Getting Better With Age

Over the weekend, I gave a number of women my 30-second book pitch, part of which goes: “It’s about how hard it is to make friends as an adult.”

Each person smiled knowingly. One girl a bit younger than me told me she totally got it. “I’ve been there. When I was 23 it was so easy to make friends, because everyone wants to be friends at 23. Now it’s so much harder.” She’s probably 27, so things changed pretty quickly.

I’ve heard similar stories from older women. Empty nesters with newfound free time tell me they long for new companionship, or retired women say they’re looking for pals to help take advantage of their new schedule.

And I’ve been wondering: Does age make a difference?

When I started my quest, I was sure my situation made it especially difficult to make friends. New city, work from home, no kids. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that women in all different life situations would be in the same boat. Most women have it easy, I thought. I’m just unlucky.

I was sure it would get easier when…

1) I had kids. Pregnancy classes! Mommy & Me! Preschool! All these organized activities would certainly mean new-mom BFFs, pronto.

2) I started working in an office. Coworkers = BFFs. Right??

3) I retired. Yes it’s a long way off but I figured the older I got, the easier it would be to meet new people. Something about being more confident in my old(er) age. And more friendly. It just seemed like older women were better at finding confidantes.

Don’t even get me started on when I’m 80 and in assisted living. I saw In Her Shoes. Retirement homes are like college dorms! Sign me up.

Almost two years after the conception of this search, though, I’m thinking I was wrong. Each life situation presents its own friend-making difficulties. Kids make it hard to go out and socialize. Office work can introduce you to people, but not necessarily the people with whom you’d choose to spend your free time. And retirement/empty nest can bring time for new friends, but not necessarily help you find the right people.

So now I’m wondering, does it get easier? Ever?? Is there a post-college age when making friends is simple and effortless? Do the passing decades–and the accompanying wisdom that age provides–help you find your “person,” as Meredith and Christina would say? What does age have to do with it?

Bottom line: Is there one age–your 50′s? your 30s? 80s?–that is especially easy for friend making? Or is it tough across the board once the college days are behind you?

13 Comments

Filed under The Search

13 responses to “Getting Better With Age

  1. I’m 26, so anyone who is the age I’m about to start talking about, please chime in with your own experience, but I think it may be hardest in your 40s-60s. I look at my parents – they’ve led incredibly exciting, adventurous lives, but that means they’ve moved more times than I can count. They have friends and family scattered all over the world, but none of those “just brunch” friends in the town where they currently live (where they’ve been for 10 years). They’re both in their late 50s, are active, friendly, well-spoken, well-read, well-educated people who I know know how to be a good friend. Yet neither of them has a close friend living nearby, and haven’t for several years. In part, I chalk this up to that busy time of life: they’re both mid-career, they’ve still got 1 kid at home, and so do most of the other people their age, they have a house, a dog, a cat, 2 kids out of the house to keep in touch with, their own relationship to work on, and their own individual interests to pursue. Also, in speaking with both of them, it’s not always easy as a couple to make friends with another couple, nor is it easy as couple to make friends with an individual, yet it’s even rarer as an individual person to make friends with one other single person. And even if all the stars align and you find the perfect person or couple to befriend, inevitably they more or you move and then you’re back to square one. I really feel for them, even more than I feel for myself (young woman, new city, didn’t know anyone when I moved here a year ago).

  2. Ana

    I’ll speak to my particular phase of life—mid-30s, married, working, with very very young kids. NOT a set-up for making friends. In fact, my husband and I have both found this time incredibly isolating—we are basically stuck in the house every night after 6:30 PM unless we plan way in advance and fork over the dough for a babysitter. During the weekend days, we are held to unpredictable naptimes, frequent illnesses, grandparents visiting a LOT, and the never ending chores of running & organizing a house with kids. We rarely get time for each other or as a family, so it can be hard to even justify making time for new people in our lives, but I know how much I crave just HANGING OUT, talking, laughing with a friend.

    Pregnancy classes? we dragged ourselves to a couple of those, and fidgeted in our seats next to other couples doing the same for 2 hours & left early. Mommy and me? Not for working moms. My husband does the daycare drop-off, full of busy parents just trying to get in and out to work in the morning, and home for frantic dinner/bedtime in the evening. When the kids are so young they need constant attention & supervision, you can’t really focus your attention on making friends at the playground—I can barely say hello to someone without my son interrupting me or trying to kill himself in creative ways.

    So it seems that anytime after your early 20s is a difficult time to make friends, because life just gets more complicated and people generally are less open to the idea of new friends. Yet, when life gets complicated is when you NEED the support and release that can only come from quality time with someone who gets you and makes you really laugh!

    I don’t mean this to be a complaining rant, I love that you have started this important conversation, its really inspiring me to try to make a change!

  3. Shannon

    I am having a rough time with friendships right now. Most of my friends and I are in our late 30′s/early 40′s with elementary age kids. I’ve had problems because most of my friends are the moms of my kids’ friends. With certain moms this causes trouble because whenever there is conflict between the kids, these moms get involved and therefore cause conflict between the moms of the kids. I’ve decided I need to start looking for more friends that are outside this circle. That’s one of the reasons I started reading this blog.

    I have to say the people I consider my true friends are still the ones I met in college. I just don’t have the same type of bond with any of the friends I’ve made since them.

  4. anonymous

    I didn’t find it easy to make friends even in college (I was a transfer) so I don’t think that being “post-college” is what makes finding friends harder. I think it’s being human…

  5. Laurie Lee

    My opinion is making friends gets harder the older you get. People simply get more opinionated and set in their ways. I’m 48 and most of my friends are divorced. My dh and I have been married 27 years and I feel quite isolated now on weekends, particularly Sat. nights. My single friends want nothing to do with us. They are our partying at bars, picking up guys. My married friend are dropping like flies!

  6. I’ve been waiting for quite a while for a blog to focus on women twice the age of the author and most of her readers. This subject speaks to me.
    I’ve been lucky enough to maintain friendships from grammar school (over 50 years), high school and college. Those BFFs were born through intensely emotional years and fraught with high drama. I’ve seen one of my oldest/longest friends become a young widow and discover a new group of friends to bond with over grief. We speak at least weekly.
    My work friends over several decades served me differently and I cherish them. We traveled the world together. Some got engaged and married and stopped working, some moved, but most are still in my life if not in an every day way.
    However, now that I’m retired and my husband works long hours it’s just me at home with my 2 puppies. It’s very difficult to strike up a friendship. The other dog owners in my neighborhood are friendly, but it’s not easy to have a long chat while holding a bag full of poop. And, all you end up talking about is your dogs.
    BTW, I tried to initiate in the recent Friendship Challenge and was shot down. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Even knowing the same people at the gym doesn’t work. These are women who have busy lives and are reluctant to give out their number or meet with anyone they don’t know.
    My mother-in-law has made many new friends and she is over 80, but she works at a Temple and almost all her new friends are from the congregation. They have organized travel abroad and she took to it willingly after becoming a widow. It has worked for her.
    I still can’t go up to someone writing at a Starbucks and ask about their work. If someone seems funny and open, I try to make the conversation last longer or suggest we have coffee, but so far I’ve only had women think of me as either hitting on them or being too pushy.
    My recent attempt was by email after discovering a woman at a restaurant was in New York Women in Film & Television, same as I was although we’d never met. I looked up her information in the directory and wrote what I thought was a cute note. She never wrote back and now when I see her on the street walking my dogs, I’m a bit uncomfortable.
    I realize this post has become a book, but maybe there is a need for people of a certain age who still have lots of BFFs, but can’t seem to widen that circle.
    Hats off to you for doing it over 52 times. Can’t wait to read about it.
    Thanks for listening.

    • Yeah, it’s always hard. But I figure the more you try, the better your chances, right? I’m surprised that woman you emailed from the restaurant didn’t email you back. It had all the makings for a good friendship–proximity, shared interests. Her loss!

  7. Pingback: The Friendship Lesson Plan | MWF Seeking BFF

  8. Eve

    My mom has made some new friends since her divorce. I think the best way to make friends is to get involved in something. Politics is always full of people, charity work, be at your synagogue, church or another place where people share a similar passion as you. I know that is probably nearly impossibly for the people who still have kids at home.

  9. I agree with Ana, it gets tougher once you have kids. Post college, in the work place there’s at least a chance you can connect, but once you have the story and bedtime routine to handle, you can’t follow through on any of your new friendships with the right amount of commitment.

  10. Anna

    I just moved to a new place to be with the bf. This is my second move to a new place after finishing school. I figured the way I felt must be somewhat universal with other women over the age of 25, so I feel like I can really relate to this blog. It seemed to me that most people that are able to fit into a new community quickly is through church. I’m not sure what non-religious people can do. I’ve tried going to meetup.com events, but it feels like I’m just constantly meeting new people and there is no lasting bond through those events.

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