Both of my kids are in middle school now, which means no more socializing with fellow moms and dads on the blacktop as we hustle our kids into the building or let them run amok on the playground after the final bell. Since this was my main resource for making new friends, I need a new plan. Especially because while I might already work from home, a lot of my friends have either upped their at-the-office hours, started new jobs, or went back to school for another degree now that their kids need them home less often, too. So they’re not around much anymore.
Most of my friendships were made from a combination of logistic ease—our kids ran in the same circles—and their ability to tolerate my quirks. This time around I’m going to have a try a little harder. I’m essentially going to have to start dating again (an activity I was garbage at the first time around), this time for friends instead of life partners. Though it’d be nice if at least some of those friends stuck around for the rest of my life NO PRESSURE, THOUGH. I searched for ways people in their 40s find companions, and here are the ones I think could work for me if I tweak them just a bit. And don’t screw them up too badly. Here are some of my ideas:
1. Place a want ad
The papers still do these, right? I’m thinking something along the lines of, “Kinda empty nester looking for fellow moms and dads to hang out with. No sex. Just coffee and commiseration over how confusing our kids’ new very expensive calculators are. Seriously, NO SEX.”
2. Hang out in book stores
Like attracts like, so I’ll just plant my weeping self by the Parenting Reference Books aisle in my local book store, holding a stack of titles like, WTF Is My Tweenager Thinking? and How to Make Friends and Influence People When You’ve Been Distracted By Child-Rearing for the Past 10+ Years. Someone’s bound to come along and offer me a tissue and their commiseration/undying friendship, right?
3. Create a book club
Since I’m at the book store anyway, I can hang up signs for people to join my book club. But I’d insist we actually talk about the book. And we can’t read stupid books. And I kind of want to focus on teen/young adult fiction. But it’d be too creepy to let actual teens in the group. And if anyone says the book wasn’t as good as the movie they’d have to go. But we can’t meet any night my kids have practice, which I won’t know until last-minute. Okay maybe this one isn’t for me.
4. Set up a MeetUp.com event
I bet the RSVPs to my All of a Sudden My Friends Are Too Busy to Hang Out and I Spend Most of My Time in a Room All By Myself Being Socially Awkward on the Internet While Trying Not to Be Obsessively Sad That My Kids Are Growing Up Too Fast but Maybe You’re in the Same Position So Let’s See If We Could Be Friends Meet-and-Greet would be STAGGERING.
5. Hit up coffee shops
I’ll stealthily join friendly looking groups of mom-friends who are meeting for coffee and laugh at all their jokes and hope they think I’ve always been one of the gang. I’ll become indispensable to the conversation, ensuring to leave a few loose ends, like, “Oh Karen, plug your cell here into my phone and I’ll text you the recipe.”
6. Take Up kickboxing
These classes seem all the rage these days, plus I can use “Oh, I’m just headed to/from kickboxing” as an excuse each time someone sees me in my usual outfit of faded leggings and an unseemly top. I could sidle up to different people each class and make jokes about how awful all that exercise is while they’re trying to kick a hanging sack mere inches from my face. What could possibly go wrong?
7. Take a group beginner’s cooking class
I could play dumb, pretending I don’t know how many tablespoons are in a cup or whatnot, if it means I could bond with a bunch of culinary disasters until they became my BFFs. Maybe I could act like I’m learning particularly quickly, and become something of a consultant to them, someone they automatically turn to. Someone they’d call at night to ask whether they’re supposed to stuff the roast chicken with lemons or olives. Also? I’m guessing these classes include eating and I am very, very good at that.
8. Welcome the neighbors
Okay so technically I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a decade and some might say there has been plenty of time to knock on doors to introduce myself, but better late than never, right? I could bring a warm, fresh loaf of banana bread or my famous butterscotch-infused cupcakes and invite them over for coffee sometime. The only way this one could backfire is if one of my neighbors happens to also be in my beginner’s cooking class, or has already met me but my terrible memory fails me and I look like a complete buttface when they look me in the eye and say, “Girl I know you because we’ve met like four times already at Amy’s holiday parties.”
9. Go to the dog park
I neither have a dog nor do I want a dog, but dog people seem to be way friendly. Plus when a rogue pup starts dry-humping my leg, it’s a great opener to meet its owner who will likely run over with apologies. It’d be so easy to guilt them into hanging out with me sometime after that! I’d just have to find a way to make sure whoever’s dog I borrow gets it to poop before we leave, because I am so not carrying a crinkly blue bag heavy with steaming excrement swinging from my wrist all the way back to their place nope nope nope.
10. Attend wine/beer tastings
Lots of bars around here have these as a way to help bored people with money to blow have a good excuse to get tipsy on a Monday night. Attendees are a mixed bag of girls-night-outers, moms-night-outers, dads-night-outers, and wannabe booze snobs, many of them coming with at least one friend in tow, so I know they are capable of making friends—it’s like a built-in reference check! Plus I hear I’m much more charming when I’m a few mini beers in and temporarily forget to never ever ever trust or open up to strangers (which I admit sometimes gets in the way of my ability to make new friends).
11. Stop RSVPing “no” just because I’m an old fart
I’m not saying I plan to say yes to every mass-emailed “party” invite that includes a hostess trying to sell me leggings, lipstick, spices, tote bags, or skin cream, but it wouldn’t hurt to stop gasping out loud at the atrocity of someone inviting me to join them and some friends for some celebration that begins after 8:30pm. Yes, that’s my usual Pajama O’Clock, but it wouldn’t kill me to throw on my own skin cream, lipstick, and fancy leggings to go whoop it up after dark someplace other than my own couch—there might be a pool of potential friends there trying to hide their yawns, too.
12. Rekindle old friendships
We all have those friends who faded into the sunset right about the time we couldn’t stop talking about the stretchiness of our cervical mucous or the consistency/color/scent of our new baby’s loose stools. Maybe they, too, now have a brood of their own, and can relate to the stuff that revolted them a decade ago. Or maybe they stayed childless by choice, and are ready to have us back into their lives if we pinky swear not to cry over our mojitos about whether or not we can afford to send our offspring to college in a few years. We once liked each other enough to brunch and shop and use one another as emergency contacts at work in our pre-life-partner days: so why not now? It’s worth a shot!
13. Get my kids involved
I am not above begging my kids to set me up on playdates with their new friends’ parents after they thoroughly suss them out. And if they refuse, I’ll just offer to stand where the principal stands each morning to welcome students at the front door of the middle school while holding a stack of business cards that say, “MOM” with my cell number and I’ll hand them out to any parents who walk their kids onto school grounds. That’s cool, right?