Monthly Archives: August 2010

Now Casting: My New BFF

This weekend marks the end of summer for all practical purposes (don’t hate me for stating the facts). School’s back in session, the public pools are closing down, and the long sleeves are coming out.

But there’s nothing to cry about. In case Sunday night’s Emmys weren’t uplifting reminder enough, let me draw your attention to one very exciting fact: Fall TV is upon us! All hail the return of new shows.

I celebrated summer reading with my wannabe literary BFFs. Today, TV is getting the same treatment. Here, the folks I’d stitch friendship bracelets for anyday.

1)    Cameron Tucker, Modern Family. In his own words. “I’m sort of like Costco. I’m big, I’m not fancy, and I dare you not to like me.”

2)    Clarissa Darling, Clarissa Explains It All. Not only did I want to be friends with her, I wanted to to be her. A teenage journalist with wacky outfits and a BFF who climbed through the window? Yes please.

3)    Alistair, Huge. My heart breaks for the kind, misunderstood, and understatedly clever underdog in the ABC Family drama. He’s been the butt of much harassment this season, but he totally won my adoration.

4)    Ashleigh Howard, Greek. Another ABC Family favorite. Ashleigh is a fashion-forward BFF (I’m noticing a pattern: Ashleigh, Clarissa, Six. Throw in Lisa Turtle for good measure. She has always been my fave) and the surprising voice of reason to Casey’s drama queen.

5)    Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights. She’s brilliant and gorgeous, level-headed and playful, stern and supportive. We see her as a wife, mother and principal, but rarely in the role of friend. I’m quite confident she’d do just fine.

6) Ethel Mertz, I Love Lucy. She basically invented the onscreen BFF. She’s always up for a bit of trouble-making, but not so much to land you in the slammer. She’d be the pal I’d recruit on my let’s-go-on-an-adventure days.

7) Seth Cohen, The O.C. Yes, I was very much on the whole Chrismukkah bandwagon. I’m a Jew who celebrated Christmas, I could relate. (Was raised Jewish but Dad converted so we celebrated with his family. Neither here nor there…)

8 ) Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy Meredith’s a bit tortured for my liking, but Cristina has that great sarcasm. She’s the one who says aloud the bits that I would censor (and my self-censor is subpar as is). And underneath all her overachieving crazy there is a really quality friend.

9) Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother If I have to pick just one of the McClaren’s gang, I guess it’d be Robin. She’s just so normal. Except for the whole Robin Sparkles thing. Which is GENIUS. (I’d rather just be adopted by the whole group please. NPH I  love you.)

I know I missed some here… because either I never watched their shows (Rory Gilmore, Veronica Mars) or because I love the show but think the individuals are just annoying (Topanga, Kimmie Gibbler). Tell me—what TV character would you grant BFF status?

{ Some blogs I’m acquainted with are celebrating September as “The Month of Friendship.” Today, Shasta from GirlfriendCircles writes about why needing new friends is normal.)

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV

The Ex-Factor

I’m a little (though not totally) embarrassed to say that I spent some time watching Jersey Shore this weekend. On the episode in question, Sammi and Ronnie are dating, or were dating, or might be dating. From what I can tell, they’re actually in the midst of breaking up. It’s a lot of drama that includes tears, screaming, and “anonymous” letters about Ronnie’s two-timing ways.

It got me thinking about the ridiculousness of having to live in the same space as an ex-boyfriend. If you ask me, it’s bad enough trying to be friends with one.

I am generally of the belief that it’s impossible to stay friends with an ex. There’s so often residual sexual tension, and jealousy, and unresolved emotions (fights that still sting, hearts still healing, you know the drill). Though, now that I think about it, I am friends with an ex of my own. But we only dated for a very short while, and it took a little bit of time—and both moving on to other people—before we could get there.

Maybe that’s the secret? You can be friends once you’ve both found your bigger and better?

Or maybe it’s the separation thing. I have friends who, while they are going through breakups, tell me that they and the guys are still talking because they are “trying to remain friends.” If I could shake them through the phone I would. A person needs a little breathing room. Even if the friendship will be possible eventually, time away is of the essence.

The devil’s advocate in me won’t shut up about ex-couple friends of mine. They dated through high school and college, have since broken up, but have been pretty good friends ever since. I’ve asked them both how they do it, and neither seems to have the secret. “I don’t know,” they’ll both say. “We just do.” Helpful.

We’ve already discussed whether you can stay friends with a friend’s ex. But can you stay friends with an ex? The rational part of me says no. But the part that learns by example says maybe.

Thoughts?

{I usually don’t believe in made-up celebratory occasions like “National Pretzel Day” and “National Romance Month.” But it seems worth mentioning that some blogs I’m lucky to be acquainted with (all about friendship in various forms) are celebrating September as “The Month of Friendship.” This week, each of the five participating members are writing and sharing blog posts. We each take a very different approach to the issues surrounding these complicated relationships, so if you’re interested, go see what they have to say. Today, Debba from Girlfriendology writes about the origins of the celebration.)

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Filed under The Gender Gap

Other People’s People

I just emerged from a pretty hearty session of Facebook stalking. I signed on for one final bit of procrastination before starting this post, just to see if anyone “liked” anything of mine, or added new photos, or wrote anything even remotely revealing.

Not surprisingly, I lost myself in a new photo album posted by a girl I went to college with but have spoken to perhaps five times in the six years since. I was fascinated by the group pictures of her friends—also classmates at good ol’ NU.

This is a common occurrence with me. As much thinking as I do about the friendships in my own life, I’m equally as intrigued with other people’s social networks.

“Oh they’re still friends?”

“Wait, are they not friends these days?”

“So those two are  good friends but they’re  both best friends with her?”

“How do they even know each other?”

These are the thoughts that go thrashing through my head while trying to decode intricate webs of relationships by way of a photo album.

Having given it some thought, I’d say I’m less interested in looking at my close friends’ Facebook pics than those of long-lost acquaintances. When I’m already clued in as to how the connections fit together, the mystery is gone.

I’ve always wanted to understand the dynamics of other groups of friends. In high school I’d grill Sara about the who’s-dating-who, who’s-BFF-with-who, who’s-fighting-with-who of her nearby high school. I like to see what other friends do together, what they’re wearing, how they interact.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that I minored in sociology. The study of human social activity? It’s what I do for fun!

But many more than the sociologists among us do the Facebook photo thing. We’ll gladly click through 200 vacation, or wedding, or random Saturday night shots. People—or maybe I should just speak for myself—love to peek into foreign social lives, and Facebook plays into our most voyeuristic tendencies.

So what is it about other people’s social circles that is so captivating? Is it simply the fly-on-the-wallness of it all? Or something deeper? A desire to see where we’d fit in? Or—and I’d momentarily forgotten this option—am I alone in this mild obsession?

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships

Friends With Benefits

Last night I had dinner with the same ladies who attended my pizza party last month. This time we rolled sushi. When this quest is all over not only am I going to have friends out the wazoo, I’m going to have mad kitchen skills.

Towards the end of the evening, I was listening in on a conversation between a woman who’s waiting on a potential job offer and another who works in human resources. HR friend was helping job-search friend decode some questions of health benefits and out-of-pocket costs. My contribution to the conversation? “Wow, it’s so useful to have a friend in HR!”

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague a few months ago.

“I need a friend who’s a techie,” she said. “I don’t understand my computer. If I could meet a good friend who could also fix my PC I’d be golden.”

It’s kind of a brilliant concept. What if we could staff our friends like we do our office? We’d need one great social coordinator, one lady who’s good with finances and can be the split-the-biller, a fashionista to assess outfits and find us the perfect pair of jeans, and maybe a therapist to analyze our dreams (actually, that might get annoying).

Personally, I find it exceedingly helpful to have friends who know marketing and sales. I can weave some creative words together now and then, but when it comes to the business side of writing I’m on a learning curve. Friends who can weigh in on the selling part of wordiness are welcome.

Also, please, a pal who can fix the service light on my car (it was just serviced!)

And an appliance technician friend (the door on my washing machine is broken).

In return, I can offer my services in: Book recommendations, Survivor and Friends trivia and general pop-culture know-how (sounds worthless until you’re sitting in the hot seat and need a Gleektastic phone-a-friend), and Web 101.

Fair trade?

Bottom line, friends are great. Friends who double as a service provider? Jackpot.

If you could find a friend who did double duty, what would you need?

{Housekeeping notes: There are some new buttons at the bottom of individual posts so you can Facebook, Twitter, or “like” them if you, er, like them. I’ve also added that cute little “Follow Me on Twitter” button on the side. So use it, if you want.}

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Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: I’m An Emerging Adult

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

 

The 20s are like the stem cell of human development, the pluripotent moment when any of several outcomes is possible. …  The 20s are when most people accumulate almost all of their formal education; when most people meet their future spouses and the friends they will keep; when most people start on the careers that they will stay with for many years. This is when adventures, experiments, travels, relationships are embarked on with an abandon that probably will not happen again.” (“What Is It About 20-Somethings?” New York Times Magazine, 8/22/2010)

I am 28. The tail end of the 20-somethings, but I’ll still have the label for another two years thankyouverymuch. And I must say, I thought this cover story about “emerging adulthood” was spot on.

My highlighter couldn’t keep up with all the interesting tidbits.

Like:

“One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married.”

And:

“During the period he calls emerging adulthood, [psychology professor Jeffrey] Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background.”

If emerging adulthood is about “identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and…a sense of possibilities,” then maybe this local BFF search is my manifestation of that. It was born of that in-between feeling, after all. Wanting childlike friendships in an adult life. And this is certainly the most identity exploration I’ve ever pursued—it’s amazing how much I’m learning about myself in a quest primarily focused on other people.

And the sense of possibilities? If I’m on the search, I must believe I can find The One.

Is looking for a BFF my way of eschewing adulthood?

I would argue it’s my way of holding on to childhood, but also my attempt at trying to create the life I hope to have as an adult. I’m not so much rejecting the growing up process, I’m simply trying to control it.

The quote at the top of this post says that the 20s are when most people meet the friends they will keep. I may be unusual, but I met almost all my closest friends in the 10-19 decade. Friends from camp, high school, even my college friends I met freshman year. That’s when I met my husband too. But even if, at the end of this search, I don’t have a new and local BFF, I’m confident I’ll have Friends. Capital F. Ones who will live close enough that our friendships can continue to evolve.

Maybe one day I’ll grow up and think about my 20s and tell my daughter “My 20s were when I found X and Y and Z. In fact, I went looking for them.”

If you’re in your 20s, do you see yourself in the description of “emerging adults”? If your 20s are behind you, would you say they were the formative years of your adult life? The stem cells of your human development? And did you meet the Friends you have today back then?

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(Un)Friendly Rivalry

I’ve been wondering a lot lately about competition in friendship. I’ve been quite lucky in my adult life that this hasn’t really been an issue. Almost all my closest friends and I have very different career aspirations, and there is certainly no “I want to be the first to get married/have kids” craziness. If anything it’s the opposite—at least with the kids thing. No one is in any rush.

I do have one old friend who is in the same business as I am. We used to work together, though now we’re separated by a few state lines. Ours is a very specific and very important relationship. We are each other’s cheerleaders.

Brooke and I worked together for two years(ish). In that time we sat across from each other and often ate lunch together at the makeshift table we created out of a file cabinet and some desk chairs. We became each other’s voice of reason. When I needed a brilliant edit before sending something to the boss, I trusted her eyes only. When she was looking for a clever headline, or advice on the wording of a work email, she came to me. Even when we worked only a few feet away and shared a title, there was never anything but encouragement.

Three years later, we live miles apart but still act as each other’s career advisors. At least, she is mine. I send her any big projects I’m working on because I trust her as a reader and respect her smarts. When she writes “groooaaan” next to a painful cliché, I say “thanks!” I’d rather her point out a lame bit of writing than my editor, after all. And at the core of all her notes—good and bad—is an unflappable belief in me. If another person, including my editor, called a sentence lame I’d be insulted (I know this, because it has happened). But if Brooke said it I’d know she meant “you can do better” not “you suck.” Perhaps that’s why it works.

I realize this friendship is rare. I hear one nightmare after another about friends betraying each other over professional ambitions. There are plenty—too many!—stories of BFFs working in similar fields who avoid talking about the job for fear it might get awkward.

It’s not only a career thing of course. This clip from a recent Oprah Show features two cousins who say they can only stay close friends when they’re both overweight. During the times that one or the other has slimmed down, the competition and jealousy surrounding skinniness has driven them apart.

As women, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others and want what they have—clothes, jobs, hair, all that good stuff. But where does that fit into friendship? Can BFFs who maintain a competitive relationship last? And is there such a thing as friendly competition?

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Filed under The Search

Friending For a Cause

I should start wearing this nametag at all times. When you’re a semi-professional friender, you’re constantly sporting the sticky little bastards. I spent six hours this weekend battling the stubborn adhesives, which were constantly coming unstuck in the August heat.

I’ve been wanting to do some volunteer work since moving to Chicago. Other than a day spent knocking on doors for Mr. President a few years back, I haven’t yet fulfilled that goal. Plenty of people have suggested volunteering as a prime activity for meeting pals, but I’ve had trouble finding something that works with my schedule. So many worthwhile organizations require an ongoing commitment, and my calendar these days just doesn’t have much room. Enter One Brick.

I found out about this organization from a reader (thanks Laura!) and fellow Chicagoan. It was perfect for me for two reasons: 1) It’s no commitment volunteering, meaning you sign up and show up for events that you’re interested in and work for your schedule, and 2) The organization encourages “a social atmosphere around volunteering” and invites volunteers to gather at a local restaurant after each event. You do good, you make friends—a win-win. (And if it’s a BFF bust at least you’ve, you know, changed the world and all that.)

The event I worked was at Chicago’s City Farm. It was a lot of weeding, but it felt great to be outside, get dirty, and meet an interesting variety of people. I also got to pick beets—I’m basically a farmer!

One Brick is headquartered in San Francisco and has chapters in DC, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Paul, New York, Orlando, and Seattle. I don’t do much organization promotion in these parts of the blogosphere, but from my first venture into the One Brick community it seems like something worth sharing, whether you are local-BFF deficient or not.

(My other nametag affair was at a Friday mingler, where a group of strangers came together for an evening of drinks and icebreakers. If you’re a Chicago local, check them out. If you’re not, and are interested in meeting new people, I highly recommend seeking out similar mixers in your city or town. I had no idea how many existed in the Windy City until I started looking. Now I find out about a new one every day. I have to believe the same kind of get-to-know you games are happening in a village near you.)

Have you had a good social experience with a volunteer organization? Feel free to share your cause below.

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In My Opinionation…

It’s Friday, it’s been a long week, and I think we all just need a little break from the friendship analysis.

Instead, let’s take a trip back in time. Let’s visit a pair of BFFs who had a profound impact on my youth.

My childhood BFF Katie and I used to go to the mall and buy hats with big flowers so we could be like Blossom and Six. We fought over who got to be Six… she was so super cool wasn’t she?

I remember wishing back then that I had a friend who would show up at the front door unannounced. (Remember when the spontaneous pop-in was considered a welcome surprise rather than an annoyance? A post for another day.) Katie lived a car ride away, so she never just appeared at my house. She called, asked if it was ok to visit, and then got a ride. The surprise visit from a pal always sounded so exciting, as did Six’s crazyfast speech pattern. Basically, Katie and I wanted to be them.

Since I started writing this blog I’ve come to realize how much pop culture friendships—especially in books and TV shows—have influenced what I want from my own relationships. I’m not saying I want to mimic the content of the exchange below (no thanks!) but it gives me a bit of nostalgia: For teenage friendships, high-speed talking and a TV favorite of my youth.

See for yourself. (If you’re reading this in an email or feed you may need to click through to watch the video.)

Happy Friday!

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Old Days

It’s All About Timing

It’s brilliant because it’s true. How many times have you spoken these words? “We probably wouldn’t be friends if we met today but…”

It’s a phrase oft uttered when one friend introduces a new pal to an old one. A diplomatic way of saying “Don’t judge me based on the company I keep, we lived next door and shared a blankie when we were 5. Her crazy ways/lack of personality/nasty humor are no reflection on me.” You know, without actually having to come out and say it, because you’d never speak ill of your lifelong buddy, right?

Maybe that’s why making friends as an adult is so much harder. Suddenly we’re in full control of who’s awarded our precious time. We’re not thrown into a relationship because our mothers are best friends or we grew up on the same block or we were randomly assigned a shared dorm room. Hectic schedules keep us from making plans with ladies who don’t fit our perceived BFF mold, because that would seem unproductive. A waste.

But here’s the catch. The most satisfying friendships are often with people who are totally different from us. The very souls we could never see ourselves clicking with. They’re the ladies we couldn’t get rid of because our mothers were best friends or we lived on the same block or in the same dorm room. Since we couldn’t shake them, we learned to love them. What other choice did we have?

I read recently that adults decide within 10 minutes of meeting someone what kind of relationship they want with that person. Once our grown-up minds are made up, we have a hard time changing them. Maybe if we did a bit more forcing, the people we meet who seem crazy or stand-offish or juvenile would in fact become the BFFs we’re (I’m?) looking for.

Or maybe meeting each other today would be a disaster.

Thoughts? Do you have an old friend you don’t think you’d mesh with if you met today? Or is that a cop-out line? Is adult friending hard because we simply don’t give people a chance to grow on us?

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The Hard Facts: You Talk Too Much

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

“Female friendships and girl talk, particularly among adolescents, has drawn growing interest from psychologists and researchers examining the question of how much talking is too much talking. Some studies have found that excessive talking about problems can contribute to emotional difficulties, including anxiety and depression. The term researchers use is ‘co-rumination’ to describe frequently or obsessively discussing the same problem. … And, psychologists say, it has intensified significantly with email, text messaging and Facebook.” (“Girl Talk Has Its Limits”, New York Times, 9/10/2008)

Matt is going to love this. Finally, science to back him up when he begs me to stop obsessing about the subtext of a friend’s email or the stress of looming deadlines. He’s plenty supportive the first time, maybe even the second, but he can’t stand to talk things to death. I might hypothesize that the majority of our fights have included the phrases, “I can’t keep repeating myself” and “You’re my husband, you’re supposed to listen and let me talk through things.”

When it comes to overanalyzing, I am classic girl. I could—and do—dissect my personal dilemmas with anyone who will listen. I want to get everyone’s input, but also to voice my thoughts aloud, again and again, in hopes that a new solution might spout from my brain via my mouth.

One of the primary reasons I want to find a new local BFF is to have a sounding board for some hard-core girl talk. It’s better for my marriage, and my sanity, to have a lady-friend to listen to me vent. Also, she can unload her baggage on me. As much as I enjoy scrutinizing my issues, I equally adore evaluating a friend’s. Turns out, though, that time with my new BFF could be better spent. Too much analysis will only lead to more emotional angst. Like when friends get together to complain about work or a mutual friend who’s getting  on their nerves.  When the bitchfest is over, you rarely feel better, just reinvigorated with whichever negative emotion you had to begin with. But there’s a better way! “With co-rumination, psychologists studying it say, one way for parents, and friends, to avoid the negative consequences is to focus on problem-solving, rather than on problem-dwelling.” In other words, instead of complaining to a friend about deadlines, I should be asking her advice on how to realistically meet them.

One important point: This research does not mean you should stop opening up to pals. “The research distinguished between sharing or ‘self-disclosure,’ which is associated with positive friendships and positive feelings, and dwelling on problems, concerns, and frustrations.” Telling secrets? Yes. Never shutting up about how much you can’t stand an in-law? Probably not.

Do you feel better or worse when you have a venting session with a friend?

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