All my life, my friends have been built in. My younger sister is 15 months younger than me and she’s always been my wingman of mayhem. Then I grew up on a rural area where most of my family lived on the same street as me. Plus I went to a small school so the 5 other people in my grade were instant friends. Then I started playing sports and my teammates became my friends. Basically my whole life has come with friend making opportunities!
Except now that I’m almost a full-blown adult, I don’t have many friend making opportunities. And…I don’t really know how to make friends. Seriously, how does one make friends when you’re no longer in forced group situations where you have to bond with the people around you because you live with them in dorms, are on the same team, or get forced into horrible group projects together?
I have no answer to that question.
So I’ve been winging this “make new friends” thing since the new year.
It mostly happens when I go to the gym because that’s where I’m the most surrounded by people. Which can be awkward because everyone is sweaty, wearing headphones, and occasionally grunting out reps. It doesn’t help that I’m also usually sweaty and occasionally grunting out reps too.
It started with this one lady at the gym who sat next to me one day while I was stretching. She sat next to me to stretch too. We were both sweaty and looked worn out. So I smiled at her while I stretching my groin and she awkwardly smiled back. Before I could work up the courage to say anything, she got up and left. This is basically how all my almost friendships have started at the gym. I smile at someone. They smile back. They move on. I smile at someone else, they smile back, and then they move on too. I look like a serial killer with all of the people that I awkwardly smile at. Or maybe I look like a brown Gym Time Barbie.
Except I’m not a serial killer. Or a brown Gym Time Barbie. I’m just trying to make friends!
Sometimes I just jump right into talking to people.
When I see someone more than a few times and know that they’ve seen me, I wave at them and say hi. Then I shyly ask them how they’re doing. They say they’re doing ok and then they move on. So I wave and say hi to someone else. They usually move on too. Again, I feel like a serial killer awkwardly trying to pick their next victim. I also feel like my gym could totally hire me as a greeter with how great I’ve gotten at saying hi to people.
Except I’m not a serial killer! Or a gym greeter. I just want to make friends!
Sadly it’s hard to make friends when you’re either smiling weirdly at people or scowling because you’re doing one exercise or another that requires concentration. Smiling is hard when I’m trying lift heavy things and put them down. When I’m doing that I feel like I either look constipated or look ready to actually murder someone.
My resting bitch face game is strong.
All of this just makes making friends harder! Either I’m smiling or I’m scowling and either way I’m convinced that I look like a murderer.
But all of my trying hasn’t been in vain! I’ve managed to strike up a few conversations with one lady who sometimes works out at the same time as me. We usually end at the same time so we chat to each other while we get ready to leave. We laugh about how we struggled through another workout and how it feels good. We make jokes about being sweaty and sore. Then we go on our way. I never thought I would get so excited about consistent small talk with a person, but I am. It’s nice being able to chat with someone at the end of a brutal workout. It’s like having a sister in arms!
Except without the murdering that might come with being sisters in arms. I already feel like a serial killer with all the smiling at strangers that I’ve been doing in 2018.
All of this has taught me that despite my criminology background, I have a very weird concept of what a serial killer looks like. It’s just honestly how I feel with all the smiling and awkward waving at people that I’ve been doing. I’m now probably that weird girl at my gym that everyone is scared of because she always has that weird smile on her face and maybe her face is stuck like that. All of their parents warned them that it would happen and now I am proof that if you make a face then it might get stuck like that. Though if my face were to get stuck anyway, I would want it to get stuck in a friendly smile.
In conclusion: I am 31 years-old and I know how to do lots of things. I can meal prep for myself, do my own laundry, bake a cake as long as it comes from a box, and buy nice wedding gifts for friends. What I don’t know how to do is make friends. Instead I am just that awkward sweaty girl that weirdly smiles at people and randomly waves at others.
So…how do you make friends?