Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Hard Facts: Do Your Friends Talk the Talk?

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

“‘If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid,’ said Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. ‘The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.’” (“They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistiv Currrrve” ; NYTimes.com 2/28/2012)

I’m fascinated by this article about how girls, teens and 20-somethings are largely responsible for starting language and vocal trends. We think of Valley Girl speak, or Mean Girls’ “That’s so fetch,” or Happy Endings‘ “Ah-mah-zing,” as silly and immature, but linguists are saying otherwise.

Says one professor to the Times: “A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute. But they’re not just using them because they’re girls. They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.”

The trends in question are “uptalk,” which is when people end a sentence as a question (“OMG, it is sooo cold out?”) and “vocal fry,” which this article explains as “a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a sentence.” (There’s an official example here, though Britney Spears, Ke$ha and Maya Rudolph as Maya Angelou are all said to be more recognizable examples.)

It’s interesting that the quote at the top of this article says that girls employ these vocal ticks as relationship building tools. I wish they’d expanded on that. I’m wondering if it works as another cue that one is “with it,” similar to fashion. We dress alike, we speak alike, therefore we should be friends? Or are these linguistic features actually used to attract others and denote power ?

It seems that researchers don’t quite know the “why” of it all just yet. According to the article, “some linguists suggest that women are more sensitive to social interactions and hence more likely to adopt subtle vocal cues. Others say women use language to assert their power in a culture that, at least in days gone by, asked them to be sedate and decorous. Another theory is that young women are simply given more leeway by society to speak flamboyantly.” And even these reasons speak more to why and how women start the fad, not how the fad is used to build relationships.

Still it’s worth paying attention to. As kids, you and your BFF might have had a secret language or a few inside joke words that only you could decipher. Perhaps these vocal features are the same. I’ve definitely had the experience of meeting two best friends separately, and their speech patterns being eerily similar.

Do you and your BFFs have the same vocal ticks?

Speaking of chatter, word of mouth is the best thing ever. Please tell your friends about MWF Seeking BFF! They can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

THANK YOU!

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Public Service Announcement: Free Pancakes!

You know how when this blog first started I wanted a friend to go to brunch with? I longed for someone to chat with over an omelette, which has always been my Sunday morning meal of choice. But, when I’m feeling really indulgent, I opt for a stack of chocolate chip pancakes. (In college they were my hangover food. Try it sometime. Trust me.) A stack of carbs, puddles of syrup, and hours of gossip? That’s the good life.

So it is with this dream of breakfast girl-talk in mind that I share this news: Today is IHOP National Pancake Day! Grab a pal and head to the breakfast chain today and you’ll each be treated to a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes. Free! Pancakes! Today!

In exchange for this gift of yumminess, IHOP encourages its patrons to make a donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or other local charities. I support that.

Sure, it’s Tuesday. Not exactly weekend brunch time. But use it as an excuse to turn that work-friend into a life friend. Make a long lunch of it. No one can turn down free food… take advantage of that.

If you’ve read an enjoyed MWF Seeking BFF, perhaps you’d like to add it to your board on Pinterest? The cover is pretty, after all. (And I can say this, because I had nothing to do with choosing it. I just got lucky.)

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Do You Want an Airplane BFF?

I’ve been flying a lot lately. Book promotion has taken me all over the country, and I love  it. I’m always fascinated by observing my seat mates. This year I’ve sat next to an adorable four-year old girl, a man flying home after visiting his son at college, a happy couple, and an old woman with bad diabetes and heavy breathing.

As I’ve written here before, I always think meeting a new BFF on a plane would be a great story. It seems doable, too. Long flight, nowhere to go, hours of opportunity to bond and exchange contact information. During my year of friending for MWF Seeking BFF, I met a great potential bestie when we were stranded on the tarmac together. She was basically at friend capacity so a BFFship didn’t ensue, but still. Could’ve happened.

Seems I’m not the only one who has contemplated this possibility. According to an article in last week’s NY Times business section, airlines are contemplating using technology and social media to orchestrate what they call “social seating.” The programs “[allow] ticket-holders to upload details from their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles and use the data to choose seat mates.”

The program featured in this article is called Meet and Seat (points for punny name!), and is in development from KLM, a Dutch airline. But there are others. MHBuddy, from Malaysia Airlines, lets you see if any of your Facebook friends are on your flight, and then change your seats to be together. A Danish company, Planely, allows you check the social media profiles of your fellow passengers on any given trip. On Hong Kong’s Satisfly (another winner of a name), you can submit a profile that includes whether or not you want to talk, chat, or be silent during your flight and give seat mate preferences.

I’m intrigued, for sure, but also skeptical. To be honest, my biggest concerns are not issues of privacy, which they probably should be. I’m worried that I’m moody. When booking a flight, I might be super excited and feeling really friendly and request to sit next to someone who wants to chat. But then, after a long day, and likely dealing with long security lines and a flight delay, I might be less eager to socialize. I could see myself wanting to sleep, or read quietly. But if I’ve specifically requested a plane buddy, or if I’ve profiled myself as talkative, I’ll feel so much pressure to perform!

If I get on a flight today, I can talk or read or sleep or watch TV. I appreciate that freedom. With this program, it feels a bit like I’d have to choose what mood I’ll be in two months later.

So, I’m on the fence. There’s definitely something cool about it. And also sort of terrifying.

Thoughts? Would you use a program like Meet and Seat or Satisfly? Sound off below! (And thanks to reader Stefanie for passing this article along!)

MWF Seeking BFF is nominated for an About.com Reader’s Choice Award! Best Nonfiction Book About Friendship. I’m so excited. Please vote for MWF Seeking BFF!

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The Onion Takes on Friendship

The Onion posted a funny story on Wednesday, “reporting” on a night out between five friends. The headline says it all: “Female Friends Spend Raucous Night Validating The Living Shit Out of Each Other.”

Here’s the opener:

AKRON, OH—According to witnesses, a tight-knit group of five female friends spent a wild night on the town Saturday, overindulging in emotionally supportive behavior and generally validating the living shit out of each other.

Confirming the women get together at least once a month for an all-out, anything-goes session of nonjudgmental reassurances, 28-year-old Sarah Dotson said the evening quickly turned into “a total rager,” with the friends sharing excessive amounts of admiration, empathy, and encouragement for one another.

“The entire night we just went balls out with the confidence-boosting,” Dotson said of the gathering, adding that by 10 p.m. she had already partaken in seven or eight mutual expressions of positive regard. “It was completely insane. We bolstered the shit out of Kelly’s self-esteem, and by the time the check came, we had her shouting that her boss was a huge asshole for not recognizing all her hard work and giving her that promotion.”

This is what we call “funny because it’s true.” A girls’ night out often turns into a validation-fest, especially when someone is going through a rough time at work, in a relationship or with family. But there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as  we aren’t validating someone doing something totally harmful, then that’s what friends are for, right? To give us the good ol’ self-esteem boost.

I most enjoyed reading this, though, because it’s funny to see what one of these evenings looks like from an outsider’s perspective. Ever been at dinner and overheard the group of ladies at the table next to you? It really does sound like something out of this article.

‘By closing time, we were all getting pretty sloppy with our affirmations, validating anything and everything we could find,’ said Byers, adding that her neck was stiff from a night spent constantly nodding in agreement.

In the past, when I’ve overheard a raucous group of girls at a restaurant shouting validation across the table, I’ve actually found myself wondering how they aren’t exhausted. But, of course, when I’m in it, I totally participate.

And I’m quite sure that this article describes exactly what my husband sees when he comes home to a group of girls dishing over wine in our living room.

Check out the story (and thanks to Janet for sharing it). Is there some truth to it? And isn’t that, after all, one of the things we love about friendship?

MWF Seeking BFF is nominated for an About.com Reader’s Choice Award! Best Nonfiction Book About Friendship. I’m so excited. Please vote for MWF Seeking BFF!

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So Many Friends, So Little Time

I’ve been visiting a lot of book clubs lately. I’m flattered that a number of groups, both locally and around the country, have decided to read MWF Seeking BFF  and have invited me to join in on their discussion. So far, I’ve visited two Chicago book clubs in person (not including my own two clubs), and I’ve visited four book clubs via Skype. And there are more to come.

I love doing these visits for a number of reasons, but what’s most interesting to me is to sit back and observe other groups of friends. Someone at the book club last night asked me how their club compared to the other one I went to, or to my own, and the answer was that, more or less, they were exactly the same.

I mean this in a good way. In all of the groups there was wine, lots of talking (and talking over each other), laughter, and the “call to attention” for a big announcement (last night’s was the story of one of the members’ recent engagement). There’s discussion about the book and even more discussion about life. I’m especially fascinated by the Chicago groups because I spend half the time thinking “how is it that I didn’t meet you during my search?? We totally could have been best friends!”

It hits home for me how much luck and circumstance is involved in friendship. The ladies in last night’s book club largely met through one of the members, who had become roommates or neighbors with almost all of them through craigslist. At a book club in Atlanta, the two founding members met at the final Harry Potter film last year. They somehow started talking books and realized that they read all the same stuff, and thus a club was born.

And what really stuck with me at at the end of last night was this: If you take the book club I went to last night, the one I visited a couple of weeks ago, and my own, I honestly believe you could mix and match the members and the groups would still get along famously. It said that I could have done my exact same search, met an entirely different 52 people, and still ended up with great friends.

This is probably obvious. You are thinking, “Oh, there are lots of different and great groups of friends in Chicago? You didn’t meet all of them in your one year? Shocker.” And yet I find something so fascinating about seeing this firsthand. Like I have a front-row seat to other people’s social interaction. And what I’ve learned is that a girls night is a girls night is a girls night. So many of us are just looking for the same thing: Someone to quote Friends and drink wine with. (Two girls last night were said to rival me in Friends trivia. Hmmph. We’ll see.)

Have you ever had the experience of sitting in as an outsider around another group of friends? Ever met a group of girls and thought, “Wow, they remind me so much of my gang”? I guess, at its core, this is one of those “we’re more alike than we are different” lessons…

Word of mouth is the best thing ever. Please tell your friends about MWF Seeking BFF! They can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

THANK YOU!

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The Hard Facts: Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

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

“68 percent of SELF readers say weight and dieting come up often with friends, at least once during every or every other get-together. … In the SELF poll, 75 percent of women admitted to being competitive with friends about weight, 40 percent said they were jealous rather than worried when a pal had gotten too thin, and 30 percent confessed to feeling a teensy bit smug when a friend put on a few pounds.” (“The Surprising Secret to Loving Your Body” ; Self;  February, 2012)

I tried to avoid using this research for today. It felt too mean girls after yesterday’s post, and I’m not trying to write the next Women Are The Worst blog. But these findings are too relevant to ignore. I mean, something we talk about with friends virtually every time we get together? There aren’t many topics in that category. Men, maybe. TV, if you’re me. That’s about it.

Let’s focus on the first half of this nugget. I don’t think weight comes up that often with my friends—every or every other time?!?—but I”ll admit that when it does come up, it’s usually my doing. I can be guilty of the whole verbal diarrhea thing, so if my weight is on my mind (and, yes, it is often), I find myself mentioning it, even when I know better. But it depends a bit on who I’m talking to. If it’s Callie or Sara, people I’m so comfortable with I’ll say anything, I’m more likely to make weight-related complaints than I am with a relatively new acquaintance.

It’s an awkward conversation, weight. One person complains, the other has to reassure. Or both people complain, back and forth until you’ve each reinforced the other’s crappy outlook. Rarely are friends talking about body image issues by saying, “You know what? I feel so fit today. I’m so happy with my body.” I mean, who are we kidding? I’ve literally never heard someone say those words.

That we root against each other when it comes to healthy weight is kinda gross. Feeling competitive isn’t the best option, since research shows friends can actually help you lose weight or get fit. Self suggests surrounding yourself with friends who promote the positive and choose to talk about what makes them happy rather than the pounds that are bringing them down. They even have a quiz to see if your friends are “body-positive.”

Just remember, if you’re one of my friends, don’t dump me just yet. I’m making a change. Recognizing the problem is the first step.

Do you and your friends talk about weight, diet and body image a lot? How do you steer the conversation in other directions? And are you guilty of the fat-talk?

I’m so enjoying doing book club visits, and would love to meet your group. Choose  MWF Seeking BFF for your next book (discussion guide is here) and I’d love to join in via Skype or in person. Just let me know when!

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Are Women Bitches?

For every book published about the importance of female friendship, there are about 10 on how horribly women treat each other. Cliquey. Mean Girls. Judgmental. Tormentors.

A lot of these books are very good and raise important truths about relationships. Kelly Valen’s The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of  Female Friendships is especially noteworthy. Valen writes, “a staggering 88% of the more than 3000 women I’ve heard from think a distinct undercurrent of negativity, competition, and meanness plagues our gender, in many cases the very same women singing the praises of Girl Power, feminism, and female friendship in their lives.”

Once upon a time, I talked a lot about how girls can be obnoxious and catty. I was the first to announce how I couldn’t stand doing things in packs of women. It always seemed impossible to make even the smallest collective decision, and there were always people snapping at each other or being defensive. There was always, always, drama.

I’m not sure what changed. Age, maybe. Or perhaps the lack of close local friendships opened my eyes to how much I valued those relationships, difficult or not. Probably both. But whatever once bothered me doesn’t anymore.

That said, when you’re on the outside, a group of women can be intimidating.  Early in my search, I went out with two girls who were already BFFs, and I definitely felt like a sad sack trying to get in with the cool girls. I’m quite sure they hopped in the car on the ride home and talked about how strange the whole evening was. Or, even, how strange I was. The whole night felt like two against one. I shudder at the memory.

Overall, though, I found that if a woman seems unapproachable it’s usually because she doesn’t want to come off like she’s lonely. We’re supposed to already have friends, so we walk around like we need no one. When I was willing to be the one to say it out loud–”I’m looking for new friends”–suddenly the walls came down.

Also, when a group of women get together, they can be intimidating. It’s tough to be an outsider approaching a gaggle of ladies asking for friendship. The “women are bitchy” mantra probably comes largely from cliques of women who seem closed off to outsiders, whether or not they actually are.

My advice to those who are on the friend search but are scared of mean girls: Start with one person at a time, don’t try to infiltrate a clique. Once you’ve made some friends, they’ll bring you into the fold, and you’ll feel much more welcome than if you try and barge in solo.

What do you think? Are women bitchy? Intimidating? Is that why it’s hard to make friends? Or have we all just gotten a bad rap?

Chicago friends! I’ll be reading and signing books this Sunday, 2/26, at Haymarket Pub & Brewery at 6 PM. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

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The Casual Pick-Up: Is There A Script?

Over the past two months I’ve done a number of interviews for MWF Seeking BFFQuite often, an interviewer will ask me, “We all know the usual ways to make friends—at the gym, say—so why was it so hard for you?”

To which I will usually respond that yes, we’ve probably all spoken to someone at the gym or the coffee shop or the grocery store. Wherever. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what to say to turn that casual conversation into friendship, or even a friend-date.

I’ve spoken to the girls on the treadmills next to me plenty. But how do you go from commiserating over the misery of a hard workout to “let’s have lunch and maybe be best friends soon?”

It’s tricky. And people glaze over this most important step.

In the dating world, I guess this is what guys call “closing.” You can flirt with a woman all night, but you haven’t closed until you’ve gotten her number. Before I did my Year of Friending, I couldn’t close. I’m pretty good at chit chat, I could throw out a quick quip and give someone a laugh. But then I’d flounder, stretching the small talk for too long while I tried to figure out how to non-awkwardly ask for digits. I’d usually walk away with nothing but the hope that maybe she and I would meet again. And maybe next time she’d be braver and more socially competent than I.

I’m still not great at this aspect of making new friends. I’m good enough at writing the “want to have lunch?” email, or following up for that second date. But that moment when you ask for a phone number or hand someone your card is still tough. These days I say some variation of “We should totally get together! What’s your email/number?” (I switch back and forth between these methods of conversation depending on the person.)

I’m still not great at using that line on someone I’ve only spoken to once or twice in line at the grocery store or at yoga. I can manage it with someone I’ve met for an extended period (an airplane ride, for example), but if it’s a casual neighborhood acquaintance…that’s tough.

But like I said, I keep hearing from interviewers: “I’m just the type of person who makes friends everywhere…”

So what I’m wondering is simple: what do you say to close?

MWF Seeking BFF is two months old today! Still haven’t picked it up? You can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

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Apparently, It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day

It seems like every day is another National Day of Something. Tomorrow is National Drink Wine Day. The day after is National Popcorn Day. Tuesday, Feb. 28 is National Pancake Day. You guys, I am not making this up.

But today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. And so I suggest to you these ecards to send your BFFs. And remember this tidbit from Gallup: “Those who have told a friend how much they value a friendship in the past month are 48% more likely to be ‘extremely satisfied with the friendships’ in their lives.” See? With a few random acts of kindness, everybody wins.

For your lifer:

For your mani-pedi partner:

For your newest friend:

For the pal you want to elevate to the next friendship level:

And… what NOT to send!

Happy weekend!

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Where Are They Now: Lynn and Jordan

In the two months since MWF Seeking BFF hit shelves, readers frequently ask what has become of my new friends. Who am I still friends with? Who has moved away? That kind of thing.

Someone, I think jokingly, suggested I do a “Where Are They Now” blog segment. A joke, maybe, but who doesn’t love a good where are they now? The Saved By The Bell crew, your favorite boy band heartthrobs, The Brat Pack.  Those are the best issues of People  and obviously the best specials on VH1.

So here we are — Where Are They Now: The Friendship Year.

LYNN
Lynn was a co-worker. You might remember that she was the very first co-worker I tried to befriend outside the office, even inviting her to come to my wedding dress fitting (a totally awkward invitation that I do not recommend extending to a new and still fairly surface friend. Lesson learned). During my yearlong search, I became closer with all of my coworkers, including Lynnie, as I lovingly call her. I’d feel less awkward asking her to my fitting now. But we don’t work together anymore. We both left our office in June, so now we’re just friends, rather than work-friends.

As one of her new projects, Lynn has launched a fantastic fashion blog: Style Alter. You must check it out. It’s so awesome—accessible, informative, and empowering. I love best her “how-to” posts: like how to make your own neon jewelry, or how to wear a plaid shirt three ways. Lynn also served as my literary stylist (keep in mind I’m the girl who wanted to wear a waffle shirt that Matt confused with a pajama top to a girl-date), and wrote an entire post about the authorly outfits she put together. As I mentioned here a while back, every girl needs a fashionista friend.

Jordan
Jordan and I met through our mutual friend Chloe. She and I took dance class together most Saturdays, followed by brunch, and became great friends. We’re still thick as thieves. And speaking of being thick as thieves… As I mention in MWF Seeking BFF, one of the first things I learned about Jordan was that she wrote an idiom newsletter. Well, good news folks! Her newsletter is now a blog: Making Heads or Tails of Idioms. If you are as nerdy as I, and by nerdy of course I mean way cool, then you will love learning the meaning, origins, and alternative definitions of idioms. Alligator arms. Harsh my mellow. Golden handcuffs. It’s fascinating!

My new friends are pretty fantastic. Once you read their blogs you’ll think so too, I promise. So check them out! Happy reading.

Word of mouth is the best thing that can happen to a book. Please tell your friends about MWF Seeking BFF! If you both read it, let me know and I’ll send you two totally awesome Blossom-and-Six style friendship bracelets. Because that’s how we roll. ’90s style. 

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