If You Can’t Meet ‘Em, Join ‘Em

If you’re looking to meet new people, the most common advice you’re likely to receive is to “join”. Sign up for mixers! Go to a meetup! Enroll in a class! Before I knew any better, I doled out said advice on this blog.

Now I know better.

It’s not that joining is a bad idea, but the advice is misleading. It’s only half the story. A more appropriate suggestion would be to “Join a [insert activity here].” Because you can’t sign up for just anything. At least not if you want to meet people quickly. Some activities don’t lend themselves to interaction. Take my Cardio Hip Hop class. I relished the hour I spent dancing and sweating, but the class consisted of showing up, learning a routine, and leaving. There was no partner boogie or getting-to-know-you games. To meet someone I’d have to do the work myself, and avoiding that work is precisely why I signed up in the first place.

If I’m paying to join something with the primary goal of meeting people, I want someone else to do the introduction legwork. So, no. Cardio Hip Hop is not the perfect option for meeting new people. Nor is yoga.

You know what is? Improv.

Yup, that’s right. I’m taking an improv class. I’m pretty embarrassed to share this since I’m not a performer. I can come up with a witty one-liner…sometimes…but when it comes to creating and inhabiting another character? Not really my thing. And surprise! I’m not very good at it. Whatever. I get to play make believe for 2.5 hours and it’s the perfect forum to make new friends because I’m forced to open up, embrace the ensemble, and get to know my classmates.

Never in a million years would I have taken an improv class if I wasn’t dedicated to this search. Just thinking about it makes me awkward. But after two people said I had to try it, I did. Often it’s not so much about signing up for what you love as it is joining that which you’re willing to try and will force you to interact with other human beings.

Another common “joining” suggestion is religious groups. I’m Jewish, but I’m about as unreligious as it gets. I’m nervous that my presence at a Jewish mixer would be suspect. Like that guy Hugh Grant in that movie whose name is totally escaping me now (anyone? Bueller?)  About a Boy when he joins a single parents support group to meet hot moms, even though he has no kids. I mean, I am Jewish, so I wouldn’t be lying, but is there a code of honor that says showing up solely to meet new people is wrong? Shouldn’t I care about the subject matter?

So yeah, joining’s great in theory. In practice, it’s complicated. You’ve got to be picky about where you allocate your precious time if making new friends fast is the end goal.

Any activity suggestions for the aspiring friender? An unexpected-but-awesome tip that came my way lately is Roller Derby. Now that would be badass.


Filed under The Search

45 responses to “If You Can’t Meet ‘Em, Join ‘Em

  1. I can’t think of improv without that Office episode coming to mind; the one where Michael ‘kills’ everyone in his improv group…What exactly goes down in an improv group anyway? I imagine it all to be endless cycle of those cringe-worthy ice breakers that RAs always subject incoming freshman to.

    • Lisa Z

      That show is so funny, I love it. I can’t stop laughing. I am glad this was the first comment.

    • Hahaha. It’s not awkward ice-breaking actually, I was nervous about that same thing but it’s much less cringe-inducing. Just random different games and exercises. The teacher is fabulous which helps. But basically it’s playtime for adults. My kind of fun…

  2. Jen

    I believe the film that you’re thinking about is “about a boy”.. unless there’s another one?

  3. Karen A.

    Oh My, Roller Derby! – can we pick something with a lower probability of resulting in broken bones? 🙂

    I think the key is selecting activities that require some communication among the participants to be successful, and you have offered a number of great ideas on this blog, such as the cooking class, the pizza party and now improv. My sister and her husband loved the community softball league they played in.

  4. When I quit smoking 5+ years ago (go ahead, applaud; I can wait……..Thanks!), I decided that I would do something every day that I had never done before. It could be small, like drinking warm milk (gross!), medium like going to the movies alone (ruled!), or big, like taking trapeze lessons (scary!). Let me tell you – that experiment was the best thing I ever did. Not only did it take my mind off of smoking – planning out a bunch of things you’ve never done takes time and research – but I met two girls who remain good friends to this day. Incidentally, it also led me to a solo weekend trip, which led me to reuniting with my then-ex, which ultimately led me to marrying him. My point? If you test your boundaries, you will be richly rewarded! (sounds like a fortune cookie!)

    • Lisa Z

      I like the last quote and agree with it. I find it very true. Rachel, you may become an actress or director or playwright.

  5. You are brave!!! I would absolutely be immobilized with terror. Good for you.

    • Thanks. I’m not so brave… I just signed up so I would HAVE to go (it’s not cheap!) The good thing is it’s the basic basic never-done-any-improv before class, so we’re all in the same “what are we doing here?” boat.

  6. Ana

    Hugh Grant in About a Boy?
    Suggestions: any sports league or groups(even running or biking groups if you’re uncoordinated like me) will definitely lead to camraderie and possibly after-game celebrations or activities. My husband met a lot of friends through his ultimate frisbee pick-up games—as they got to know each other, they started planning post-game dinners. A friend of mine joined a ladies’ poker group. Another is doing a community amateur chorus. Of course the ubiquitous book club or knitting group.
    A neighborhood association or volunteering for pretty much anything that involves interacting with other volunteers (not stuffing envelopes, walking dogs, or making phone calls on your own).
    Hmmm. I’ve got good ideas, I should do these things 🙂

    btw…you are so brave for doing the improv group. scary!

  7. Michele

    Oh wow…roller derby?! That would be super badass but I am afraid to try. My sister spiral fractured her ankle that way!

    Have you tried a hands on cooking class?

  8. Can I just say that I’m super impressed with you? Improv is intimidating to me. Go Rachel!

    • It was intimidating to me too. Until I realized that it’s everyone in the class’s first time. (I still think I’m bad, but whatevs. It’s fun.)

      • Whenever I need to go to my happy place I go out on the internet and surf quilt imegas. Every once in a while I would come across one that used a block I wasn’t used to seeing or used it in a different way or had a color way that spoke to me. First there was the flower quilt. Then there was the black and white with green (I had started a black and white baby quilt also but the quilt shop ladies weren’t impressed with the idea, lol). The pieced squares on a white background, the random strips of scraps and THEN the Rubrik quilt. LOVE IT! That was when I realized that the quilts I loved the best were all made by you. LOL. All of this is to say you are my hero 🙂

  9. Are you taking a class at Second City? I know a couple people who have taken one, and I’ve always wanted to because they sound fun. You don’t have to be good at it – just have fun 🙂

    I’ve thought of going the church route to meet new people too, but like you, I figured someone would catch on. I’m Catholic, but not that Catholic.

    Have you heard of the Chicago Sport and Social Club? They have all kinds of leagues and classes, so maybe one of those would be appealing? (http://www.chicagosportandsocialclub.com/)

    Or, if you’re a runner, Fleet Feet sports has lots of free fun-runs and walks, many of which are women’s only. A friend of mine does this (I don’t run, otherwise I would) and has met all kinds of people through it.

    • Yes! I’m taking at Second City, and I totally agree with you–I don’t need to be good! I’m just there to have a good time and make friends. And since we’re all beginners we’re all learning.

      I HAVE been thinking about doing a running group — they seem to be really good places to meet. I guess if you’re running for 7 miles next to the same person, you have no choice but to get to know them!

      • Or run faster to get away from them 😉

        The nice thing about running groups is that you have absolutely nothing to lose – you’ll get some exercise AND explore more of this lovely city, and hopefully find a running buddy in the process.

  10. Jackie

    In my small town, there are not many groups to join..so I started one. I called a few girls..some that I knew well and some that I didn’t and now we meet once a month to play ‘Bunko’. We do a little playing and a lot of laughing and talking.

    • That’s awesome! I have no idea what Bunko is, but I love the name..

      • Karen A.

        Ah Bunko, my siblings on the west coast play that. It is a dice game. I have never encountered it in the Midwest or on the East Coast. But then I have not found anyone on the east coast who plays Euchre, a card game which I found very popular in the midwest.

  11. I’ve actually heard that roller derby is a great way to meet supportive and strong women! I’m a big klutz, though, so I’d probably end up breaking my neck.

    I think improv is a great idea — some of my oldest friendships are carried over from my community theater days 10+ years ago. Theater people tend to be very accepting of you as you are, in my experience, and that’s really helpful when it comes to making friends.

    I agree that it makes a difference what sort of group or class you join. I’ve taken dance classes in hopes of meeting people but everyone pretty much just worked on learning the choreography and then left. One thing that seems to have potential are stitch ‘n b!tch type events — I make jewelry and have gone to a few crafty nights where people sit around and work on their jewelry/knitting/sewing/whatever and chat. That’s the sort of thing you want — interaction that happens naturally.

  12. katieleigh

    I’m so impressed that you’re taking an improv class! Way to go!

    I’ve met a few people at my yoga class, though I haven’t really interacted with them beyond it. Still, it’s been nice to chat before and after class with them.

    I’m storing up all your tips for when I move to Boston in a month. Don’t know if I’ll be joining an improv class, but it’s a thought!

    • It’s scary and intimidating at first, but fun! I’d recommend it. I thought everyone would be a weirdo, but in fact it’s only, like, half. Chicago’s also a big improv city. Trying to brainstorm what the perfect Boston activity would be…

  13. You are so so so right! I also liken it to the whole platform building/online presence thing with blogs and twitter and what not. You can’t just do it because you think you should…you have to want to do it and put yourself out there. Be genuine and authentic and take risks and things will come your way.

    • Fanfan

      I was gonna say that you can’t just join any group/class. Neither can you join any group with interactions planned. You have to really like it to connect with people. I think people who feel natural to join certain activities/groups/clubs share the mutural traits and they are more likely to develop long term relationships with each other.

      I used to go to random meetups a lot. People are friendly. Organizers are pretty good at encouraging people to interact, but in the end, there are so few people who can really become my friends. I think friendly attractions had to be natural. You have to share the same passions and values to grow a long-term solid friendship(yes, it is like dating)!

  14. I joined Toastmasters, which has been a great way to meet people AND practice the speeches I give for my business. We go out for drinks after every meeting and everyone is very friendly and welcoming. Guests are always welcome!

    I also agree with the running group – I tried that 10 years ago when I was new to Cincinnati and still keep in touch with many from that group. These days I’m not so much into running though, so that idea’s out the window for now…

    I’d love to hear more about improv – sounds fun!

  15. I just have to say kudos to joining an improv group. I don’t think quick enough on my feet to ever do that (no, really!) so I’m in a certain awe of anyone who’s got the brainpower for improv!

    And yes, joining anything for me–they need to do some of the work. The gym wouldn’t work, nor would something like…scuba lessons or something. I would need it to be something where the activity takes on some of the brunt of the intro!

  16. Wow! You’re amazing. I dont know that I could ever summer the courage to take an Improv class. That is a great way to put yourself out there and bond with others. Looking forward to hearing more about how the class proceeds.

  17. Elise

    I took an improv class when I moved to NY in January and actually really enjoyed it, but didn’t end up making any lasting friends – the people were cool, but everyone was in very different places in their lives.

    More recently, I signed up for an ultimate frisbee league w/NYC social sports club (sounds a lot like Chicago Social and Sport that someone mentioned) and am really enjoying that – people who play ultimate are just generally cool! I think it’s pretty big in Chicago, so you should look into it!

  18. I’ve personally taken improv way back, and I can tell you it’s been such a wonderful experience for me personally. It’s helped my humor and most of all has made me quick on my feet when having different conversations.

    But that being said, you are right, you have to pick and choose where you go first. After exhausting the options and there’s nothing left then check other ones.

    But the most important, keep an open mind to those activities. I never would have dreamed I loved improv, and I DID!

  19. Your posts are so parallel to my life! The narcissist in me loves ’em.

    I too signed up for improv, as a way to meet others and as a way to challenge myself. Horrible wonderful painful exhilarating experience. I blogged about it, if interested in reading – http://macncheeseproductions.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/im-paying-money-lots-of-money-to-feel-bad-and-uncomfortable/.

  20. Jenn Andrlik

    I met so many people joining a co-ed two hand touch football team…I even met my now husband while playing. It’s great because I like football, you interact with a lot of different people (both on your team and the opposing team) and there is a happy hour afterwards you can attend to mingle even more. The one thing though, is you have to actually like to play football. You don’t have to be good, but you have to enjoy it to make it to every game and enjoy it. And by the way, Rachel, I’m so proud of you, I’ve been reading the blog for awhile and I will definitely be the first one in line here in NYC to buy your book!!!

  21. I love the idea of taking a class that requires interaction as a way of meeting people. From my experience, running groups tend to be really interactive (you fall into the same pace as someone else and chat with them while you run). Now that I think about it, waiting for other friends to run or bike or swim in a race has led to conversations with those people around me. And what about a girls’ night out where each girl in your group is required to bring one other girl who doesn’t know anyone there. I used to belong to a supper club like that and met (and friended) some really fascinating people that way!

  22. Friendless

    Soo I went away to college for two years, left my life and my close friends behind. Had the time of my life, met and made friends with what seemed to be thousands of people. Now, I feel like I’ve never even lived here in my life (NY), my home. I feel friendless but even worse, like I can’t make friends, I over-think it so much that I’m probably pushing away my even close to friend prospects. Goshh cant every year be like freshmen year? I thought I was the only one, you rock.

  23. J

    Even though I’m 73, I gotcha back, girl — this is not a new problem — back in the day when I was a newby in a neighborhood (after living in a town where I knew EVERYONE), I learned the hard lesson that — and Chicago can be one of these towns — when people have lived in a place, say, all their lives, they don’t even think about you needing/wanting friendship. They HAVE all their friends already and there’s just no need to expand one more. I actually went knocking on doors (after seeing people in the supermarket) and invited them over or invited myself in. I clearly stated that I was new, knew NO ONE and would appreciate a little show-n-tell about life in _____(Chicago, in your case). Once you kind of get their side of it, you can see that its not YOU — it’s the whole enchilada that has to get shook up a bit. One woman actually told me that it never occurred to her to speak to me or welcome me — (the “didn’t need me” thing) and she was glad I’d come over. Give it a thought — from the perspective I’ve shared it could help turn the tide.

  24. Kathleen

    this is not a problem exclusively for 20 somethings. Many years ago my ex-husband and I moved from the Seattle area to Florida due to business. I was in my early 50’s at the time. I’ve always been a friendly, open person with a lot of interests. So, I thought, easy to make new friends. Women were pleasant to me, but no one needed a new friend. I met a lot of people through tennis, golf, bridge and volunteer work, but when I moved away from there 14 yrs later, I didn’t take one phone # or email address with me. I never did make a really BFF. I did learn a valuable lesson, however. I learned that I can be ok alone. I have since remarried, moved to NC 3 yrs ago (which I love), and now have several good friends. No BFF as yet, but there are a couple of good prospects. I agree that finding female friends is just like dating, which was really weird at first. The interesting thing is that because of my experience in Florida, I don’t feel the need to have a lot of people in my life. I’m happy when gals call me to play golf or get together for whatever, but am just as happy alone. Maybe it’s my age, 67, or just the years that I spent without any close friends. BTW, I do belong to a book club and a kniting group.

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  30. Ivana

    Ok ladies please pardon my ignorance here but, what is an improv class? Am totally lost. 😦

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