Dudes are lonely. I’ve read a number of articles recently that examine the American adult male’s inability to make friends. They’re calling it an epidemic—an entire generation of guys wandering the earth by themselves, unable to connect with other guys. Saturday Night Live even has a skit about it, revolving around a dog park designed for men to interact awkwardly with each other. Being friendless might seem like a ridiculous concern when you consider the massive problems modern society faces (climate change, political division, Taylor Swift’s latest relationship), but there are serious implications to living a life without friends. First and foremost, you probably won’t live as long. Research shows that adults with friends are happier, have fewer health problems, and even resist the cognitive decline that typically comes with age. There are even studies that suggest “perceived loneliness” has been associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
So really this generation of adult men who can’t make friends could potentially be a public health crisis. Most of the sociologists and mental health experts point to the pandemic and social media as the primary causes of our current predicament, because both developments have further isolated individuals in a variety of ways. It makes sense, but I think adult men have had a hard time making friends long before “flatten the curve” and TikTok were a thing. When I was a kid, my father had work associates and church associates, but nobody ever really hung out to watch a game and drink a beer. He never spent a long weekend backpacking through the woods with other adult males. He gave all that friendship stuff up when he started a family. In my dad’s eyes, a man spent time at work or he spent time with his family. There simply wasn’t time for anything else. He told me as much over the years, sitting me down on several occasions and explaining, “You stop having fun when you have kids. That’s how it works.”
While working from home and doomscrolling have exacerbated the problem, I think the lack of social connection among adult males has as much to do with our society’s notion of the stoic, hard-working family man—the guy that stops having fun when he has kids. It’s a construct that forces men to isolate themselves.
Fortunately for me, I am not a prototypical stoic, hard-working family man, so I’m actually pretty good at making friends. That probably sounds like I’m bragging, but trust me, I’m not bragging; as you’ll discover later in this essay, being good at making friends basically means I’m bad at other things most “real” adults are good at, like making money or not drinking during the day. I’m really bad at not drinking during the day. Also, just because I’m good at making friends doesn’t mean I’m a good friend. If you need help moving, I’ll probably be out of town…or too busy day drinking.
It’s possible that there’s a scientific explanation for why I’m good at making friends. Perhaps it’s a matter of pheromones? Or maybe it has something to do with evolutionary needs, like how my wife has to be attracted to me from an evolutionary standpoint because I’m tall. (I know she’s way out of my league and I’ve analyzed our relationship from all the angles; a deep-seeded need to be paired with a partner who can reach things on high shelves is the only logical reason she’s with me). But I also think I’ve learned a thing or two about making friends over the years that could help others combat this epidemic of adult male loneliness. So, without further ado…
How to Make Friends in Four Easy Steps
Step 1: Initiate Contact
Admittedly, this is the hardest step because it forces you to “put yourself out there” and be vulnerable. Adult males suck at vulnerability. I suggest starting with something simple. For instance, I wave at everyone I see on the street or on the trail. It’s an exaggerated wave, too, paired with a broad smile and forced eye contact that my kids tell me is “creepy.” I follow that initial contact up with a conversation starter. And not your standard, “How you doin’?” That’s a conversation ender. Instead, I immediately dish out a random compliment like, “Dude, that hat is sick!”
Guys love it when you tell them one of their accessories is “sick.”
Other acceptable compliments: “Those Hokas are sick!” (You don’t even have to look at their shoes; all adult males wear Hokas).
“Is your dog part wolf?”
Step 2: Take up a Hobby
This is probably the most important step in the process and can yield the highest number of friends. But you need to be careful about what kind of hobby you choose. If you’re an adult male, you’re going to lean towards an “old man” hobby like tying flies. This is a mistake! The kind of hobby that you practice solo in a wood shed isn’t going to help you make friends. It will only further your sad, lonely life.
Instead, find a team sport you can play. And no, I’m not talking about pickleball, which tends to be a “couples” sport. You’re not trying to make friends with other couples here. You’re trying to meet other dudes.
Dodgeball and kickball are great. Even riding bikes can yield friends. I met a lot of other dudes while riding bikes. Basically, find a hobby that a 10-year-old boy would want to spend his Saturday doing, and that hobby will be your ticket to making new adult male friends.
Step 3: Stop Working So Much
This won’t go over well with your employer or your life partner, but you really need to cut back on your time at the office. Men who work really hard usually don’t have a lot of friends. They have money and respect, but not friends. It’s very important that you make yourself available on a Tuesday at 11am for a mountain bike ride. Also, never turn down an opportunity for day drinking.
You should write that last tip down: “Never turn down an opportunity for day drinking.”
If you receive pushback from your employer or spouse, remind them that we’re in the midst of an epidemic with real health implications. What’s more important: your job or your health?
Step 4: Don’t Forget the Beer
Ok, so you’ve initiated contact and started playing dodgeball on Tuesdays at 11 instead of logging in to that company-wide Zoom call. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to adult male friendship. It’s time to close the deal by bringing beer to your next social engagement. It doesn’t matter if that engagement is a mountain bike ride or a colonoscopy: bring beer. Adult males love beer. Sometimes, you can even convince another adult male to meet you out specifically to drink beer with no other activity planned. You just sit together and drink. Sometimes adult women are puzzled by this behavior, but adult males seem to enjoy it.
But beer isn’t the only way to establish long-lasting friendships. Don’t underestimate the value of free meat too. I had a casual acquaintance who recently invited me to his house to try some pork he cooked on his new smoker. It was delicious and he’s now my best friend. I’m naming him in my will. And it doesn’t have to be smoked pork. Brisket would have worked too.
So, in conclusion…tell other guys their shoes are sick, recreate like a 10-year-old, drink more and work less during the day, and ply other men with various smoked meats. That’s how you make friends as an adult.
Cover photo courtesy of the author.