"It's as hard as dating." The truth about making new friends as an adult.

Listen to this story being read by Isabella Ross, here.

Four months ago, I moved from Victoria to Queensland with my partner and child. A sea change is something we always talked about trying, and after two years spent in lockdown, we thought what better time than now. Plus, my partner had been offered a medium-term contract, and I was wonderfully granted permission to work remotely for the duration. 

But what I didn’t fully grasp is how isolating it would be to live in a new town, when my partner works shift work and I work remotely. My biggest social interaction is on work video calls when I bore some poor soul over a dodgy internet connection about how my toddler ate a dog biscuit.

So far, I’ve learnt a lot from this move, like Queensland isn’t always sunny, or more importantly and perhaps more confronting, making friends as an adult is F**KING hard. Like it really does not come naturally to me. 

Lucky to have a close circle of friends from school and work, I’ve never had to proactively go out and make the effort to make friends as an adult starting from total scratch. 

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You see, I am by nature an introvert, but the paradox to that is I am also very social (when I know you and feel comfortable). Throw me into a town where I know no one (except the in-laws, who have been amazing), and it's safe to say I am going a teeny bit stir crazy with zero social life.

I walk past people having cocktails in the sun and my heart craves this social outing. What I would do to gossip over a delicious drink (with someone other than my partner, no offence) without having to contain my busy toddler to a highchair or stop her from dipping her chip into my hard earned drink. 

Driven to a state of boredom and loneliness and a dash of desperation, I have decided to be proactive in making my social life, well, social. And let me tell you this, as a shy introvert with anxiety... I feel like I am dating again. And it is HARD! I may even go as far to say making new friends as an adult may be as hard as dating. Bold thing to say, I know.

I started out like anyone dating (sorry, "friend finding") in the digital era by joining the apps! Yes, apps for finding friends. I used Peanut (like Tinder but for mums) where you literally swipe through other mums to find friends in the area. I used this so much at the start of my conquest for friendship that I got asked to be a VIP on the app. To be fair, I am not entirely sure what that means, but I must have been deemed a Very Isolated Parent to score the ranking. 


But like a real f*ck boy, I was all bravado, with false hopes of catch ups and meetings, only to never actually follow through. Not for want or intention of being mean, I just found the notion of meeting a total stranger to see if we could be friends really daunting and exhausting.

And so, I moved to joining and posting on local Facebook groups, probably not something you’d do when dating but it's somehow acceptable when scouting for friends. I also attended playgroups with my little one. (This wasn’t for me. "Oh, your kid likes to eat play dough, mine too, can we be friends?") So then, I asked my child’s daycare to introduce me on the daycare app. 

Image: Supplied. 


My other friendship scouting location is day-care drop off, which I equate to my days of trying to pick up at a bar. (Like scouting for a prospective mate, but mate as in friend this time.) I try to wear something cool and talk to people that I have marked as a potential friend. I also try to time drop off for busy periods so I can meet people on the way in. (Oh god, did I just admit that?)

From these efforts, and it really was effort, I have made two friends. I mean, we have only met once or twice so I am not sure if I can call them a friend yet. After all, you don’t call the guy you are seeing a boyfriend after two dates, do you?

Anyway, I digress, the two I have met up with are absolutely lovely and I’d love to be their friend. But in terms of the brain space and mental motivation, the nerves, the effort, the politics... it’s giving me real dating déjà vu and I’m not sure if I’m excited or nervous. Either way, my introverted, anxious little brain is overwhelmed with how to play this right.

When we text, I want to sound eager to catch up as I really do need some friends. But also, I don’t want to give out desperado vibes. I also want to be interesting and interested, but this is really bloody tricky when you spend half the time chasing around a toddler while they put sticks in their mouth or try to take another kid’s snack right out from their hand. Conversations just don’t flow that well when you are meeting a stranger and keeping one eye on your cyclone toddler. And again, I am reminded of dating, the stunted conversation, trying to find common interests. At least my actual dates were often helped with a side of liquid courage, rightly or wrongly so.


And to really bring this making-friends-as-an-adult-dating analogy full circle, I’ve also been ghosted by people. We messaged and then I never heard from them again. See, it is like dating! And trust me, I would know, I’ve earned my stripes in the dating realm... but that’s a tale for another time! 

But perhaps I am thinking too much about all this, which to be fair, wouldn’t be the first time. Or perhaps I’ve uncovered a hard truth of adulthood, that new friendships take effort and commitment and connection. And while, like dating, you can start the scout from the comfort of your couch swiping, you’ve really got to put yourself out there for the best friend level to be unlocked. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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