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This post is not sponsored by Meetup. The opinions and experiences mentioned below are my own.
I used to be really shy and introverted (and still am). I was nervous about meeting new people and didn’t have much to contribute to a conversation.
I came to America at the age of 18, and my spoken English at that time wasn’t that great.
It was a legitimate cultural and language barrier in addition to my introverted personality.
As I was put into academic, professional, and social settings that forced me to interact with other people, however, I’ve found myself more comfortable making small talk, meeting new people, and striking up random conversations with those I just met.
When I was a student with a tiny budget to live on, my social activities revolved around going to free food events with friends, going to the gym, and eating lunch I packed from home with other grad students.
I hate to admit it, but my effort to save money prevented me from paying $8 for a two-way train ride and another $15-20 on a restaurant meal to catch up with friends.
Sometimes my friends would give me a ride, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of spending $20 on food just to have fun. I wanted to save as much money as I could for emergencies.
Someone introduced me to Meetup.com a couple of years ago. I took a look at the website, thought about some murder cases resulting from online meetings, and forgot about the website until recently.
Mr. FAF is now back in DC permanently. I no longer have to worry about paying $7-10 for the Metro to go somewhere. I can just drive around and have fun.
It took me sometime to revisit Meetup. Baby FAF was in China for more than a year, and I felt guilty leaving him at home to go out and have fun. We went to a couple of Meetup events together as a family once a month in the summer.
At one point, however, the tediousness of housework and family duties started to feel suffocating to me. Mr. FAF would go out to eat or drink with his friends while I stayed at home to take care of Baby FAF.
In a way, I thought it was unfair that Mr. FAF could have fun whenever he wanted alone while I had to take over whatever it was at the house. But I just kept that bottled up, thinking I was trying to be a good wife and a mother.
After all, our family was away from each other for so long. The reunion is what we’ve been longing for all those years. I should be appreciative. I shouldn’t complain.
After I wrote the piece called “Housework – The Financial Decision In A Marriage,” I got a lot of positive feedback from the reader. Many of you insisted I talk to Mr. FAF and have him take over more housework.
I took that advice to heart and broached the topic with him. Mr. FAF took our conversation seriously and admitted that he needed to step up his role in the family.
His life can’t just revolve around going to work, working out, and hanging out with friends. He needed to take on more duties as a husband and a father. In a way, I felt like I had also spoiled him (together with my mother-in-law).
We agreed that we would take turns going out with friends by ourselves while the other watches Baby FAF, feeds him, and gives him a shower on the weekend.
After we reached that agreement, I felt like my life had turned over a new leaf. I can now have some “me time” on the weekends without feeling guilty.
I could choose to go to a coffee shop (most likely a mall with free WiFi), hang out with friends, eat out by myself, or do whatever my heart desires without worrying about housework and what happens at home. I feel liberated.
Before Mr. FAF and I sat down to talk, I reminisced the freedom I used to have when I was single. Back then, I had so much free time on the weekends to do my own projects.
But part of me still longed for the day when our family would reunited. Now I can have both: a family and time for myself. Life can’t get any better than this!
The reality is that I don’t have many friends in DC although I’ve lived in the city for four years. I can call up a couple of people to hang out on the weekends, but I also wanted to make new friends.
I turned to Meetup.com and looked up groups that share the same interests as me. I am willing to go to events within a 30-minute drive from where I live. If the drive is longer, the event must sound really appealing to me.
That’s when I realized the advantage of living in a big, multicultural, and vibrant city. There are events going on every day. I specifically want to go to those on the weekends only given my work schedule and Baby FAF.
There are cultural, outdoors, indoors, language study, sport, and many other groups that I can join. One weekend, I got 6 different invitations to groups that I’m interested in. I have to pick and choose since I can’t go to all.
My Meetup experience
One time, I decided to go on a hiking trip with 6 people I had never met before.
The organizer (a female) asked if any participants needed a ride to the location. Part of me was excited because I’m terrible at driving and likely to get lost on the way. I always get honked at for reasons that are sometimes beyond my understanding.
I get really stressed out when driving because I’m afraid of getting into an accident. I know I need to get more practice, but driving can ruin 50% of the fun when I go somewhere.
Part of me was paranoid. What if she’s a human trafficker disguised as a Meetup organizer? When I get into her car, she can drive me off to an unknown place, park somewhere, have people take me out of the car, and sell me to someone.
Those thoughts lingered in my mind for days. I checked her profile and saw that she’s part of a couple of Meetup groups, and that there was nothing alarming about her profile. If she turns out to be a dude when picking me up, I can always decline to get in the car.
Whenever I go to a Meetup group, I would tell Mr. FAF to call the police if I don’t come home later that day. I told him the same thing before I went on the hiking trip. When organizer picked me up, she was in a car with another man. I hesitated to get in the car for a second but eventually did.
We ended up having a wonderful time chatting, hiking, and eating out that day. It also happened that we are almost the same age, live and work in almost the same area.
They are smart yet humble and super fun to hang out with. The other people on the trip were also super fun and just wanted to have a good time meeting new people. After the hiking trip, we started planning something else together for Thanksgiving.
I have gone to a couple of Meetup events before. Some are good as one-off events where you just have fun and go home. Some are good to build a relationship with the participants. I’m interested in both, but I want to make friends I can stick with in the long term.
Despite all the wonderful benefits of Meetup groups, there are certain things you need to be careful about in order to protect yourself.
1. Sexual harassment
One of the organizers told me that he had received some complaints about girls being grabbed by random guys at certain events. The girls never reported the incidents to the police.
I’m not sure about all the details of how the organizer handled such complaints. But he took the matter seriously and started weeding out guys that have suspicious profiles.
He told me that there are many single guys in DC that just want to join his events to approach girls inappropriately. As the organizer, he has the responsibility to prevent that from happening.
These incidents affect not only his reputation but also the credibility of his groups and Meetup as a whole.
2. The mistaken dating website
A girl I met at one of the events told me that she was once in group with many other young Asian girls. Some of them eventually told the organizer that an older man in the group was trying to contact them and asked them inappropriate questions.
The girls didn’t report it earlier because they felt ashamed and guilty. They didn’t want to make a big fuss about the issue.
The organizer stepped up and told that man that the group was not Match.com, and that it was not ok for him to make sexual advances towards other female participants. The man apologized and was never to be seen again.
I’m not a Meetup veteran in any way. But below is the due diligence I do before joining a Meetup event. Let’s say you have found the event you’re interested and is not too far from where you live.
1. Check who the organizer is
I usually check the profile of the organizer to see if it’s a real person and a legitimate profile. People usually upload a picture of themselves on the profile and share a bit about themselves such as what groups they are in. An event organized by someone with nothing on their profile should be a big red flag.
2. Check who plans to go to the event
We don’t want to discriminate against other people. But if you’re interested in hanging out with other women around your age, meeting 10 other men at an event might not interest you as much.
Likewise, if you are a single male ready to mingle (appropriately), going to a meeting with 5 other dudes might not help you meet the girl of your dream.
3. Check to see if there are any entrance fees
While most Meetup events are free, some do require participation fees. Such fees can range from $5 to $20 or even more. If you are happy to pay, it shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re like me who wants to meet new people for free, you might be put off by such requirement.
4. Check the location of the meeting
Meetup events usually take place at a public space such as a restaurant, a coffee shop or a park. Even when it’s at a park, I’ll be careful about whether it’s isolated. You never know what’s awaiting you at a park in the middle of nowhere.
If an event is at someone’s house, I’ll be more cautious and go with someone I know or won’t go at all. Usually, a private address will be shown only to those who have already said yes to going to the event. If it’s a group of people you have already met, it should be ok.
Mr. FAF went to a potluck at the organizer’s house before, and it was fine. He even made a new friend who he still hangs out with on a regular basis in DC. However, as a woman, I need to take more caution for my own safety.
5. Tell someone you know what event you are going to
I usually tell Mr. FAF the specific event I go to (i.e. name and location) so that he can be aware of my whereabouts.
Tell your friend or your family when you go to an event where you don’t know anyone. You might think it’s not important. But it will be if something goes wrong (which I hope won’t happen to me or anyone).
6. Enjoy the conversation and new friendships
As I mentioned above, some events are just one-off meetings with people who might not have anything in common with you or those you’re not so enthusiastic to keep in touch with. And it’s ok. We are all different.
I usually try to think of what I learned from such conversations which can turn out to be pretty fun and provide great life lessons.
In some cases, you will hit it off with someone or a group of people. You can always reach out to them to organize new Meetup event or just to hang out again.
The online world can be scary. It’s mostly because we can’t see others’ faces, names, and intentions. That’s how I felt about blogging when I first started out.
After a couple of months, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I even met a lot of new people and made new blogger friends virtually. However, I still take precaution and don’t reveal our names, incomes, or physical addresses.
When it comes to Meetup groups, anything can happen. However, I have found the platform to be a great place to socialize and meet people that share similar interests. Be careful, but don’t forget to have fun!
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