Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Lee Suckling: Making friends after 25 is hard

It's not easy to meet new people once you're an adult - one reason is because everyone pairs off.
Photo / Thinkstock
It's not easy to meet new people once you're an adult - one reason is because everyone pairs off. Photo / Thinkstock

Youth forced us to make friends.

When we were kids, we rode around on bikes (well, we did in the 90s) and talked to anyone else on two wheels. We went to high school and were trapped in smelly rooms for six hours a day, so we passed notes and played sports and spent our nights chatting to each other on MSN Messenger.

University rolled around and we drank, and drank, and drank together. And spent the odd night in the library thinking about drinking together.

Then we got older. We became aware of the concept of appropriateness. It was no longer okay to walk up to someone and say, "Nice Nikes. Wanna play at my house?"

We were forced into jobs with people we didn't really like. We realised Jägerbombs on a Tuesday weren't a good idea. We got into serious relationships. So began the beginning of the rest of our lives; and, the struggle to keep, maintain, and forge new friendships after 25.

There's something uniquely Kiwi that challenges friend-making post-quarter century.

There's an ideology of "I have my friends, I don't need new ones" that prevents newcomers from penetrating a friendship circle. We're an apprehensive bunch - us Kiwis - suspicious of anyone who crosses into our personal comfort bubble without vetting by way of prior association.

As adults we're also far more judgemental than we once were. We have developed social, political, and ethical views, and are less inclined to make new friends with those whom we might disagree.

It's not that we don't meet new people after 25. We meet them all the time. New clients at meetings. New competition in spin class. New neighbours on the floor below. What's difficult is going the step further from small talk; putting pride on the line to try someone new.

Similarly, asking for new friends comes with stigma. It's a perceived weakness. A sign we haven't been successful in cultivating our mates, or we're needy and lonely and will become overbearing if befriended. It also raises recipient questions: "What's wrong with the friends you had? Did they die of your lame jokes and attention-starvation?"

Keeping your existing friendships becomes a quarter-life quandary, too. As the people in your life couple up, they have less and less time for five o'clock beersies and Sunday Sessions. You'll text them for a quick supper at Ponsonby Food Court and they'll reply, "Can't this week. So busy. How's four weeks from Thursday?"

"Really?!" You'll think. "You don't have an hour free in the next month? I'm so terribly sorry for wanting to interrupt your evenings of boring sex and Breaking Bad."

It can get worse. Friends just go off the radar. They move, they have kids, they fall so deep into their career they forget how to breathe. Then there's the Serious Relationship Split Saga: friends were all mutual and primarily associated with your previous partner.
Or perhaps it's your doing. You've recognised your existing friends are vacuous leeches with whom you've only stuck around because of your history. You ditch them because you'd prefer to be alone than have Sarah from Sixth Form bleed your ears dry with workplace scandals and grooming problems.

The post-work administrative responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, attempting to sleep) of modern life hinder our friend-making capacity, too. We can't hang out on the street with our buddies until dark or dinner is on the table.

If we're to take lessons from our youth and apply them now, it's repeated and unplanned interactions that allow for friendships to blossom after the age of 25. To take friendships further, though, you're probably going to need 'the bonding event'.

Enter the Deep & Meaningful, the almost sure-fire way to prove your worth to a potential new friend. A situation where someone can confide in you and let their guard down - and vice versa - the D&M is the most efficient channel in friend-making.

The opportune D&M moment might take a while to arrive, but like all good things post-25, new friendships involve patience and perseverance.

Refrain from getting drunk and confessing your sins in a toilet stall to Jessie from accounts, but don't shy away from a good long chat in the Koru Lounge with the person you see there every other week, while you both endure a three-hour delay.

Even if your D&M isn't life changing, people bond over big things and small. Shared experience is the basis for all friendship, just as it was when you and your friends all had BMX bikes and fluro kicks.

And if someone on the pal pursuit has the cajones to ask you for coffee, give them the courtesy of 30 minutes of your time. Who knows, you might just end up with a lifelong friend. If absolutely nothing else, they'll probably pay for your latte.


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Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Writer Lee Suckling pens his opinionated thoughts every Wednesday, covering issues surrounding Generation Y, New Zealand's gay community, and the ethical dilemmas presented every day to those living in a tech-centric modern world. Outside of the New Zealand Herald, Lee writes for a range of magazines and newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

Read more by Lee Suckling

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