3 min

New in town – and lonely

A newbie struggles to find friends in Vancouver

Dear Dr Ren:

A new job brought me to Vancouver a few months ago and other than my coworkers, I really haven’t made any social connections.

I’m arty rather than sporty, so I can’t count on teammates for introductions. I tend to be rather quiet, but I can hold my own socially if given the chance. Is the bar scene my only option for meeting other guys? I’d like to find a circle of friends as well as sex.

I’m not a complete dolt… I know about the internet and all. I’m just wondering if Vancouver has a network I don’t know about that would make settling in a bit easier. So far it hasn’t been easy.

New To Town

Dear Newbie,

Yours is a common complaint among new arrivals here, and I can’t explain it.

Except for the rain, we have lovely weather, all sorts of indoor and outdoor activities throughout the year, and what appears to be a vibrant social atmosphere. Yet it does take some time to find one’s niche in this town.

And yes, there are some tricks to making it easier.

First of all, get yourself a copy of the GLBA (Gay and Lesbian Business Association) Directory. It is packed with services and organizations in the community. When you need a painter or a computer tech or whatever, call someone in the book and you immediately make a community connection.

Next, go to The Centre and familiarize yourself with its programs. Offer to volunteer. The Pride Society would be another place to get involved. Each would benefit from your time and introduce you to plenty of new folks in return.

You say you are arty. The possibilities are endless. Depending on your particular interest, find a group. Vancouver boasts Not So Strictly Ballroom for dancers, Raving Theatre if you’re a ham, and any number of gay and lesbian choruses for those with a good set of pipes.

Beyond organized groups, let others know you are open to new friendships. Speak freely to people you meet and initiate invitations when you can. Actively enlarge your circle.

The process is the same whether you have just entered a new city or a roomful of strangers. If you hang in the shadows with downcast eyes, you’ll likely leave as lonely as when you arrived. If you work the room with charm and grace, you’ll leave with a smile and few new friends.

Lesbian comic Lea DeLaria reads out questions from her audience members during her shows. One was from a young woman who said she had never been with a woman but wanted to be. She asked Lea what she should do. Lea’s response? “Stand up!”

Get out there and be a friend. If you are a light, moths will find you.

Now let me address the sexual question in your letter.

Though you say you are savvy about the bars and the internet for securing sex, you add that you would “like to find a circle of friends as well as sex.” This statement hints that you keep the two realms distinct. If this is so, it might explain why you do not feel socially integrated. Usually, friendship and sexuality are inclusive parts of one’s social life, though this is not always the case.

You don’t mention your age, so I don’t know if you are describing a long-standing pattern or a process of learning social skills. You may fit in one of the following categories:

There is a sizeable demographic of men who have always been independent and single who have no desire to couple. They are happy living by themselves and have discovered means of meeting their sexual needs that work well for them.

They are either not romantically inclined or know that they do not sustain romantic relationships long term and are clear about this with their sexual partners. They tend to have a close circle of friends who know little or nothing of their private sexual adventures.

Then again, there are guys who seem to have many varied friends and are always looking for a steady boyfriend but never succeeding. They are somehow too needy or flighty or otherwise incapable of understanding the art of romantic commitment. They are forever newly in or out of a relationship.

For others, dating is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Simple.

You do not give me enough information to know if you fit in any of these groups, or even if you are really asking how to break free if this is the case. I can tell you that there really is a lid for every pot, and in a city this size there is a circle somewhere just waiting to include you.

If it is sex you are truly asking about, well, I’m sure that’s available, too. We are social animals. Remember to keep yourself safe and treat yourself and others with respect and kindness. Ask for what you want and be willing to give the best of yourself.

Really, you can’t help but succeed. Welcome to Vancouver!