Zen of +40 Freinds or How the Mid-life Chandler Bing seeks a new Joey, Ross, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe
February 19, 2007 9:12 AM   Subscribe

How to build a posse, crew, entourage or social clique of men and women post-40s?

My social life was just so much easier when I was under 35. I had my running buddies (not joggers, we took road trips, nightclubs, concerts and whatnot together). The women in our little group were more like little sisters and wings than concubines and/or sexual conquests. Banded together, we all had great fun and many inside jokes.

Now, finding folks like that is just happenchance or serendipity. I'd doubt that the bar scene would be a starting place, but I need a plan and I'm stuck for a clue.

To make matters worse, I am relatively new to NE Alabama and the people here seem lacking in web-awareness on the social networking side.

I've tried to use MySpace but both men and women here do not seem to be accustomed to meeting people from the web, yet.

Or maybe my approach is ill-conceived. Looks like I am destined to rebuild my gang the old-fashioned way -- all face-to-face.

I do miss San Francisco in so many ways.

That is unless MeFites can come up with another way, the third way that I cannot see on my current path.
posted by choragus to Human Relations (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Considering most people that age are immersed in family life it may not be an easy task. Try joining different social groups like running, dancing, hiking, biking, singles, etc. If you want a partying group, see if you can find a local HHH (Hash House Harriers).
posted by JJ86 at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2007

Maybe I'm carrying some assumptions about NE Alabamy, but I'd maybe lean more toward service organizations or Toastmasters or other social clubs.
posted by rhizome at 10:03 AM on February 19, 2007

Have kids and socialize with the parents of your kids' friends.
posted by caddis at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2007

There is no life outside family life outside cities.
posted by phrontist at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2007

Become a mason.
posted by milarepa at 10:24 AM on February 19, 2007

You're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way, pressing the flesh. Huntsville, while an outlier in Alabama terms, is not San Francisco. (NOWHERE ELSE is San Francisco.) Also, all your peers are now doing the family thing; many of those who aren't have since fled for Big City Decadence such as you might find in Atlanta. Persons younger than that don't necessarily want to hang out with a creepy older-uncle type (please don't take this wrong - I'm your age, we have to be honest about ourselves).

Sport. In north central Alabama (Birmingham) triathlon training is very popular, with all the good hills and the long warm season; I can only assume that NE AL is similar. Join a cycling or running club (Huntsville Track Club?) and start training with tem.

Church. Big in Alabama, even in chock-full-o-caretbaggers Huntsville. You'll have more options if you're Protestant Christian, Southern Baptist or Methodist being the Miller versus Budweiser option. I look at my father's social life n south Alabama, and it's very church-axial, the church being the first place that persons of disparate professions and social classes meet and interact.

Craft. Homebrewing guild? Popular in Alabama due to a wicked shortage of decent brew otherwise.

Culture. A city of Huntsville's size is large enough to support community orchestra, theater troupes, etc., while small enough that the citizens will actually watch you (due to lack of a better alternative - no SFSO here except via telecast!).

Volunteer. Huntsville is big enough to support a professional fire department, so that's out. How about SAR?

Other clubs. Mensa? It's intrinsically annoying, but it can help you locate fellow like minds.

Good luck,
an Alabama expat
posted by goetter at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2007

Also consider using more meeting people in person oriented web sites like meetup.com. At least that way, you wouldn't be filtering through all the local people looking for the one or two who might be willing to do an in person meet. If there's an active meetup group happening, you can pretty safely assume the people in it are willing to meetup.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2007

Outstanding question. I've been working through the same problem right now, although I'm in my late 30s. The problem to me seems to be that the social venues are radically different. Here, socialization seems to happen between families and vertically through church. It's very, very structured and somewhat xenophobic.

My focus has been on meeting the outliers and stragglers. There are tens of thousands of people around here, and from what I've seen, the Internet is alive and well, as evidenced by Myspace which has nearly 200 listings (though most of it is teens and meat market type stuff). I refuse to believe that all the "enlightened" folks have moved to the city... many such people may be stuck here here due to family, finances, property, and so forth. I think I'm simply not meeting them.

I think there is a HUGE vacuum that neither Myspace nor Craigslist fills. Meetup was the thing that had outstanding potential, but the bastards pretty much destroyed the site a few years ago with their new Classmates-esque mega-profit model.

The methods that I'm considering are:
1) Put in a friends-only type Myspace page with the intent on meeting like minds... though I'm not holding my breath.
2) Since I like science and tinkerer-type hobby, perhaps start some sort of science related group with its own domain name and wait for a community to grow... though I'm not sure if Google will be any good for regional hobby communities like this.

I guess it will never hurt to try, and there's no chance of anything coming together until I get proactive about it.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:04 PM on February 19, 2007

Elks, Eagles, Masons, there should be one of these lodges somewhere near you.
posted by Megafly at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2007

I say don't settle -- if the stereotypical Elks, active churchgoers, or non-Internet-using cohort wouldn't have been acceptable as your mates when you were in SF, you won't be happy forcing yourself to socialize with them in Alabama.

I lived in Austin proper for 12 years, and it was damned hard to make a "cold move" to a practically-rural suburb of Dallas.

My first step was to be patient, and acknowledge I wasn't just going to "happen upon" a great group of smart interesting people who'd just been waiting for me to walk in the door.

And, I also made an effort to acknowledge the transition, with travel. In the phase between "I used to have loads of fab friends... and hopefully will again one day," I stayed busy by travelling (more often than was practical) to see my old friends, and by going to Dallas and Fort Worth (more often than was practical), to get doses of culture and fun. I thought of it as weaning myself to the new situation, rather than just going cold turkey.

Then, I joined clubs. I got active in my sorority alumnae group, in my university alumnae group, and in a local non-religious volunteer group. It took a lot of time, but my plan was to cast a wide net and see who shook out. I've since had to dial back my involvement (because people with full-time jobs hardly have time for all that stuff, much less with families in tow too), but it served its purpose on the front end.

(I ran out of time, but if the above had failed I'd also planned to check out my county political party, or find a local amateur food/wine group. Or, both. My last step was going to be to pursue a recreational art class like photography or creative writing, at the community college nearby.)

Finally, I've taken the initiative to create some of my own opportunities for interaction.

I started a "fun club" where once a month, people would go bowling or driving go-carts or to a baseball game or karaoke, etc.:

I reached out to the handful of people that I knew (even if only marginally -- co-workers, neighbors, fellow club members) and started an email/Evite list. By doing all the legwork myself -- picking a date, finding a place, researching the costs, sending out the Evite -- it was a no-brainer for people who wanted to give it a try.

And, using Evite made it easy for people to add friends, or decline at the last minute, or change their previously declined mind and come at the last minute... without having to interact with a stranger.

Everyone in the original email was encouraged to pass it on to any of their friends, or add any of their friends to the Evite. Soon the second tier of friends became comfortable enough to invite their friends, and so on.

The only rules were that everyone went dutch, no children could come*, and alcohol would be used. (The latter was for me personally, as I wanted to filter out anyone who disapprove of drinking and general carousing... because I like people who carouse and this was all about me finding friends).

One never knew who might show up in any given month -- but one always knew that they were referred by someone, liked to have fun, and were willing to meet up with a group of strangers.

You could do something similar with a supper club, or a science club or a poker night, anything that will serve as a filter for your interests... the point is engineering a primary activity that allows people a workaround for the inherent discomfort that comes from initiating socializing with strangers.

And, it's key to create a system where the word can easily be passed -- if it's as easy as forwarding an email or declining an Evite, you are casting an even wider net. There were lots of people who couldn't attend but wanted to remain on the Evite list, just in case... no one ever un-subbed from the mailing list.

There are other cool people out there but they don't know how to find you either, and you might have to collect them one-by-one... but actively collecting is better than waiting to happen upon them in the produce aisle, yes?

*Although people with children were certainly allowed; they just had to leave the sprogs at home. If you look only for the kid-free, you're missing out on a big chunk of cool people.
posted by pineapple at 2:22 PM on February 19, 2007 [5 favorites]

Political Organizations, especially with an important election coming up. If you be more of a Democrat, you'll be surprised at how liberal/progressive urban Alabamians are.

If you are not "traditionally" religious, a Unitarian congregation might contain very interesting folks.
posted by loosemouth at 5:12 PM on February 19, 2007

Find the buddhists.

You'll probably like them.
posted by zia at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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