How to go on friend dates in your twenties

Words by Genevieve Phelan

You might even find love.

Platonic dating is something we often overlook as a crucial part of expanding horizons in our mid-to-late twenties. In high school, we socialise with a different group of humans than we did in primary school, and tertiary studies typically follow, and then perhaps further study, all the way through to the workplace. But where do we connect with new humans after (or between) that?

Maybe, we’ll make inextricable bonds with the people we dwell with — our housemates — by luck of the draw. And we’ll probably have a backbone of love in lifelong girlfriends. Then there could be romantic heartbreaks, heart-menders, fleeting love interests and a hodgepodge of weird date nights. But, in most instances, without avenues set up for en masse platonic dating (by circumstance, like a uni class), establishing new connections of the ‘friend’ variety can be hard. 

For more content like this, browse through our Life section.

It’s like we build up a certain amount of friend-making atrophy when we hit a stride in our early 20s, feeling slightly anxious about the prospect of new people. And I’m not referring to the girls who gave you lipgloss in the pub bathroom at 1am. Today, we’re referencing those rare and relatively sober, intentional first friend dates.

In the last year or so, between lockdowns in 2021 and post-pandemic in 2022, I’ve gone out on a limb a few times to meet people. It can be scary, starting from scratch in friendships outside of work, or education, or what’s become comfortable for you over time.

My approach to making new friendships wasn’t really a deliberate one in hindsight. I’ve teed up gorgeous dinners and drinks and coffees with people I’ve either worked with (or admired) online and met new circles through relationships built on one fateful night at a supper club. 

Like romantic dating, some of your encounters will turn into lasting friendships, and others will be more casual flings. But what I’ve learned is it’s never too late to build connections with new people. There are so many incredible possibilities for fresh relationships to be made outside of Hinge, and no age or stage of life is a caveat to that. Here are some of the best lessons I’ve subconsciously taken on board over the last year of accidental platonically dating. 

Find shameless common ground from afar

Do you adore someone’s niche TikTok page? Maybe you’re a devoted follower of their daily vlogs, really love their style and have noticed you two share a relatively similar postcode.

Perhaps you’ve started following each other, create like-minded content, or just connect with them in some way. I’m not saying ask every person you follow on the internet out for brunch, but sometimes one of the most unexpected meet-cutes can come from simply engaging with someone you relate to online.

In a mix of business and pleasure (through editorial planning for Harrolds), I decided to meet up with two clever creatives Katherine Denton and Maxine Wylde during Fashion Week in Sydney, splitting pasta and Chablis at Pellegrino 2000. It was a gorgeous first date, and I hope to catch up again soon via work and/or pleasure.

Be vulnerable and unafraid of the ‘cold DM’

I think one of the best things you can be is open to new experiences and people. The common thread between many of my recent platonic dating stints is that the meeting was catalysed by one of us sending a ‘cold DM’ to the other. For example, I met up with the gorgeous writer Lauren Payne for brekky in Melbourne on one of her recent work trips down here, after she told me she’d be around and would love to sink some coffee together.

It was fun to talk to someone who does similar editorial work to me, chatting about tax and invoicing and deadlines and clients and life. When you have your first rendezvous with someone new, it’s important to be honest and welcoming, even if having a guard up to a (somewhat) perfect stranger feels instinctive. 

Look for one-off experiences in your city, and go them alone

One March evening last year turned out to be an integral and prophetic juncture in my 20s. I went to the second-ever Club Sup, hosted by my now very dear friend Sophie McIntyre.

I went into Club Sup as a writer working on a story about the rise of intimate, independently-hosted dinner parties, but I was also intrigued as an individual. Sometimes, I use ‘work’ or a ‘story’ as a scapegoat for really just wanting to put myself out there and give something a go — and wow, I am lucky to get to do that. 

Basically, since hosting our Club Sup dinner party on that pivotal night, Sophie and I became very close friends. I spent many nights last year at her old sharehouse, feeling like part of the furniture with her beautiful group of housemates and their partners. Just recently, Soph, myself and some of the gals we’ve met along the way have gone for a dreamy Daylesford weekend away.

We were like, “Oh my god, it’s been a year since we met”, and couldn’t believe we were celebrating an inaugural anniversary of knowing each other when it felt like a lifetime. And to think I wouldn’t have met my darling Sophie and the women she loves if it wasn’t for something as unique and uniting as Club Sup. Highly recommend it.

Pursue an interest, a hobby, a new mode of movement – anything grounded in community!

Another epic friendship I found through Sophie was one that became fortified through the sweat-soaked, cathartic joy of our favourite cult: United Ride. UR is a soul cycle studio on Swan Street, Richmond, in case you are unacquainted. Sophie joined United and since recruited our now mutual friend Emily to get down to a class. Naturally, she was hooked.

Em and I met at a post-lockdown picnic last year, but it’s through UR that we regularly caught up for post-spin coffees across the road at Cheeky Monkey. She has about six years on me, and I don’t think we would’ve become good friends if it wasn’t for the shared elation in United Ride. Her wisdom, wit, humour and storytelling are golden, and she’s already taught me a few lessons in life.

This same philosophy of meeting people via a shared hobby can be applied to so many other facets of life, not just the gym. I’m really tempted to start learning French again after dropping it in first-year uni (post six years of study).

Maybe you’re keen to start some cooking classes, or become a Pilates instructor, or take up pottery. Whatever it is, I guarantee it will introduce you to someone new, and someone that you may not otherwise cross paths with. Now that’s exciting. 

Read more about friend dating here.

Lazy Loading