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 have enjoyed getting together with a few more people this summer, mostly outside. I became interested in We Need to Hang Out by Billy Baker in because of Dave Shiflett’s February 4 review in The Wall Street Journal. I read this book quickly, twice, and have thought of it often. I was close to giving it 5 stars on Goodreads, which I rarely do, 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. Still, I highly recommend this book. We all need a bit of a reset, even if we still have to wear masks for a while.
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. (I think there are a whole lot of us who can sympathize with Billy on all these points.)
This book is an entertaining memoir of the journey of realization that he was quickly losing 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.
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 phone conversations, which most men are not fans of, but there’s only a limited amount of time in the day, and dinner to be cooked, kiddos, dogs and family who need attention; it’s hard to get everything done. Add the problem that people move, life-long friends are rare these days, or even friends you’ve had since your children’s childhood.
I would recommend this book for everyone. It reminded me how I had such great friends in college (still do, but on Facebook!). After a certain age (or life stage of grown-up kids), it is harder to make friends. I know people in the neighborhood because I walk the dog, but they hang out with those who have kids the same age. We’ve enjoyed a few outdoor gatherings with friends, and hope to do more as the weather cools. I try to keep up with college friends, former work friends, relatives, and others on social media, but sometimes, wouldn’t the phone be better? We all need to make time for friends. I hope and pray that with the vaccines, COVID will become much less a problem, making it easier for us to all be together.