Think of some of the worst things in your life. Some of the things you hate. Going to the dentist? Your idiot boss? Rush hour traffic? The slimy film on pre-packaged cold cuts? All of these things are pretty bad–especially the latter. But there’s something plaguing your social life, too, and it’s not your subpar karaoke skills. It’s the realization that making friends as an adult is hard. In fact, I’d go as far to say that making friends as an adult is the worst.
Who knew it’d be this difficult? Back in the grade school days, friends were part of the package. You’d go to school, bring a kick-ass lunch (thanks, dad!), and see all your friends. Your friends would be waiting for you to arrive. Sure, they were your classmates, so they had to be there. But you knew they were excited to see you. You’d throw that quirky and totally-you lunch box by your desk and start chit-chatting it up with your buds. Life was good. You had a toast-and-cream-cheese sandwich awaiting your stomach come lunchtime, and you had some people to talk to about what’s in your lunch. Maybe, when the teacher wasn’t looking, you’d even barter snacks, because Jenny always had those brownies your mom never buys.
The same scene played out in middle school, except you had to choose a “clique.” You never thought of yourself believing in the barriers of cliques, yet you desperately wanted to be in the cool one. You wore too much eyeliner and somehow tricked the cool kids into thinking you were one of them.
Then came along high school. Your middle school clique suddenly seemed like a small fleck of glitter struggling to shine in a crazy cat lady’s craft closet. Your clique dispersed, and it was every man for himself yet again, each of you trying to find where you belonged. Was it the jocks? You did play sports, after all. But you were in AP classes, too. So does that make you a nerd? What about the party crowd? No, no, you definitely didn’t fit in with the party crowd. The stoners weren’t your style either. You settled with your fate as a sporty nerd and figured things could be worse. People knew who you were, so you never really had to introduce yourself. A small setting like high school is only a 1-gallon fish bowl.
Then, if you went to college (if you didn’t, you can skip this paragraph and head straight to the next one), you found yourself in a 30-gallon fish bowl. Struggling, yet again, to find people who shared similar interests. This time, you were really “finding yourself,” so you wanted to establish yourself once and for all. College friends are supposed to be the ones for life, right? So you did what any college kid does and made immediate friends with your roommate and fellow dorm-dwellers. Your friendship was solidified when your dorm-friend held your hair after a toga party that landed on the same day as your birthday and, you know, #shotssssss.
Friendships always start with a commonality, and you all lived in this weirdly sanitary hotel-like building that divided girls and boys on different floors. Your common ground was literally that you shared the same ground. Perhaps that’s where the phrase comes from?
The End As We Know It
And then you got out of college. And this is where the sinking realization really hits you: “I have no idea how to meet people.” Sure, you have a couple friends that have lasted since college, maybe even high school, but post-graduation, everyone lives in different places. People get job offers across the country; people join the army and get sent across the world; people pack up and move to a random city with no plan. People scatter. And then all that work–the snack bartering and hair holding–was erased as if none of it ever mattered.
Where do adults make adult friends? Some might say they met their friends at work. Work. Since when does work control our lives so much that it’s the only place we can find real human connection? Meeting people at work is the worst because you spend months, sometimes years, tip-toeing around the subject that you maybe want to hang out but don’t want to make the first move. What if he/she is a narc? What if he/she doesn’t think happy hour starts at 4 p.m. like you do? Crossing that work-friend boundary is almost not worth it when you think about the implications. However, you also flip-flop back-and-forth, thinking that being fired from your job wouldn’t be the worst, mostly because you hate it.
But what about non-work friends? Where do you find them? Do you join a gym or barre class and start chatting it up with the people that go on the same days as you? Do you pretend to know things about lats and squats and macros and quinoa? You can’t talk about your less-than-healthy extracurricular activities while you’re at the gym actively trying to erase them.
Do you find adult friends at the grocery store? Perhaps in the Pasta aisle or the Confections section, because let’s be honest, adults can’t eat salad all the time like they wish they did. Do you strike up conversation next to the sugar display, warning your friend-to-be about the dangers of Equal, suggesting Splenda instead? Do you casually slip in the fact that you like wine with your dessert? Do you oh-so nonchalantly ask if maybe your sugar friend wants to come over for wine on Wednesday and divulge all her secrets?
Making friends as an adult is very uncomfortable, especially when adults already have their adult friend groups. The cliques of middle school creep back for vengeance, just this time with receding hairlines and crows feet. You try to invite yourself to someone’s barbecue, and they get all, “Who are you and why are you petting my baby?” Ugh, talk about non-inclusive.
Hope for the Future
But there’s hope. You can do what I did, for example. You can cash in on all the hard work someone else put into making friends as an adult. All of my current friends (besides my scattered college friends that I actually earned) are secondhand friends. I took them from other people like my family and my boyfriend. It’s not the most revered route, but at least I don’t have to pretend to know what lats are. And if that’s not a win, well then I don’t know what is. Care to barter that bag of Doritos sitting in your pantry?