I was recently chatting with a colleague whose son just started ninth grade at a new school. He had a tight group of pals in elementary and middle school. Now, at 14, he was starting over, the new kid trying to make new friends.
My colleague described how she’d been coaching her son through the uncomfortable process of finding his people, telling him it takes time, that it might be uncomfortable for a while.
We agreed that this particular discomfort isn’t limited to adolescence. “Every time a shift happens, you have to relearn,” she said. That shift could be starting a new job, moving to a new city, returning to in-person work, acclimating to life after a divorce.
As children, we have school and, if we’re lucky, some combination of parent-negotiated play dates, sports teams and after-school activities that create favorable conditions for making friends. The indignities of finding a new group with whom to eat lunch notwithstanding, your environment is tailored to the cultivation of new ties.
But once we leave formal schooling, we don’t find ourselves in cohorts or situations like these as frequently. The advice for adults wishing to make friends is often to join a club, to find a group of people who are into what you’re into. We have to seek out the grown-up equivalent of a sandbox, a place where people are oriented toward making connections.
Finding the running club or knitting circle is the administrative part of friendmaking. The greater challenge is moving through the awkwardness and fears of rejection that we may have thought we left in the high school cafeteria. Marisa Franco, a psychologist and the author of “Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends,” recently spoke with The Times about strategies for getting over such anxieties. She mentioned a few theories about the dynamics of meeting new people that I found especially intriguing.
The liking gap: We tend to underestimate others’ esteem. “When strangers interact, they’re usually more liked by the other person than they assume,” Dr. Franco said.
The acceptance prophecy: “When people assume others like them, they tend to become warmer and friendlier,” she said. And that leads others to respond warmly in turn.
The theory of inferred attraction: People tend to like people who they think like them. “So the more you can show people that you like and value them, the better,” Dr. Franco said.
Have you found yourself in a situation where you were trying to make new friends as an adult? How did it go? Tell me about it.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
📺 “Nothing Compares” (Sunday): In her 2021 profile of the musician Sinead O’Connor, my colleague Amanda Hess wrote that O’Connor was so famous in the early ’90s that “the very dimensions of her skull seemed inscribed in the public consciousness.” They were certainly inscribed in mine, after countless transfixed viewings of the “Nothing Compares 2 U” music video. This new Showtime documentary, which examines O’Connor’s rise to fame and years in the spotlight, is a fascinating portrait of an artist and her cultural legacy.
🍿 “Bros” (out now): Billy Eichner co-wrote and was an executive producer of this romantic comedy, in which he stars as a perennially single podcast host who gets involved with a buff lawyer who’s as skeptical about relationships as Eichner’s character is. In her review for The Times, Amy Nicholson called the film a “semisweet, sexually frank queer valentine,” and the trailer is full of enough witty one-liners that I’m planning to buy a ticket for this weekend.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Marcella Hazan’s Roast Chicken With Lemons
The weather in New York turned brisk this week, ushering in the beginning of roast chicken season. Arguably, you don’t really need a recipe to roast a chicken — just salt it, stick it in a hot oven and then remove when golden and cooked to the bone. But Marcella Hazan’s recipe has a twist. She pricks a couple of lemons with a skewer and stuffs them into the chicken cavity before roasting. The lemons perfume the drippings, which make a heady sauce to spoon over the meat. There are dozens of recipe notes with ideas for additions (garlic, thyme, onion, etc.) — and just as many notes that say not to change a thing. The cold nights will last for a while, though, giving you plenty of time to experiment. With roast chicken, it’s hard to go wrong.
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Clemson vs. North Carolina State, college football: These two top-10 teams, considered the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will face off in a prime-time matchup that will send one home with its first loss. No. 5 Clemson is coming off a dramatic double-overtime win over Wake Forest, perhaps the best game of Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei’s career. No. 10 N.C. State boasts a solid defense and a victory in last year’s meeting. But this year, Clemson is playing at home, where it hasn’t lost since 2016. Tonight at 7:30 Eastern on ABC.