Making New Friends - How can I be so bad at this?
April 2, 2016 11:24 PM   Subscribe

I moved to a new city (NYC) within the past 2 years and I am feeling a little lonely.

I am a 36-year-old divorced female, and had lots of luck dating when I first moved here. I have a wonderful boyfriend now, and had lots of luck in my first year here dating which filled up a ton of my time. I love my job and have a few really good friends at work, but they are 8-10 years younger than me and I know I need both people my own age and people outside of work. My BF spends his weekends in a different state with his kids, and I am here alone, mostly a shut-in, not talking to anyone all day Saturday and Sunday. It kinda sucks.

There are a few things that I am interested in and I want to explore, but not sure where to start:

- I really enjoyed my drawing and creative writing classes in college, but feel like I am out of practice and a little old to do beginner classes. Are there interesting classes that a mediocre drawer/writer could take?

- I just signed up for but everything seems a little cheesy. Is anything worthwhile?

- I love exploring new bars and restaurants, so any group that would be geared toward that would be great too. I also love to cook and especially bake for other people.

- I really enjoy going to the movies.

Just to complicate things:

- I am pretty shy and if there is a choice between staying home in bed and having to talk to strangers, I am probably staying home.

- I feel like everyone my age has a husband and kids and I can't relate to them because of that because A. I feel like a failure compared to them, B. I feel like being being divorced makes my married friends nervous about their marriages

- At the same time it sucks to sit home all alone every weekend so I need to do something.

I would love any kind of a strategy to get myself out of the apartment and branch out. Once I'm out I am decent at small talk, but after that I have no idea about how 36-year-olds make friends
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I find really useful. Don't know what the meetup groups are like in New York, but they've been a lifesaver for me in Hong Kong. First of all, the people who use them are generally also looking for friends-- many of whom may/will be in your age range. Post divorce in Amsterdam, I rebuilt my social life with a running group. In Hong Kong it's been a hiking group and a scrabble group. I would be surprised if there weren't dining/cooking meetups in NY, since that's a mainstay of meetup in nearly every city.

What do you mean by cheesy? It's not super hip, no, but who do you want to make friends with?
posted by frumiousb at 11:35 PM on April 2, 2016

To share my experience with meetup, the quality of the groups varies widely- I've gone to a bunch and stop going after one or two times. However (in my experience) they're always very welcoming of newcomers, so take a look online and go to any that seem potentially interesting. The two or three that I've stuck with have been really valuable to me professionally and have led to good friendships personally.
posted by jden at 1:02 AM on April 3, 2016

I thought all the meetups in my city were kind of cheesy/not for me so I recently started my own meetup book club based around a somewhat specific interest. I've met plenty of my "types" in the first few meetings and I'm pretty optimistic some of these connections will develop into real friendships. Plus, as the (also quite shy) organizer, I can't back out and stay in bed, so I like that I'm forced to meet new people. It still stresses me out a bit but it's getting easier. So if you don't like the meetup options, start your own!
posted by horizons at 1:52 AM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just moved cities. I'm 33. I've made some new friends since getting here, here's how:

- asking my existing circle of friends if they could connect me to anyone they knew in the new city. This worked well, made 2 friends this way whom I see regularly. Friends of friends come "pre-vetted" as it were.

- joining a book club and an art class. I don't need to be part of a book club to read, I read a lot anyway, but the social aspect was good for me. I also have limited artistic ability but I've met a lot of nice people at art class. You're likely to meet people at a class because there's an investment involved and people don't like to waste their money so it's less likely people will drop out after just one session or whatever. So that way you can really get to know them. (Gym classes can be a good way of meeting people, and you get the side benefits of a workout too. Just choose something that is likely to have the same people coming regularly - so something with in-built progression and less geared towards drop-ins. A friend of mine has formed a very long-lasting group of friends all originating from when they went to pole dancing class together.) I think classes are great because if you're shy you can be quiet and concentrate on what you're learning but showing up repeatedly will help people recognise you and consider you someone they know.

- joining a city-specific Facebook group where you post questions about the best place to get organic kumquats or whatever, very good way of getting to know people online and they have regular meet-ups.

- personally I don't enjoy meetups or other networking gatherings where the whole point is to socialise and talk with new people. I find it very forced and exhausting. I've not had good experiences personally with

You're lucky you're in New York, the city with everything - I'm sure you'll find something right for you! I bet the New York metafilter meetups are great too!
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:56 AM on April 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you have a community college near you, you can take art classes. Many of them are geared to people who work full time, so you could possibly find a college level art class that meets on Saturday mornings.

Start shopping around for churches! Yes, some of them are just awful but many of them are not. They could use your baking skills. My church has a comfort food ministry where we deliver a hot, home cooked meal to anyone who is having a rough time, even if they don't go to our church. People really seem to love it. And don't worry if you aren't a Christian- a good church welcomes people who are not saved. It's actually what church is supposed to be for- to teach the Bible to people who haven't heard it before. If you are made to feel weird or out of place then know that that is not the church for you and keep looking.

If nothing else, go to the same coffee shop every Saturday morning at roughly the same time. You will become a regular and meet people that way.
posted by myselfasme at 6:28 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd say forget about age, first of all. I think the older you get, the less it matters when it comes to friends. I'm 41, female and single, and most of my social life is based around other single female friends with similar interests to me, ranging in age from 30 to 60. They're all free to come out whenever they want, we have similar life experiences, and we enjoy the same things. Age is the least relevant factor. So if you can forget about that, it widens your options. And forget about being too old to sign up to a beginner arts class - just do it. You'll probably find a few retirees there who will laugh heartily at the idea that you're too old to do anything at the age of 36.

Most of these friends are people I originally met at group activities, we got to know each other, I suggested meeting up to do something outside the group activity, and the friendship has outlasted my attendance of the group. So go to meet-ups, sign up for classes, whatever you fancy - give each of them a fair try, shop around, and even if you're not that keen on the activity, you'll eventually find one where you just feel like you click with the people.

Bear in mind, though, that you often can't tell from the first few sessions whether these will be 'your people'. I once went to a year-long weekly evening class where there was zero take-up for my suggestion to go to the pub after the first class, and I thought "OK, this isn't going to be a sociable one". There was virtually no chat in class. But we had end-of-term pub visits, and then after the year was up, a few of us teamed up to enter some fun competitions together, and I'm still friends with most of them about seven years later.

The good thing is that, whether or not the activity turns into long term friendships, you're out of the house and doing stuff with people on a regular basis, which is good for the soul. Even an hour of organised activity, plus travel, is a fairly small chunk of the weekend, but can make the rest of a lazy weekend feel better, because you know you've made the effort to do something different for a small chunk of it.
posted by penguin pie at 6:39 AM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you are atheist, agnostic, or spiritual-but-not-religious, and you feel church or synagogue would not be for you - there may be a Unitarian Universalist church you could join, or a secular community that offers the fellowship of church without the religion.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:41 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've got two friends who go to this drawing class.
Also check out
posted by Sophont at 6:50 AM on April 3, 2016

First, what Penguin Pie said about expanding age brackets of friends. A robust social life in New York or its suburbs has got to have age diversity as you get closer to your 40s than your 20s. I'm 44 and the friends I see most actively range in age from 35 to 55 at this point.

Second, if marriage and kids are in your near future, well, that's going to be a brand-new social set for you and unless you're unlucky you'll end up with a lot of new friends and social opportunities (and, alas, obligations).

Third, you didn't mention the most important social opportunity outside of school stuff (not applicable to you given no kids yet) -- and that's SPORTS. Without leaving Manhattan or Brooklyn you can take up or resume squash, tennis, sailing, softball, hoops, running, yoga, cycling, cross fit / obstacle racing (mud runs, etc., which are a sub-discipline of cross fit for the most part), martial arts and more. A short car ride and you've got golf, tennis that doesn't cost $100/hour, bouldering, hiking, mountain biking, etc.
posted by MattD at 7:05 AM on April 3, 2016

But don't take up hoops ... if you like your ACL where it is. Hoops is just murder on the bod.
posted by MattD at 7:06 AM on April 3, 2016

Check out the Art Students League. CUNY also has some continuing ed art classes. New York Cares is great - you take an orientation class and then after that you have access to tons of volunteering opportunities ranging from composting to doing art with kids.

I had a similar issue about 3 years ago; moved to a new state and was struggling to make friends. My therapist advised me to pick one activity and commit to showing up regularly for a while - I think 2 months. I got involved with a local community garden and met great people there.

Toastmasters was also great for me. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 7:15 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty surprised you think kids is keeping your from friends in NYC. I was just at someone's 42nd birthday party last night and I don't think one woman there had kids. Anyways, I had good luck making friends through Mefi meetups, work, sports (swimming), sports (silly social-sports league), and code/art stuff.

The thing that really makes the difference though (and I know you don't want to hear this as a shy person) is actually making the effort to invite people to stuff — and doing it more than once if they say no the first time! People in New York are busy and once they get over the first few years not-knowing-people hump (totally a real thing), they probably have more friends than they can reasonably see and plenty to do, so if you sit at home waiting for them to call, you will be waiting a long time. But if you ask, things will align and then you will keep doing stuff and presto! friends.

For art, no one cares how good you are. I swear. In addition to Art Students League, there is continuing education at Cooper Union (I learned to print there), Pratt, and Drink and Draw at the Bat Haus (should you be in North Brooklyn). Also, and finally, if sometimes you just want to be able to leave the house on a weekend and have people know you, become a local at your nearest quiet bar. New York is big, so I can't tell you where, but walk around till you find a place you can sit at the bar and read and keep going.

Best of luck! It can be a little hard here at first, but there are tons of friends to be had.
posted by dame at 7:54 AM on April 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Hi and welcome!

MeFi meetups are usually a lot of fun! I haven't gone to ones lately because I've been swamped, but enjoy them when I can. Once Smoragsburg starts up again, I imagine we'll have one there!

Depending on where you are in the city, Brooklyn Brainery may be a good place to take classes. I haven't tried the art classes yet, but have taken several others -- ASL 2 right now! -- and been very pleased.

Feel free to MeMail if you would like to chat or hang out.
posted by wiskunde at 8:13 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm in my late 30s and made a lot of friends in the past 6 months by playing Ingress. It's a phone game that has you walking around, visiting different locations. You start out by just getting out of the house. I started playing to make walking my dogs more fun. People noticed me playing and reached out to me and now months later, I find myself with a bunch of new friends from all walks of life. I haven't had a group of friends since I was in my early 20s. I'm in Chicago and we have a mix of married and single people and a range of ages 20s-50s, with people in their 30s being most predominant. It took me about 2 months before I started meeting people. This game has really become a life changer. I am an introvert, but I find myself being much more social than I've been in recent years.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:13 AM on April 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also, don't blame yourself. Once you are out of the confines of institutions that force you to share your life with a thousand strangers, making friends is hard. You're not a failure, a loser, or fundamentally unlovable if it's taking you a while.
posted by praemunire at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Welcome to NYC! I'm also a woman in my 30s who lives here and likes to draw. :) I highly recommend Dr. Sketchy's and Urban Sketchers (which has a mailing list and meets twice a week).

Also, yes, meetup! (I go to a few meetups and run one, but it's for programmers and thus maybe not up your alley? Unless you're into that kinda thing, in which case it's friendly and wonderful!) The meetups that are focused on a particular activity are way way better than the ones just focused on ~socializing. There are a bunch of drink-'n-draw meetups around the city, and yes, food and cooking ones.
posted by 168 at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2016

You could try Tea with Strangers.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:51 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you are in the city, Brooklyn Brainery may be a good place to take classes. I haven't tried the art classes yet, but have taken several others -- ASL 2 right now! -- and been very pleased.

As one of the people who runs the Brainery: definitely take classes. People take classes to learn things, sure, but they're mostly secretly kind of in it to meet people who share their interests who they can hang out with. Take smaller classes (crafts + food instead of science/history lectures) and chat the people at your table up!

If you memail/email me with where in the city you're based I should be able to recommend some class-taking spots convenient to you.
posted by soma lkzx at 11:54 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Adding to the Meetup pile-on. Even if you don't connect with people right away or even in the first month, becoming a regular and being expressive about your interests should get you recognized. I've joined a bunch of Japanese language ones in the past three years with varying levels of success, but was able to make enough friends that a few of them ended up hosting me and another friend when we visited Tokyo two years back.

Sports-themed ones haven't been quite as successful for me only because either the timing is off or I get an injury that keeps me from coming back on a weekly basis, but the people I have encountered there have been friendly and enthusiastic.

(And as a 39-year-old single woman who likes trying new bars and restaurants, I'm always on the lookout for new companions!)
posted by Recliner of Rage at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2016

You're never too old to be a beginner at anything.

Is there a crafty thing that appeals to you at all? I don't know what the options are in NYC, but I've found learning things like knitting and ceramics to be extraordinarily fun. There is a social element in a group class, but you are all doing/making a thing, so you can talk if you want to, or just work on your own project.

And those are the kinds of things you can do your whole life - and make them as solitary or social as you wish. (My ceramics friends are some of my life-long friends.....tending a kiln all night can form a bond. )
posted by pantarei70 at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of the new people I've met in NYC have been from classes (I don't take many, but I took one at New York School of Burlesque that netted me a new friend who introduced me to another new friend), Twitter, volunteering, and OkCupid.

Since I don't think any of these have been mentioned besides classes, a little more on each:
- Twitter is not for everyone, and it's changed a lot even since I moved up here three years ago. But if you can fall in with a good, small, active, interesting crowd, it can be a GREAT way to meet new people. I met several of my dearest NYC friends at a party thrown by a Twitter acquaintance.
- If you can find somewhere to volunteer that is really interest-based, that can be a good source of new friends. What I mean is, if I volunteered at a shelter or a dog rescue, I'd only meet people who are interested in "helping" and "dogs," which is good chatting potential but less likely to yield new friends. But I volunteer at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which is frankly only likely to attract people I'll probably get along with. (OR HATE. It's been about 80/20.) Since you're into art, there might be an art-related volunteer opportunity -- the Sketchbook Project, maybe?
- OkCupid isn't just for dating, at least not around here! I haven't reached out to anyone from a purely platonic perspective, YET, but I've converted a date into a friend who brought me several more friends (whom I like better, frankly), and at least some of those people regularly find friends using the site. Looking for and reaching out to people as friends on OkCupid doesn't seem all that weird here, and you can get a sense for what someone is like before having to make conversation.

Good luck! Feel free to MeMail, I'm also 36 and also moved here after a divorce, plus I came down with bad social anxiety for about a year right after I divorced/moved and thus had to make friends more deliberately/slowly, so I might be able to relate.
posted by babelfish at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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