I used to be the life of the party and hoarded friends like wine corks. I don’t know when or why I acquiesced on solitude, but today I prefer HBO and my own company. And it was long before a pandemic afforded me the excuse for social exile. As I age, I also find myself more disagreeable. I sometimes want to socialize, but on my terms.
I made my teen best friend in seconds when we were both walking our dogs after school. It was as seamless then as clicking “add friend” on social media is today. Except we had real world depth, and would go on to create years of delinquent memories. When I see someone walking a dog today, I only talk to the dog.
Making new friends as an adult is like navigating a Costco by finger in the dark. Most of us don’t even know where to start. For males, it’s now a crisis and hits our mental health and wellbeing hard. Loneliness is correlated with longevity. It’s a risk factor for health problems such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Men often give up relationships in lieu of financial pursuits. Research suggests that focusing on the accumulation of wealth and material goods results in less overall happiness and satisfaction in relationships. Color me obvious.
But relationships with other people have more of an impact on our physical health and longevity than do our genes. Science says so. (Mineo, 2017, Vedantam, 2018). A life of satisfying relationships can extend longevity by up to 22 percent. Furthermore, research supports loneliness as a risk factor comparable to smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Party of one, drinks for two.
These are the culprits for our aversion to making new friends and manly kumbaya:
- Low trust
- Lack of time
- Fear of rejection
- And being too picky
One study found that the most important factors were “low trust,” followed by “lack of time” and “introversion.” There are also the selfish “variants of concern” that exacerbate male loneliness. Whenever we’re reemerging from our man sheds, a new variant provides another excuse to turtle and hunker. With no discernible pandemic end, men have ditched their homies to be homey.
The next time someone asks you for directions, give them directions to your house.
“See you in 20-minutes, new best friend.”
The upside of being a writer is that I can accrue “friends” I’ll never know or meet, but they’re out there … somewhere. Publishing is like socially extending myself without the teeth, handshakes, and cover charges.
Sometimes I’ll meet a fellow man and think he’d be cool to hang-out with. But how do you swoon another grown man without getting scissor kicked? Such advances could be misconstrued as sociopathic. I too question the motives of affable men. Are they trying to sell me a timeshare or skincare regimen? What if they’re a realtor, or worse: a “life coach?”
I’ve recently made male friends, but they don’t feel like my buddies of yore. They either drink too much or not enough; their big houses make me question my own career endeavor; they’re breeders with kids; or I find reasons not to like them. Plus, it’s easier to spend hours on social media seeking validation from pseudo friends.
ME: “’Anyways’ isn’t a word. I think you meant ‘anyway.’”
THERAPIST: ANYWAY, we were discussing your difficulty in making new friends.”
The #1 facet keeping adults in general from making new friends is … effort. Otherwise, it’s just two people saying “we should hang-out sometime” repeatedly until one of you dies. In absence of visiting a Man Park, there are other ways to leverage your social aptitude to make friends.
HOW TO MAKE MAN MATES:
Effort + Momentum = A New Friend
- Making friends as an adult requires the same key facet as making friends as a child: Find something in common and go from there. “I see you’ve created a tiny human. I too have done this.” Or “Nice cobra tattoo. Check out my Tinkerbell.” Despite the awkwardness, be the one to reach out and suggest an activity – whether inviting coworkers to an outdoor happy hour or hitting Top Golf with high school or college pals.
- Another easy way to make more friends as a man is to reconnect with old friends. They know you best after all. There’s nothing like reconnecting with old friends with whom you share life legacy, and who knew you used to drink Natty Light in your Camaro mullet.
- In absence of a cache of former friends, you can …*shudder*… make new ones. Maybe it’s the guy who spot you at the gym on bench press, a coworker, a church men’s group, or a Pikachu Expedition Club. Consider joining social media groups for areas of interest. The gym is where I met many friends until Covid, and switching to spin biking in place at home to Netflix.
- Join social media groups related to your hobbies or areas of interest. I recently joined online hydrofoil, SUP, and NorCal snowshoeing groups to join outings. I haven’t attended any yet, but everything starts with intent, all while reminding myself that: Effort – Momentum = No New Friends.
- And if your life partner is your only friend, invite another couple out for a hike or over for dinner. Just don’t be the fourth wheel.
What I’ve learned in talking to other men, is that once I open the ‘vulnerability kimono’ and mention how tough it is to befriend other guys, they universally agree. In fact, I’ve yet to encounter another man who doesn’t struggle with it. It’s a wonder I haven’t started a dude’s friendship bracelet kiosk in the mall.
If you need another man friend, I’ll be the Chandler to your Joey. But I’m not joining your MLM or football pool.