To Find What You Want, Stop Looking?

Last week, my article on how to make new friends (a condensed version of this Friend Finding 101 post) was published on CNN.com. Though the comments were a bit less aggressive than last time (in which perfect strangers told me my marriage was falling apart) there were still some real gems. Now that I’ve learned to laugh at the craziness, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

“Once you’ve found your potential new best friend, let them know your level of dedication. In a box, place a small dead animal and a note written in blood (preferably yours though the animal’s will do in a pinch). The note should read: You are my new best friend. Your friends are my friends. Your enemies my enemies. If anyone ever hurts you I will be the first to fling battery acid in their face.”

“Inevitable [sic] people change or don’t change over time as well as friendships. I’ve leaned [sic] the hard way over my life that people will almost always disappoint you at any chance they get and sometimes even stab you in the back for no reason. Why you ask, because people are human, they make bad decisions, they make mistakes, and they are inevitably self-centered. There are a few nice people in the world who will give 100%, but they always get walked all over in the end and taken advantage of by ‘Takers’. It helps to be a ‘Taker’ and a ‘Giver’. If you want a true friend, get a dog or a cat. They won’t steal your girlfriend, your job or your car, cheat on you, or spread nasty rumors about you on Facebook.”

“Lady needs help!”

“This is your classic story of a stalker case.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up. But amidst the references to me as “creepy” and “foolish,” there were a number of comments saying the fundamental theme of the article is flawed because you can’t consciously try to make a friend. Best friendships, they said, should emerge naturally.

“You can’t LOOK for a new best friend. Best friends just happen.”

“The few female friends that I have made have been those rare gems you find when you least expect it and aren’t even looking.”

True, no one you meet will immediately become your BFF—the ascent to “best” takes time—but I take issue with the argument that we shouldn’t actively take steps to make friends. Of course it’s fantastic when a friendship “just happens.” I figured that’s what would go down when I moved to Chicago. But it’s also great when romance just happens, and yet there are millions of people online dating, or speed dating, or going to singles mixers because they know what they want and are going after it.

When I first started this search I wondered if I came off as a pathetic nutcase, actively looking for new friends as if no one wanted to play with me. There’s something sort of sad, it seems, about announcing you want to forge new friendships. Like you never had any in the first place. But I’ve learned that there are plenty of women in my situation. Anything great is worth fighting for (did I just steal that line from Notting Hill? Or Love Actually? Perhaps) and getting what you want often takes work. There are steps one can take to maximize the potential for finding a spouse, a job, even happiness. The same is true for friendships, and I think—I hope—that if we keep talking about it, the creepy-stalker-foolish stigma will start to go away.

Do you think the notion of seeking out friendship is flawed? Pathetic? Do BFFs just appear when you stop looking? Or is friend-dating, like the romantic kind, a necessity in the over-scheduled, over-committed, mobile world we live in? Either way, chime in.

29 Comments

Filed under The Search

29 responses to “To Find What You Want, Stop Looking?

  1. andrea

    So, I realized that my childhood best friend was someone I went to school with…. once we changed schools, friendship was more difficult and the daily interaction didn’t happen. Started working- had work best friends…. stopped working & the daily interaction stopped as well as the common thread. Had a great neighbor friend, moved & guess what, daily interaction stopped. I’m still very fond of these people and friendly- just not best friends. I too am in search of a BFF. Someone who likes me for me, not where I work, live, go to school. I say go for it. Although my typing this message makes me think, am I the one dropping the ball?

    • Emily

      Gigi: I would rather be like that, then be like you.
      Alex: Excuse me? What’s that supposed to mean?
      Gigi: I may dissect each little thing and put myself out there so much but at least that means that I still care. Oh! You’ve think you won because women are expendable to you. You may not get hurt or make an ass of yourself that way but you don’t fall in love that way either. You have not won. You’re alone. I may do a lot of stupid shit but I’m still a lot closer to love than you are.
      This is a quote from “He’s Just Not That Into You” that could apply to making new friends. The point is that by putting yourself out there vs. letting it happen naturally you are a lot closer to finding a bff than someone who is hanging around waiting for it to happen.

  2. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or pathetic about seeking out friendship. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and the only way to make new friends in a new town is to put yourself out there. Most people don’t state it as openly as you do, but what they’re doing when they take a class or join a volunteer organization or stop to chat with the people next door is, ultimately, trying to forge connections with others who see the world in the same way. In other words, they’re trying to make friends. Being human means needing connection.

    Susan Mallery
    New York Times bestselling author

  3. After living in one place far too long, then moving to a new town, I did make an effort to meet people, and continue to do so….but I had not, until recently, been seeking a BFF. There’s a gradient that happens with friendships, some are just about a few shared interests, and once in awhile, there is something deeper there. Is it BFF material? It takes time to tell.

    So far, the women I’d like to be my BFF, the ones who *shine*, never seem to need a new BFF. They are already whole, already well-supported. And those who seem to desperately need a BFF, are far to broken for me to be there for them. Maybe I am looking for a BFF, too, but I sure as heck am not looking for a project.

    Usually I keep my stalker-like friend-seeking behaviour in the virtual world. It seems a lot more normal out here!

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~T~

    • You may be surprised who is in need of a BFF. Good friends know that you can never have too many, as long as it’s the unconditional kind of friendship. Any woman that turns down an opportunity to develop devoted friendship isn’t worth being friends with. Or at least that’s how I see it.

  4. Anita

    The first quoted comment was a joke, right? We all know that the traditional gift for a new best friend is nail clippings of your previous bffs and that the animal sacrifice doesn’t come until the first anniversary!

    Seriously though- I love your blog, keep up the good work!

  5. Moving to a new city and being honest about your BFF desire is the opposite of stalking — you’re not being sneaky, you’re not iding out in someone’s garbage cans waiting for them to come home (presumably). You’re just taking a chance and opening yourself to connection, and it’s something most people are probably afraid to do…particularly people who hang around the comments section of CNN.com, apparently.

    Some friendships “just happen,” but I think that is a rarity in adulthood. A few months ago I admitted a girl crush on one of my graduate school compatriots with whom I’ve had classes for a year. I thought she was so snazzy but was too mousy to say anything, and she had thought the same thing about me. Since our mutual declaration of admiration we have had the BEST times together. Our connection is natural and effortless (the sort of friend who just “gets” you), but the initiating of the friendship still required an active vulnerability — an admission that, “Hey, I like you and I want to hang out.”

    I hate to think what I would be missing out on if I had just waited for our friendship to bloom out of nowhere.

  6. This is an excellent question! When I think about it, all of my best friendships have happened organically. But, all those friendships were forged years ago– in some cases when I was in college, where it was easier in my opinion to meet people– and certainly long before I and everyone I know started working crazy hours, going to grad school on top of their jobs, etc.

    I’m in Chicago too and it seems like, here, we all are so busy and overcommitted already, we have no choice but to actively seek out connections. Otherwise it is just not going to happen — who’s got the time? It’s really a shame that there’s such a stigma attached to seeking new friends. Maybe if more people start talking about it, like you are via this blog, people will stop feeling that way.

    • In my life thus far, the same has been true. My best friendships are amazing, but they’re from high school, college, summer camp. As you say, I think it was easier to meet people then because those environments are set up to foster connections. To your point, once we start careers and families, it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness and overcommit and not make time for friends cause we think it will just happen. I hope you are right about changing the stigma. Thanks!

  7. First, EEEK! This is one of the things I hate about the Internet – people feel free to hide behind their anonymity and say cruel things to outright strangers. Kudos for having the nerve to even read comments – I couldn’t do it.

    Secondly, I agree with you. I think people focus too much on the “best” part of your “best friend” search; it’s really about actively making friendships happen.

    • The first time I read the really mean comments, I spent about an hour short-of-breath at the nastiness. Then I realized that 1)if I’m going to write, I need to have a thick skin and 2)the nasty comments are usually less about me than the commenter (see comment 2 in the post…oy!). So now I can laugh at them. But it took me a minute for sure…

  8. You always need to work on friendships – sustaining current ones, cultivating new ones, trimming some old dead branches… Even if right at this moment, all is well in your friend world, it doesn’t stay that way. People move, get married, die, have kids, do other wacko things that make them not great friends any more. (I’m not saying that all of those things automatically mean your friends won’t be your friends any more!!) With something so valuble as interpersonal connection, why be complacent?

  9. I used Match.com for years before I finally met my husband (through said site). I can’t tell you how many people thought I was nuts for doing it. How many people thought I was desperate for doing it. How many people thought I must have 5 eyes and horns if I couldn’t meet my mate at a bar, a gym or through friends.

    But, I say to each their own. While I was and still am a very strong supporter of match.com, I was equally as strongly against eHarmony.com. I thought that site took away too much control of my dating life. I thought they presented themselves as knowing what’s best for me (when the reality is, only I know what’s best for me). And I thought some of it was a little kooky. Point being, not every online dating site was right for me.

    And I think the same thing holds true with how you go about meeting friends. I agree that a best friendship can’t be forced. But, you have to meet people, go out with them, converse with them before that natural closeness happens. And if you’re willing to meet people in ways uniquely your own, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Because, at the end of the day, when you have your one to five local besties supporting you through thick and thin, you’ll have the last laugh.

    • Nilsa – I totally agree with you about match v. eHarmony. I met my boyfriend of 3 years on match too, and a lot of my friends at the time thought I was crazy to be doing online dating. Was it safe? What was wrong with the guys I was meeting on match that they had to “resort” to using the internet? What was wrong with me? The reason I used it is because I was sick of trying to meet people out in bars, etc. and didn’t want to date guys from work or friends of friends. Sure, I had a lot of bad dates before I had one good one, but most of the guys that I was going out with actually wanted to be in a relationship, so I knew we had that much in common.

      All of that to say, it’s a shame that there isn’t some easy way to meet friends where you know that you’re both actively looking for friends.

      Rachel, you’re on the right track by being so open about wanting to meet new friends and ultimately find a local BFF. I hope you don’t let the folks on CNN get to you – they might be in the same boat, but are afraid to admit it so publicly.

  10. Ana

    Oh my god, you’re being OPEN and FRIENDLY and trying to make connections in this world. how does that make one a stalker, exactly?
    People are ridiculous! I agree that most of those negative comments say more about the commenter than about you. It seems that a lot of paranoid misanthropes like to comment on CNN.com

  11. J

    The bigger the site you publish on, the crazier the comments. And subsequently, the crazier they make you out to be.

    People love getting all mean when their names are protected…

    I always want more friends. I’m a friend craver. Good friends though…they’re just HARD to find.

  12. Holy smokes people are mean. Like really, really mean. Seriously. I just can’t imagine being filled with such venom and writing mean comments like the first one. Ouch.

    Anyways, I do not think it is weird to seek out friendships. I think it’s not different than seeking out a future mate. At least you recognize that it’s important to have relationships besides the one between you & your husband! 🙂 I mean, he will obviously always be your #1 best friend & confidant, but it’s so important and wonderful to have other friendships. If I lived close, I’d totally be your friend. 🙂

  13. Finding and keeping good friends is tough work. I think what your doing is a fabulous idea. Since I began reading your blog it has pushed me to reach out a little more and try to strengthen some of the new acquaintances that I have developed recently. I too need a local BFF and it is about time I worked on it. Ignore the crazies and go after what will enrich your life.

  14. Lisa Z.

    I know someone with an idea that true love is going to stop her on the street one day so she refuses to be set up or introduced to potential mates, God forbid any active role on her part to find a match. Needless to say, she hasn’t had a boyfriend in over 8 years. Now she says when it “happens” she’s going to get end up getting married in two months. This may end up happening, maybe not, wouldn’t it have been nice to practice a bit on the way? I think so. I am all about proactive practice. Choleric personality.

  15. Those comments are really mean! While finding a best friend can’t be forced, putting yourself out there and meeting people is a wonderful, amazing thing. Good lord, what is wrong with people? It sounds like they think you’re going to set up a judging panel on a street corner and ask people to perform their talent for you! lol

    Good luck on your journey, I’m excited to see where this takes you- and you’re not weird for admitting that you would like a local & close friend. =)

  16. Ellen

    Wow, so now I finally know what I’ve been doing wrong all this time! Thanks for the tips😉 But yeah…friendships are harder the older you get. I HATE comparing my NYC friends to my BFFs from home/college, but it’s just so hard not to. Girlfriends are so important to me though, I will always work at it.

    http://www.firednfabulous.blogspot.com/

  17. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking. The analogy you made with dating sites is right on, sure you can say you are looking but you need a place to look, right?
    I think at a certain point in life it does become harder to make new friends and even if you do have a significant other nothing can compare and one does not replace the other.
    My BFF moved to the States last year (I’m from Northeast Canada) and I started to realize that slowly I was drifting apart from my existing friends or our interests were different. Where to look? Sure you can try work and maybe you’ll get lucky but if you’re an Engineer like I am, you spend your days with men and the odd female and then you’re hoping to connect with that one other girl. Well, I happened to realize (through connecting with that one other girl) that I was not alone and that there must be many other women out there like us who: are in a relationship, outgoing, career-oriented and in the market for that friend that you can call at any time of the day and do the Starbucks-shopping-doesmybuttlookfatinthis kinda day with.

    And so, The Social Woman was born. We created a site where women can do just that. Connect online, meet offline at member organized events.

    And so far, it’s been great. Have I met my BFF yet? There’s a few potentials..I know she’s in there..somewhere or maybe not yet. But at least I have a place where I can start!

    Cheers,
    Sandy

  18. Bob

    It could be that the idea of seeking a bff seems odd at first because it sounds as if you’re expecting to catch a bff in one fell swoop. Whereas the reality is, as several comments point out, people become friends first and only later, if lucky, progress to bff status. This seems like intentional irony on your part and is, to me, part of the charm of the title (and content) of this blog.

    • Bob, yes, thank you!You get me. I think, as another commenter has pointed out, people get very caught up in the BFF aspect of the title. OF COURSE I want one, eventually, but I do understand that it’s not “Hi, nice to meet you. Lets be BFFs.” Just as people who declare they’re searching for a spouse don’t say “Nice to meet you lets get married.”

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  22. I met one of my very good friends here in Shanghai when I was at a BBQ at a pub and the only people I knew there were working/organising the event. When it came time to eat, I needed somewhere to sit down, so I picked a random table and asked if I could join them. I ended up drinking NZ sauvignon blanc with an Aussie girl until midnight (we started around 2pm), during which time her companions left to go to another party. We got along amazingly well and she’s now probably my best friend here. Total chance (with some added effort to get together semi-regularly), and her husband and my boyfriend get along great, too. Lucky.

    Another lucky thing is that Shanghai is sort of a migrant town – people come in for work or extended stays, but most people you meet aren’t locals, and they know most people are here for the middle term. It’s easy to ask people out for a drink or dinner, and nobody looks like you’re a weirdo or already has a huge group of high school friends.

    I do love this blog, by the way. Only just discovered it today because an old friend posted it on her Facebook page. I look forward to reading through the archives soon!

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