At a recent book convention, Mindy Kaling talked about how hard it is to find new friends as a grownup and she is right. Children and young adults make new friends in school, in sports or dance classes, and summer camps. But establishing new adult friendships is not easy. I personally have been trying for years.
The American Sociological Review published a study in 2006 that concluded that everyone’s circle of friends (real ones, not Facebook acquaintances or LinkedIn connections) is shrinking. They reported that the average American has only two close friends, and that 25 percent of Americans have no friend in whom they regularly confide.
Friends from school and childhood tend to move away. Even if within geographically accessible areas, people’s lives spin in different directions and careers, family and finances often become obstacles for combatting calendaring issues. Money really does become an issue in both directions when one makes way less or more than the others. It becomes hard to propose outings and activities, much less invite people over, when the economic gulf is wide. Notice Taylor Swift’s friends all seem to have plenty of money too!
So, where do adults make friends? There are workplace friendships, but see how long they last once the people no longer work together; the distance between outings tends to grow. There are possible friends established through one’s children or pups at parks, parties and kids’ activities.
As Mindy Kaling commented, “When you are in L.A., the only women you meet are at your spin class.” She is right that the gym or yoga class can become a place to catch up with people and chat, maybe even grabbing coffee afterwards, but workout locales do not often lend themself to outings not tied to the one thing that brought the people together. Stop going to the class, and the “friendship” is likely to stop eventually too (Where are the people I used to play tennis with or gab with at yoga?)
Meet Ups and things like Girlfriend Circles are a great way to fill a calendar, try new restaurants, read new authors at a book club, or other options. I personally like the two book clubs I go to, and enjoy catching up with and grabbing a bite with the members monthly. However, with busy lives and not much else in common, any other attempts to make plans have often been postponed and rescheduled into oblivion.
I have a husband, children and a dog, all of whom serve as surrogate friends at times. But, juggling schedules with the friends who still live within an hour’s drive is important mentally. We need that connection and distance from our day-to-day lives.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has written a lot about the difficulty of making friends. She suggests that people join or form a group that at least have one common interest – e.g., the yoga class, a book group and other things that at least give one exposure to someone new. The key thing is to keep trying, do not be afraid to seek people out (and possibly get rejected), and make the effort to keep the friendship going. Some people never initiate outings, but welcome the invitation; so keep inviting.
Kaling confided to fans at the event, “The only thing I want to do in the next five years is make a new good friend.” I can relate. As we get older, it gets hard to find good friends with are just right for where your life is at are heading and, for Mindy Kaling, being in the public eye does not help.
By Dyanne Weiss
New York Daily News: Mindy Kaling talks B.J. Novak book project, female friendships at Bookcon
American Sociological Association: Americans’ Circle of Friends Is Shrinking
Fast Company: How To Make New Friends As An Adult
Rubin, Gretchen; The Happiness Project; HarperCollins Publishers; 2011