Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where to Meet Single Friends

Whether you're single or not, friends are an indispensable, though often undervalued, resource in life. A good friend wears many hats--activity partner, entertainer, conversationalist, teacher, cheerleader, counselor, moral support, and, hopefully not too frequently, emergency rescue worker. Like relationships, friendships are both a solace from the harsher edges of the world and an opportunity to grow.

The "singletude" philosophy is that friends are an essential ingredient in life, no matter your marital status. They're a natural life sweetener, if you will. If you're in a relationship, a network of strong friendships prevents you from being suffocated in the cocoon of your nuclear family and provides respite from and perspective on your home life. If you're single, without a spouse or kids to help meet the relational needs we all have, friends are even more important to your emotional well-being.

When you're young, friendships spring up overnight. In the communal environment of the university dorm, you can attract them as easily as cold germs but with much happier consequences! That's because throughout the college years and during your first job, a lot of your peers are both single and transitioning to a new stage in life, so they're especially open to making friends on the journey. However, as you progress into your mid-twenties and beyond, single friends move away or get married and have kids, and whether or not it's the healthiest outcome for you or your friends, many of them become absorbed in their families to the exclusion of old acquaintances.

If you find yourself in this situation, chances are you've taken some lonely bike rides through the park or eaten some meals at a table for one pondering where you could meet new friends. Preferably romantically unattached friends who would have time to devote to the friendship, share your interests and concerns as a single, and not want to give you a play-by-play of Little Suzie's very first web search on her brand new Quad-Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro.

If most of your friends are married, most of their friends are also couples. And unless you work in a profession that draws young, single people, most of your coworkers are married or otherwise coupled, too. The traditional hunting grounds for singles, like bars, clubs, and Yahoo Personals, are for Cupid's arrows only; try to pick up a "friend" here, and he or she will hear "benefits" automatically attached. There's no matchmaking service for singles who want to be matched with friends.

Sometimes you wish you could take a page from Little Suzie and just order a customizable friend--a single-processor unit, please. :) But before you resign yourself to being your own best friend, here are some ways to meet and greet potential pals that might surprise you:

1. Scoop Some Soup

You've probably heard that volunteering is a great way to meet dates. It is. But it's also a great way to meet friends. Whether you're going door to door campaigning for your favorite politician, serving up dinner in a soup kitchen, or manning the lines at a crisis center, you'll be surrounded by people who care about the same things you do. Since volunteers tend to be generous, kind-hearted types, you can trust that your fellow soup scoopers have qualities that will also make them good friends. And even if you don't find a new kindred spirit, you'll have spent your time contributing to a good cause.

If you'd like to get involved in volunteering with other singles, Single Volunteers, Inc. has chapters in 19 states plus Canada and Costa Rica.

2. Get Religion

If you're the churchgoing type, look into activities for singles at your parish, congregation, synagogue, or other spiritual home base. Lots of churches sponsor Bible studies, retreats, volunteer groups, and other organizations just for twenty- and thirtysomethings. Don't be afraid to visit several churches until you find one that has the kind of social environment you'll feel at home in.

If organized religion isn't your thing, there's no time like the present to explore other forms of spirituality. Sign up for a yoga class, join a discussion group on the teachings of Kabbalah, attend a summer solstice celebration. Don't worry if you're an atheist or agnostic. There are communities for you, too. The Unitarian Universalist Church, for instance, is a gathering place for people of all backgrounds and faiths who welcome diversity and have a humanistic outlook.

Whatever your spiritual leanings, practicing them in a group setting will introduce you to other people who share your values and encourage you to get better acquainted. And in the process, you may awaken a whole new side of yourself and crystallize what you believe.

3. Read the Paper

After the Business section, many papers keep a section you probably skip over in your eagerness to get to Sports: the Entertainment or Life & Style section. You'll have to look the other way to avoid enlargements of Nicole Richie's ribs, but between Liz Smith's snark, models walking around in what might be awnings or shag carpets, and funnies that, well, aren't, you may find a calendar of events in your vicinity. This calendar will list local concerts, theatrical performances, art show openings, film screenings, and even the occasional poetry reading. Some of these events will include receptions, lectures, workshops, and discussion groups, which are all venues for connecting with people over that natural conversation starter, a work of bad art.

Seriously, these events are guaranteed to attract people who share your interest in 14th-century French tapestry or the double Eb hypolaxodochrian snood. And they're a lot lower pressure than events intended for singles, where everyone is supposed to latch onto a fellow lover of Van Gogh or Byron by the end of the night or risk bad reviews on your art of flirtation. As with volunteer and spiritual activities, even if you don't exchange numbers with your new best friend, you'll have spent an evening entertained by the astonishing lack of genius all around you.

4. Surf the Web

You knew it was coming. This is a blog, address P.I. (Post ID) 4802653972541191741, Blogspot, World Wide Web. It would be hypocritical for Singletude to belittle the 'Net as a means of widening your social circle. We all know the downfalls of the online medium--the safety issues, the false personas, the lack of real-world chemistry. Nevertheless, the Internet remains the best place to meet people on paths that wouldn't cross your own except by some miracle. Besides, the aforementioned pitfalls of online dating are much less likely to apply when platonic friendship is the goal.

The web is rife with social networking sites, chat rooms, message boards, and other modes of communication. Many people know their way around the web like they know their local mall, but newbies can get overwhelmed faster than pop-up ads can pop. If you're new to surfing, look for online communities with broad appeal like, iVillage, and MSN Groups, which host legions of message boards and mailing lists catering to a full spectrum of interests and tastes. Whether you're a connoisseur of chocolate-covered slugs (yes, the little green-filled kind) or an authority on wave-particle duality, there's a message board where others like you are happily chatting away about Newton and Einstein and how to best dip the antennae to ensure full coverage.

Believe it or not, there are message boards and chat rooms for singles, too. In fact, there are probably more singles communities online than in your nearest metropolitan region. Be aware, though, that these boards and chats are most often geared toward dating, and even if you're outspoken about seeking friends only, you may still be bombarded by messages and IMs from those whose interests are more than platonic. One such board where that is not the case is the free-spirited Quirkyalone, a community of singles who aren't about to change their solitary status anytime soon.

Then there are the social networking sites, which allow you to post a profile and contact other members with similar interests. In the last few years, they've exploded onto the web scene, with MySpace and Facebook leading the pack. Relative old-timers Friendster and Livejournal (which is primarily for blogging but also includes a social networking aspect) have been dethroned as the flavor du jour but are still hanging in there, while newcomers like Bebo, Xanga, and Gather are knocking at the gates. Social networking sites used to be most popular among the 25 and under age group, but as more of them specialize in niche interests, their appeal to older singles is increasing. This Wikipedia list is a reference point for more than 50 social networking sites and the special interests they serve.

As with message boards and chat rooms, if you're single on a social networking site, it's commonly assumed that you're looking for love. If possible, specify that you're seeking friends only and don't respond to members of the opposite sex (or the same sex if that's your orientation) who have checked off "dating" or "relationships" even if they don't initially flirt or ask you out; if they're searching for romance, they'll most likely try to take your friendly encounters to the next level sooner or later. However, if you also have your eyes peeled for relationship material, create a separate profile for dating. This will make it easier to maintain the boundary between budding friendships and blossoming romance.

Finally, there are plenty of offline organizations that advertise or recruit members online. A search for a keyword that interests you like "hiking," "knitting," or "writing" along with "groups" and the name of your city may return home pages of numerous clubs devoted to your hobby as well as retailers and nonprofits that host activities for enthusiasts. Chief among these is the massive, which exists solely to facilitate outings built around common interests. Unlike members of message boards, chat rooms, and social networking sites, participants at Meetup and similar web sites live near you and are actively interested in face-to-face contact, so you'll have a better chance of cultivating friendships.

A word of caution: If your primary interest is friendship, avoid, Yahoo Personals, American Singles, and those other dating sites like a bad pick-up line. Although most of them let you identify yourself as seeking "friends" or "activity partners" only, these are still dating sites, and the majority are there to date. Thus, a lot of the singles you approach about platonic friendship may not be interested or, worse, will assume you want to be "friends first" in preparation for a relationship. And you can bet that many of the singles who approach you are operating on the same assumption. Since there are so many sites whose primary purpose isn't dating, you should exhaust their resources before you consider a dating site.

So now that you know where to meet single friends, the question becomes how to meet them. It's easy enough to go where singles are, but how do you transition a casual acquaintance to a friendship? Singletude's next post will attempt to answer that without subjecting you to the traumas of small talk, endless emails, or playdates for your kids.

Where have you had luck meeting friends? If you've tried any of the suggestions here, what was your experience with these methods? Do you have any other suggestions for singles seeking new friendships?

Fun Link of the Day


Wizardry said...

One of the best places I can think of is concerts. Pick your music and go listen; you can meet some of the most amazing people in mosh pits.

I'm sorry I can't leave a comment of the length you deserve, but my life has been completely enveloped in misery as of late. I'll be back though; I just need some time to lament by the moonlight over love lost.

P.S. But do know, my advice on friends need not be listened to because none of my friends really care about me. We're all superficial and I am left alone, alone, alone wondering why, what did I do to invoke this wrath upon myself? Is there no meaning left in this world? No romance left to the couples no loyalty among friends? Is there nothing left to live for? This feeling of 'wrong' of everything you do need be questioned, by yourself and others because of its unmeaning. Forbade me not from such conjecture! I wish only to dream as I will; if only to live life in dreams, and never to venture outside. I wish only to sleep my life away, and to dream during the while, although not to dream might be well enough, for while dreams can be the cradle of hope, they are more often than not the coffin of despair. Woe foreboding writhing death! Freedom comes after such ends are achieved; relinquish thine will to the unfaltering future to which we are all enslaved- either take comfort in such structure or struggle against it, but know there is no escape. FREEDOM DOES NOT EXIST- FOR THIS PESSIMIST.

Clever Elsie said...

I'll second the nomination for concerts, both the raging mosh pit kind and the cozy coffeehouse variety. That's a great suggestion!

I'm sorry that you're going through a rough time. :( Although I don't know the circumstances, it's obvious that you're upset. The deterioration of a friendship or relationship you've invested yourself in can leave anyone doubting the point of trying again. And yet the only other alternative is to cut ourselves off from the world, and by doing that, we miss out on some of life's best experiences.

If your friendship is beyond repair, you need to mourn for it, as you're doing now. You probably won't feel like making a new friend for awhile, and that's okay. Eventually, you may be ready to try again, but for now, give yourself time to heal.

When you've recently been hurt, it can seem like everyone is selfish, uncaring, and cruel. But I know there are people out there who are genuinely seeking friends, appreciate the others in their lives, and actively want to give of their time and attention to build meaningful relationships. I know that because I have friends like that. They won't appear overnight and they can't be found everywhere, but friends who will be worthy of and return the affection you invest in them ARE out there, waiting to be found.

Think of it this way: Before you settle on a career, you'll try out different jobs. Before you choose a long-term partner, you'll go on lots of dates. And before you find some really good friends, you'll hang out with a lot of duds. But from these experiences, we learn more about who we are and what we're looking for, and the next time around, we apply what we learned.

That said, don't be afraid to have a good cry about it. Losses hurt, and we all need time to grieve them.