Monthly Archives: June 2012

When Is It Time To Let Go?

I get asked this question a lot. Women find themselves in friendships where suddenly they’re doing all the work, and they want to know if, and when, it’s time to give up.

My answer is always the same: It’s different for everyone. I don’t feel comfortable telling one friend to give up on another, and while I have an “I’ll initiate plans 3 times and then I’m done doing all the work” rule for brand new friends, there’s no such easy formula for old pals. Someone who’s been in your life a long time has earned more consideration, and sometimes it’s easier to keep making the phone call or sending the invite than it is to say goodbye.

I have (who hasn’t?) found myself in this pickle before, and it’s really a “you know when it’s time” situation.  Generally, I don’t mind being the one to reach out. I try hard not to keep track of how often I’ve called versus how often she has, since sometimes I will be the one touching base over and over, and other times I’m swamped and am only lucky enough to catch up with pals because they contact me.

But, I’m human. I notice if I have been contacting a friend over and over and she has suddenly stopped responding, or has avoided making plans. And, bottom line, it’s hurtful. That’s why we consider giving up, right? Not because we don’t like the person anymore, or because there is some specific rule about how much work one person should do in a relationship. Because every time we contact a friend and don’t hear back, or we get an evasive non-committal answer, our feelings get hurt. We feel like our friend doesn’t care about us–at least not as much as we care about them. We feel that our friendship is not a priority.

But the question, always, is “when?” When is it time to give up? And people ask me this because they are torn–they want to keep up a relationship, but they don’t want to get hurt. They don’t want to be heartless (and we know ending friendships causes lots of guilt) but they don’t want to be a sucker, either. And I think, ultimately, they want a clear cut answer, because they’re conflicted.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic solution. It’s too big a responsibility for me to tell someone else when to break up with a friend. It’s not my call to make.

So I’m wondering: When you’ve let a friendship go, what has been the final straw? How did you know it was time?

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The Hard Facts: Your Friendship Status Makes You Happy

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

“Anderson and his colleagues hypothesized that higher sociometric status — respect and admiration in your face-to-face groups, such as your friendship network, your neighborhood, or your athletic team — might make a difference in your overall happiness. ‘Having high standing in your local ladder leads to receiving more respect, having more influence, and being more integrated into the group’s social fabric,’ Anderson said.” (“Respect Matters More Than Money for Happiness in Life”; ScienceDaily.com 6/20/2012)

To be clear, this isn’t just saying that having friends, neighbors or teammates will improve your happiness. (Because, I mean, duh.) It’s saying that having high status within those groups will make you happy.

The gist of the study is this, according to author Cameron Anderson: “There is abundant evidence that higher socioeconomic status — higher income or wealth, higher education — does not boost subjective well-being (or happiness) much at all. Yet at the same time, many theories suggest that higher status should boost happiness.” And so researchers have figured out that it’s the status related to commanding respect, rather than just being loaded, that gives a mood boost.

Part of me thinks this is lovely — being the president of the garden club is as happy-making as being a rich CEO!–but another part thinks it’s sad that so much of our happiness is tied into having power. And even in short time frames. The research says that even if you go up and down the “local ladder” over only nine months, your happiness will shift accordingly.

Mostly, though, I like the phrase “sociometric status.” I’d never heard it before, but basically it means (according to Wikipedia) “the degree to which someone is liked or disliked by their peers as a group.” So as opposed to channeling a fourth-grader, declaring that “nobody likes that girl,” you can just sound all academic and explain that your lifelong frenemy has low sociametric status. So much more civilized.

I am the president of exactly nothing. I am relatively liked, I think (I hope?), but I don’t have especially high status in any areas. (Other than my original NYC book club, of which I am considered the godfather, which I appreciate. That actually does make me happy). And still, I’m in a pretty good place. So here’s the question: Have you noticed your happiness levels change as your sociometric status changes? Or, to put it in people terms, are you happier when you feel generally loved?

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No Wonder The Golden Girls Were Together So Long…

What do you think: Funny haha? Or funny because it’s true?

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This is What Fifth Grade Friendship Looks Like

You all know that I’m always looking for the type of bestie I had when I was eleven. There are no friendships quite like the ones from our youth–when our friends were our everything. So I’ve loved hanging out over the past couple of days with my 11-year-old cousin, who last night gave me the BFF tour through her elementary school photos. She is me, about 20 years ago.

Today, I asked her to write my blog post. I wanted to read about childhood BFFs from someone in the trenches. To see what true friendship is from a 6th grade point of view. She was nice enough to oblige and — though, yes, I might be a bit biased toward my awesome family — I think it’s fantastic. A great throwback to the time when true friendship was as simple as riding a roller coaster side by side.

*            *            *

            I looked up and saw the tallest rollercoaster in the world and told myself, “Anna you are not doing this.”  I was in New Jersey at Six Flags Great Adventure for my friend’s graduation party.  “Guys we have to do this,” my friend Cary said.  I looked at Maya, my best friend, and I whispered, “Maya, I don’t feel safe doing this, but Cary is going to make me look like a loser if I don’t.”

“If you don’t do this you will feel bad after,” Cary snapped again.  I know she just wanted us to have a wondrous time but I was frightened.  I was so scared. Nothing was scarier then Kingda ka, the fastest, tallest rollercoaster in the world.  I did not have anything to compare it too.  Maya whispered to me, “Anna, I am not doing this I don’t feel safe.”  So when Cary and Sarah (my other great friend) went on the most petrifying ride of their life, Maya and I waited at the bottom, feeling like chickens.

Cary and Sarah got off like they had the ride of their lives.  They were giggling and having a blast, making Maya and me want do it so we would not be left out.  “That was the best ride ever!” Sarah said.

Cary spoke up, “You guys have to do it or you will regret it for ever.”

Maya looked at me, “Anna we should do it, I would never pressure you in doing anything that’s not safe.  You have to trust me.” Who would I trust more than my best friend, I thought.

“Maya you’re right, I am not going to chicken out, lets go!” I said.

Even though I was going on Kingda ka no matter what, I was really worried.  I had no idea what I was in for.

“Maya” I said. “I am really scared, what if the ride is really frightening? The only reason I am doing this is because you’re riding with me.” All these breath-taking thoughts were rushing through my head like electricity.

“Anna” Maya said, “Don’t worry you can ride next to me and hold my hand, I will keep you safe.” Maya made me feel much better. That’s what friends are for I thought.  I am so happy I have a best friend like Maya, I could not ask for a better best friend.  Before I knew it kingda ka was over.  I could not believe I did it. I was so proud of myself, but mostly Maya for being so brave and caring.  Maya’s words and wisdom made the best moment of my life happen.

*       *        *

So great, right? Tell me: What’s your favorite childhood friendship memory?

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The Hard Facts: If You Let Me Play Sports

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

“A 2003 Sport Canada survey of 1005 Canadian youth found that 87 percent of children who participated in sports made more friends. This is especially beneficial for children who feel like they don’t fit in, or who are introverted. Sports gives them common ground with other children and fosters a feeling of teamwork between children, making it easier to become friends.” (“Social Effects of Sports on Young Children”; Livestrong.com 8/11/2011)

Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Title IX. As a one-time self-proclaimed tomboy who hung Sheryl Swoopes Nike ads on her teenage bedroom bulletin board, I feel pretty indebted to those who paved the way for me to play basketball, field hockey, and softball in school.

Playing sports was, of course, great exercise and a valuable lesson in teamwork and strength and confidence. But it was also great for making friends. I started playing on a basketball team when I was in third grade, and I still feel a special bond with the old friend who played alongside me through 8th grade, and then coached with me in high school.

As a teenager, I became pals with teammates who were in different “cliques” than I.  We would have never otherwise gotten to know each other, but we were on the same team, and that was a serious bond.

I used to think that making friends through sports was strictly a kids and student thing, but these days every city has a Sport & Social league where friend-seekers can play soccer/softball/kickball/bowling/etc and then go out and hang over beers or pizza. According to a 2009 story in The Oregonian, Sport & Social leagues are “now found in nearly every decent-size city from Philadelphia to Pasadena. Chicago, birthplace of the concept, has two competing sport and social clubs that total about 100,000 members plus satellite clubs in 13 cities nationwide.”

Chicago! You’ve done it again! A regular trailblazer in the world of friendship.

So, in the spirit of Title IX, and friendship, and summer, join a team! Or at least watch this ad, which was probably tbe best Nike ad ever ever ever.

What’s your sports and friendship story?

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Friends Don’t Let Friends….

  • Wear anything that makes their [arms/butt/legs/tummy/back] look fat.
  • Drunk dial exes.
  • Wallow in Ben & Jerry’s alone. They join!
  • Go too long without seeing each other. 
  • Pass up an amazing deal on a to-die-for outfit. 
  • Go to nerve-wracking doctor’s appointments alone.
  • Go home with a super creeper.
  • Have anything stuck in their teeth in public. Unless it’s really funny. (But never in a work environment, even if truly hilarious.)
  • Karaoke solo.
What’s on your list? Friends don’t let friends… 

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This Is What It’s Like To Be Friends With Me

This morning I was leaving my house to drive to dance class and my car wasn’t there. I checked our outdoor spot, then our indoor spot (we have two!) and nothing. I called Matt to tell him the car was missing.

“Let me look one more time,” I said.

“It’s kind of hard to miss a car in a parking spot,” Matt replied.

After all this time I’m flattered he would give me so much credit.

I went outside again. Nothing.

Some bastard had sauntered right into my alley and stolen my car! Damn him. Or her. (I believe in thief gender equality.)

And then I remembered. Yesterday I drove to get a wax because it was the last on my list of errands. I never drive to the wax place, so by the time my appointment was over I forgot I’d driven and walked home.

Unbelievable.

This story has nothing to do with friendship per se, but it’s the kind of stupid thing I do and then immediately call my besties to share. And we’re all friends, so there you go.

Also, I was with a new friend who has major potential, so it was especially embarrassing. But a good early lesson for her in what it takes to be my pal. Whenever I go anywhere with Callie she has to follow me around to be sure I don’t lose the glasses I put on a random table or forget the phone I set down in a dressing room.

It’s not easy being my BFF. Never said it was.

 

 

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The Hard Facts: Lonely At The Top

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

“While being a CEO may come with prestige and financial benefits, a study by RHR International, a global executive talent development firm, revealed that the high-ranking position is often accompanied by isolation. Public company CEOs are particularly susceptible to such moods, with nearly half having feelings of loneliness compared with 31 percent of private company CEOs.” (“Bosses Say It Is, Indeed, Lonely At The Top” ; LiveScience.com 6/12/2012)

I’ve never been a boss.

I don’t know that I ever thought about that until writing this post, but I’ve never managed employees or had anyone report to me. I’ve never had my own office, either. When it came to the workplace, I was never in danger of being lonely. My 9-5 days were spent in open cubicles, where I could (and did) just yell across the aisle if I wanted to chat with someone.

Had I been a boss, though, especially a big-time top-of-the-food-chain type, it seems it would have only hurt my BFF dilemma.

Apparently, all those old sayings are sayings for a reason, and the whole “lonely at the top” thing holds up. The above study found that not only do CEOs feel lonely, but that loneliness can negatively affect their ability to do their job. According to Business News Daily, “50 percent of CEOs felt secluded in the position and of this group, 61 percent felt that this seclusion was a hindrance to their performance. Not surprisingly, first-time CEOs were more negatively affected by this loneliness, with 70 percent reporting that it hurt them…”

I used to dream of being a magazine Editor-in-Chief. I know that’s not the same as being a CEO, but it was as close to that role as I ever wished for. It’s a rough gig, though. All that power doesn’t earn you any friends. I hate to think that people have to choose between career success and social success, and that’s probably why I’d be that annoying boss who met you at the water cooler in the morning and was all “So, how good is the new Bieber song?” (Hint: This is the exact wrong way to earn the friendship of your employees. Unless you work at Tiger Beat. Which would make you awesome.)

Any bosses out there? Have you found that it gets lonelier as you climb the career ladder?

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Sometimes New Friends Mean New Tutus

Yesterday I was lucky enough to do a panel discussions with Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. For those of you who don’t know Jenny, she’s only a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of the most popular bloggers out there.  Her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happenedis hilarious. I haven’t laughed out loud that much in a long time. And her fans. Well, her fans come to her events with props. Like giant red tutus and ball gowns.  Or metal chickens. Or stuffed cats, worn as hats.

I know this because I stared at two  girls wearing stuffed cats on their heads for 45 minutes during our panel. It was awesome.

I was obviously thrilled to share a stage with Jenny and, luckily, we totally hit it off. Well, I think we did — maybe she would tell a different story, but I don’t think so. I mean, she said I looked like a smiling version of Kristen Stewart. That’s got to equal friendship.

When we first met, Jenny mentioned she didn’t have a chance to read MWF Seeking BFF  yet. Considering she’s been on a 15-city book tour since April, it’s understandable. And then she told me that when she asked the organizer about my book, her exact(ish) words were: “What’s the story? Is it that she’s really snobby so she thought no one was good enough to be her BFF?”

The organizer–thank you organizer!–said: “Oh no. She’s basically looking for you.”

It’s true! I’m just looking for someone to be awkward with. But you guys already know that.

So we had a great time discussing our personal choices of Harry Potter wand (me: Ginny; Jenny, er, Jenny’s 7-year-old daughter: Hermione) and how jeans are not as comfortable as everyone lets on. And then, somehow, I ended up wearing this…

Because apparently, when you do readings with Jenny Lawson, her dedicated readers invite you to try on their massive red tutus.

Anyone who loves tutus is a friend of mine. Done and done.

Is there a blogger out there (ahem, present company excluded of course) that you’d want to be friends with? And if you haven’t already, check out Jenny and her new book, Let’s Pretend This Never HappenedI dare you not to laugh.

Reminder! MWF Seeking BFF is in stores now. It’s perfect summer reading material, if I do say so myself. Easy reading, but with enough meaty content to keep your brain sharp in the summer heat. How can you resist?

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Speed-Roommating Is A Thing

You guys know how I went speed-friending, right? Like speed-dating, but for BFFs? Well, the other day Callie sent me a link to the latest in quickie relationship builders: Speed Roommating!

It started in London and has now branched out to NYC. The gist is similar: you meet a bunch of people very briefly and try to find the best person to share a tiny apartment with.

It’s actually kind of brilliant. Choosing a roommate is pretty loaded stuff, and everyone wants different things. Maybe you want a potential best friend who you can watch SVU with on hungover Sundays. (This was my exact living situation when I had a roomie. A bestie, an apartment, Munch and lots of take-out. Heaven.) Or maybe you want someone you won’t have to socialize with but will pay her half of the rent on time and isn’t a slob. Or perhaps you want someone in between — you can watch TV together every now and then, but you don’t feel obligated to go out together that much. Here’s what  you definitely don’t want: a creepy stalker-esque fella like Chandler’s one-time roomie, Eddie.

I have to say, I loved living with my best friends. In college 8 of us shared a house, and it was totally silly and fabulous. After college, I lived in an East Village six-floor walkup that, at different times, had bed bugs, rats, and mites. And I loved it. That sounds insane when I read it back, but I think it was all part of the city living experience, and it was certainly only made tolerable by having one of my closest friends there with me.

In fact, my next door neighbors are currently trying to sell their place and I’ve spent the last week harassing many of my new pals to buy it. We could run to each other’s apartments in our PJs for the Oscars or have cereal for dinner or have a Call Me Maybe dance party (these are things I actually do). It would, most definitely, be the best thing ever and I don’t understand why not one friend has bitten. I mean, does that not sound dreamy or what?

Anyway, if you’re in NYC and you’re looking for a roommate, there is a speed-roommating event next week. Try it out and report back, por favor.

When you’ve lived with a roommate, do you like it to be a good friend? Or just a reliable cohabiter?

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