very generic meetup groups that are clearly just a vehicle to meet new people can be a decent place to meet people. Things like 20's going out groups.

Having lots of single friends isn't always the best way to get out of the mindset your experiencing. I'd say my friends are split about 2/3 couples and 1/3 single women (and one lone eternal bachelor). I honestly find it harder sometimes to hang out with my single friends as they tend to be fighting the same late 20s/early 30s freak out as we all are in that situation to some extent and everyone's angst just sort of builds and makes it worse. So the grass isn't always greener. Not to say hanging out with couples all the time is always easier. I've definitively felt like the third wheel or found myself avoiding events that were clearly more suited for couples.

To some extent you just need to shake it off and realize no one else thinks its awkward or weird you aren't paired off other than you. Most of my coupled friends love hanging out with single people and really love hearing about the single life they've left behind. You also might want to try organizing some boys night so you can get out with friends without always interacting with them as couples.
posted by whoaali at 5:27 PM on March 7, 2012

I second the above suggestions, but would also suggest trying to diversify a bit. I was in a similar boat until recently, and had good luck by joining quite a few Meetup groups - mostly specialized (photography, hiking, languages, etc), but also a few general going-out/happy-hour type groups. I also tried a couple of social-sports leagues (mostly bar "sports" like bocceball or billiards, so nothing too physically exerting), a sketching class, and signed up for a few event-oriented mailing lists. Being involved in so many activities helped - I found which ones had a good turnout, which ones had the friendliest people, etc. Meeting so many people also helped me to hear about other events/groups, which let me meet even more people, etc.

Meetup is still a very good starting point, although it might take you a few tries to find the right group. The first few "single" Meetup groups I joined were a pretty poor fit for me (felt there was a sort of cliquey/meat-market vibe). However, I think that might just be unique to DC, the groups in Philly are probably better. I did eventually (after nearly a year of trying different groups) find some good general socializing/happy-hour type groups that were a much better fit. Have managed to make several good non-coupley friends through one of those groups, including my now-girlfriend (wasn't looking to date anyone at the time either, just met the right person - so it definitely can work!)

So yeah it can take a while, but it does pay off. Hope this helps, and best of luck!
posted by photo guy at 7:29 PM on March 7, 2012

You say your post is not about dating but the very last bit sure makes it sound like it is (I mean why is it important for us to know that you are/are not religious or into sports to make you feel less weird about being the only single 27 yr old in a group of people? If you were looking for ways to meet women, that's a different topic)

To reassure yourself regarding your status, think of it this way-

1. You bring diversity in the (pretty-boring) group. And, diversity is VERY important.
2. The people you see coupled at 27 may uncouple before you even hit 30. (And then you'll get all skeptical with your then girlfriend and status!)

Enjoy what you have, when you have it- it may not last long.
posted by xm at 9:29 PM on March 8, 2012

Most parks & rec departments have classes that are 4 weekends or things like that. Check into those. For that matter, take a regular class anyway -- I took language classes at a community college and many of the students were adults who were auditing or doing pass/fail and told the teacher in advance that they might miss several classes. It was not a big deal. I made several friends in those classes.

There doesn't appear to be a onebrick.org branch for Philadelphia yet, but maybe there will be soon -- in the meantime, you could look for one-day volunteering events on craigslist or whatever.

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 11:27 PM on March 8, 2012

I think you're my male counterpart. Seriously. I'm a 27/F in the Philly area that's having the same issue. I've pretty much thrown myself into meetup.com. I've just gotten into the the TerraMar adventures group and I'm loving it so far. I did aerial yoga yesterday, I think I'm going to do some archery thing on Sunday and I'm going to do some Mayan Battle thing at the end of the month. I'm apart of another meetup group that's a good potluck of people and I love them and it. I think there's only one couple in the group, and that's b/c they met IN the group.

In addition to that, I've joined around 10 other meetup groups and I'm hoping that meeting new people who aren't single will eventually result from that. I've also tried a couple livingsocial getaway/adventures and those were rather awesome even though the people I ended up friending were attached. In the end, meetup.com is your bffl.
posted by baconandvodka at 10:52 AM on March 12, 2012

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