It was mid-November when I got the text, the final in a small flurry of life updates that read something like “I miss you! Let’s try for 2023?” My friend, the sender, meant it when they said they wanted to catch up. During COVID, our bond deepend a lot and we toggle between sending each other a dozen voice notes a day and spending a fortnight trying to snatch a time when we’re both free to catch up (each of us equally guilty for being unavailable). Geography and schedules are working in outright opposition to us—something I bet you already understand, since you’re also probably living this meme about adult friendships (see below).
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? Lately, other friends have been making me reconsider forever rescheduling plans as less of a forgone conclusion. How? They’ve set up low-lift, loose-format, standing hangouts that are centred on a theme.
These gatherings—usually slotted for a weekend afternoon with flexible arrival times and the ability to dip whenever you want—are the exact sort of socializing that I’m craving these days. They also feel like a perfect meeting of the moment: Intimate gatherings at a friend’s home won’t cost much during a lean month and it also creates the perfect environment to stay mindful of COVID exposure (dropping your own rapid test result in the group chat on the day of the hangout). During this era of the pandemic, almost everyone I know is craving genuine, in-person connection—but is also exhausted. These low-key gatherings, then, are exactly the vibe, since the effort of scheduling is removed and the overall expectations are gentle.
To give a bit more detail, one friend of mine is launching a soup swap in January. On the second and fourth Sundays of the month, everyone gathers with a soup or stew they’ve made and an armload of Tupperware. Instead of eating your own soup for multiple days, you walk out with a week’s worth of different soups—but the real gift here, of course, is connecting with other foodie friends.
Another pal just started hosting a standing Sunday afternoon craft drop-in, where all her friends are invited to stop by with whatever creative pursuit they’re working on between the hours of 1pm and 5ish. It feels like found time for hobbies (something that’s proven time and again to help heal burnout) *and* the chance to meet new arts-focused people in her circle, a double win. (Both friends have specified that you don’t have to bring anything to participate: “We carry each other,” said my soup-swap pal of what would happen if someone can’t cook on the given week.)
Two of my other friends have each mentioned their resolution for 2023 is seeing their friends more—an idea I’m stealing for myself, since time with those we care about is proven to boost our health and our joy. If it sounds like a good idea to you, too, maybe consider starting your own standing hangout. It can centre around anything you want or that your friend group finds interesting: A bi-monthly movie night where someone signs up to pick the flick in question, say, or a recurring cookbook club where everyone brings a dish from their fave cookbook to share. What about a standing board game night, or monthly plans to have brunch on a slated day?
I’m not sure yet what my own low-lift, standing hangout will be, but whatever I end up planning, I’m inviting along my too-frequent text friend. I'm trying for 2023.