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I Never Learned How to Make Friends

By Jac Kern · March 20th, 2013 · We, As Humans
People say the three most stressful life events are death, divorce and moving. 

So, although our apartment lease isn’t up for another several months, my boyfriend and I recently discussed our future living situation. We currently reside on a wonderful little street in Mount Auburn (Prospect Hill if you’re fancy), but we’re considering trying out a new place with a fenced-in lawn for our energetic 2-year-old Sharpei, Wonton. 

I was pushing to stay near the city, while he opted for more yard-friendly neighborhoods in Northern Kentucky. There, he said, we’d probably save money, have more room for Wonton and generally have more of our own space.

“In case you haven’t noticed,” he said, “we tend to keep to ourselves.”

I hadn’t noticed. I mean, surely I’m not the only one who peeps out her window to make sure no one else is walking their dog when it’s time for Wonton to pee and I’m having a bar hair day (or I’m hungover/not feeling social/don’t want to put on real pants) or skips a block party to watch The Walking Dead with a couple other uber-fans. 

The neighbors I have now are no doubt the friendliest, most interesting and, well, neighborly street-mates I’ve ever encountered. So why do I sometimes find myself avoiding them, or any potential friends for that matter? The concept of neighborhood etiquette (and previously, dorm life) is totally lost on me.

It was in that moment that I realized I never really learned how to make friends.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total weirdo.

I do have friends. According to Facebook, 431 to be exact. 

Surely those don’t all count, but across the board one fact is clear: I have no idea what I did to shift from “acquaintance” to “friend.” And I wouldn’t know how to go out and make a new one if I had to.

Throughout my youth, I always remember being pretty much “cool with everyone,” but mostly stuck to a best friend or two. 

Anyone who’s ever been a 12-year-old girl (or at least observed a few in their natural habitat) knows one’s supposed friends can also be the cruelest, but trying to join a new group can be more intense than pledging the most exclusive sorority. 

Off the playground and on to high school, “real” friends became easier to identify. I certainly had plenty of classmates I’d consider friends, but I always kind of yearned for more — ones who wouldn’t blow me off or get me into trouble or constantly point out my unfortunate orthodontic situation.

Of course, making friends is different for adults. The more you know yourself, the easier it is to “click” with people similar or complimentary to yourself. You meet different folks outside your immediate surroundings, who then introduce you to more new people. 

These days I’m either a good judge of character or just plain judgmental, because I can tell pretty quickly if I jive with someone or not. And if I don’t feel a connection, I just do not feel the need to force anything. Is that terrible? 

Everyone likes to say they’re socially awkward these days, which is probably true to a certain extent. Most people are either a little bit shy or a little too outgoing, and let’s face it: Most interaction between humans is forced or uncomfortable. I didn’t used to always feel this way, though. Now, the yearning for “more friends” I felt in my youth has been replaced for almost an ambivalence toward actively meeting new people.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I rely on other people to bring new faces into my life. The boyfriend will give me a little push when I’m feeling particularly anti-social. Friends will play matchmaker and introduce me to cool people from their other circles. While I may be a bit picky about the people I share my free time with, I’d like to think I’m a friendly person. But, to me, one of the most terrifying scenarios would be to move somewhere new, left alone to cultivate a new group of friends.

Thankfully, it doesn’t looks like I’ll have to deal with that any time soon. So to all 12-431 people out there who consider me a friend: Thank you. For helping me move, or cope with a breakup or death (even if it’s just a pet). And for being the first to say hello, introduce yourself or extend an invitation my way. 

Because, for me, sometimes doing so is my fourth most stressful life event.

CONTACT JAC KERN: jkern@citybeat.com or @jackern



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