I never thought I’d have to actively try to meet people. Making friends always happened organically, because I was—as I’m sure most people were—constantly surrounded by other humans. It started in grade school and continued on into high school, college, and the working world. Then one day, I moved 4,000 miles away from the place I’ve always called home and realized that I won’t be able to grab a few drinks with my coworkers on Friday nights … because I don’t have any coworkers.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I love working from home. I love being able to run errands, walk my dog or spend an hour on Facebook whenever I feel like it. I love being able to stay awake until 2 or 3 a.m. without worrying about how much sleep I’m getting, because I know I have the freedom to wake up at noon if I want to. But after being in my new apartment for a month, the fear of turning into Johnny Depp in “Secret Window” forced me to create a profile on meetup.com.
I browsed through the various types of meetups: book clubs, hiking groups, scuba diving organizations. The list of grownup play dates went on and on. I searched for a dog-specific group, but the only thing available was a Shih Tsu meetup. I didn’t think its members would appreciate me and my mutt joining their crew (even though Koa is 1/4 Shih Tsu!), so I kept looking.
Finally, I came across a group called “New 2 Lou.” It was for any and all Louisville newbies. It seemed perfect—broad enough to include all kinds of people, with meetups at new locations every month. I RSVP’d for the next gathering, which was going to be held at a new brewery, 10 minutes away from my apartment.
Now, if you know me, you know that something like this is NOT my idea of fun. I have no problem speaking to a crowd, being on T.V., going on a sales call or giving a presentation. But immersing myself in a social situation with no definitive goal gives me anxiety. Plus, I had my worries: What if it’s just a bunch of sleazy guys trying to hook up? What if I end up surrounded by people trying to sell me Nerium, or Amway, or whatever the hell it is people are selling nowadays? I decided that the best way to approach it was like the first part of a sales call: My goal was simply to get to know the person/people.
Before I knew it, the day had come. I walked into the brewery, checked in, and grabbed a beer. As soon as I had my IPA in hand, I scanned the crowd. A bunch of people were already engrossed in conversations and others were awkwardly standing around, looking like they didn’t want to be seen. But then, I spotted him, with his fitted tee and perfectly groomed eyebrows: the only gay guy in the entire group. I was ecstatic! Gay guys are my favorite people to chat with because (1) they won’t hit on me, (2) they either won’t judge me or will be honest about their judgements and (3) they’re usually very easy to talk to.
We made eye contact, walked toward each other, and began with the typical “getting to know you” questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What brought you here? We sat at a large, round table and continued the convo. Everything seemed to be going OK, until about five minutes into it. I had said something that was only mildly funny, but he was laughing—hard. It oozed of too much effort. I replayed the last five minutes in my head, analyzing his body language, mannerisms and word choice, then realized—with horror—that he wasn’t gay! He was a straight, metro-sexual guy who probably thought I found him attractive, since I had walked past every single other person, making a beeline for him. It was awful. I had to abort.
Soon enough, he said he had to go to the restroom. My chance to escape! Or so I thought… He stood up and left both his phone and beer on the table, saying “I’ll be right back.” I sat there, contemplating how horrible of a person I’d be if I dug out and left his stuff on the table. But before I could make a move, three other guys swooped in and made themselves comfortable in the empty chairs at our table. By the time Mr. Metro returned, the rest of us had introduced ourselves. I quickly learned that all four guys actually lived in Indiana—not Louisville—and each had been there for two or more years. New 2 Lou? I thought. None of you fakers are new to Lou! (Indiana IS very close; it’s literally a walk away from Louisville. But still… two years?!)
I spent the next 30 minutes working on my second beer, while answering questions about Hawaii and listening to them drone on about nothing I was even remotely interested in hearing. Then I had to wait for each of them to show me their photo of a sunset by the Big Four Bridge, because “Everyone has a sunset photo of the bridge.” Finally, I was able to make my great bathroom break/escape. I’d had enough. I did not make a single friend or potential work connection. Annoyed, I walked the quarter mile on the above mentioned bridge back to Louisville.
Though my first meetup.com experience was less than ideal, I’m not gonna ditch the whole thing. I think that it’s a great concept and I know the person who founded New 2 Lou had good intentions. But I think I’ll pass on their next gathering and join a hiking club instead. Because you can’t fake a hike.