A Meetup group that didn’t fly, and more about meeting people

When you move, whether it’s across the country or across town, you confront the need to make new friends close to where you live.

This month marks five years since I moved from Edgewater to the South Loop, and while I’ve made friends nearby, most of my friends are still on the North Side.

Last fall I noticed that a Meetup group called “South Loop Singles over 60” was organizing. Perfect, it seemed: my neighborhood, my demographic. The initial meeting was promising: 15 people showed up.

Paula, the organizer, passed around a notepad so that people could indicate what get-togethers they wanted her to arrange. Based on the most-mentioned interests, she planned restaurant outings, a book group, and cards-and-games afternoons. She and I sat alone at the Friday night pizza night. Just one other person signed up to join her for a book discussion, and then cancelled a couple of hours before. And so it went. The best turnout was five people to play games on Sunday afternoon at a coffee shop.

Since Meetup has collected nonrefundable dues for another six months, Paula intends to keep trying with activities on recurring dates each month. After that, she may cancel Meetup and continue getting together with whoever has been showing up.

Why the group hasn’t taken off is perplexing. Did people look around at that first meeting and decide there wasn’t friend potential?

A couple of weeks ago, Chicago Tribune advice columnist Amy Dickinson had a letter from a 61-year-old New York City woman who was finding it hard “to make new friends at this age and in this day.”

Amy advised consistency: “[Y]ou should stay in one place long enough to establish yourself. . . . Dipping in and out of groups, volunteering or going to church sporadically — this really makes you a moving target. . . . being consistent will put you on the radar of others who are also consistent.”

I was reminded of what someone told me years ago: for introverts like me, it’s not going to be like at first sight. Quieter, in-the-background people need repeated exposure for others to appreciate their good qualities. That reinforces what Amy wrote: one is more likely to make new friends doing something that meets regularly than through one-time or sporadic attempts.

Sometimes I think the way to go is to join a group based on an interest, not simply to meet people. You can then indulge the interest whether or not you click with anyone. You can also be selective about friendship. I’ve had experiences with purely social groups where someone I didn’t feel compatible with wanted to befriend me. If you’ve joined to get to know people, it seems inconsistent to turn away from anyone who reaches out.

One good thing has come out of Meetup: Paula and I have become friends. Making one new friend through a new activity isn’t a bad record. I’m really only hoping for three or four more good friends close by. I still want to have time for my friends up north.

I have resolved to take the initiative with people I might like to know better. I invited a few women over 60 who live downtown over last Friday for a casual get-together. A woman who lives in my building, a woman who attends the church service I do, and Paula were able to come. The conversation didn’t lag, and everyone seemed to enjoy herself. I didn’t necessarily have it in mind that the get-together would launch an ongoing group, and I’m not sure it will. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of it.

Friendship is an ongoing effort.



“‘I didn’t even know. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’”
— Donald Trump, on his conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about whether the United States has a trade deficit with Canada

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