Monthly Archives: July 2010

To Book or Not to Book?

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Here, my BFF Sara contemplates the merits of the most modern form of friending: Facebook.

The best way to begin this post is by saying that Rachel is one of the only people in the world I would ever agree to “guest blog” for. I’m not on Facebook, I stopped using AIM circa 1996 when the away message took hold. I’ve abstained from most forms of social media, partially because their public nature scares me. So blogging is just about the last thing I’d do on my own. But for Rachel, I would do anything—she is, after all, my oldest BFF.

[For regular readers – I’m Sara – I let Rachel smush my chubby 9-year- old-cheeks, brought her clean clothes when her father was in the hospital, sent her flowers for her book deal, and, yes, I don’t always return calls promptly (although I think we’re on a good streak!).]

As for Facebook, it’s not that I think Facebook is evil, it’s just not for me… or, so far it hasn’t been for me. The truth is I’m conflicted. So I figured I’d take this “chance” (read, semi-obligatory BFF favor) to publicly deliberate my non-Facebook status.

Why I’m not on “The Good Book” (as a dear friend and late FB adopter referred to it today, while we were having a lovely, face-to-face, lunch)…

1. I wouldn’t use it… a lot. Confession, right off the bat – I don’t have an account, but I do have access, thanks to a couple BFFs who have granted me permission to log on via their accounts whenever I need to do some “social research” or just when the mood strikes. But the mood doesn’t strike that often.

2. I might use it… a lot. Current users’ #1 complaint – time suckage. In the little-to-zero time I have free these days, I’d rather spend it on actual face time with friends. But I know how easy it is look up from a friend-of-a-friend’s hot brother’s crazy co-worker’s wedding photos and realize it’s 3 hrs later.

3. I’m self-conscious. I dread the performative aspect of it. I resent the demand to represent yourself, your social life, your hipness through lists of your favorite movies (or clever stand-ins for these lists), witty status updates, collection of friends, and, of course, photographic evidence of your awesome life. I don’t want to obsess over these details until I’m certain they capture me accurately, and favorably. And I’d rather not be tempted to compare my life to the awesomeness captured in other people’s photos. My life is great, but I don’t know if it photographs well, and I never take pictures.

4. I don’t want to be found.  I don’t want to field friend requests and messages from people with whom I’m perfectly happy to have lost touch.  Given that I’m bad enough at returning calls and emails from people I love dearly, chances are I won’t respond, but I’ll feel really really guilty about it!

5. Now, it’s kind of a self-image thing. I had a boyfriend once tell me that when his mom found out I wasn’t on Facebook she liked me more. I kind of like myself more for it too. Especially when everyone else and their mom is on it (said mom included), it feels somewhat rare. If I did have a FB page, it might be something I’d include in the “about me.”

Why I might cave…

1. I do feel left out. Everyone and their mom is on it, especially everyone my age (my Sr. year of college was it’s very first year).  So much of my friends’ collective references occur on FB. I miss the punchlines in person. Party invitations happen on Facebook. I just assume I wasn’t invited.

2. When face time is not an option. Obviously I wouldn’t mind knowing more about what’s going on in the lives of my friends who are far away (or a borough away). Especially since we’ve established my direct upkeep with them is not the best.

3. We’re all voyeurs, even if we’re not all exhibitionists. I could look at photos of interesting strangers for hours, even if I wouldn’t post my own.

4. Anthropological/sociological research. You can learn a lot by looking at photos of interesting strangers, not to mention actual acquaintances. Plus, since Facebook’s userbase would apparently make it the 5th most populist country in the world, I sort of have to do it to understand my own culture, right? The American Studies major in me thinks so.

5. I know, I know, it’s what you make of it. I get it, your profile can be as slim as you want it to be, your status can remain blank, privacy settings can even make you invisible, filters can kill information overload.

So can anyone sway me one way or the other?  What made you first join?  Total satisfaction?  Frustrations?  Any other remaining holdouts like me?

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships

I Now Pronounce You Friend and Friend

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Today my brother explains how he inadvertently launched a mini-search of his own, in a place usually reserved for a different sort of pick up.

When I was single I told anyone who’d listen that “I kill at weddings.” Not only do I subscribe to the idea that weddings are the best place in the world to meet girls, but I was hoping to write the book (or at least start the blog). And of course I wasn’t wrong—that’s how I met Jaime almost 3 years ago.  If you’re at the wedding then you’ve been invited by the bride or groom, which at least gives you a touch of credibility. You’re automatically better off than some guy who approaches a girl at a dimly lit bar, and you definitely have something in common with the other guests (at bare minimum you both know the couple, at best you can swap stories with the mutual high school/college/hometown guest sitting next to you at Table 14, the singles table).

Jaime and I were recently at her best friend’s wedding, which meant she had various bridesmaid-like obligations that morning. It also meant I was left on my own with a bunch of other husbands and boyfriends for hours. We planned ahead and I exchanged phone numbers with a couple of guys so we could figure out plans while the girls were primping (namely, find the right bar to watch the soccer game).

Later, at the wedding, Jaime introduced me to a guy who she’d met a few times through the bride. He didn’t know anyone else there, so he spent much of the night hanging out with us. He came to the wedding without a date, and you would have thought this guy would be a prize for any girl there. Funny, cool, nice (but not too nice), smart, much much better looking than I, well dressed and, from what I’m told, pretty successful. When he wasn’t hanging out with us, I caught glimpses of him talking/laughing/dancing with various girls – I had no doubt he was making his move.

But fast forward to the after party and, unfortunately for him, he’s sitting next to me while I’m attempting to live vicariously through his night of trying to find some single girl to take home. We start breaking down every candidate I could come up with. The first girl he’d previously dated, the next bunch had boyfriends, and everyone else we could think of he wasn’t really attracted to. There really weren’t many single girls there—maybe that’s a function of going to a wedding of other 31-year olds, but still I was surprised. While this guy, who I could’ve guaranteed would walk away with multiple phone numbers, went back to his hotel room empty handed, I got digits from three guys. Maybe people are more open to a BFF than a Ms. Right these days. Or maybe I just still kill at weddings.

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The Hard Facts: Hold On Tight

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. For Research Wednesday, my mom explains why maintaining old friends is just as important as making new ones.

“Sociologists now have data showing that women who can maintain friendships through the decades are healthier and happier, with stronger marriages. Not all women are able to sustain those friendships, however. … When women are between the ages of twenty-five and forty, their friendships are most at risk, because those are the years when women are often consumed with marrying, raising children and establishing careers.” (Jeffrey Zaslow, The Girls from Ames)

As a woman in her late fifties (yikes!), I cherish the friends whom I have known all my life. I recently moved back to Chicago after 30 years in New York. After being a widow for three years, I decided to return to the city of my youth where I had my strongest support system, including family (sister, brother, daughter, cousins) and friends. While I have a few very close friends in New York, whom I miss terribly, I’m so lucky to have come back to those who’ve known me forever. There’s Joy, one of the first people to speak to me on the train to camp when I was nine years old. (The fact that she took one look at me with my very short haircut and said “What are you doing here? This is a camp for girls!” notwithstanding.) There’s Pat, who lived across the street from me growing up and with whom I spent almost every weekend night of elementary school. And there’s Laurie, who’s a cousin but has also been a close friend since we were high school cheerleaders.

There were times in my adult life when I didn’t have as much contact with these friends as I would have liked—they lived in Chicago and I was in New York—but they’ve always been there when I needed them. When my husband died, Pat and Laurie hopped on a plane to come to the funeral. Seeing them instantly made me feel a little better. It was a relief to be with people who knew me so well that I could totally relax with them. When my sister asked Joy, who was living in New Jersey at the time, to bring some food for lunch after the funeral, she showed up with enough for an army. I remember her saying “I got the sandwiches, then I decided that might not be enough, so I got the chicken, and in case that wasn’t enough, I got the salads.” In other words, she stepped up. I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

When I moved back to Chicago, there they were. Yes, they’re busy with boyfriends and husbands and jobs, but when I need to spend time with someone who knows me so well that I don’t have to be “on,” I can call any one of them.

So girls, don’t let the building of your adult life get in the way of maintaining the friendships you’ve spent so much time and energy developing. You’ll find that whatever effort it takes—going back to your home town for a wedding or reunion, taking time out of a family visit for lunch or dinner with pals—you’ll be glad you made it. Once you emerge from those years from twenty-five to forty, those long-time friendships will mean the world to you.

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And Then There Was One…

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Today, my BFF Callie weighs in on what it’s like to be the one who stays put when everyone else moves away.

When Rachel first told me she wanted to write a blog about making friends I thought it was a great idea. Ok, maybe that’s not entirely true.  I didn’t quite get it, really, because I hadn’t given much thought to the topic. Aside from my four year stint in Somerville, Massachusetts for college, I’ve spent my whole life in New York City (and yes, my family and friends were traumatized and appalled when I had the audacity to move across the river to Brooklyn). So, needless to say, I wasn’t so sure about the topic. But as her best friend, knowing how smart she is and what a great writer she is, I figured it would work out. Then, once she launched the blog, I (as a best friend does) sent a blast email to all my contacts telling them to read it. Well, the feedback I got was overwhelming. So many people identified! Everyone from college acquaintances who moved to Chicago and wanted to meet Rachel to my middle aged Aunt who relocated to North Carolina for a late-in-life career change. I gave it more thought and realized Rachel is so right. BFFs are hard to come by. Wasn’t I lucky I didn’t have to go through a search like hers?

Then I started to analyze my own life and friend situation, only to realize that I’d certainly not made any new BFFs since freshman year of college. Sure, I had new friends from my book club and people I’d met through work or other friends, but I was nowhere near the BFF stage with any of them. Rachel hit the nail on the head: Making best friends (the kind you call up for no reason other than to recap what happened on Glee, those you know will be excited if you stop by their apartment and curl up on the couch just because you’re in the neighborhood) is just plain hard to do.

But I’m protected,  right? My BFFs live a short subway ride away…right? I suddenly realized it’s not going to be like that much longer. My BFFs are slowly but surely all moving away. I know Rachel’s had the challenge of moving to a new city, but what about being the person left behind when everyone else leaves?!?  Pretty soon I may have some local-BFF searching to do. Since Rachel moved three years ago, another one of my best friends left for DC and two others have plans to move in the next two years. Where does that leave me? I thought I was safe, staying in the protective bubble of my home city. It looks like I’ll be thrown into the BFF search, despite thinking “I’m staying in NYC so that will never be me.” At least I’ll have an entire archive of blog posts (and even a book!) to help lead the way when the time comes.

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The Male Perspective

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Below, my terribly witty husband reflects on how The Quest has affected our marriage so far.

So my wife writes this blog.  Or so I hear.  We don’t really see each other all that much in this, our first year of marriage. I guess it makes sense then that our relationship couldn’t be better, which might be surprising considering that she decided to embark on a BFF-quest all of four months after our nuptials. Um, chello?? BFF-quest? Hi wife, this is your husband. I was hoping we could maybe be BFFs for a little while. Or, like, eternity.

I joke. From Day One I’ve been hugely supportive of The Quest. I chuckle when people tell Rachel that I should be her BFF and that her search is only a sign that we have a doomed marriage. Rachel and I were BFFs for two years before we officially started dating. (Obvi we were “friends,” slightly more than pals, for most of those two years—but our relationship for sure began via friendship.) She’s no longer my BFF. She’s my partner. My wife. The female version of me. Someone who knows me better than I know myself. She’s my most comfortable place. But she ain’t my BFF.

Female BFFs talk about hair, menstruation, wedding showers, Tyler Lautner [Editor’s note: That he calls him “Tyler” says it all], and other barely legal teenage boy wonders. They talk about innately female BS (OMG! I’m so insensitive) that the male simply cannot relate to. And this is what Rachel was lacking when we moved to Chicago together from the East Coast after doing the fun long-distance thing for three years. It was different for me. (A) I had two of my BFFs (woah, that is not a manly way to describe a best friend) here in Chicago from our college days. (B) I don’t have that mysterious female need to gab about god-knows-what for hours on end.

Thus The Quest ensued. And six months in, Rachel is a noticeably happier person. She’s always been a happy person, honestly. But you can tell she’s even more satisfied (wow, this has been an emasculating post), more complete, now that she has more female friends in her life that live in her city. So Rachel’s happier, which means I’m happier, which means our relationship is happier (albeit we’ve had a pretty good thing going for quite some time). Do you have a husband, boyfriend, or some other similarly insignificant male presence in your life? Show him this post. It might benefit you both more than you’d think. And, on a separate but related note, how awesome is my wife?

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Filed under BFFs and Marriage, The Gender Gap

Worldly Meetings

Today is a very exciting day. Why? Because tonight I leave for my honeymoon. One year later.

I have no specific plans to make friends on my trip—it’s a romantic getaway after all. But just because I’m not planning for it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I’ve heard plenty of tales of people—especially couples—making vacation friends. In fact, someone I know came up with a really clever name for these connections that I now can’t remember. Vacachums? Tripanions? I got nothing. If you are that brilliant mind, please show yourself.

I can see why couples might pair up during weeklong getaways. Vacation bubbles are just a microcosm of the real world. Girls need an US Weekly buddy, guys need someone with whom to make fun of US Weekly. (Generalizations, yes.) But there really is something magical when you’ve found the perfect foursome—and what brings a couple together better than a shared couple crush! Remember PJ and Bobby’s giddiness when they met their perfect match? (No? Then start watching My Boys. Season 4 premieres Sunday.)

I never studied abroad, but I hear that travel friends are the most fascinating kind. One of my closest pals told me to “just get lost and find a local to take pity on you. That’s how I met a nun in Napoli who’s my favorite stranger in the world and I think of fondly and often.” She also tells me that the first essay in Sloane Crosley’s latest book deals with this very issue: “Sloane goes to Portugal on her own before her 30th birthday and is so lonely. On the last night she meets these Portugese clowns in a bar, and the only way they can communicate is drawing stick figures on cocktail napkins, but they end up telling each other all sorts of deep personal truths that way.” Sounds amazing.

A friend who I swear is a professional people-meeter once traveled alone in South America for a month. The emails she’d send to us back home were the likes of: “I met some rock climbers at a bar yesterday and went hiking with them today. Once we got to the top of the mountain we drank whiskey to keep warm and played the guitar. It was freezing and I didn’t have a sleeping bag, but otherwise it was awesome.”

I don’t anticipate any rounds of Top of the World around the campfire, but there’s something poetic about meeting friends as you travel the world. And who knows? Maybe my BFF is awaiting me in Croatia.

Have you ever made travel companions? Share the tale!

(Two quick things: 1) There will be posts all week next week! You’re in for a treat, I promise. 2) It has come to my attention that some Google ads have been appearing at the bottom of some of my posts. I have no idea why—I don’t accept advertisements. So please ignore them and accept my apologies. If anyone knows how I can get rid of them…)

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Much Ado About Something?

In case you’re interested in where I stand in my summer reading, let me share: According to my Kindle app, I’m exactly 42% done with the summer It book, David Nicholls’ One Day. I mention this not because I think you should read it (Though I do. Think you should read it, that is. So far it’s a perfect beach read. And you’ll want to have read the novel when the Anne Hathaway vehicle hits theaters), but because a sentence others might gloss over recently gave me pause.

People make a big deal about friendship but it really does seem incredibly easy here, and soon he is imagining everyone hanging out together, going on holiday in a camper van, having barbecues on the beach as the sun goes down, and they seem to like him too…

The second part—the imagining everyone hanging out and gallivanting in a camper van—happens to me all the time. I meet someone seemingly spectacular and picture us walking through the city streets, each balancing a cell phone on our shoulder as we fumble for our keys with one hand and hold fresh shopping bags in the other. In my mind’s eye it plays like something out of a BFF chick flick. With a split screen or a montage that jumps back and forth between us. The Sweetest Thing, perhaps. Or Now and Then.

But it’s the first bit of this passage that really stuck with me. “People make a big deal about friendship…” Do they? Because when I started this search, it seemed to me that no one made a big deal about friendship. That so much energy was spent analyzing romantic relationships that friendship got a bit shortchanged in the cultural conversation.

In fact, I’ve always imagined that the most popular criticism of this blog might be that it makes too big a deal about friendship. People are constantly advising me, “don’t overthink it,” when it comes to navigating the murky waters of forging a local BFFship. It is, obviously, my tendency to notice and analyze issues as they pertain to social connections. I think about it. Then maybe overthink about it.

I’d argue these issues—saying the L word, how to go from acquaintance to friend, which BFFs are off limits—are real, and that people rarely talk about them for fear of appearing neurotic or obsessive. But you might argue that all my analysis is detracting from the experience. That friendships should just happen, in their own time, on their own schedule.

So my question to you is this: Do you think people make a big deal about friendship? Too big a deal? Or do you think talk of BFFs  and making friends gets sidelined by all the discussion about dating, marriage and Mr. Right?

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Filed under The Search