Rule It Out

I like rules. Not the “Be home by midnight” kind or the “You’re not allowed to go the homecoming party” kind. (What, just because I was 14 and the party, which was in Manhattan, would be dripping with alcohol and pot, and my father, the Assistant Principal, sent letters to all the parents warning them of the dangers of this annual event, just because of these minor factors I had to stay home watching Boy Meets World while my friends were likely hooking up with seniors? It was, like, so unfair.) But I like rules of thumb. Easy maxims I can live by.

It’s hard to follow too many rules at once, and mine are constantly changing. Matt gets a real kick out of my kicks. He’s been known to scream, to no one in particular, “She’s on a new kick!” when I tell him whichever rule is the latest. Like when I gave up caffeine, or declared Slow Cooker Sundays, or vowed to share three good things that happened that day before going to bed each night.

Right now I (am trying to) subscribe to two rules:

1) “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself,” from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules
2) “Never postpone any task that can be completed in less than one minute,” from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project

There are a gagillion books dedicated to the rules of dating, but I’ve been trying to track down some friend-making rules. Guidelines I can adhere to, today, to help me find my BFF. This is where you want to tell me that building relationships is personal and must be handled on a case-by-case basis, I know. But still, I want a roadmap.

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with Shasta Nelson, the founder of It’s a site that sets women up in small groups to meet and hopefully make friends. We talked about how it’s often easy to go on a first friend-date, but the follow-up is tricky. Do I call the next day? Email? How soon is too soon to ask her out again? Can I strike the right balance between friendly and needy? It’s like I got married and was then promptly thrown back in the dating pool.

Before she started the site, Shasta was a life coach. She told me that she’s found—anecdotally, not scientifically—that women need to see each other twice a month for three months before they consider each other friends. This is a rule I can get on board with.

There’s no one in Chicago I’ve seen that often other than family, Matt and coworkers (probably why I’m sitting here typing this up instead of watching Project Runway with my Chitown BFF. Duh). My book clubs are once a month, which seems pretty often. But it makes sense that I’d need to up that if I want to take a friendship to the next level. So I’m adding this to the rulebook. Now, when I meet someone promising, I’ll hear Shasta in my head and make the effort to get a second date on the books within 30 days. Love it.

Do you think Shasta’s rule has merit? Are there any friendship rules you live by? Or any rules you live by at all (I’m always looking to add to my collection)? Or is life about going with the flow and I just need to lighten up?

A quick housekeeping note: I was lucky enough to write two blog guest posts this month. The first, at The Friendship Blog, introduces my search…and has a photo! The second, at Embracing the Detour, is about choosing to move to Chicago when my career dreams were in New York. The blogmaster over there said of this blog, “It’s fun, it’s witty, it’s heartfelt.  A trifecta of bloggy awesomeness.” This makes me want to marry her. Thanks so much to  Irene and Lauren for hosting me.


Filed under The Search

17 responses to “Rule It Out

  1. Zach

    Boy Meets World was one of the best shows on TV. hands down. the right decision was made.

  2. Sounds like a good rule. I think having contact two or more times monthly is a good idea, for any relationship. Otherwise time too easily gets between you and the connection seems to fade.

  3. Callie

    I am not sure if its worse to not be allowed to go to the homecoming party freshman year or to only be allowed to go for one hour and to have your parents pick you up on the corner. I agree with Zach- in retrospect I think you were better off. I think I would have rather been watching Mr. Feeney too!

  4. Move to LA! We can be BFFs!

    Seriously, though, it was my pleasure to host your piece on ETD. In fact, I meant to tell you – your pre-detour path was the path I thought I’d be on right now. Northwestern was my dream school and I wanted to work at a magazine post-graduation. I ended up going to Yale after applying just to prove to my dad that I couldn’t get in, then I had a panic attack the summer I was working at EW that led me to conclude that the magazine biz wasn’t for me (in retrospect, the EW internship had nothing to do with the panic attack, but at the time it made me swear off magazines and NYC). So I went to law school. And here I am, not wanting to practice law anymore and wishing people would pay me to write stuff for their magazines. Alas. Anyhow – loved your piece and love your journey. And I was serious about you moving to LA….

  5. It’s too bad I’m in West Texas, or we could totally hang out twice a month and be friends. 🙂

    I like Shasta’s rule – I think it’s a pretty true one – and I quite enjoyed your guest posts. My beloved college roomie is moving away in about a month (we’ve had a year and a half of “borrowed time” since she moved back to TX) and I am sad. I know I can’t replace her, but I, too, will be hankering for a new BFF soon.

  6. I’m not big on official rules (or NYE resolutions either, for that matter). But I do agree with the concept of seeing a new friend 2x per month for a few months to keep the momentum going. However, I’m not sure I agree that you have to do this three times before considering it a friendship. I think it depends on the circumstances.

    If the two people have very little communication between get-togethers, fine, the 2×3 rule works. But, in today’s social media crazed world with text messages, emails, phone calls, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and so on … I think it’s a lot easier to get to know a potential friend and move into the realm of friendship much more quickly.

  7. As soon as something becomes a rule, I break it. It’s the rebellious teen in me. But I agree with the concept. It makes a lot of sense. Usually when I leave a new friend – one I like – I vow to call her again soon…but then I somehow drop the ball. I must get better about that.

  8. Like everyone else, I think that rule is sound and your guest posts are great.

    As far as “how soon is too soon?” to follow-up, most of my best friendships have resulted from an immediate admission of outright Girl Crush. If you genuinely click with someone (which is, of course, one of those nebulous “gut” things that can’t ever quite be pinned down) rather than appearing needy, I think an exuberant, “I had the best time and would love to set up another time to hang out!” is nice.

    Maybe resist the urge to add jazz-hands, though, because THAT would be weird.

  9. J

    Boy Meets World…BOYAH!

    I need a friend to be intelligent, to make me laugh, and to make me think. Just like a boyfriend. Except she also needs to enjoy shopping, eating ice cream, and watching the Food Network incessantly –

    Plus, she needs to prove that she actually wants to be my friend…not just “my friend!!!” after one drunken night.

    …Also like a boyfriend.

  10. Valerie

    I’m enjoying your blog very much, and I think it’s a great idea. I also loved your essay for Oprah Magazine, which is where I first learned of your work. As an author, I’m really glad that you’re writing a book about your quest, too. I think it’s going to be a huge success.

    For your blog–and certainly for your book–I just want to suggest that you also take into account racial and cultural differences that may make it harder for someone to find BFF candidates in certain places.

    I teach at a big university in a really “cool” college town in Georgia. It really is a cool town–if you’re white. If you’re black, like me, you find yourself being the only African-American professor in your entire college of 75 faculty members. And you can count on one hand the number of black female peers you have across the entire campus.

    Of course, I’m open to friendships with women of other races and cultures, but it’s sometimes difficult to determine who among the white women I meet might be anti-racist enough to have a friendship of equals with a black woman. As you’ve pointed out on your blog, women tend to “friend” women they have something in common with. If there’s no one who appears to have much in common with you, because of race and/or culture, joining book clubs and yoga classes and such doesn’t really work. In a town as monolithic as this one, I find I’m often the only woman of color at the book club meeting or the yoga class–and, unfortunately, none of the white women are wearing buttons that say “I’m cool; I’d love to have a black friend, and I won’t be clueless or condescending to you, I promise,” so my sense of isolation only increases.

    Just something for you to consider as you move forward in your search. Conducting it in a town populated by other women like you is a real luxury that I wish I had.

    ~Friendless (after six years!) in College Town, Ga.

  11. Just_Kelly

    I went on a BFD last Sunday. It went great; talked for 3 and a half hours. Afterwards I was scared to make plans b/c I didn’t want to be seen as putting all my eggs in her basket. Or something. It was like being shoved back into the dating pool.

    I followed up with a trice re-typed email saying I had fun. Ends up she did too and initiated other plans. BFD #2 is tonight: drinks after a work event of mine. Hoping I play my cards right for girlfriend gab tonight and into the future!

  12. -alison

    Re: “women need to see each other twice a month for three months before they consider each other friends.” — hmmmm, I don’t see the two girls I made a point of bestifying since moving to NYC that often but definitely it’s like no time has passed when we do get together. We hit the ground running, like old friends do, which makes me a very lucky girl…..

  13. I wholeheartedly agree, you’ve got to put those girlfriend “dates” on the calendar. Also, making friends is somewhat of a numbers game: You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to get a “princess” – so to speak. Stay open to different types of people, and don’t rush to judgment. You never know where that “BFF” will come from. I love that Shasta put that rule out there: It’s eye-opening. Most people don’t realize that friendship takes work, but it does. Good luck on your quest. We’re in Chicago, BTW, maybe we should meet up!

  14. Aw, I want to find a husband who finds my rule-making cute or quirky like your husband seems to…

    anyway, I think I agree about the amount of time, but certain situations or circumstances can speed up or slow down that rule. For example going through something intense together. or another example, my first college BFF & I became BFFs immediately. from when I sat down next to her in class, to when she asked for my number “in case we want to get lunch or something,” to when we were spending all our time together. But, 2 and a half years later, we don’t speak. She transferred schools and has blocked me on facebook…our friendship just crumbled. Thus, in my friendship search, I’m trying to remember these sort-of rules: 1) first impressions aren’t always right (I loved her at first, and didn’t like my roommate at first. Now, that roommate and I are still BFFs) and 2) even if friendships seem strong at first, they don’t always pass the test of time like old friendships do.

    Another thing that is on my mind and I just feel like bringing up…I recently studied abroad for 5 months with a group of girls who I didn’t know very well or had never met. I got along with them fine, but I didn’t feel like I really “clicked” with any of them to the point of being BFFs. I ended up doing a lot on my own because it was easier. The rest of the group, however, all seemed to bond and couldn’t stop talking about how much they would miss each other when the program was over. I don’t know if it was just because I have higher expectations for quality friendships than a lot of people, or what.

  15. Ana

    Boy meets world! LOVE IT 🙂

  16. Pingback: The Club Scene « MWF Seeking BFF

  17. I feel like a dork for commenting on a post from 2 years ago but I’ve recently started reading your blog from the beginning and this one in particular hit home. My husband doesn’t understand my “new kicks” either and it was nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets enthusiastic about something and declares it to the world.

    BTW I’ve also ordered your book from but I figured that since it would be different from what you’ve written on your blog that I would catch up before I read it.

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