When I tell people, specifically women, about my search, they usually say one of two things: “That’s the story of my life!” or “That’s so funny!” The distinguishing trait between these two groups is what I’ve come to call the Second City Factor.
It was my friend Kate—who now lives in San Francisco, but who I met in New York during our first post-college summer—who first proposed this theory. It’s in the second city you move to after college, she explained, where people start to face the BFF conundrum. As soon as she said it, I knew she was right.
When young 20-somethings first leave college for the big city—be it New York, Chicago, Boston, DC, San Francisco, wherever—they’re surrounded by other post-grads in the same boat. Everyone’s new to the workforce, looking for buddies to drink, gossip, and go to the movies with. They’re all relatively new to the city (even if you’re back in your hometown, chances are you’ve been away the last four years). They’re first-timers in the full-time workforce, unfettered by college classes or midterm papers, in that doe-eyed conquer-the-world mindset. Making friends in this environment is easy, as everyone is more or less looking for the same thing. Even after moving to Chicago, I’m still in touch with plenty of friends who I met in Manhattan during that first crucial post-Northwestern year.
The decision to move to the second post-college city, however, is usually made independent of friends. Whenever it happens, and no matter if you do it for love, career, family, or school, the second move is on your own terms. You’re not guaranteed a sea of new-in-town friend prospects this time around. Plenty of the buddies you’re looking for have lived there for years and have already filled their BFF quota. So my friends, like Kate, who’ve found themselves in towns where they’d never imagined setting up shop tell me my story rings true. Suddenly, they’re floundering in the search for that certain someone, despite having been surrounded by plenty of perfect someones all their lives. (Two students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business created an adorable video about this, which stars a really sweet, nerdy-in-the-best-way, boy. Oh, and MC Hammer’s in it too.)
Anyone who’s ever relocated can relate to my quest. But then there are the people who left college for New York or Chicago or what have you, and have stayed put. When I tell them my plan to actively seek out a BFF using whatever means necessary, they say “That’s hilarious,” with a tone that’s two parts pity, one part “atta boy!” and one part “you’re kind of a loser.” They don’t know the awkward pain of leaving a friend-date unsure if you’re supposed to hug or handshake (hug!), the frustration of having no one to drag along to a wedding dress fitting at the very last minute, or just how not-the-same it is to talk on the phone once a week to the BFF with whom you used to grab a bite almost daily.
Now that I’ve indentified the Second City factor, it’s remarkable to see how dead-on a predictor it really is. Think of your own reaction to my search… do you prove the theory? Or do Kate and I have it all wrong? Is friend-finding more about age and life stage than how many zip codes you’ve called home? And should this alone be enough to scare people off from ever moving?