Monday, November 9, 2015

Making Friends

Last night was my family's last night on Vermont.  My dad said that it seemed like all he had done was eaten and didn't want any dinner, so my mother and I went to dinner on our own.  We walked a block or so from their hotel and found this little pizza place called Positive Pie that I had heard good things about. We both had the shrimp scampi because they don't just serve pizza but Italian food in general. We had the cutest waiter (not the guy in the picture above), who I'm pretty sure was gay because he was very flirtatious toward me. First of all, let me say that it went nowhere because of three things: 1) my mother was there, 2) he was more than half my age, and 3) he was obviously flirting to get a good tip. I've always had a thing for guys in the service industry: waiters, bartenders, baristas, etc., and it is fun to get some positive attention, even if you know it won't lead anywhere.  That being said, this will not be my last visit to Positive Pie.

I was telling a friend of mine about my encounter with the waiter, and he encouraged me to try more to make friends up here and not just coworkers.  It's hard to make friends though.  On's Ask Adam (, there was a question about how gay guys can find friends. "Isolated in Illinois" seems to have a similar situation to me, and I liked Adam's answer, which you can read below.  There are at least one or two gay men's groups around here and I've been invited to attend a supper club that's an our or so south of here, which would be lots of fun.  I just need to find the courage to follow Adam's advice.  Read the column below, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.


Dear Adam,

I know how to talk to people, I’m reasonably smart and attractive, and yet I feel isolated a lot of the time. I knew how to make friends in college, but since graduating five years ago, I’ve yet to make a real friend. Is this normal?

Isolated in Illinois

Dear Isolated in Illinois,

Modern life can be a lonely place.
Most people are struggling with this, but LGBT people can feel especially isolated. It comes with the territory of being different. And you’ve always been different.

As a teenager, you never could fully join the exciting conversations and social rituals around opposite-sex attraction. You may have faked it, but you never were really a part of it. 

While all your friends were crushing on the movie stars of the day, you silently longed for all the “wrong” ones. Even the nerdy, heterosexual outcasts in your school belonged in a way you didn’t. Because they were straight, they really didn’t have to question if they were a member of the human race. At an unconscious level, many LGBT people don’t feel like a member of the human race. We can feel like a different species.
And while you may have already worked hard to accept your differences, at some level, we all just want to fit in. This is wired into primates. So it isn’t surprising that we may struggle a little more with feelings of loneliness and isolation as grown ups. 

Like all worthwhile experiences, creating friendships takes work. There’s a myth that it should be easy, that it should just happen. In reality, building a network of friends requires the same kind of strategic activity that goes into finding a job or the love of your life.

Practical Advice

What follows is my best tip on building your friendship network.

There is something magic about seeing the same group of people each week for months and years. Just the consistent close proximity creates the safety that is needed to turn a stranger into a friend. This is why it is easier to make friends in college. Therefore, joining weekly groups is the number one best way to make a friend. 

Do you know who has the best social network in any city?  It’s people who attend 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. This makes sense: they are a group of people who meet frequently to try and be authentic, supportive, and remove a piece of the social mask. 
Who else meets regularly? It’s the people in the LGBT sports league, the LGBT volunteer service organization, the LGBT spiritual or arts group, the LGBT group. Google will lead you to them.

Yes, joining groups takes time and you are busy with work. But people who join groups tend to be people who can commit to people. And those are the people who make good friends.

It’s also a great way to find a committed partner. Personal disclosure moment: I found my husband, and all my previous boyfriends before him, through LGBT volunteer groups.

The Path From Acquaintance to Friend

You may know lots of people, but still feel isolated. The secret sauce that turns acquaintances into friends is personal disclosure. There’s a limit to how far you can get with a person if you aren’t willing to reveal something that feels vulnerable about yourself.

Again, this can be a little more challenging for LGBT people. We’ve been trained since we were 6 years old to hide what we feel. What we liked wasn’t good. It was disgusting. Or so we were told.

So it takes practice. Begin revealing something only a little uncomfortable and see how that goes. If your acquaintance handles that well then you can test out the next level of disclosure.

Ultimately, the most powerful way to deepen a connection with someone is to dare to admit your friendly affection for them. 

If you have butterflies in your stomach when talking about yourself, then you’ll know you are doing something right. There is no personal growth without butterflies.

Don’t think friends are all that important to happiness?

According to Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse who wrote The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, one of the top regrets of people who are dying are:  “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.
Too busy for friends?  Another one of the top five regrets of the dying is “I wished I didn’t work so hard.”

Your relationships truly matter.

ADAM D. BLUM, MFT is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBT people. The Center offers services in their San Francisco offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit their website to subscribe to their e-newsletter and free guide on building gay relationships. Follow them on Facebook and read their blog.  Email Adam your questions for possible publication. Questions may be edited.


Michael Dodd said...

Seems sensible enough. I am a big proponent of volunteering. Friendships develop most easily between and among people who have shared interests and experiences, and volunteer opportunities provide a venue for this that is also good for society at large. Friendships often disappear when people we liked in the past move away and we no longer share experiences and interests begin to diverge over time. When I find myself talking with someone only about the past and not about what is happening in our present, I am aware of a change. That person remains a friend, but there is a qualitative difference to our interaction. I am sure you are looking for more than a chance to reminisce.

Twelve Steps groups are much like church groups in that you will probably only go to one if it meets your needs. [As an aside, you might want to visit around in different churches in the area, too.] But if you think there is such a group -- and they exist for all sorts of issues far beyond addictions -- it is worth checking out. Many such places have what are called open meetings that welcome visitors who may not identify with the issue the meetings address. (Make sure in advance, however, if the meeting is indeed open, as a courtesy. Anonymity is important and most meetings are not open to the general public in order to make those present feel more comfortable.)

When I was in the monastery in Boston, one of the priests in the house, who was not an alcoholic, went to an open AA meeting at least five times a week because he found the openness and spirituality there so helpful. He made many friends as a result.

A final note: Twelve Step meetings are not a place to go looking specifically for romance. Such may, indeed often does happen, as friendship blossoms into something more over time. But especially in their earlier weeks and months, many people there are quite vulnerable and should not be taken advantage of. I know you, Joe, would never do such a thing, but it is worth mentioning lest my comments be misunderstood.

Michael Dodd said...

PS -- I don't know if you are a fan of "The Big Bang Theory" but there is an episode where Sheldon tries to figure out an algorithm for making friends. He bases it, I think, on a book for children with the name Stu the Cockatoo Is New at the Zoo. The title of the episode is something like "The Friendship Algorithm." I don't know if you would find it helpful. Sheldon, at any rate, winds up having to go rock climbing to make a friend, that being the least objectionable activity the friend recommends they do together. And the only reason Sheldon was doing all this was to manipulate the new friend into doing something for him. So you can guess how that ended.

Joe said...

I love The Big Bang Theory and that is a wonderful episode.

There are a few gay men's groups in the area I've been contemplating checking out. I'm settling in pretty well so far.

silvereagle said...

When you decided to leave Small Town, Alabama, and head to the northern hinderlands in the cold, cold, north, you opened a new door in your life. You shut the old door behind you, the door of secrecy and hiding. You opened the new door to open happiness. Happiness which involves new places, new adventures, and new friends. You are exploring the new places, experiencing new adventures, and now it is up to you to make the new friends.

Get involved in the community. I am sure there are organizations, or maybe just groups of people not organized into a formal assembly, who will welcome some new blood, new talent, and new faces...even one from the south. They may not understand you completely with that southern drawl, but they will love it!

You can not sit back and wait for them to contact you. Go out and search for them. Is there a civic chorus? Is there a clean up the town group? Is there even a visit the nursing home group? Surely the people there do not just work and go home and sit in the house!! Find some people, go to get a dinner with them, talk, and make yourself available. Do not limit yourself just to the gay groups...the "other" people can also be fun to know!!!

You will do it! I know!!!!

Paul said...

I had to chuckle at reason #2. I'm reasonably certain I know what you meant, but I am, at heart, a literalist.

JiEL said...

I agree with Silvereagle.

Take time to really settle down in your new place, job and life.

Friends will come to you in the most unexpected ways or times..

You'll meet nice men in many fields of activities: that nice waiter may be the first experience of people being nice to you....

Don't bother about his age gap: I met a cute 23yo guy yesterday and HE asked me (64yo) to kiss him after we had a coffee and a big conversation..
So I kissed him in a deep long kiss.
He is the kind of «candide» boy discovering his gay side....

We are going to have another date on next Sunday.

So, take your time en enjoy your liberty in Vermnont.
Don't put walls against any men trying to reach to you.

Have a nice week at work.

PS, Must say that at Pizza Pie they have «cute pies» as waiters... LOL 1

Hot guys blog said...

Love the photo of the 1st guy, very handsome. :)

When it comes to friends, it's important to be open. And that's my motto, I'm currently open to new friendships. If something more happens, the better. :)

Nikki said...

I'm straight but with many friends in the LGBT community here in Charleston. I think the advice about groups is good if it's something that could interest you. We have a gay rugby team (who doesn't like to watch rugby guys whether you're straight or gay?!) and a couple of churches with strong gay representation as well as a gay/straight citywide alliance. The supper club sounds great -- wish I'd get an invite to one. Maybe I need to start one myself!

naturgesetz said...

It's definitely pleasant when a waiter takes an interest. I know there are those who consider it unprofessional and are put off by any personal conversation, but I've blogged about how I enjoyed talking with Seth the waiter (who is not gay, btw) about the books I was reading. I also liked talking about music with Wendy the waitress. Both worked at the same restaurant in Boston.

I think Adam makes some good points, and I'm sure that over time, you'll be able to develop some good friendships.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to explore the local churches as well (though I am sure I don't have to say that, given your strong faith). There are many open and affirming churches here up north, where you would feel totally welcome and also find the opportunity to explore lots of involvement in community service opportunities.

Lenny Ricci said...

When I moved from St. Petersburg Florida to Denver, I didn't know anyone... I met a guy at the local "swim club" and we found we had an interest in cooking. We started a gay once a month cooking club where we had a theme each month. We got together at someone different's place and each brought something according to the themed cuisine. After exhausting talk about the food, we all talked about each other, our interests and social lives. We kept the club small and it worked for about 2 yrs. Eventually folks moved away or got other interests, but I still am friends with 2 of the original 10.
If you aren't good at cooking, I might suggest a once a month book club or chess club etc... you can put an ad in a local BB or gay rag... meet at a neutral place to start and then as you become comfortable with guys in the group, extend the meetings to each others places. Anyway.. just a thought..

Lenny from Denver