Monthly Archives: May 2010

Rachel, Jo and Lisbeth=BFF-4-Ever

Today kicks off Memorial Day weekend, which in turn (unofficially) kicks off summer. Which means… drumroll…it’s summer reading season! I realized a few days ago that I have twelve—twelve!—plane rides scheduled between now and Labor Day weekend. So while many of you will be laying on the beach, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in one hand and margarita in the other, I will be getting my literary nourishment in the stale air and cramped seats of American Airlines. (All these scheduled trips are for happy occasions and I’m glad to be going, but twelve flights? It’s kind of hard to make local BFFs when you’re never local…)

On my summer reading list? Hornet’s Nest, of course, plus a mile-high stack of friendship books—both fiction and non—and whatever my book club demands of me. Also, Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley, one of my very first blog friends. I could go on, but thinking too much about all the to-be-read books on my shelves makes me anxious that I should stop blogging and start curling up in my book nook, pronto.

So to usher in the holiday weekend, something light, bookish and BFFish. I present to you the literary characters (aside from the members of the BSC) with whom I would most like to be best friends:

1) Boy, The Giving Tree. Some say he’s selfish and greedy, I say he’s lonely. He loves his tree. He could use a BFF.

2) Jo March, Little Women. Or maybe Beth. For one of my college applications, I had to name which fictional character I most identified with. I chose Jo. But I wonder if we could really be best friends? We might be too similar. As much as I love her, I could see us bumping heads. I might benefit more from Beth’s warm heart… You know, before her gutwrenching end.

3) Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter series. She’s awesome. Half badass, half girly. Not as goody-two-shoes as Hermione, but just as brave. I can totally picture us whispering together in the corner.

4) Alice Cullen, Twilight. Whimsical, fiercely loyal, and loves to play dress up. That she can see into the future doesn’t hurt.

5) Harriet the Spy/Nancy Drew. I really wanted to be a child detective back in the day. Sadly, there were very few (read: zero) mysteries that needed solving in my hometown. But I would still very much like to be the sleuthy sidekick.

6) Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and sequels). I would not want to be on her bad side. But she is crazy protective of her friends, could dig up dirt on anyone at anytime, and would be one of those never-a-dull-moment BFFs.

7) Skeeter Phelan, The Help. She’s passionate, determined, sneaky when she has to be. I think we could be good writing buddies. Read each other’s work, give honest critiques, take breaks to discuss Hilly’s horribleness.

8 ) Oskar Schell, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m aware that most people think Jonathan Safran Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated, is his best. But I fell in love with Oskar, and this novel, early on. He’s eager and vulnerable and precocious… and he’s just really funny. I mean, he plays the tambourine and invents things like talking teakettles. Who wouldn’t want to be his BFF?

9) Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones’ Diary. I was on the fence about her at first. Isn’t she kind of a hot mess? But as my very wise coworker reminded me, “You need a friend to get drunk with. And who’s more f’ed up than you.” Fair point.

Did I miss anyone? Who’d be your literary BFF? Happy long weekend…

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She’s Got Game

The summer blockbuster season must be upon us, for this is my second post in a row about movies as they relate to my BFF search. But today there’s serious business to attend to, folks. I read yesterday that Neil Strauss’ bestselling book The Game will soon(ish) be hitting the big screen.

Why is this of any interest to me? Well, the book’s subtitle is “Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.” The gist of the story is that Strauss takes a year to dive headfirst into the world of female seduction. Along with his tales of conquests, Strauss shares some of the methods he learns in his seminars, including the most offensive, or maybe the most intriguing: “the neg.” Per Strauss himself, “Neither a compliment nor an insult, a neg holds two purposes: to momentarily lower a woman’s self-esteem and to suggest an intriguing disinterest. (‘Nice nails. Are they real? No? Oh, they look nice anyway.’)” Basically, by insulting women just enough—most of his “negs” are backhanded compliments a la “You have the cutest Bugs Bunny overbite”—he distinguishes himself from the other fawning men and makes her come to him.

Since starting my quest, two people have suggested I use Strauss’s methods to pickup friends. The first was a male friend, via Twitter, who wrote: “@rberch I know how to make a girl like you. Ignore her or be rude. It works.” I was horrified.

But then I got this email from a female friend. “The basic premise is to ignore the other person and not show interest. You actually have to insult them at first. I wonder if it would work in the friendship setting. You should try it … It’s sort of sick if you think about it. Who wants to be ignored and insulted? But honestly, I have seen my brother do it. He would walk up to a group of girls, insult the one he liked and talk to the other ones while completely ignoring the one he liked and then, before the end of the night, she would give him her number.”

It is sick. The empowered woman in me vomited a little bit when I read that. And yet, it’s probably a decently successful method for guys looking to hook up. Women don’t like to be ignored, especially if they’re the only ones getting the silent treatment from a guy showering attention on their friends. It’s an insecurity thing.

So could I use “the neg”? Here’s my take: The guys it works for are looking for one-night stands. The Game isn’t written for men who want to settle down. And in the friendship realm, that’s what I want. As long as we both shall live and for better and for worse and all that. To make the kind of local best friend who will last a lifetime, not a gal to party with for a single evening.

And anyway, I don’t have it in me to up and insult someone I like right to her face. You have to be pretty horrible for me to put you down like that—I’m usually nice enough, even to the people I can’t stand. (I wish I could honestly say, “Oh, I would never say anything behind someone’s back that I couldn’t say to her face,” but I can’t. And I know I’m not alone.)

For now I’m going to pass. Being civilized has worked so far. But it’s an intriguing, if totally disgusting, concept. Could the art of the pickup be universal no matter if you want friends or lovers?

What do you think about The Game? Are you entirely horrified, or is there a part of you that sees how it might be just the ticket? Could it work in a friend-pickup setting?

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The Hard Facts: Realistic or Not, Friends Want “Sex”

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Ticket sales for the sequel to ‘Sex and the City’ are currently 81 percent of ticket sales happening on Fandango.com. … According to a survey Fandango issued Monday of more than 2,000 ticket buyers—of which 94% were women, the statement noted—nearly 80 percent of the moviegoers are going in groups with other women, while only 7 percent are going to bring a date.” (CNN.com, “’Sex and the City 2’ Ticket Sales ‘Looking Good’” May 25, 2010)

It cannot go unnoticed on this blog that Sex and the City 2 comes out at midnight tonight. These days, I feel like SATC—not the characters so much as the entire franchise—is at once my BFF and my nemesis. It’s perhaps the single most in-your-face pop culture model of female friendship, and thus serves as both the pinnacle of what I’m striving for as well as the driving force behind my without-gals-to-brunch-with-I-am-nothing-ness.

I’m not the only person who gets mixed messages from Carrie and friends. Feminists seem to vascillate between celebrating the show for empowering women and hating it for focusing so much on the need for a man. Upon the 2004 series finale, The Guardian wrote a piece in which a number of experts spoke out on the show’s impact and the only thing they each seemed to agree on was that ultimately it was more about friendship than it was about love:

“It’s almost given [women] permission to have female friendships that are more important than anything else.”

“Before feminism, women were told that they had to be wary of other women because they would steal your man. But what feminism was in part about was friendship between women, which is what Sex and the City shows.”

“What made Sex and the City worm its way into so many women’s hearts, I think, is the way that it foregrounds female friendship. That sounds counter-intuitive, given that it is meant to be about the hunt for a good man, but this show is intensely idealistic about the way that women can get unconditional love from one another.”

Let me be clear. I loved Sex and the City when it was on. I enjoyed the last movie, and already have plans to see the new one. I’m part of the nearly 80% going with friends—the same Chicago ladies I saw the last one with—though we might wear sweat pants as a general stand against stilettos at the movie theater. (According to that Fandango study, 53% percent of ticket buyers plan to dress up for the occasion, and I just can’t think of much that sounds less comfortable than watching a movie in heels. Yes, I know I’ll be sitting, but still.)

I’m excited to revisit my old onscreen friends, though nervous I might leave feeling more unfulfilled friendwise than when I got there. And this isn’t just my craziness. Social comparison theory says that “there is a drive within individuals to look to outside images in order to evaluate their own opinions and abilities.” The SATC gang is an image which many women use to evaluate their own friend situations. And though I think the deep friendships between all four women might not be entirely realistic, that doesn’t stop me from striving for something similar. I’m optimistic. I mean, I’m here, aren’t I?

Do you think the Sex and the City friendships are possible? Does watching the show/movie make you more satisfied with your female friendships or less? And would you ever be one of the 7% who are bringing a date??

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Famous Friendships

Who Me, Judge? Never. I’m a Lady.

I recently finished reading Friendship: An Expose, by Joseph Epstein. The book is billed as an “anatomy of friendship in its contemporary guises,” which I think is a description that sometimes holds up. Other times though, I found myself wondering “Is he serious? What world does he live in?” But then I realized, he lives in a 67-year-old professor’s world. That is to say, a world entirely different than my own.

There’s so much in this book I want to cover, but one passage I need to discuss now. It’s from the chapter that made my highlighter run out, about women and friendship. If I watched Lost, I’d say reading it made me feel like I was in Sideways World, but I still don’t entirely know what that means. Something about purgatory? Let me rephrase. Reading it made me feel like I was in bizarro world. (How wonderful that so many TV shows present us with alternate realities.)

Epstein writes, “According to the received opinion of the day, women are better at friendship than are men.  … This is so—again, I’m reporting received opinion—because they are less competitive, which means less rivalrous, than men. They are also more easily given to intimacy and are thought to rush less quickly to judgment, which can put a terrible crimp in friendship.”

Obviously Epstein has never been a teenage girl.

Honestly, there’s a part of me that wants to hug the author. To say, “I can’t believe we have you fooled. Less competitive! Less judgmental! You are a good good man.”

I think most of his statement is pure crazytalk. Women aren’t less competitive than men, we’re just less obvious about it. Men compete in straightforward ways—on the basketball court, in political races—where women, and I’m generalizing here, foster under-the-surface rivalries. We smile and sing Kumbaya while silently comparing our lots in life—looks, clothes, families, smarts. And in my experience with judgment—both being judged and doing some judging of my own—it’s women who commit the brunt of it. At least, that’s what I get from the conversations with my husband when I say “she’s nice but not really my type” based solely on something as superficial as her shoes or the book in her hand. I’d go so far as to say that it’s judgment above all else (both our fear of it and the way we instinctually judge others, like a bad tick) that makes it so hard to find new BFFs as adults.

Epstein’s quick to say that this is not fact but “received opinion.” Is it really? I’ve always thought prevailing wisdom was that women are impossibly hard on other women. That we’re all straight out of Mean Girls.

Maybe it’s a case of grass being greener. Everyone thinks the opposite sex has the easier time of it. Or maybe female friendship is cattier among young women than it is for Epstein’s generation.

Were you as shocked as I when you read Epstein’s quote? Who do you think is more competitive and judgmental? Are women truly “better” at friendship?  What does that even mean? And why do you think he has such a different read on the lady BFFs than I do?

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The Friendiest Girl in All The World

There are times when I get so wrapped up in the nitty gritty of this search that I lose sight of what I’m really looking for. I expend so much energy trying to create perfect friendships—or write about them—that I have little opportunity to actually experience them.

It’s like when you’re on a diet and it’s been so long since you’ve eaten a french fry that, while you know you love them, you’ve almost forgotten what they taste like. Until you break down, inhale a handful, and it hits you that, “Wow, this salty goodness is even more delicious than I remember.” (That comparison doesn’t entirely work, but it’s too delicious to delete. And maybe I just gave away entirely too much about my eating habits. )

This weekend I went to New York for my one of my best friends’ engagement party. It was a necessary reminder of why I’m on this quest. When it all started, I wasn’t friend-dating for any of the measurable reasons—physical health benefits, increased energy, financial gain—I was doing it to find, within driving distance, the intangible joy that comes from an hour-long playdate that seems to pass in a single minute. Or the comfort of hanging at a friend’s house that’s as familiar as your own. Or the hilarity of delivering a joke that hardly even makes sense but your friends totally get it, because they get you.

I’ve spent plenty of time talking about searching for friends. This weekend was what I’ve been searching for. To remember why I committed to this crazy project in the first place, here’s the play by play.

Friday:

2 PM: Arrive at Laguardia 45 minutes late. Sprint through the terminal to a taxi in order to make my 2:45 haircut. (Yes, I schedule hair appointments for when I’m in New York. I trust my favorite salon with my curly mop.)

4:30: Meet BFF at MAC to hang while she gets her party makeup done. Go back to her parents’ house, where I spent most weekends of my teen years, to catch up and get ready for the big night.

7:30: Celebrate Callie’s engagement surrounded by her friends, many of whom, luckily enough, are also my friends. Eat, drink, dance, be merry. Friend heaven.

4 AM: I’m awake later than I’ve been in pretty much forever. Continually fall asleep in the cab on the way back to my brother’s apartment. Go to sleep plenty satisfied that I got to see 7 of my closest/oldest friends in one place.

Saturday:

12 PM: Wake up. I know! It’s like I’m in high school. The last time I woke up at noon was even further back into forever than when I stayed up ‘till 4.

1:30: Walk five blocks to my old roommate’s new apartment to be hungover and eat Pad Thai with her and her fiance. Feels very much like countless Saturday mornings of yesteryear.

3:30: Head across town to see an old high school friend and meet her new baby. Said friend wasn’t able to make last night’s party because of said baby, so I recap the affair while she recaps motherhood. Scary.

8:30: Mexican food with two of my best friends from college. Much girl-talk about boys, marriage, rings, careers, family… all the important stuff.

12:30 AM: Back home. Full day. I’m all friended out.

The weekend was sort of a Friend Intensive. Friendship Bootcamp. You come out of days like that thinking either, “Thank God I only have to do this every few months” or “That’s what I’m talking about!” Surprise! I was the latter. Friend-search is now reinvigorated.

What does your perfect friendy day look like? Have you ever found yourself so busy with other stuff that you forget why friend-time is so fun in the first place? And is friendy a completely unacceptable adjective?

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Ann M. Martin’s Infinite Wisdom

I like to consider myself something of a pop culturist. But you already know that. So it’s no big surprise that there are bits of popular culture that have largely (mis)informed my expectations of friendship. When I’m old, I want to live like the Golden Girls. In my 30s, I figure I should be brunching on Sundays a la Carrie Bradshaw and co. I watch these TV shows (and Friends, and How I Met Your Mother, even Meredith and Christina on Grey’s) and I think it’s completely expected for my life to be filled with Serious Unbreakable See-You-Everyday Friendships.

As I’ve written previously, it all started with The Babysitters Club. I read the BSC books when I was a wee lass and learned early  that true friendships could withstand any boy, clothing or babysitting charge drama. They got together twice a week, lived on the same street and sent flashlight messages from each others’ bedrooms in the evenings. What more could a girl want?

It had been about 15 years since I’d read a BSC book until recently when I read the new prequel, The Babysitter’s Club: The Summer Before. Considering the book was written for 12 years olds, I was a tad surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Like, stay-up-past-bedtime-reading levels of enjoyment.  Yes, it’s for young adults—children, even—but ultimately The Summer Before is a story of friendship. Given my search, this seemed the perfect escape novel.

Approximately three days after I started, I reached the end (200 pages written for 10-year-olds move at a quick clip). As I took in the final pages, I realized that either a) issues of friendship don’t change as we get older—the circumstances may be different (we’re arguing over wedding party scandals rather than cafeteria seating arrangements) but the underlying emotions are constant, or b) I act like a pre-teen and need to grow up. Either way, it was the perfect light read for me at this very moment.

Thanks to the wonder that is Google Alerts, BSC author Ann M. Martin’s publicist caught wind of my Ode to BSC post a few months back and asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing her. Ummm, yes please. I had a total nerdfest rock star moment. Ann M. Martin??  Talking to me? I worship modern technology.

During our interview, I asked Ann why the friendships between the girls were so universally adored. Something she said stuck with me. Sure, Kristy and the gang were each very different, so every young girl could relate to at least one, if not all, of them. But more importantly, she said, “They’re not perfect friendships. I think that’s how most friendships are, they’re imperfect. Maybe that’s why they seem even more important to us. The girls fight, but then it’s important to them to make up, and they always do. Sometimes it takes a couple of books, sometimes it’s a chapter or two, but they always make up. I think that’s important for girls and women to know, that maybe your best friend isn’t somebody that you’re always on good terms with. I think maybe a best friend is somebody you feel comfortable enough to have a fight with, and then make up with.

Defining the term “best friend” is perhaps the hardest and most important factor of my quest. I love Ann’s take. It’s a perfect measuring tool. So often we think our best friends are the people we’d never fight with, those relationships that are always easy. But there are only a few people in my life that I’m confident I’d make up with no matter how bad a fight got. Those just happen to be the same people I consider my closest friends. It’s an interesting and insightful spin.

What do you think of Ann’s definition? How do you define BFF? And are you so excited about the return of the BSC? Do you like reading books about friendship?

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Famous Friendships

The L Word

I talk often about how girl-dating and the romantic kind are pretty much the same thing…minus the making out. Some of this I predicted (what to wear on a first date??) some of it not so much (no one could have anticipated the wandering eye dilemma). The other day I encountered a shocking and completely unexpected friending-as-dating quandary: Those three little words.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? I assure you. I am not.

I got a voicemail from a potential BFF who wanted to see if we were still on for our scheduled dinner date later this week. I listened to the message at work, excited that someone took the actual phone call route. And then, just before hanging up, she said it. “Ok, love you, bye!”

Really? You love me? I understand that “love you” doesn’t carry as much weight as “I love you.” I also realize that a “love you” between friends is often just a throwaway, certainly less meaningful than the same exchange with a potential mate. Some girls are just the “I love you” type. They’ve mentally attached it to goodbye, as if it’s one word.

“Okloveyoubye!”

Still, I was a little jarred. I’ve met this friend four times. It’s a little early to be throwing around the L word, no? The last time we met she asked me to remind her what I did for a living. Now that’s love.

When I heard the message, I unknowingly did my best Scooby Doo impression—there was an entire head spin. I stared confusedly at my phone. I think my exact word was “Er?”

It’s kind of fascinating to be on this side of iloveyou-gate. I’ve been the one to say it too early before. That’s just no fun. I remember saying it—I was young and stupid and probably in that I-know-he-wont-say-it-back-but-maybe-if-I-say-it-he-will-and-there’s-only-one-way-to-find-out headspace—only to get a blank stare in return. Good stuff. But how the tables have turned. Yesterday I was recipient of those premature three little words—or in my case, two little words—and had the same reaction as my guy did. Blank stare.

Women tend to “love you” other women willy nilly. I have a vivid memory of such an exchange with a friend in high school, and my boyfriend saying to me “Do you really love her?” And though I think there comes an age where we grow out of these haphazard declarations, some women just don’t catch on. It’s in their DNA or something. They have lots of love to go around.

The point of all this is to say: It is dating! Every time I think that comparison has run its course, something else happens that makes me say “See! See what I’m talking about?!?” When I started this search, saying “I love you” too soon wasn’t on my radar as one of the possible dealbreakers. Now it’s up there with doesn’t watch TV and moonlights as Cher. (Wait. Scratch that. I would love a Cher doppelganger. And maybe I could use  a little less TV. I said maybe.)

What’s next? Meeting the parents? Probably.

Do you say I love you to friends a lot? What about new friends? Was I right to be surprised or is that “love you” expected? And the question that is really as old as time: How soon is too soon?

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The Hard Facts: The Color of Friendship

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Only 3.7% of white brides and grooms have a black friend who is close enough to be in their wedding party. … Blacks are more likely to have a close white friend than whites are to have a close black friend, with 22.2% of blacks having at least one white bridesmaid or groomsman.” (Demography, “Friends For Better Or For Worse,” August, 2006)

Two months ago a reader posted a comment that’s been on my mind ever since. “I teach at a big university in a really ‘cool’ college town in Georgia,” she wrote. “It really is a cool town—if you’re white. If you’re black, like me, you find yourself being the only African-American professor in your entire college of 75 faculty members. And you can count on one hand the number of black female peers you have across the entire campus.”

“Of course, I’m open to friendships with women of other races and cultures, but it’s sometimes difficult to determine who among the white women I meet might be anti-racist enough to have a friendship of equals with a black woman. As you’ve pointed out on your blog, women tend to ‘friend’ women they have something in common with. If there’s no one who appears to have much in common with you, because of race and/or culture, joining book clubs and yoga classes and such doesn’t really work.”

I quote so much of this comment because I think the writer illustrates her dilemma more eloquently than I ever could. And for two months, I’ve been wondering how to properly address this. Well I have black friends, I thought. Until I remembered my wedding – it was almost 200 of the most important people in my life, right? There was one African-American man in attendance.

Since I hit my 20s and Matt and I started traveling the wedding circuit, every time—every single time—I go to an exchanging of vows, I find myself saying to Matt, “This isn’t a very diverse affair.” And every time—every single time—he replies, “How diverse would our wedding be?” That is, until we got married. And I’ll tell you how diverse our wedding turned out to be. Not at all.

It’s an upsetting truth. I could go on about my lack of close, non-white friends, but it’s not something I’m proud of. I’m not saying I want to run an affirmative action friend search. But yes, after my in-person rants about social justice, I’d like to be able to walk the walk.

All this reminds me of a brilliant article in GQ, “Will You Be My Black Friend?” It’s smart and funny. If you don’t believe me, ask Oprah and Chris Rock. They’re making a movie of it.

But anyway. The study cited above is especially interesting because it doesn’t use traditional survey responses to collect data. Instead it studies a random sample of wedding photos from the Internet. It’s pretty smart, really. “Wedding party are a realistic representation of close friendships…only the closest and most important of friends can be expected to be a bridesmaid or groomsman.” The crux of the study is that when people of both races respond to surveys, they report having more diverse friendships than they actually have. Wedding party photos, this study says, illuminate the truth.

Another 2006 study of race and friendship found that we’ve actually been making progress. “In 2004, 15% reported at least one confidant of another race, up from 9% in 1985.”

We still have a ways to go. What now? My commenter friend said, “Just something for you to consider as you move forward in your search. Conducting it in a town populated by other women like you is a real luxury that I wish I had.”

I’ve considered. I’ve taken a hard look at how my relationships reflect my values. This is a bigger conversation than just one post, but here’s a start. Do your friendships lack diversity? Can common interests like book club or yoga transcend racial differences? What’s the key to making interracial friendships, and why are we still struggling on that front? And what would you say in response to the brave commenter who laid it all on the line?

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships, The Hard Facts

Friend Finding 201: Say Yes

In the introductory session of this course, we briefly covered 10 tips for meeting new people and turning first girl-dates into second ones. Today we’ll be giving our full attention to one vital word: Yes.

So much of making new friends is about being open. It’s about saying yes to the invitations that come your way, no matter how far out of your comfort zone they may be.

This comes with a caveat, of course: Only say yes if you mean it. Making a habit of saying yes when you actually mean no is a pretty good way to lose friends. Today we’re in the business of finding.

Even after months of dedicated BFF searching, my first reaction when I get an invitation is usually “I’d rather spend a relaxing evening on the couch.” Until I remember that the couch is what got me here in the first place. So now, unless there’s a scheduling conflict, I accept the invitations that come my way. So far this policy has led me to, in no particular order: A fortune teller, a cookie-making party, a 2-year-old twins birthday extravaganza, dinner with a pair of strangers, dozens of bottles of Pinot Grigio, more pieces of spicy tuna than I can count and countless other exploits.

Adventures like these are the fast track to friendship. Doing something you’re bad at, as long as you’re willing to be bad at it in front of someone else, will earn you insta-memories. And I must say, a trip to the psychic is a faster route to “Remember that time?” than even the most riveting book discussion.

And sure, my days are crazier than ever. I have fewer intimate evenings with the remote control. But I don’t have kids to tend to. I have an understanding and supportive husband who encourages this local quest. And while the hectic schedule can be exhausting at times, the new connections give me enough energy to make up for it. In fact, a 2004 study found that “when compared to time spent with relatives, children, customers, colleagues, or bosses, time spent with friends is rated as being the most enjoyable. On average, time spent with friends ranks even higher than time spent with your spouse.”

In her article “The Year of Saying Yes,” Patty Volk writes, “There isn’t one thing I said yes to I’m sorry I said yes to. And look what I would have missed. ‘No’ means safety and the numbing stasis that implies. I’m changed. The change has to do with the joy of being available to chance. There is a thrilling difference between being comfortable and being too comfortable.” I second all of that. Even the time I got stood up—she never showed!—I’m glad I said yes. What a great story!

I’m only a few months into this search. I don’t have all the answers. I hardly have any answers. And I haven’t found The One. I have found The One Word, though, and that’s got to count for something.

When it comes to plans with friends what do you say more—yes or no? Do you ever force yourself to say yes when you’d rather run in the other direction? Are you usually glad to have uttered the new magic word (“please” is so old school) or do you usually wish you’d stuck to your first instinct?

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What a Boy Wants

My husband’s oldest and best friend was in town this weekend. He came not only to visit Matt but because another of their childhood friends was in town for a bachelor party. That friend, a Marine, is deploying in a few days, so the weekend became a farewell extravaganza of sorts.

I’ve almost never seen Matt as happy as when he’s with his BFFs (though he would never call them that). I’d love to say it’s similar to the sheer bliss in his eyes every time he gazes my way, but come on. He loves me lots, but there are different types of joy. The look in his eyes when he’s with these guys—friends he’s known and trusted and laughed with all his life—is the same mix of comfort and wonderment and affection that stares out at me from photographs taken on the little league field at 7 or on their way to prom at 17.

There’s no question that male friendships are different. Men would rather engage in side-to-side activities—watching a football game, playing a round of golf—than have face-to-face talks. And when it comes to serious emotional discussions, research shows both genders turn to women first. But just as I yearn for girl-time so I’ll have someone to talk and talk and analyze and then talk some more with, Matt devours the time he gets with those he doesn’t have to talk, talk, analyze, and talk with. Women want friends who’ll help confront problems, men want friends who’ll help escape them.

Watching Matt this weekend, it was a necessary reminder that I’m not the only one in this marriage who needs friend time. My husband may not be on a best friend search, but that doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t vital for him (he has great local friends, but if I find a new friend with a husband that would be perfect for him, I’m sure he’d be open to that). Men and women, we both lust for friendship, if for different reasons. And I must say, there’s something magical about how unspoken great male friendships really are. That Matt and his best friends know they’ll have each other’s backs, always, without so much as one word to say as much? Well sure, I’m a little jealous.

Do you believe men long for friendship as much as women do? Is the difference merely what that friendship entails? Have you ever witnessed male friendship in action and felt just the teensiest bit of envy? And, to all the (perhaps few) men in the audience, would you say you look to women for support and men for escape? Or are escape and support one and the same?

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Filed under BFFs and Marriage, The Gender Gap