Books · Family History · Labradors and Friends · Thankful

Hanging Out, a book review of We Need to Hang Out, by Billy Baker

I became interested in this book after reading Dave Shiflett’s February 4 review in The Wall Street Journal. COVID has made both 2020 and 2021 strange times, with so many of us at home, others working harder, wearing masks, and getting by. We all miss seeing faces, smiles, and being with people. It’s getting better now, with the vaccines, and I look forward to getting together with lots more people soon.

The funny thing is that Billy Baker started working on this book at least a year before our infamous shutdown, concluding just as COVID-19 appeared in the news. Billy Baker (I love the alliteration in his name!) was called into his magazine editor’s office and given the “perfect for you” assignment of writing why middle-aged men have no friends. He was insulted, of course, both with being called “middle-aged” and with assuming he was such a looser that he had no friends. Looking closer though, he realized it was true.

This book is an entertaining memoir of the journey of realization that he was quickly loosing track of his friends, not making new ones, and what he did about it. The fact is that after work, marriage, kids, home-ownership and such, he hadn’t spent much time with friends, didn’t have correct addresses on a few, and wasn’t making new friends either. He discussed at length how guys like to do things together, whether it’s a project like building something or a hobby or sport. I can see that, with the popularity of things like community softball leagues, groups like Hands-On Atlanta, or Atlanta Concert Band. We like to do things together and we’ve missed that the past year.

This book is written from a guy’s perspective, but the sad fact is that it’s true for women too. We have the advantage of enjoying talking on the phone, which most men are not fans of, but there’s only a limited amount of time in the day, and when you have to cook dinner, supervise kiddos, walk dogs and spend time with your family, it’s hard to get it all done. Add to that the problem that people move: friends since childhood are rare these days, or even friends made during your children’s childhood.

I would recommend this book for everyone. We all need to make time for friends. I was close to giving it 5 stars, but I found a bit of the guy talk and casual writing style annoying, but then, I’m not the target audience clearly illustrated on the cover…a middle aged guy.

So what am I doing about this need to hang out? Well, this week, I’m thankful to be hanging out with family, enjoying holding my first grandchild, our darling Emma Kate. I’m keeping up with groups of friends on Zoom calls. Next weekend, I’ll be celebrating the graduation of some Atlanta International College Students, outdoors with our AMIS friends. And someday soon, maybe I’ll hang out with my best friend, Edna. Maybe I’ll ever bring the dogs…  

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