Calgary women-only club helps lonely adults make friends
'If I made it co-ed, it would turn into dating and drama,' jokes founder Jessica Painter
Jessica Painter found herself pining for friends after moving to Calgary from California three years ago.
She didn't know anyone in the city besides her husband and her dog, and as someone who worked from home, she found it difficult to meet people.
Hungry for community, she'd go to the gym and chat up people, and often they'd wonder what on earth she was doing, she said.
It took Painter roughly a year to build up a true circle of close friends. Along that journey, it struck her how many others were struggling with the same loneliness and isolation.
So last September, she created In Her Circle.
"And what we do is we help women fight loneliness by helping them create authentic friendships and build a local community," Painter told the Calgary Eyeopener.
The friendship club hosts monthly events in the city, like DIY perfume workshops, sleepovers and games nights, with more casual get togethers like weekend happy hours sprinkled between.
"Our community is growing, but our events are purposefully very small. We keep it maximum 20 people," Painter said.
"I found that when there's an event larger than that, those authentic connections start to get lost because this community does tend to attract people with high social anxiety. And so if it's more than 20, they just want to run out the door."
The gatherings are exclusively for women.
"That's just where my heart is," the 32-year-old said. Plus it keeps things simpler, she added.
"That's what I worry about a bit. If I made it co-ed, it would turn into dating and drama."
Countering isolation in the digital age
Though the world is more connected now than ever before in this age of the internet and mobile phones, Painter believes social media actually contributes to loneliness.
"When someone is uncomfortable or they don't want to connect, they just stare at their phone, or they stay home, and they're looking at everyone else's highlight reels and thinking, 'Oh wow, their life is perfect,' whereas none of our lives are perfect," she said.
"And so it's funny, because we do have more ways than ever to connect and stay connected, but it's actually having the opposite effect."
Painter hopes to start similar initiatives in other cities in the future, but she says for now she's focusing on continuing her success in Calgary.
"I have seen so many women who have come to an event, and I see a little wolf pack forming. I watch them through Instagram doing happy hours and all these fun things together, and that just makes my heart so happy, because it means it's working."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.