The Indefinite Hangout

Yesterday at brunch a friend mentioned that one of the biggest and toughest changes in friendship as we age has been the elimination of the “indefinite hangout.” Indefinite as in, we’ll hang until we’re done, without a specific time stamp because someone has to get home or to a workout class or to an appointment.

I’d never thought about it before, but she’s right. Spending time with a friend indefinitely, until you naturally go your separate ways, used to be the norm. When I was 23 and living in New York City, I might call Sara for brunch and when the meal was over, we’d see what was next. Maybe we’d each go home, or maybe we’d go to her house to hang, or maybe she’d say “Want to go look at shoes with me?” Whatever. Life was a little more open.

These days, though, that’s an incredible luxury. At a Sunday morning brunch, there’s almost always the next thing on your to-do list, and when you make brunch plans you might find yourself saying “11 sounds great, but I have to be home by 1:30 because…”

It’s not that two and a half hours isn’t enough for brunch. It is. You aren’t cutting your date short or fitting your friend into too tight a space. But the knowledge that there’s no set deadline on a get together is so freeing. It opens the meeting up to the question of “what’s next?” And some of the best times I’ve had with friends, and some of the best getting-to-know-you time with new friends, has taken place in those unplanned hours, after my playdate says “I have to stop off at this boutique on the corner to pick something up. Wanna come?”

It speaks to the difference between the BFF ideal I was looking for when I started this search, and the reality of best friendship today. The ideal was a BFF like I had when I was 16, when I would see someone all day during school and then talk for hours on the phone at night, and then do it all again the next day. The reality is that between family, job, and errands, I’m lucky to talk to someone once a week. In MWF Seeking BFFI write “I’m looking for someone with whom it is assumed I will spend the day or at least an hour” on the weekend. I was looking for an indefinite hangout. It’s a pretty tall order these days, but at least, now, when it happens it is all the sweeter.

When was the last time you had an indefinite hangout? Was it just the best? Or did it stress you out because it had no end point?


Filed under The Search

49 responses to “The Indefinite Hangout

  1. Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    Indefinite hangouts stress me out. I’m a serious introvert, so even spending time with my closest friends leaves me drained. I like have a specific time carved out so that I can see a friend and catch up but not get to the point where I’m like “I’m tired and I just want to be alone now but I have no good way of expressing that.”

    • Love this article. I miss it too. I never had a problem leaving when I felt I was done. There is something about not having an exact plan that is really missing from my life these days.

    • I agree Jessica! Being an introvert myself I experience this same issue. What is a good way to ask a friend to leave so you can have your alone time? I love my friends, but being around people in general, no matter who they are, can be really draining after awhile.

    • Kristen A.

      This. The only time I can think of that I spent the bulk of a day hanging out with a friend seeing what came next, there was still an end-point. I was visiting an old BFF in New York. The day was unstructured but we got theatre tickets for the evening so it had a natural end point. I can spend a lot of time in a coffee shop with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, but I’m more comfortable leaving for my alone time afterwards than going on to activity after activity.

  2. Yeah, I agree, I miss those times at school when I had one friend who I’d hang out with all day at school, rush around to each others homes straight after dinner five days a week, and then spend all weekend making up our fun as we went. We were just with each other because it was unspoken that that was what we both totally wanted. Recently, I bagged a new friend (yay) and we met up with a two hour event as the agreed focus. Then, what was so cool, was that we then thought it would be great to go to the beach. It was all going so well, we just slid right on into the evening. Dinner was had and then we were still having such a good time that we walked to a coffee house for more chats and giggles. What was so good about it was there was no pressure to hang out for the sake of it. We mutually just kept wanting to extend. So in the moment. Feeling like all the time in the world is yours. Bring on more!

  3. Such a timely post…I literally just emailed a friend I’m having dinner with tonight — “Does 6pm still work? I have to get in early tomorrow morning, so I want to make sure I don’t get home too late.” Indefinite hangouts are definitely easier on the weekend…it’s easy for me to put household chores aside on a whim, and go shopping with a friend instead…but dinners during the week often tend to be the best times to meet up with friends because our work places are closer than our homes. So while indefinite hangouts can be better than a quick-bite-to-eat…I’ll still take either option over option 3: not seeing each other at all.

  4. Oh God….you got it right Rachel. Being a young man it is so so challenging making time for an indefinite hangout because while the weekdays are super busy, the weekends are even busier. as on weekends its time to do the errands which one doesn’t get time to do on the weekdays! So indefinite hangout pretty much changes to indefinite to do tasks :)….i’d like to cry but can’t help but smile!

  5. And it just gets harder and harder once you have kids. To be fair, it seems like my children lead a much more scheduled life than I did when I was young, so maybe the times are just changing. I don’t know. The last time I had an indefinite hangout was over the summer when I went with my BFF to her lakehouse for the week. It was so fun. So, so, so fun! But, of course, the week did come to an end, our kids had to be picked up from camp and real life did eventually intervene. I suppose it wasn’t really an indefinite hangout–more of an extended playdate!

  6. I was luck enough the meet my BFF in my first year of university. 10 years later, I’m now married we’ve both moved to different parts of the world that feel a million miles apart, but we make a point to go on holiday together at least every other year and then we have a whole week of random adventures, just rolling from place to place together from breakfast to bed-time. It makes up for all the time missed together in between our trips and gives us lots of great memories to help see us through.

  7. Megan

    I totally stressed when hangouts had no agreed-on end point. I wonder if there’s a difference between introverts and extroverts here…

  8. I love indefinite hangouts. for me that’s the ultimate friendship. when you can just hang out with no goal and not have awkward moments. when you can go from doing one thing to the next to nothing at all. but it does become a lot more rare with age…

  9. It all began with the invention of calendars and timepieces… they run us instead of us running them. It’s collectively our own fault.

  10. Hope

    The indefinite hangout with my bff or other close friends is so rare but it is so sweet when it happens. Once kids or husbands are in the picture it is almost impossible but I have had some full days I got to spend with my best friend or an occasional long day at the beach plus evening or even a road trip. The occasional indefinite hangout is great but too often unless it is a planned trip so that everything else has been taken care of would be too stressful for most of us now that we are working etc.

  11. I recently just moved from SoCal to the Philippines – the culture here is very “hang-out” oriented. Your post perfectly describes my old life back in the OC. Get-togethers were pretty well planned and had definite ending points. Here though, life is at a much slower pace and it’s all much more fluid. You go to someone’s house just to sit, talk, eat, drink a beer. Other people might show up…….or not. I’m still having a hard time just showing up at someone’s house with nothing set to do, i.e. dinner, movie, but am definitely starting to enjoy the lost art of just hanging out.

  12. artistmum

    In response to your email to me…’s the link:

    It was a really nice article with great tips!

  13. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle here. Being a bit of an introvert, I like knowing that something will have an end point so that I’m sure I have my time as well. It’s not that I’d feel guilty about leaving, but when there is no end point, it may seem like there is no “right” time to leave without having to explain – even with best friends.
    On the other hand, I love having extended stays with friends that I don’t live near. I love going and being able to spend the night at their house/apartment/whatever and then letting our plans come and go as they please. Those times seem so sweet. But as others have commented, I guess, in a way, that still has an end point, it’s just a longer predetermined time.

  14. Cat

    My old BFF and I used to start every other Saturday by getting a manicure or pedicure and then the sky was the limit – lunch, shopping, watching a movie, or errands. I can be a bit of a solitary person, but I needed that time to connect to another woman, and particularly to her who knew me so well. She was a great anchor and reality check when life wasn’t going well. I truly miss those days but as you say family/house obligations can change that. I just wish we had one every couple of months – it’s a huge time to connect and I feel like we miss that now. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel like we’re such BFFs like we used to be.

  15. Wow. Reading the blog post I was thinking it had been decades since my last indefinite hangout, but Rachel’s questions at the end reminded me that just early last year I met with a friend every Sunday. We’d talk about anything we wanted, for as long as we wanted.
    She, however, left the state and moved to Colorado. My wife was, I guess, happy about that, because my having a girlfriend, whom I met regularly, while married — with whom I shared a passion for creative writing — was not her cup of tea!

  16. I love an indefinite hangout – but there does come a point when I start to feel frustrated that I’m not achieving anything. But I think what I need to realise is that I am actually, I’m hanging out with people who I obviously want to do anything with.

  17. FOR me, its a mood thing: sometimes I like to hangout with my sisters/friends/family for a whole day; sometimes it’s a pleasant change from daily routine and I’m ready to do my own thing in a couple hours.
    Now, if it’s someone I haven’t seen in a very long time, I wouldn’t even keep track of time! So it depends on the situation, my mood and the event!

  18. Everyone is always so busy, if it’s not children it’s work or boyfriends. Very difficult to ‘schedule’ any period of time with good friends let alone a whole afternoon.
    Yes. And the times we do get together, those are very special. xxx

  19. This post made me sad. I guess I am always looking for the indefinite hangout and it doesn’t happen much. I do something with a friend, I think “what’s next?” and they think “time to go home.” 😦

  20. A couple weeks ago, I had a great indefinite hangout with a new friend. Four hours at a restaurant…outside under the umbrella with a happy-hour beverage (actually, more than one) and great discussion….then moving inside for pizza and having our husbands join us. You’re right; it doesn’t happen enough.

  21. Olivia Ashe, writer

    Is your bok about how to actually finf female friends? Because I need help with that. I’m over 30 and don’t really have any friends I can hang out with or ring in times of crisis. I’ve become a loner and have tried many things to change it.
    Its depressing watching Sex and the city because I’m jealous of their friendships.

    • Olivia. I’m 51, and I can relate! After having my son, and wrapping myself up in his world, I had lost the art of having friends to hang out with! My suggestion would be to go on facebook and connect! I connected with one friend from high school, and 5 friends from previous employment. Now…I have SIX people in which I can call to see if they want to hang out! It’s changed my life! I hope this helps you…

      • Olivia Ashe, writer

        Hi. Ive done all that. I gone to clubs, womens centres etc and it doesnt help. The ‘freindships’ I make dont last and i dne up getting used or hurt.
        I dont want to connect with people from high school since I hated it.
        Im trying to move, I think i need a new area and new start.
        Thanks anyway. Good luck with your book 🙂

  22. yablogtherapy

    I’m in my mid-twenties and the indefinite hang-out has become a definite rarity. I think it started at university when everyone was trying to balance studying, relationships and jobs. Now, I sometimes feel a bit guilty if I have spent all day with friends and I haven’t completed anything else on my To Do List. I think I must work on that.

  23. Thats exactly what I’m looking for in a friend, I can’t stand the feeling that I’ve been “scheduled” in, amongst all the other plans the person has. I love trying new things and being spontaneous and would like someone to say yes when I said, “do you want to go here/there/do this/that” and I would do the same, unless it was going to pick up the dry cleaning or get their car serviced!

  24. After reading the amazing amount of reactions to this blog, I thought about writing a quick…off the cuff…response. But, it deserved more thought.
    For me, there is a great amount of melancholy and wistfulness when remembering all the sleepovers and time with BFFs that went on and on throughout high school and college.
    Rachel, I loved your description of spending all day with your close friends or fellow cheerleaders or sorority sisters, then spending hours on the phone with them talking about EVERYTHING and boys. Uninhibitedly, freely not thinking it may end. My parents always thought I’d get talked out, but what did they know?
    I believe every time in life has a structure that is right for that time period. I never would have thought I could go a day without speaking to my college roommate after we graduated, but I did.
    Lives get different; no better or worse, but they change and become more complicated. More family, pets, friends, work, obligations to elderly parents…and scooby dooby doo.
    The only times I’ve spent indefinite hanging out with my BFFs now is a planned getaway. I’ve only done it a few times, but they have been heavenly and don’t begin with “what time is your next thing?”
    I highly recommend it for those who can indulge in a mini-vacation or maybe a visit for a long weekend.
    When is staying up all night laughing and eating junk food a bad thing?

  25. We have some very dear friends in Detroit who we don’t see often enough. When they called and said they would be in town for a fencing tournament, we planned to meet them at a local jazz hangout for a drink after they checked into their hotel. From there, we had a late lunch at an open-air restaurant, then caught a rousing bluegrass band at a small local bar. Other than the first locale, none of it was planned. It was so refreshing to not have a pre-determined end time and just enjoy their company.

    • Alice, I know how that happens and feels. Recently I was preparing a meal for some Italian guests to my home on a Saturday evening, when suddenly (for me) a number of friends, including a few who had never been to my house before, walked inside from my very dark backyard. At first, I wondered why they were there. Then I thought, How will I feed 11 people with a recipe set up for only four?

      The last person who walked in was a dear friend. She carried an ice cream birthday cake. That’s when it hit me: I remembered my birthday was three days away.

      I was blown away! My wife had engineered a surprise for me without my having a clue about it. Even the Italian guests were in on it!

  26. In my late 30s (gulp), I find myself looking back nostalgically at the indefinite hangout. My toddler is my new indefinite hangout partner! Recently though, I went to a girlfriend’s new house (with our kids) and stayed the weekend. It was a blast. We played with the kids, chatted, cooked, watched Portlandia, went to Home Depot and had our own quiet time. I think we make ourselves so busy nowadays…it’s important now and again to find some indefinite hangout time with a really good friend now and again, no matter how old you are.

  27. Ro

    I love just seeing what the day brings, so my husband and I like to make it a point to leave Sundays completely unplanned – it’s our Sabbath. We usually go to church, head to lunch from there with friends, end up at someone’s house or going for a leisurely walk/hike/bike or something, and then we go back to church in the evening for some more good times worshipping our Lord. We are not weird religious people, we just REALLY love God and are excited to spend as much time as possible with Him while with one another. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” Matt 18:20. That’s the best :D.

    • Juliette

      What a lovely comment..I also look so forwrd to Sundays, enjoy them so much…The Lord has blessed me with my most precious friends at church.

  28. I’m 51, and just about a year ago I realized I had NO ONE to hang out with on weekends! I would spend the entire weekend wishing I had someone to call to do lunch or just go browsing! I had spent the last 16 years focusing on my son, and completely lost track of friends and what I liked to do with free time, when I had it! So….someone told me I HAD to join facebook. At first I thought it was a silly way to spend my free time, and balked at the idea. However, since I gave in, I’ve connected with my best friend in high school and 5 previous co-workers! I’ve rekindled some GREAT friendships, and am so glad! I hope this helps some of you out there in my same position! Life is so much richer with at least ONE genuine friend to share things with!

  29. I can’t remember the last time I was able to just hang out indefinitely. I too am on the search for a new BFF, all I want is someone who enjoys doing laundry for their friends! LOL

  30. Seriously? It’s going away while I age? That sucks.

    I was thinking recently about how hard it has become for me to offer someone my entire day for company. But I never perceived it as something that I will less and less be able to afford. Usually it’s me doing my best to talk my friends into not taking their appointments soo seriously but instead to keep hanging with me.—

    Long breakfast. Long talk. Let’s go eat lunch together. Now for a cup of coffee. Oh look, there’s a free concert. Hungry for dinner yet? Been to the movies recently? Have a drink afterwards? Oh, look at the time! …

  31. Frume Sarah

    Now that kids are in the picture, I cherish those times when I can have the indefinite playdate. It requires a bit of maneuvering and careful logistical efforts…but is then so AMAZING for me!!!

    Indefinite playdate for kids, on the other hand, is just another word for HELL-on-earth.

  32. Oh, I like indefinite hang-outs. But sometimes, especially with my extroverted friends, it can be too much. I guess I need to work on how I can politely ask if we can hang out for a *couple* of hours, not 6.
    (I’m such an introvert).
    I know this is kind of different than what your post is about, but does anyone else experience this?

  33. I love indefinite hangouts…but only if it’s with people I’m really, really close to and I plan for it, ie. I intentionally free up the day/hours for him/her.

    Love the surprises and the unexpected blessings that come with such surrender! ;D

  34. Leanne

    Oh I miss the indefinite hangout! I’ll bite–The last genuine one I remember, a few girls and I STILL affectionately call “Now and Then Day.” All 4 or 5 of us remember it so well…we were on bikes on a summer day and met up early to go to a craft fair. Then all of us decided to grab a bite. Then a few of us had to head out but one girl was literally going around the corner to a bar to break up with some dude, so two of us with nothing going on grabbed a drink together and waited for her to be done with the deed. It only took like 20 minutes, and she comes back to dish about it and the story is hilarious and we are pretty sure the dumped dude walks by while we are discussing. Afterward, we finish the time with a leisurely bike ride back to the general vicinity of where we all live, hooting and hollering at cute boys driving by while we ride. I can’t even tell you what that day meant to me. I can still smell the summer air from that day if I try really hard.

    More of those would make my soul so happy. But you are right, these days it is hard to find time yourself, let alone find the same time block with someone special (or potentially special if you had more time to hang out and get to know them!). But indefinite dates would be a dream. Thanks for the post!

  35. Megan Nyberg's Meditations

    If I’m with a really good friend, I love the “after party” adventures. Grabbing ice cream. Shopping for random items. Wandering around a park. Checking out “that new place.” Talking in a coffee shop for an entire afternoon. Such rare occurrences now, as you pointed out, which is why I probably let myself indulge once in a blue moon. Sometimes I need those times with friends to remind me that life is too short to hurry off to the next thing. Relationships are about sacrifice and sometimes I need to look beyond myself and see what is best for the friendship.

  36. gaiabathtime

    i know exactly what you are saying and when one of these indefinite hang outs now come along it feels all the better for it. I moved away to another country in my 30th and my BFF and I manage usually to come and stay with each other sometimes twice but always once a year. Her home feels like like home from home to me and visa versa. When when my kids where little we just worked hanging out together around them and now that she has small children we do the same. We talk and talk and talk, make kids meals while talking more and when everyone has gone to bed we are still chatting; hanging out…and the next day we do it all again. So here you have one positive side to moving away….if you can have that once-a-year-intense- catch-up-get -together it can be be just as it was when we were in our 20th, when we had no husbands, kids or businesses that always come first!

  37. Fearless Expressioner

    This is such an interesting concept. My best friend came to visit me for a week, and during the weekend we had an indefinite hangout that consisted of shopping, bull riding, the zoo, food, drinks, and bars. It was the most fun i’ve had in a while! I wish I could schedule more time like this in my life. It makes the difference! Thanks for posting 🙂

  38. This post is so relevant in my world right now! I’ve been noticing the changes with a current BFF from college and I never thought about how different things can be without the indefinite hangout.

  39. how to find your voice:

    text,email or just write to as many different people as you can:

    a boss you hate.

    a blogger you like

    a brother you love

    an ex you want reconcile with

    a father you want to learn from

    so you see – don’t write for writers;

    write for your life

  40. I love this idea. As an adult with adult friends, I have one BFF who is special in that both she and I make the time for indefinite hangouts. When pressed for time, we’ll be happy as two schoolgirls just going to Target together to do errands. One of the best compliments I’ve been paid is when my BFF told me that I am the only friend she has that she can call on a whim and say, “You wanna go for coffee in 10 minutes?” (I make sure to always say “yes”, not only because I DO want to, but also because I want to keep that easygoing, friendship-is-priority reputation.

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