Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Hard Facts: Getting Better With Age

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

 

“Older adults report better marriages, more supportive friendships and less conflict with children and siblings. … While physical and cognitive abilities decline with age, relationships improve. So what is so special about old age? We found that the perception of limited time, willingness to forgive, aging stereotypes and attitudes of respect all play a part. But it’s more than just about how younger people treat an older person, it’s about how people interact.” (Current Directions in Psychological Science,  “It Takes Two to Tango: Why Older People Have the Best Relationships” June 2010)

I’ve often wondered about intergenerational friendships—whether or not I could be real friends with a woman who had about two decades on me, or if I would be too ancient for a post-grad. And while I still don’t have answers to those questions (not for lack of trying—I emailed my older cooking friend from a while back but still haven’t gotten a response), this study provides interesting insight into the effect age does have on friendship.

Basically, friendships improve with age because we’re less confrontational and get less worked up (“people get better at regulating their emotions when something upsets them”) as we get up there, but when there is a negative interaction, the younger folk are more forgiving of the older generation’s behavior.

This makes me wonder about the friends I’m making now and whether we’ll still be buddies in old age. Once we have kids, put them through college, and send them off into the world, will we be sitting on our front porches (which will obvi be next door to each other), perhaps with declining physical and cognitive abilities, laughing at the young’uns who bicker and overreact about nothing? And, on the off chance we behave poorly ourselves, will we be forgiven because, come on, we’re old? ‘Cause that would be awesome.

The other reason friendships improve as we age, so says the study’s author, is that “people are going to be more pleasant if they perceive that there is little time left in a relationship.” It sounds kind of morbid, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an “oh, you’re going to drop dead tomorrow so I better be nice to you now” thing. When I was a teenager I, like so many 16-year-olds before me, was sometimes (oftentimes?) mean to my mom. I lived in such a me-centric world that there was no consideration of any limit to how long she’d be around.  Today, it’s not that my mother’s going anywhere anytime soon (she’s just a kid!), but I’m more aware of the fact that we don’t have forever. I’m nicer, thus our relationship is vastly different. Better.

The limited time thing doesn’t just apply to the old folks.  It goes for everybody, “even young people who may not see each other because of life changes such as moving out of state or serving in the military.” So, if you’re soon going to be like me—in a new city on a search for a BFF—at least take solace in the knowledge that things between you and your buddies will be peachy keen until you leave. Just love me some silver lining.

What do you think of this study? Make sense? Is this why The Golden Girls were such great friends, and got away with so much? Do you anticipate your friendships will improve with age?

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The Cost of Friendship

Last month I taught my second course in How to Find a New BFF. In Friend Finding 201, we discussed the importance of saying yes. As I explained back then, becoming a “yes girl” (except for the one time I said no) has led me to fortune tellers and birthday parties and sushi dinners galore. Since then, yes has also earned me a spot in an improv class, many more blind friend dates, and some delicious dinner dishes (pork belly!) that I would never have tried alone. Yet all this yessing comes at a cost. Literally. Sushi is not cheap. Neither is pork belly or improv or psychics (in fact, a fortune teller is remarkably expensive, but should you find yourself in need of her services, haggle. You can talk her down).

When I wrote the post, commenter Darlene wrote a thoughtful note in response: “In these times, I can’t possibly be the only who has to decline plans because I can’t afford what’s being suggested—but I feel like I am! … I’ve tried suggesting less expensive or free entertainment instead of whatever’s being proposed, but people usually aren’t interested. They want to go to the fancy bar, the expensive concert, the hot new restaurant, etc. So I often end up sitting at home because I just can’t come up with the cash. It’s a sticky situation because on one hand I don’t know that I want to discuss my finances with potential friends I don’t know well. On the other hand, I don’t want people to think that I don’t want to hang out with them.”

Darlene’s comment inspired a whole chorus of yesses of a different kind. As in “Yes! You’re exactly right! What choice do we have but to say no?”

There’s a great episode of Friends (yes, I know I’ve referenced my favorite show a lot lately, but it’s relevant! I swear!) in which Phoebe, Joey and Rachel are upset because the other three are always planning fancy and expensive outings. Says Joey: “They’re always saying let’s go here, let’s go there. Like we can afford to go here and there!”

The obvious solution is to suggest less expensive options—instead of going to a restaurant, do a potluck or a make-your-own-dinner party (I like to host fajita nights. A few easy ingredients from the grocery store and everyone can make their own); instead of coughing up for a movie, settle into the couch for a TV marathon (TV nights are better anyway since you don’t have to whisper and can drink alcohol); pass on the blockbuster concert tours, instead scope out the free outdoor entertainment that’s abundant this time of year (approach finding the coolest option as you would any great challenge, you’d be surprised what you can do on the cheap)—but as Darlene notes, it’s not always so simple. Sometimes people are determined to try out the new hot spot. And sometimes it’s just uncomfortable to tell people you hardly know that you can’t afford their suggestion.

One commenter suggested going to said fancy dinner, having a small meal or just water, and making clear that it should be a pay-for-what-you-get outing. But I don’t know. I’ve found that pretty awkward too.

These days I’ve decided to save money in other areas, like bringing breakfast and lunch to work so I feel less guilty about eating dinner out. And I try to look at this whole friend search as an investment—more friends now means more money later, right?—but I’m lucky to have that luxury. I don’t have kids to support, I still have my job in this tough economy, and I’ve got a gainfully employed husband who saves us money by eating home every night while I’m out making friends (according to Charles Schwab, my financial fitness is “middle of the road.” I’ll take it). Like I said, I lucked out.

How have you handled this sticky situation? Any tips for saying yes, but keeping it light on the wallet? Is there a graceful way of explaining that while you’d love to hang out, you just can’t afford the latest club/play/concert ticket? Advise below!

Disclaimer: This post is part of the 20SB Blog Carnival: Friends & Money, sponsored by Charles Schwab. Prizes may be awarded to selected posts. The information and opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the views or opinions of Charles Schwab. Details on the event, eligibility, and a complete list of participating bloggers can be found here.

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“Buy Her a Beer, That’s the Reason You’re Here…”

Maybe some of you remember this Coors Light commercial from some years back (click through to watch the video if you’re in a feed). The brief-but-brilliant ditty immortalized the mighty wingman, who is defined by the very official Wikipedia as “a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners.” My personal favorite of all wingmen is Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother fame, though the critical role was perhaps first embraced by pop culture after Swingers, the original wingman flick.

It’s true that a wingman is usually around to help a guy get lucky. But if you’re serious about picking up friends, a wingman—or wingwoman—is an indispensable accessory.

When Matt and I got married, I expected he would be my most intimate companion, my biggest supporter, the someday father of my kids. I didn’t anticipate he’d double as an amazing go-to wingman of the friend-search variety.

What do the responsibilities of a seeking-BFF wingman include? In Matt’s case, the job entails scoping out potential friends in restaurants and departments stores, agreeing to go on unlimited couple-dates (even when the game is on and  the male half of the couple isn’t his type), and encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and ask a potential BFF for her number no matter how crazy she might take me to be.

Out-of-town guests also make for great wingpeople. (That sounds like some sort of villainous species from Wizard of Oz. Wingpeople. Huh.) Being with an old pal when you’re trying to pick up new friends is helpful for multiple reasons; mostly, the BFF target will see that you’re out with someone (meaning, you do have some friends) which seems to warm people to friendship advances. You’re not a creepy lurker preying on friendly bartenders/boutique owners/yoga instructors to find someone to chop into pieces. Instead you’re a nice, bold woman who’s always looking to add to her circle of friends. Old pals will also give you that extra nudge when you’re teetering on the edge of talking to the girl with the great purse. And if you’re too shy, the tried-and-true just-in-town-for-the-weekend friend might approach the potential BFF for you: “Have you met Rachel?” The old friend has nothing to lose.  Even if she makes a fool of herself, she’s got the next flight out of O’Hare.

This weekend I found myself in the ideal wingpeople situation. One of my closest friends from college was in town—one who’s super interested in my search and eager to help me find someone to add to her ranks. And of course Matt was around ‘cause, well, he’s my husband. We live together. So when Matt and I went to dinner with Jenny and her boyfriend, and I mentioned that our waitress seemed cool (“definite BFF material”) they may or may not have convinced me to leave her a note. With my digits. On our receipt. Not something I would’ve ever been bold enough to try had I been eating alone.

If any of you out there are on your own BFF search, I encourage you to employ a wingman. (And if you do or have, please—pretty please!—let me know how it goes.) It could be a friend or husband or sister or just about anyone who has your best interests at heart and isn’t too shy to take the plunge every now and then by, say, writing your note to the waitress because your handwriting is totally illegible. For example.

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Filed under BFFs and Marriage, Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Pickup Lines

Excuse Me While I Remove My Dentures and Pop In My Hearing Aid

On Wednesday night—after I was released from my office basement where I was held for a tornado watch—I met a potential new friend for dinner. That’s right, I will drive through hell or high water…or twisters!…for a girl-date. Dedication people. That’s what I’m talking about. Now if I had that same commitment to, say, the treadmill.

Anyway, my new friend seems great. She likes to cook. She likes to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat. And, not surprisingly, we hit it off when we first met because we were sitting next to each other. Common interests and proximity? It’s a match made in heaven.

Except one thing. She makes me feel like a 90-year-old denture-wearing grandma. It’s nothing she’s done or said, but she’s 23, just out of college, and every time I say the words “my husband” it’s as if we’re in a Pixar movie and I can actually see her eyes pop further and further out of her head.

I remember being fresh out of college and generally adhering to the belief that “marriage is weird.” And then, maybe two years later, my first friends started getting engaged, and I was happy for them, but would later call Callie and Sara and say, “why is everyone getting married? That’s so weeeirrd.” And they agreed. And then I got engaged and called them from my cell phone in Mexico to share the news, and wasted probably 30 seconds of my $2-per-minute phone calls saying “I know we think it’s so weird to get married [I was 26—not really a baby—but it still felt on the early side] but I hope you’ll be a part of the wedding anyway.” The point of this rant is not that marriage is strange, but that I remember when words like wedding and fiancé and registry seemed as far away as, well, forever, and like a vocabulary only grown-ups had, not my own friends.

Back when that was me, it seemed the few people I knew who were married or engaged—mostly coworkers—were genuine adults. Now I know better. But my new friend? She’s in the place I was. She thinks the fact that I don’t party a lot (she still uses party as a verb) is bizarre. That I’ve got friends with babies is inconceivable. I have no problems with where I am, but, like I said, spending time with her just makes me feel, well, old.

We could be good friends one day. Perhaps when our life stages are a bit more in sync. But right now? I can’t see us having a relationship that isn’t of the big-and-little-sister mentor-mentee variety. And that’s not what I’m in the market for. I don’t want to dance on the bar or revisit college parties. I’d rather watch Top Chef and have a glass of wine on my couch. But even though I’m happy with that, there’s something about seeing myself through the her eyes that’s a bit, almost, depressing.

Am I making any sense? Is it crazy to write off a potential friendship just cause it makes me feel like a lame old woman? I know age shouldn’t dictate friendship—and a five year difference is really nothing, I have great friends who are five years older—but when I feel more like an advisor than a friend, isn’t it fair for me to use BFF veto power?

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Laugh It Off

Yesterday, as I was doing my daily blog reading, I came across a post that gave me pause. Lisa wrote about a piece of research from The Happiness Project, a book that I’ve found plenty of occasion to quote myself. The research in question was that “a small child typically laughs more than four hundred times each day, and an adult—seventeen times.”

Later in that same chapter, author Gretchen Rubin expands on the power of laughter in facilitating connection. “It’s a source of social bonding, and it helps to reduce conflicts and cushion social stress within relationships—at work, in marriage, among strangers. When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.”

In her blog, Lisa questioned if she reaches the 17 mark most days, which immediately made me think of my own laugh patterns. The first thing that came to mind was my daily lunches with my coworkers. I swear I fill my 17-laugh quota—and not just friendly half-chuckles, I’m talking serious belly laughs—in any given lunch hour alone. What’s most telling, perhaps, is not really how much I laugh when I’m with my work BFFs, but the fact that I cannot for the life of me remember a single reason why we laugh so hard. Take Monday’s lunch. I can see us around the table—I could even tell you exactly who sat where—and I can picture each friend mid-cackle, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what spurred any of it. Probably because about 90% of the time we’re laughing, it’s at nothing really. Someone’s snide remark, another person’s recalling of a random Saturday morning TV theme song (“Don’t wake me up. Don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming…”) There are a few go-to memories that come up whenever someone decides to recount funny moments—the day one wore two different shoes to work, the lunch another mistook sour cream for honey butter—but mostly we’re just laughing because, well, I think we genuinely find each other amusing.

If there’s one universal trait among all my closest friends, it’s not that we each love Harry Potter or Friday Night Lights or even necessarily share the same core values. It’s not that we all sat next to each other in school or lived in the same dorm or share a cubicle space. It’s that no matter what, whenever we see each other we spend most of the time laughing. (I love this fact, though I’m pretty sure the rest of the general public hates it, if the looks my college friends and I get whenever we dare eat out is any indication. Picture eight 20-something girls yelling and laughing at full volume. I know. Totally obnoxious. I’d definitely hide in shame if I wasn’t so worried about missing Jenna and Rachel’s next hilarious spat or Julia’s goofy one-woman shows.)

There’s something about people you can laugh with that makes you come back for more. Which is perhaps why I default to awkward jokes whenever I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Seriously. I’m basically Chandler, minus the gay burlesque father. Like when I went to a dinner gathering of five women set up through GirlfriendCircles.com. I was the one filling every awkward silence with jokes about pizza or something else similarly not-at-all funny.

Now that I’ve pinpointed the secret of my closest friendships—they make me laugh and in turn laugh with/at me—perhaps I’ll do some score-keeping. Maybe the trick to finding my perfect BFF (and not wasting time on the lost causes) is keeping track of how much I laugh on the first girl-date. That kind of clicking happens early, right?

What do you think? Have you found that laughter is the universal language? Or are those people who are always trying to make a joke just kind of annoying? How many times would I need to laugh in one friend-date to warrant a second? And is this a decent methodology? I’m thinking maybe yes.

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Do Stand So Close to Me

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

“People are exponentially more likely to form a relationship—to click—with people who live or work close by. Even passive contacts can be a powerful influence on whom we click with. The old adage that familiarity breeds contempt just isn’t true. In fact, familiarity actually breeds regard. … It makes much more sense in a business setting to attend a meeting in person than to dial in, to walk over to a colleague’s or employee’s desk rather than sending an e-mail. It makes more sense to simply stand closer to someone you want to meet at a party than to look across a crowded room.” (Click: The Magic of Instant Connections, Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman)

It’s not all that surprising that proximity contributes to friendship. My entire blog is a case in point. I love my friends in New York, but when you’ve got 700 miles between you, it’s tough to keep up that daily talking-about-nothing that makes a friendship feel effortless.

In their new book Click, Ori and Rom Brafman dissect the different factors that cause two people to hit it off, ingredients they call “click accelerators.” The five accelerators are: proximity, vulnerability, resonance, similarity and a safe place. Today I’m just talking proximity. Like I said, it seems obvious, but just how important physical nearness is in determining who will click is kind of amazing.

Take the study that examined friendships between police academy cadets. The sociologist who conducted the study found that shared interests had little to do with who clicked—“A bachelor who liked to watch football, for example, was just as likely to form a friendship with a family man who attended church every Sunday as he was with a fellow sports fan who was similarly single.” Instead, simply sitting next to each other in school was the determining factor. In fact, “when the cadets listed the people with whom they had formed a close relationships, 90 percent named the individual they sat right next to.” Once someone was sitting a mere few seats away, the chances of the two clicking were dramatically reduced.

So it’s not necessarily about both living and working in the same city. It’s about the same block. Or better yet, the same building. The same room! An extra few feet between two people might be the very reason they never make BFF status.

I used to think the instant click with my new BFF would happen magically, when we discovered we adored the same novel or obscure dance movie. Our mutual affection for Owen Meany and Honey would be the tie that binded us. But this research has me convinced that while shared passions may be a happy coincidence, shared space is the true connector.

What is it about proximity that makes it the “single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person”? The fact that physical nearness provides opportunities for spontaneous small talk. “It is in ‘fleeting’ conversational moments…that relationships…are nurtured, preserved and managed.”

In the end, clicking could be a matter of luck. Of getting a seat assignment next to the right person in class. Or on the airplane. But knowledge is power, and I can’t stop thinking about all the ways I’ll use this science to my advantage. I’m giving up the “glance across the crowded room.” When I spot my next BFF prospect (victim?) I’m going to cozy up—sit next to her in a restaurant, stand behind her in line at the grocery store, downward dog alongside her on the yoga mat. Not all three of course. I’m going for friend, not uber-creepy stalker lady. Fine line.

Think it’ll work for me? When you look back at your friendships, did any of them start by the shear luck of proximity? Does the power of proximity surprise you?

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In Time of Crisis, Make Friends

As hard as I tried (which was only medium hard), I didn’t make a new BFF in Vegas. Didn’t even meet a potential one. There was a brief chat with a girl who couldn’t find her way to the pool, a great story from a local retiree who told me she saw Paris Hilton coming out of the Wynn bathroom once (she didn’t wash her hands!), and few good deals from Mike, the Long Island-native blackjack dealer who really tried to pay me. But no BFF. Next time.

I may not have done any people-meeting in Sin City, but there was certainly some bonding on the way there. See, we had a little emergency on my plane. Well actually it wasn’t little at all. Maybe half-way through the flight, I was awoken by the stewardess on the intercom. “Folks, we have a medical emergency, if there is a doctor or a nurse on board, can you please come to the front.” Suddenly everyone on the plane sat up to get a better look. I couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, but I knew from the stewardesses’ brisk walks up and down the aisle that the situation couldn’t be handled from 35,000 feet in the air. So maybe a half-hour after the initial announcement came the one I’d been expecting for the last 29 minutes. We were making an emergency landing.

It turned out a woman had a stroke on my plane. Which is terrifying. Her poor husband, who stayed remarkably calm, was on board too. And now, as far as I know, they’re stuck at a hospital in Denver, which I can only assume is not home.

This is terrible and awful for all the obvious reasons. What intrigued me from the friendship perspective, however, was how the crisis brought the rest of us together. As soon as the flight attendant announced the emergency landing, the strangers in my row and I became best friends. We briefly discussed what happened, but then moved on to where the one guy was from (Vegas) and why the middle seat woman was flying for the first time in four years (a family member’s 80th birthday). I learned that the Vegas-native bought his 18-year-old daughter an iPad for graduation and she’s enjoying it while she recovers from the “enhancements” that his ex-wife bought her. Middle Seat hated taking off and was not thrilled to be doing it twice. They both got a kick out of my phone call to Matt, who was already settled at a poker table in Vegas, when they overheard “Are you even listening to me? Can you stop playing long enough to listen to me?” Shuffle up and deal stops for no one.

After our pit stop, passengers were chatting across the aisle and between rows. The crowd went from every-man-for-himself to Kumbaya in the course of one hopefully-not-life-threatening disaster. And isn’t that so often the case? People keep to themselves, breezing through their days with eyes straight ahead until something unexpected throws them off course. It’s this jolt out of the ordinary that propels regular folk to open up to strangers. I assume it’s the need to bond with someone over a shared experience, but in retrospect, it seems too bad. I was seated in a row of three friendly adults, yet not one of us spoke to the others until we found out things weren’t going as planned. And we didn’t bond to complain—everyone on board was totally fine with our necessary detour—but it was as if this surprise gave us permission to begin the bonding process.

This doesn’t only happen in times of crisis. What about when Oprah gave her whole audience cars? Those strangers were hugging as if they were long-lost sisters. What is it about surprises—good or bad—that brings people together? Have you ever seen this happen firsthand? Why do you think most of us wait for an emergency landing, or keys to a shiny new G6, to start opening up to the strangers among us?

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I’m Talking Butterflies and All….

I have a girl crush. On the saleswoman at an overpriced-but-fabulous boutique in my neighborhood. She’s tall and thin and pretty. She has great clothes. When I stopped in her  store the weekend I went wedding dress shopping, I showed her a photo of myself  in the top contender—I needed an outsider’s opinion—and she said I looked like a ballerina. It was love.

Has it occurred to me that she’s nice because I’m shopping at the expensive store of which she is the manager? Clearly. But I choose to believe she’s into me.

I’ve had many a girl crush in my day. Some women are just so together-without-even-trying, so confident-and-witty-without-being-egotistical, so I-quote-Dumbledore-and-Modern-Family-in-the-same-breath that I fall in friend-love at first sight. Besides the boutique lady, there was my NYC yoga teacher, my  magazine editor mentor, and  Robin Scherbatsky.

A 2005 New York Times article on the girl crush sums up the feeling nicely: “That fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished. While a girl crush is, by its informal definition, not sexual in nature, the feelings that it triggers – excitement, nervousness, a sense of novelty – are very much like those that accompany a new romance.”

The great thing about girl crushes is that they can blossom into actual friendships. The sound of two women mutually crushing is often really the click of two potential BFFs. And, um, when a drunk sorority sister confessed  I was her girl-crush in college? I was uber flattered. College girls are more discerning with their girl crushes than the boy kind. It was no small thing.

So I’ve been working up the nerve to ask this saleswoman to grab lunch or a drink with me one day. To take our relationship outside the walls of her store will be a big step. But there’s one nagging concern: What if she doesn’t live up to my expectations?

A former coworker of mine (whose new book you should check out) recently wrote a hilarious article about meeting her literary hero. The reality of the dinner date, she explained, fell far short of the dream. That’s a risk with any relationship where we’ve built up the other party. What if beneath her well-dressed, perfectly-coiffed exterior, my girl crush is a dud who brings nothing to the table aside from her stellar style recommendations? It almost makes me want to hold tight to the dream rather than officially introduce myself. I said almost.

Have you had a girl crush? On who? Has any one admitted a girl crush on you? The Times article says that while girl crushes sometimes bring women closer, other times the admission just makes things awkward. Thoughts?

(Tune in tomorrow for a report on all my new Vegas BFFs…)

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What Happens in Vegas…

That’s right. I’m in Vegas baby! Every year my family takes a trip to what is apparently a really cool and hot city—I wouldn’t know since I never leave the casino. It seems I come from a long line of gamblers. A cab driver once joked that we would get a neon tan.

But there’s more to do in a casino than just lose win big. Like people watch. Or people meet.

If there’s any place in the world where you can make new BFFs in a snap, it’s Vegas. It might just have something to do with the bright lights and booze, but there’s nothing like a hot blackjack table to bring people together.

In prior years I’ve met people from all over the globe. Bachelorettes, honeymooners, men on business trips. There was Ira, the older gentleman who took me under his wing at the craps table. In retrospect I think  he was trying to sleep with me, but at the time I thought we were just a quirky odd couple. BFFs for sure.

I also love befriending the dealers. At the blackjack table especially, there’s plenty of time to talk and exchange life histories. And they always seem happy to chat. Or they want a tip. Tomato, tomahto.

So this go ‘round, I’m on the lookout for another visitor from Chicago. I’ll chat her up and hope that in this case, what happens in Vegas carries over to the Midwest. It’s not so unlikely.

And who knows who else I could meet? Maybe a celebrity. Or a poker pro. Or my identical hand twin! (Youtube won’t let me embed this video, sadly…)

Are there any other cities that are especially conducive to people-meeting? I’m not opposed to taking this search global.

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Warning: No BFFs Allowed

Oh my gosh. I need to stop writing this blog right this minute. According to today’s New York Times, the Best Friend is over. What I am searching for does not exist. Or should not.

In our modern Mean Girls, text messaging, bullying society, teachers and school administrators are discouraging anything that might present itself as a clique, the Times says. Two girls whispering and weaving friendship bracelets in the corner? Out.

“In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond—the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together after school—signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity…”

These days it’s all about groups of friends, apparently. Which reminds me of an intern who recently told me she spent the Passover holiday holding a seder with her 16 best friends. I’m all for spreading the friend love, but forcing this mentality and separating any kids who get too close? In grade school? That’s a bit overboard, no?

What’s wrong with learning to form intimate friendships? One of the best things to come out of my summer camp experience is my BFF. What would I have done if because we seemed “to be too focused on each other, the camp [made] sure to put [us] on different sports teams, seat [us] at different ends of the dining table…”?

The article goes on to explain that psychologists don’t necessarily agree with schools’ anti-BFF mentality. Forging different types of friendships in childhood is preparation for social interaction later in life. If you manipulate the system so that no kid ever feels left out, what’ll happen when her grown-up self misses out on a coveted invite and she doesn’t have the skill set to deal with it? As one psychologist says in the article, “When a teacher is trying to tone down a best-friend culture, I would like to know why. … Is it causing misery for the class? Or is there one girl who does have friends but just can’t bear the thought that she doesn’t have as good a best friend as another? That to me is normal social pain. If you’re mucking around too much in the lives of kids who are experiencing normal social pain, you shouldn’t be.”

I love the notion of the best friend forever. Clearly. There’s a part of me that wonders if such a relationship is even possible for adults. But I put that inseparable BFFness, complete with up-all-night sleepovers and choreographed dances (wait, was that just me?), up there with lightning-speed metabolism and never-ending energy on the list of reasons why childhood is magical.

I’m not pro children getting left out. But I am all for trusting them to navigate the murky waters of friendship themselves, or at least giving them the chance to try. I believe in letting kids experience the wonder of meeting that special someone without fear of getting separated simply because they hit it off. My mother-in-law tells the story of the first time Matt met his best friend. He came home from day camp and said “I made a new friend. His name is Noah Benjamin.” They’re still best friends 24 years later. That’s what I want for my kid.

Do you think best-friendships are bad for children? That groups of friends are safer in today’s world? Or should kids be allowed to figure out social relationships for themselves? And—be honest—were the BFF relationships back in the day really so carefree, or am I wearing a coke-bottle pair of rose-colored glasses?

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