There are a great many ways to ruin male friendships, but the three leading methods remain pretty constant: 1) date somebody’s ex, 2) wear a MAGA/Pussy hat and 3). have kids. This last one is the most permanent and yet, inexplicably, still the most frequent.
New and prospective fathers hear a lot of dumb gags about how having kids will ruin their social lives, but, well, there’s truth to them. Actually, what’s the word for truer than true? It’s that. Having a child is amazing. But it not only makes your own existence a practical impossibility, but it also conspires to slowly ruin your very drive for keeping one. One day you’re on your way to a midnight metal concert with six guys in a Civic, the next you’re passing on a 6:30 happy hour to catch up on sleep because, my god, raising a tiny person is hard work. It’s pathetic. But it’s also true. Rest assured, however, there are some ways you can mitigate the damage, and possibly, with a little effort, maintain the friendships you forged before becoming a dad. Here are some ways to do just that.
1. For the Love of God, Learn to Plan Ahead
If you are bad at planning ahead, you shall live the balance of your days friendless and alone and surrounded by My Little Pony accessories. No one will make spontaneous plans anymore — not you, not your friends, not your enemies. There are too many external forces to consider, a list that includes, but is not limited to, nap schedules, Pull-Up obtainment, and your spouse. To stay in touch with your friends, plan ahead, like stupidly ahead, like ahead enough that it’s near holidays you’re not even thinking about yet. If you’re bad at this, make it a recurring event: dinner the first Thursday of every month, Wednesday afternoon lunches, Tuesday night Bunco club, whatever. In addition to everything else they muck up, children are real bad for logistics. But with enough advance notice, you can plan around them.
2. To that end: Purchase tickets now.
That is to say: commit as early as allowed by natural laws of physics. Get tickets immediately for a ballgame, or a concert, or a 5K, or an MCU movie. This puts on your god-like life-commanding calendar a hard-and-fast date that’s entrenched in the present but far enough in the future to address logistical necessaries: babysitter, driver, work schedule. Cross off the boring practical concerns now, and head off any problems that might delay or derail your evening. Sure, one friend will probably bail at the last minute anyway, but it won’t be you.
3. Master the art of the group text
A good group text is key for busy parents. Not only does it allow you to dip into adult conversation (read: stupid jokes with your friends) but it allows you to make plans quickly without having to reconnect every time. By virtue of its construction the group conversation neither starts nor stops, meaning you don’t have to waste time with “saying hi” or “bowing out.” You can just pretend you’re all sitting around the room, which you will probably never do again. Do this on text too — unlike larger, broader forms of social media, it’ll still feels like a semi-private conversation, excepting all the criminal Slovenian bots who are listening in on it, of course.
4. Reboot your grandfather’s old-man lunch group.
I don’t have hard data on this, but according to anecdotal research 102 percent of American grandfathers meet their old-man friends for coffee, breakfast, donuts, and bitching about Democrats at a restaurant, coffee shop, White Castle, Perkins, or nearby truck stop. We are not advocating hanging out at a truck stop, unless that’s your thing and you’re really into pecan logs, which, fine. We are advocating a regular meet-up with as many members of your tribe as possible. Weekend mornings might be hard, as God knows someone has to be at a soccer field at 8 a.m., but there’s a solid chance you can organize a semi-regular morning coffee or lunch. Also, White Castle coffee is no joke.
When do you get around to making plans, and then it’s time to do said plans, you’ll be awful plumb tuckered out. Your friends will be plumb tuckered out. Yet as much as your body will draw you to the horizontal comfort of your sofa, you need to keep your plans for the following reasons: 1. Breaking up work-home-work routine, 2. Holding onto your old life and 3. Still being interesting. If you make plans, keep them. If that means snoozing before you venture out at the late hour of 7 p.m., do what must be done.
6. Come up with a novel, strange, or violent activity.
Start a book club. Seriously. If Andrew Luck can do it, you can do it, even if you have $184 million fewer dollars lying around. Pitch a visit to an escape room. Or an archery range. Or do some axe throwing. Or go to one of those anger rooms, where you work out your office demons by smashing furniture in the confined safety of an enclosed room. The idea doesn’t matter in the slightest — the key is hinging your get-togethers on an activity, which will both restore you to your former independence and increase the chances of people showing up. People find it pretty easy to bail on, “Hey, let’s get together for dinner tonight.” It’s psychologically much harder to bail on axe throwing.
7. If all else fails, have them over with the kids.
And let the kids scamper downstairs, tumbling around in rooms full of toys and paper scraps and broken airplanes, while you and your buddies sit and stare at each other and try to remember where the time went.