Can You Make New Friends after 30?
Updated at the bottom
I was reading a post on Cafemom yesterday about the inability to make friends after 30, right as I’m leaving for the annual BlogHer conference which is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of sleepaway camp for adults. We’re even going to steal someone’s bra and run it up the flag pole Friday morning. I bet you $10 that it will be Martha Stewart’s undergarments.
Meeting people at the conference is like shooting fish in a barrel as long as you are willing to dive into conversations with strangers. Last year, I plopped myself down at a lunch table for book bloggers and walked away with 15 book recommendations and a new blog to read. It’s also very easy to go there and have the whole outing feel like that game show staple where you have to catch dollar bills blowing through the air while you’re in a glass box (come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about). It’s people, people everywhere and not a friend to be made. And that can be INCREDIBLY lonely. There is really nothing lonelier than being amongst 4500 people and feeling like you’re not connecting with any of them.
I had a large outpouring of new friendships this past spring; a Friendnaissance, if you will. Some of the new friends are neighbours, some have kids who are in the same activities as my kids, some are the parents of the twins’ friends, and some are random people I’ve met from volunteering or activities. Three or four have entered daily phone call/just drop by status. The Friendnaissance was as surprising as seeing Brunelleschi’s Baptistery doors on the heels of the Middle Ages. The thirties can bring a bit of a new friend drought, and even longstanding friendships can get weedy as attention is split in multiple directions.
During my twenties, most of the people I met were on the same tier: new job/maybe dating someone. Now, in my late thirties, most of the people around me are on different, non-matching tiers. I have newly married friends and newly divorced friends and long married friends and single friends. I have some with kids and some without kids and all the kids are different ages. I have some who are working and others who are not and still others who work bizarre hours in the house tucked around their children’s routine. It’s harder to make friends because people are busy, and it’s harder to keep friends because schedules don’t always mesh when people are in different life stages. My newly married, no kids friends want to go out at night. My newly divorced, older kid friends want to meet for lunch. My long married, not working, new baby friends want a playdate in the middle of the day.
It’s not just that the opportunities to meet people dwindle when you’re in your thirties; it’s just hard to make something stick that works equally well for both people. I lost a few friendships because our kids were at drastically different stages of life and our schedules didn’t mesh, and a few others who ceased to put out an effort around the same I phoned it in too, and the friendship drifted away.
So the Friendnaissance was surprising and much appreciated; it was like getting a fantastic new outfit after feeling a little dumpy for a few months. Getting a new friend made me feel good about myself, which probably made me more enticing to be around, which netted me more friends. And now there are all these people around. And there are all of you.
I’ve said before that a dearth of friends in childhood has made me cling to people much in the same way our grandparent’s generation clung to money after coming through the Great Depression.
I never felt as if I had enough friends.
It’s that feeling you get when you sit down to eat, fully expecting to be satiated by the end of the meal, especially when you see the amount of food at your disposal. But you walk away from the table with this gnawing hunger still present. And what is it? A failure of my own body to not recognize that there is food in my stomach? A true need unfulfilled? How do you know if it’s something wrong with you or something truly missing?
The same could be said for my heart. I had friends and I obviously connected with people and loved many. I’ve never consciously known what was missing or looked for it (or, more accurately, known how to look for it). It was always this small emptiness, a tiny gap of air in the heart. In my mind, I imagined everyone I love squeezed into atriums and ventricles, bodies locked against each other as I carried them inside my chest. And somewhere, free-floating through that mass of love, a tiny space. A pocket of emptiness. And absence searching for a presence.
I’m still trying to make myself understand that I don’t need to amass an army of friends; we’re not fighting an enemy. We’re just trying to make each other’s lives a little easier. And you can do that with one other person or you can do it with ten other people, and the number doesn’t matter. I’m trying to remember that friendships have an ebb and flow, and sometimes they drift away like dandelion fuzz. That everyone who steps into your life serves some purpose whether it is to get you through a moment in time or a lot of moments in time.
I’m just appreciative of my friends; the ones that came before 30 and the ones that have come after, like all of you.
Are you finding it easier, harder, or the same to make friends later in life?
Blanche brings up a fantastic idea. Anyone in Richmond, VA or have friends in Richmond, VA you can connect with her? Anyone else looking to meet people? Throw out the nearest big city to you in the comment section below and please follow someone back to their blog and connect with them (or connect them with a friend) if you live near them.