Category Archives: The Search

Crisis Mode: America’s Friendships

I don’t know how it’s possible that I just discovered Lifeboat, a “movement of people rediscovering friendships,” but apparently I’m off my game. The site, which posts the latest news, advice and science of friendship, released their State of Friendship in America report last year, and the findings are fascinating. (Random tidbits: Married people are 18% more likely to donate a kidney to a friend; city folk put more emphasis on attractive friends; liberals are less satisfied with friendships than conservatives.) Check out their key findings below.

And if you’re curious how I dealt with my own friendship crisis, have I got the book for you.

Seventy-five percent of Americans aren’t happy with their friendships? That’s depressing. Do you see yourself in these stats? Find them surprising? Sound off below!

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Notes on the Oscars

Live tweeting the Oscars was more fun than even I expected. When I first decided to do it, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to say. As it turned out, I talk to myself more than I realize while watching TV. A lot of Sunday went something like this:

Me, to no one: Um, what did John Travolta just call her?!?!

Me, to me: Tweet that!

So instead of enumerating my Oscar notes (as I did the Golden Globes) I figured I’ll just annotate (in the fancy brackets) the “greatest hits” of my Twitter feed from the evening. No 140 character limit here, friends.

Ready? Let’s relive a night from less than 48 hours ago!

  • I LOVE that Jennifer Lawrence is dating the About a Boy boy. {Did you all know this? Not the guy from the new sitcom, obviously, but the one from the Hugh Grant movie! If he’s anything like his character, and I like to think he is, this is a perfect match.)
  • My mother-in-law calls “Her” “She” by mistake. Amazing. {Feminine pronouns, same diff. I love her.}
  • Is short hair the biggest trend of the night? {Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, Portia de Rossi}
  • I’m fine with the red bow tie, but why the ombre hair, Jared? {Still, gotta love Jordan Catalano. He was a star of the night.)
  • I feel like I’m watching a Glee performance. And I’m not complaining. {This regarding Pharrell’s performance of “Happy,” which was fab.}
  • It makes me sad when the winners of the “small” awards have to walk a mile to get to the stage. {I mean, the people taking home Best Animated Short are probably more excited than, say, Cate Blanchett, who probably puts her latest Oscar on top of her awards heap at home. Give the poor folks better seats.}
  • Since when do the Oscars have themes? This isn’t, like, the prom. {I wasn’t feeling the “hero” vibe.}
  • Is this just a commercial for that Zach Morris tablet Ellen is holding? {Re: The selfie that broke Twitter.}
  • Oh. My. Gosh. My two best-dressed predictions are presenting together. VERONICA MARS & VINCE HOWARD. I can die now. {This needs no annotation.}
  • I usually don’t love what Charlize Theron wears (I know, I’m the only one) but wow. {Wow wow wow wow wow.}
  • Lupita Lupita Lupita! Fingers crossed. {Yay!}
  • Her Willy Wonka playoff music translates to more tears. {An acceptance speech for the books, and then they have to go play Lupita Nyong’o off to “Pure Imagination.” Consider my heartstrings pulled.}
  • What did John Travolta just call Idina Menzel? What did I miss? {We all know what became of this}
  • I really like Jennifer Lawrence but I worry she is about to tip. That opening bit {where she, like, heckled someone in the audience}  felt like she was maybe trying too hard? {Am I alone in this one?}

Okay, folks. Now you. Agree with my general sentiments? What were your favorite moments of the night? And who was your best dressed?

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I Want To Be…. Harriet The Spy

Harriet the Spy

My upcoming book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, is largely about role models. Celebrity role models, yes, but also the idea of emulating others: Is it ok to live by another person’s example? Or are we  better off blazing our own trails?

I’m always observing other people, trying to incorporate the traits I admire into my own life. Celebrities, or athletes (especially around Olympics time! Mikaela Shiffrin, I heart you.), or politicians, whoever. No one is off limits.

It started, though, with fictional characters. Before I even knew what a “role model” was, I was reading about girls  I wanted to be just like. Matilda. Cassie Logan. Stacey McGill, Treasurer.

Harriet the Spy might have been my  first “I want to be her.” She was an aspiring writer in New York. was an aspiring writer in New York! She loved eavesdropping. loved eavesdropping! (Still do.)  She was named Harriet. I.. well, my mom was (is) named Harriet! 

Twinsies.

Except Harriet overheard much more interesting stuff than I did. She caught on to tensions  between the adults around her and, in her green composition spy notebook (a copy of which I bought for myself), reminded herself to “CHECK ON THIS.” She was tough and independent and smart.

I wanted to be her.

If you can believe it–I cannot–Harriet the Spy celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. What’s even more amazing is how well it holds up. Like this:

They walked to Eighty-sixth Street,  took the cross-town bus, and soon were whizzing along in  the subway, sitting in a line – Ole Golly, then Harriet, then Sport. Ole Golly stared straight ahead. Harriet was scribbling furiously in her notebook.

“What are you writing?” Sport asked.

“I’m taking notes on all those people who are sitting over there.”

“Why?”

“Aw, Sport” – Harriet was exasperated – “because I’ve seen them and I want to remember them.” She turned back  to her book and continued her notes:

MAN WITH ROLLED WHITE SOCKS, FAT LEGS. WOMAN WITH ONE CROSS-EYE AND A LONG NOSE. HORRIBLE LOOKING LITTLE BOY AND A FAT BLONDE MOTHER WHO KEEPS WIPING HIS NOSE off. Funny lady looks like a teacher and is reading. I don’t think I’d like to live where any of these people live or do the things they do. i bet that little boy is  sad and cries a lot. i bet that lady with the cross-eye looks in the mirror and just feels terrible.

This is not just smart, it’s funny. And Harriet feels as real today as she did when I was reading about her 20 years ago. I wanted to be her then, and I want to be her now. (Note to self: Pay more attention to people around you, less attention to phone.)

There’s a special edition of Harriet the Spy coming out this month. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Who was your earliest role model? (I think I’ll turn this “I Want To Be…” into a series. The list is always growing.)

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Mission Accomplished. And, Oh, I’m Back!

Ahem. Hello again. Anybody out there?

It’s been forever—or eleven months, to be precise—since I’ve written on this blog. I’m not entirely sure the reason why I disappeared. Except that, I think, the blog did its job. I accomplished my goal. After three years, 618 posts and countless girl-dates…I made friends.

Once I established a real-life social network, those issues of friend-making—the good, the bad and the awkward—were suddenly less glaring. I wasn’t constantly wondering how to pick up the girl on the next yoga mat so I could have someone to watch Downton with. (Side note: Has anyone seen Thomas’s appearances on The View? Mr. Barrows is, as James Earl Jones would say, a total hottie mchotterson.) Instead I actually concentrated on my breathing, like a good little yogi. How refreshing!

Slowly, without really deciding to, I let the blog slip. A month passed, then two, then ten. And here we are.

But I miss blogging, and I miss you guys. And I miss human contact since I’m like one of  those hermit writers featured in this weekend’s Styles Section who works from home and barely sees, let alone speaks to, other people during the week.

And, so, the blog is back. I’ll still talk about friending and friendship, because our ever-changing social world is as fascinating as ever. But I’m also going to write about, oh, I don’t know, the Bravermans, or why exclamation points make me crazy, or my next book (lots more info on that in the coming weeks). Instead of coming to you for more advice on how to make new friends, I’m now working on the assumption that you guys are my new friends. So I’ll rant and rave about all the things I would in person, if only you all would just come over for a glass of wine.

Cool? Cool.

It’s hard to update eleven months worth of news in one blog post, so that’s all for now. But to sign off, some new years resolutions:

1) Use fewer exclamation points. (Like I said, they are killing me.)

2) Open my mail. Why do I even still get paper mail? I don’t know, but leaving it in piles on the counter isn’t getting any bills paid.

Let’s get to know each other again. Pretty please? Share your resolutions below?

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Best Friend: Person or Tier?

I can’t stop thinking about this amazing line from The Mindy Project last week. Mindy mentions that her best friend from college, Maggie,  is coming to a party with her, and Danny says he thought Gwen was her best friend from college.

And then this:

“Best friend isn’t a person, Danny. It’s a tier.”

Yes! Oh Mindy, you so get me.

Actually the whole episode was like one 30-minute MWF  blog post—titled “Harry & Sally,” it investigated the “girl and boy as BFF” question—but this was the line that really stuck. And I know it wasn’t just me, because two days after I emailed myself the direct quote so I wouldn’t forget it, my BFF Callie emailed me the very same line. Because it’s true: We are best friends, but I also have my best friends from college, and my best friends from camp, my best friends from work, etc. And so does she.

Men have trouble understanding this. “How many best friends do you have?” is a question I’ve been asked more than once. But the truth is there are a number of irreplaceable people in my life who have all been there for me in my toughest times, or helped me celebrate the happy ones. They are a tier.

I think even I forgot this for a moment when I moved to Chicago. In MWF Seeking BFFI set out on a BFF search because I wanted to find The One. Perhaps I should have instead looked for The Tier. That ‘s what ended up happening, anyway. And I’m better off for it.

So what do you think? Is Mindy right? Is best friend a single person,or a tier? And do you agree that Mindy Kaling should just get out of our heads already? It’s freaky!

Great read alert: Founder and CEO of GirlfriendCircles.com (and leader of my speedfriending adventure) Shasta Nelson’s new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends, is out tomorrow. If you’re looking to make new friends as an adult, this is the book for you. Check it out!

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The Hard Facts: Friendfluence

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

“What’s more, our friend networks are remarkably unstable themselves. A study by a Dutch sociologist who tracked about a thousand people of all ages found that on average, we lose half of our close network members every seven years. To think that half of the people currently on your ‘most dialed’ list will fade out of your life in less than a decade is frightening indeed.” (Friendfluence by Carlin Flora)

This is just one of about a thousand fascinating tidbits in journalist Carlin Flora’s new bookFriendfluence, which hit bookshelves yesterday. Flora was on staff at Psychology Today for eight years, so she knows her stuff when it comes to the science behind relationships. She and I seem to be interested in all the same subjects–Flora wrote a great article about celebrity obsession that touches on all the same themes as my upcoming book–so I was especially excited that she mentioned my search, and MWF Seeking BFF, in Friendfluence. 

If you’re interested in the science and psychology of friendship, you’ll really love this very readable book. Here’s the fun video trailer, which is especially interesting for two reasons: 1) It stars Nate Silver! and 2) all the featured friendships are cross-gender. Very curious.

Do these friendships remind you of any of your relationships?

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The Golden Globes Will Be a BFF Fest

The Golden Globes are on Sunday! Award shows are the best, and my favorite is always this booze-heavy celebration of both TV and film. That it’s being hosted by everybody’s favorite pair of Best Friends Forever just makes it more exciting. And probably funnier. And it will probably have you wishing, even more than you already are, that Tina and Amy would just make room for you at their brunch table.

(OMG I just learned that there was once actually an auction to be their third BFF. And obviously the winner had the best time ever. Duh.)

Since the show is also a celebration of all the megastars I’m embracing in my current Year of Living Celebrity Fabulousness, I’ve got the double excitement.

For those of you wondering what these grown-up BFFs have in store for us, or why everyone is gaga for Fey and Poehler, I present you with this:

Will you be tuning in on Sunday?

Chicago! Shasta Nelson, author of the upcoming book “Friendships Don’t Just Happen!” and founder of GirlfriendCircles.com, will be leading  a “Friendship Accelerator” in Chicago on Sunday, February 10. It’s a full-day retreat with a small group of women that Shasta says is “the most effective way of fostering new friendships.” Watch the invitation on YouTube, and, get more information–and an application!–here. It sounds fantastic! (I’ll be out of town otherwise I’d be applying myself.)

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The Hard Facts: Being Alone Is Different Than Feeling Alone

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

“The majority of lonely people (62.5 percent) were married or living with others — an indication that feeling lonely and being alone are not the same. ‘It’s not the quantity but the quality of your relationships that matters,’ said Dr. Carla M. Perissinotto, a geriatrician who led the study. ‘You can’t tell who may be feeling lonely. It’s not just a little old lady living all alone.’” (“A Longer Life Is Lived With Company,” New York Times, 9/11/2012)

The study mentioned above found what anyone who’s ever read this blog already knows: Make friends, live longer. But the interesting finding, IMHO (that’s webspeak, I just learned, for In My Humble Opinion. Aren’t I hip?), is the note that the people who qualify as lonely aren’t necessarily the ones in isolation.

Intuitively, we know this. Maybe the loneliest you’ve felt was at a party full of people. Or you were alone at the movie theaters, enjoying Les Miz, and felt totally content. Personally, one of my loneliest times was when I realized I was short on local friends. This, even though I was newly married, had family less than a mile away, and went to an office full of ladies every day. Loneliness isn’t about how isolated you are, it’s how isolated you feel. It’s about self-perception. After all, plenty of people who find themselves in the exact opposite situation as I was in–surrounded by friends but lacking a romantic partner–feel lonely, too.

According to Perissinotto, the necessary next phase of research is to find out why people are lonely. A pretty valuable first step given that apparently 20 percent of the population is chronically lonely. 20 percent! That’s nutters.

Tell me: Have you ever felt lonely in a situation where you were anything but alone? Was it hard to talk about? Personally, I hated saying I was lonely, even when I was, because I felt like I sounded ridiculous. “I just got married and am constantly surrounded by people… I’m so lonely!” It sounds like melodrama, even if it’s real. Have you been there?

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Poll! Which Celebrity Lifestyle Do You Want For Yourself?

As some of you may know, I’m working on a new book that will hopefully be in stores early next year. I’m super excited about it, as it deals largely with some of my greatest obsessions: Pop culture, celebrities, and the lure of the weekly tabloids.

Here’s the official description:

Author of MWF SEEKING BFF, Rachel Bertsche’s JENNIFER, GWYNETH AND ME: The Pursuit of a More Perfect Existence, One Celebrity at a Time, about the author’s efforts to improve her life by emulating the aspects of A-list stars’ lives that she (to say nothing of our celebrity-obsessed culture) most admires, such as Jennifer Aniston’s workout regime, Gwyneth Paltrow’s kitchen, and Tina Fey’s work ethic, to Jennifer Smith for Ballantine Trade Paperbacks, by Kari Stuart at ICM (world).

As I’ve been writing–and taking on these various megastar lifestyles–I’ve realized that sometimes the aspects of a celebrity’s life that we think  we want, isn’t really something we’d choose for ourselves when it comes down to it.

Still, I’m curious what you all think. If you could make over just one aspect of your life to be just like a certain celebrity’s, what would it be? Want Jennifer Aniston’s abs? The Garner-Affleck seemingly perfect marriage? Wish you could go all Julia and become totally zen? Please chime in on my poll, and feel free to write-in your own answers in the comments if none of these appeal to you.

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The Hard Facts: New Year, New You

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

“Reading more books has topped a list of most popular New Year’s resolutions, according to a survey. The poll conducted by LA Fitness asked 2,000 people what their aims for 2013 are. Saving money and losing weight are the second and third most common resolutions respectively, ahead of redecorating and taking better pictures.” (“Top 40 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 Revealed,” DigitalSpy.com)

While neither “make new friends” nor “spend more time with friends” are on this list, plenty of the most popular resolutions have to do with socializing “better.” By better, I mean mostly in person, and with people that make us feel good about ourselves.

Here’s the list of all 40:

1. Read more books
2. Save more money
3. Lose weight
4. Redecorate
5. Take better photos
6. Go traveling
7. Sell old unwanted stuff on eBay
8. Buy a tablet
9. Organize photos
10. Do something for charity
11. Spend more time with kids
12. Buy a Sunday paper
13. Less TV time
14. Connect my computer to my TV
15. Leave work on time more often
16. Less time on Facebook
17. Totally revamp my wardrobe
18. Try a new hairstyle
19. Get a six-pack
20. Eat less chocolate
21. Socialise more in real life rather than Facebook
22. Drink less alcohol
23. Buy less coffee from Starbucks/big chains
24. Start my own business
25. Tell someone I have feelings for them
26. Quit smoking
27. Gain a promotion
28. Learn how to use Twitter
29. Run a half or full marathon
30. Call people more than text
31. Cut someone out of my life who isn’t good for me
32. Meet online contacts in real life
33. Watch less reality TV
34. Text people less
35. Try to save relationship
36. Try extreme sports
37. Get better at social networking
38. Stop contacting/going back to an ex-partner
39. Have a face-to-face with my boss to find out where I stand
40. Do a bungee jump

Life has gotten crazy lately (whose hasn’t?) and I let this site slip during the holidays, so my resolution is to get back to blogging! I hope to see you all here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

And if your resolution is the ever-popular “read more books,” might I suggest MWF Seeking BFFIt’s a fun, easy read, and the perfect push you need to kick-start your year of better socializing.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

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