Months ago, my bookgroup read the memoir by Anne Patchett, Truth & Beauty.  One of the women in the group asked whether it was possible to make really close friends after being married and/or having kids.  I immediately blurted out “No.” And felt really sad as I said it.

I think it is much harder to find friends and make good friends as you get older.  Not impossible, but just not as easy.  People are very invested in their lives and just don’t have as much room or flexibility.  Kids and marriage/partnership can make meeting people easier simply because you’ve got other people bringing new people into your life.  But at the same time, while you may get to know more people, becoming close friends with them can be tricky, I think.  There are fewer of those intensely bonding moments one has in one’s twenties.  Or maybe it’s just me.

We moved away from a phenomenal group of friends in the city and surrounding area when we moved to where we live now.  Several overlapping circles of people, most of whom we had known ten or more years.  A bunch of us had kids around the same time which made it easy to continue our hanging out, just in a different forum and with less alcohol.  We still see most of them when we go back to the city or get together in other places.  I know them and they know me.

Anyway, when we moved here it took forever to feel like I was making connections with people.  Many of the people we’ve gotten to know are also originally from somewhere else, partly because in an academic environment where mr. jolt works you get a lot of transplants.  And initially, that’s all we knew because it was summertime (no pre-school) and it took me six months to find a job.

And, I’ve found, that the people who have lived here or nearby all their lives can be very insular.  Not unfriendly, but not inclusive.  For example, in my old job in the city we always snagged a new hire to show them where to grab lunch, chat them up, etc.   In my new job, nada, nothing, zip.  I think a month went by before someone suggested going to lunch, despite mega-hints I dropped (“So, where’s a good place to get lunch here?”).  I can understand being treated a bit like I was on probation (is she cool? can she be trusted?), but I was still surprised by the utter lack of hospitality. 

Amongst the other ex-pats I hang out with outside of work, we’ve decided that it’s just that people who have grown up around here have absolutely no concept of what it’s like to move somewhere and know nobody.  No family, zip.  For many, the only time they’ve left the area is to go to college 2-3 hours away.  Which is fine.  I think staying local can be good for family, etc., but goodness.   I knew people that grew up in NYC and never really went anywhere else who were still a lot more welcoming.  Perhaps because they were always meeting new people. 

Anyway, my sad little story of woe is not the point of this post, which is to say, once I felt comfortable enough and familiar enough to simply suggest going to lunch, etc.,  I thought it was funny the way there’s this sharing process, the slow unraveling of stories, with everyone being on their best behavior of sorts, trying to figure out if you liked one another enough to have them over to your house for dinner (mr. jolt likes to do dinner parties, as do I because you can have more lengthy conversations than can happen when you are hosting a bash & feel compelled to dash about making sure everyone is having a good time).

And then, occasionally, you find people you invite over to dinner and you’re not really sure if the evening will work, but you find yourself sharing all sorts of stories immediately, you click with them and chat away for hours.   It’s “friendship at first sight.”  We’ve been here almost three years and only in the last few months have I felt like I’ve had some community, people I could trust, people that in a crisis, I could call on.  It is an enormous comfort.

Some of that community has come from my bookgroup – which I started myself after hinting around about bookgroups to various people.  This lovely woman, C, was one of the very few people who met me for lunch on a regular basis, even before I started work (we were ‘set up’ by her former boss with whom I’d done an informational interview.  I still owe him a huge thank you for the introduction).  She and I always ended up talking about books so I finally asked if she’d like to start a bookgroup.  She was thrilled and had always wanted to be in one.  I asked 2-3 women I knew through mr. jolt’s work and overnight we had 8-10 people.  It took a bit, but now I treasure the non-book talk as much as the book talk.

If meeting other parents on the playground or folks at work and trying to decide whether you want to try and get to know them is like blind dating in that you don’t really know what you’re getting into, doing a bookgroup is like going to a series of parties where you can subtly check everyone out before getting together “on the side.”

I think there were several other semi-profound things I had to say, but I’m getting tired.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on making friends at different stages of life.

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