Socialization, the frugal way
After school, finding friends is hard. It's even harder when you don't go to an office every day. Socialization becomes a dying art.
I wanted to make it a priority to meet new people, having left most of my social/support network back in Washington. The real question, though, is how.
Given my love of reading, I considered book clubs. It's a good way to meet smart people and have intelligent discussion. The best place to find information on those is at local bookstores and libraries. Still, the results can be mixed, even when you're in familiar territory. In Seattle, I had trouble finding groups that read stuff I was interested in. Those that did tended to not be accepting new members, or met too far from me.
I've answered a few ads on Craigslist. There is some potential there. But not all that many women in my more immediate age group. Most are in their early 20s. I still reached out to a couple of them, but who knows how many will actually respond. Still, it's a good, free way to make contact.
That's why I'm focusing a lot of my efforts on Meetup. If you're not familiar with this site, it's fabulous. You can choose your area and then various topics of interest. Whether you're a WoW player or avid hiker (or both) there's almost certainly a group for you. And it's free to use.
My main focus is on finding groups of women I can relate to. It's harder than you might think. While I don't care if the women are single, a decent number of the groups are for single women only. (Marriage-ists!) I totally get that -- being single can be a whole different universe at times. Still, it made things a bit harder.
I found three or four groups though: One for geeky gals, one for liberal ladies, one for women in their 20s and 30s, and one for couples. There are also a couple of board game groups that I have my eye on, and I bookmarked some Magic the Gathering groups for Tim.
Not all of these events are free, of course. Sometimes the organizers require $5-10, which is the discounted group rate of admittance. Other times, the groups meet at a restaurant, so you might feel uncomfortable just watching others eat. Still, no one is expected to go to all the meetings, so you can simply skip the ones that would make you financially uncomfortable. You can also make a compromise and order something small from the menu. Given the tight times, these events seem to increasingly focus on affordable deals and happy hour specials.
I'm proud to say that I already went to an event. (The sunshine here is helping make the depression a little less severe, which gives me a bit more of an energy boost.) We met in Tempe, the local version of the University District in Seattle.
It was a dueling piano bar, which was something I had always meant to check out in Seattle. There was no cover during happy hour, there were quartered, hoagie sandwiches for the munching, and any drink we wanted was $3. Our group could order 2 special drinks, each $2, but neither of them were of interest. So I sipped some $3 Lynchburg Lemonades and generally had a great time.
Dueling piano bar means that there are two players at any given time. They take requests and will convert any song to piano. My favorite was Whip It, though I was suitably impressed by one player's rendition of Sublime songs. Nothing like hearing the phrase, "bust a cap in Sancho" with piano key strikes behind it.
As the night wore on -- which is to say the crowd grew to an appropriate size -- the audience was asked to sing along at specific parts. At one point, we were divided into competing sides for "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond: One half followed the phrase "Sweet Caroline" with "Boh, boh, boh!" and the other half came in after "Good times never seemed so good" with "So good! So good! So good!" In other words, it was silly and fun and the musical abilities were quite impressive. In fact, I plan on taking Tim there in the near future for some frugal fun.
Of course, it wasn't completely frugal. I could have gotten away paying just bus fare, but I decided to "splurge." I didn't need any food, since the sandwiches were plenty, but I did indulge in 3 drinks. After tips, that came to $12.
Meanwhile, I met three cool ladies. The first one I met had to leave relatively early because she lived on the other side of town, but I hope to see her again at another event. The second was the organizer herself, who also heads the couples group I joined. The third and I didn't get to talk much because, by then, the noise had moved far beyond a dull roar; but she was very friendly. She asked if I liked to hike. I shouted a quick explanation about fatigue
Then she invited me to come with them to Oktoberfest the next weekend. They're going to carpool to save on parking, though I will probably just take the bus to cut out the middleman. While I'm not much of a beer fan, I am excited. I never have made it out to an Oktoberfest, so this should be an experience. Plus it's another chance to socialize.
Oh, and I checked: Admission is free.