Confession: I have, at various points in my life, googled How to Make Friends in Los Angeles.
By ‘at various points in my life,’ I mean ‘several times in the last few months.’ None of this searches have really been very fruitful.
Join a club! Take a class! Hang out at your local park! Join the gym! Be patient! Get a hobby!
I could tell you about the times I’ve tried each of these things.
How about the time I went to French club at my local Starbucks. I was the only female there, and the only one below 35. One man was about 60, and spoke barely any French, just English with a French accent. He confused Oui and Je suis. The second guy spoke Québecois, but only when he did speak, which was rarely, and the moderator of the group owned a local French school, and spent most of the time showing us the Facebook page for his school, and reminding us to Facebook friend him when we got home. I stayed for thirty minutes and excused myself as soon as it was polite. 0 for 1.
I joined a gym. A worthwhile endeavor for the sake of my love handles and my thighs and my dream of someday (never?) running a marathon. But as a place to make friends? Not really. Weirdly, I’m not really at my best when I’m gasping for breath, my hair is curling into trellis plant tendrils around my face, held into place by a sheen of moisture, induced by the freakishly-warm room (seriously 24 Hour Fitness, sort out the a/c.) 0 for 2.
Sometimes I go for walks in my local park. Sometimes I go running there (see point #2.) But I like to live my life by the golden rule, and so I think that accosting a total stranger in the hopes of starting a conversation that will blossom into a meaningful friendship - where we’ll meet for yoga or spinning class on Saturday mornings, then pop to Starbucks for something pretentious with soy, before working up to weekend trips away together to Vegas - would actually be kind of weird.
There’s always this weird process when making friends in any situation outside of high school or your office. It can be difficult in scenarios where you have to make your own fun. You meet someone, maybe in line at a coffee shop, or in a class you have together once a week. You chat, maybe swap a compliment or two,
"That’s a great iPhone case!"
"Thanks! I like yours too. Where did you get it?"
"Oh thanks, I just got it on Amazon. Only $9!"
and then there’s this real awkward part where one person has to make the first move by asking for the other person’s number or last name so they can find each other on Facebook. This is the part that can make you look stalkery and weird.
The normal progression of friendships that will turn out to be real and important is slow, and usually rooted in things you have in common together for a period of time. With some of my closest graduate school friends, our friendship didn’t really progress from greetings in class until we were thrust together on a school night out. I wonder how long it would have taken us to get over our fear of being the weird clingy one if we didn’t have a school-organised night of debauchery to help us lose our inhibitions around each other?
Which is why it’s so hard to make friends now, especially in this huge, crazy city, where it can take you an hour to drive four miles, and your area code and closest freeway has a damning effect on the number of social activities you can partake in. It’s hard to get into situations where familiarity can develop.
I’ve tried a lot of things - Spanish classes, yoga class at Lululemon, meetup.com (you have no idea how many groups exist for people to discuss the Law of Attraction.) Nothing has stuck yet. In part because I think I’m not really sure about how to make the leap between random occasional acquaintance and tentative-maybe-BFF.
Being in LA was particularly hard for the first few months, because I didn’t have a car, and spent up to five hours a day on public transport. When I got my license and my car stopped breaking down every time I drove it, I was much happier, and convinced my renewed vigor for life and Los Angeles would lead to making friends. It hasn’t really, yet. The girls I communicate with everyday live in Chicago, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Cork, Dublin. My friends at work are in Orange County, a lifetime away on the weekends, and are sadly unavailable for froyo and spin class in Culver City on Saturdays. I’m not sure why my friendship fantasies always involve spinning classes, but they do. But I’m more than ever grateful for having made such great girlfriends, and for being able to communicate with them across oceans and timezones and various modes of communication. I’ve always been grateful for my girls.
I’ll keep trying. I will keep talking to people at Zumba class, or Spanish class, and keep forcing myself to go to events at meetup.com, even though the thought of it makes me want to gouge out my eyes. In the meantime, if you like feminism, fashion, and froyo and you live in my area code, hit me up. I’m cool.