Monthly Archives: June 2010

I’m Talking Butterflies and All….

I have a girl crush. On the saleswoman at an overpriced-but-fabulous boutique in my neighborhood. She’s tall and thin and pretty. She has great clothes. When I stopped in her  store the weekend I went wedding dress shopping, I showed her a photo of myself  in the top contender—I needed an outsider’s opinion—and she said I looked like a ballerina. It was love.

Has it occurred to me that she’s nice because I’m shopping at the expensive store of which she is the manager? Clearly. But I choose to believe she’s into me.

I’ve had many a girl crush in my day. Some women are just so together-without-even-trying, so confident-and-witty-without-being-egotistical, so I-quote-Dumbledore-and-Modern-Family-in-the-same-breath that I fall in friend-love at first sight. Besides the boutique lady, there was my NYC yoga teacher, my  magazine editor mentor, and  Robin Scherbatsky.

A 2005 New York Times article on the girl crush sums up the feeling nicely: “That fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished. While a girl crush is, by its informal definition, not sexual in nature, the feelings that it triggers – excitement, nervousness, a sense of novelty – are very much like those that accompany a new romance.”

The great thing about girl crushes is that they can blossom into actual friendships. The sound of two women mutually crushing is often really the click of two potential BFFs. And, um, when a drunk sorority sister confessed  I was her girl-crush in college? I was uber flattered. College girls are more discerning with their girl crushes than the boy kind. It was no small thing.

So I’ve been working up the nerve to ask this saleswoman to grab lunch or a drink with me one day. To take our relationship outside the walls of her store will be a big step. But there’s one nagging concern: What if she doesn’t live up to my expectations?

A former coworker of mine (whose new book you should check out) recently wrote a hilarious article about meeting her literary hero. The reality of the dinner date, she explained, fell far short of the dream. That’s a risk with any relationship where we’ve built up the other party. What if beneath her well-dressed, perfectly-coiffed exterior, my girl crush is a dud who brings nothing to the table aside from her stellar style recommendations? It almost makes me want to hold tight to the dream rather than officially introduce myself. I said almost.

Have you had a girl crush? On who? Has any one admitted a girl crush on you? The Times article says that while girl crushes sometimes bring women closer, other times the admission just makes things awkward. Thoughts?

(Tune in tomorrow for a report on all my new Vegas BFFs…)

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What Happens in Vegas…

That’s right. I’m in Vegas baby! Every year my family takes a trip to what is apparently a really cool and hot city—I wouldn’t know since I never leave the casino. It seems I come from a long line of gamblers. A cab driver once joked that we would get a neon tan.

But there’s more to do in a casino than just lose win big. Like people watch. Or people meet.

If there’s any place in the world where you can make new BFFs in a snap, it’s Vegas. It might just have something to do with the bright lights and booze, but there’s nothing like a hot blackjack table to bring people together.

In prior years I’ve met people from all over the globe. Bachelorettes, honeymooners, men on business trips. There was Ira, the older gentleman who took me under his wing at the craps table. In retrospect I think  he was trying to sleep with me, but at the time I thought we were just a quirky odd couple. BFFs for sure.

I also love befriending the dealers. At the blackjack table especially, there’s plenty of time to talk and exchange life histories. And they always seem happy to chat. Or they want a tip. Tomato, tomahto.

So this go ‘round, I’m on the lookout for another visitor from Chicago. I’ll chat her up and hope that in this case, what happens in Vegas carries over to the Midwest. It’s not so unlikely.

And who knows who else I could meet? Maybe a celebrity. Or a poker pro. Or my identical hand twin! (Youtube won’t let me embed this video, sadly…)

Are there any other cities that are especially conducive to people-meeting? I’m not opposed to taking this search global.

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Warning: No BFFs Allowed

Oh my gosh. I need to stop writing this blog right this minute. According to today’s New York Times, the Best Friend is over. What I am searching for does not exist. Or should not.

In our modern Mean Girls, text messaging, bullying society, teachers and school administrators are discouraging anything that might present itself as a clique, the Times says. Two girls whispering and weaving friendship bracelets in the corner? Out.

“In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond—the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together after school—signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity…”

These days it’s all about groups of friends, apparently. Which reminds me of an intern who recently told me she spent the Passover holiday holding a seder with her 16 best friends. I’m all for spreading the friend love, but forcing this mentality and separating any kids who get too close? In grade school? That’s a bit overboard, no?

What’s wrong with learning to form intimate friendships? One of the best things to come out of my summer camp experience is my BFF. What would I have done if because we seemed “to be too focused on each other, the camp [made] sure to put [us] on different sports teams, seat [us] at different ends of the dining table…”?

The article goes on to explain that psychologists don’t necessarily agree with schools’ anti-BFF mentality. Forging different types of friendships in childhood is preparation for social interaction later in life. If you manipulate the system so that no kid ever feels left out, what’ll happen when her grown-up self misses out on a coveted invite and she doesn’t have the skill set to deal with it? As one psychologist says in the article, “When a teacher is trying to tone down a best-friend culture, I would like to know why. … Is it causing misery for the class? Or is there one girl who does have friends but just can’t bear the thought that she doesn’t have as good a best friend as another? That to me is normal social pain. If you’re mucking around too much in the lives of kids who are experiencing normal social pain, you shouldn’t be.”

I love the notion of the best friend forever. Clearly. There’s a part of me that wonders if such a relationship is even possible for adults. But I put that inseparable BFFness, complete with up-all-night sleepovers and choreographed dances (wait, was that just me?), up there with lightning-speed metabolism and never-ending energy on the list of reasons why childhood is magical.

I’m not pro children getting left out. But I am all for trusting them to navigate the murky waters of friendship themselves, or at least giving them the chance to try. I believe in letting kids experience the wonder of meeting that special someone without fear of getting separated simply because they hit it off. My mother-in-law tells the story of the first time Matt met his best friend. He came home from day camp and said “I made a new friend. His name is Noah Benjamin.” They’re still best friends 24 years later. That’s what I want for my kid.

Do you think best-friendships are bad for children? That groups of friends are safer in today’s world? Or should kids be allowed to figure out social relationships for themselves? And—be honest—were the BFF relationships back in the day really so carefree, or am I wearing a coke-bottle pair of rose-colored glasses?

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The Hard Facts: All the Single Ladies

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

“Lois Ames, a psychotherapist and poet in her seventies, tells us that she discovered a simple and unfortunate rule of thumb after her divorce forty years ago, and she has been teaching it to women ever since: a single woman must make three times as many phone calls as she gets and offer three times as many invitations as she receives if she wants to maintain her network of friends. One might hope that the ratio has dropped over the last forty years as divorce has become so common, but Ames does not believe it has.”  (The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century)

I don’t think this is going to be a very popular bit of friendship research. Keep in mind it is not fact. It has not been studied. This is one woman’s rule of thumb, quoted in Jacqueline Olds and Richards Schwartz’s 2009 book about the increasing loneliness in American society.

Ames’s point, as the authors explain, is that when it comes to friendship, “either you make it happen or it doesn’t happen.” I’d argue that such logic applies to everyone—not just single folk. When I moved to Chicago (with my husband) one of my earliest mistakes was waiting for the phone to ring. I figured I was new in town so potential new friends should reach out to me. Take me under their wing. Doesn’t work that way. If I wanted to build a social network, I needed to lay the foundation.

But Ames isn’t talking about building a network, just maintaining one. And I can’t speak to the truth of her rule because I’ve never really been single… at least not when it mattered. Matt and I got together in college, so—save for a three month post-grad breakup—I haven’t led much of an unattached adult life.

When I first read this passage, my thoughts immediately turned to my mom. A widow of almost four years, I wondered if she’d agree with Ames’s rule. I bet she would. Mom’s got lots of friends, but she lives alone and I’d imagine she often feels the frustration of having to do extra work to fill her social calendar.

Olds and Schwartz write, “Calling people takes just the kind of social confidence that aloneness tends to undermine. That is the wisdom of Lois Ames’s three-times-as-many rule: it reminds you to keep on calling because that’s just the way the world works, not because you’re a loser. If you are living with others and your social connections fray, it is easy to let yourself be carried along on someone else’s connections until your own get repaired.” But when you live alone, there’s no one to carry you, so you have to reach out yourself. Three times as much.

I wish very much that this rule of thumb were bogus. But I doubt it is. I’d imagine that an adult who lives alone and is single—especially a divorced or widowed one—feels the added burden of keeping up her social life. It’s not necessarily fair or right, but it’s likely how it is. People with a partner spend less time building outside social networks because they’re also focused on intimate couple time.

What do the single ladies think? Is the three-times-as-many rule a reality, or has the age of divorce and getting married later changed that for the better? Is it tougher to keep up friendships when you’re single and all your friends are married, or are friendship and marriage totally unrelated?

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Friends and Mothers

Here’s a fact about me that people find offensive: I’m not a dog person. I don’t hate dogs, exactly, but I really don’t like them all that much. Cats, too. I’m just not that into domestic pets.

Here’s another fact: I love babies. Adore them. Could look at pictures of the little tykes (especially the chubby ones) all day long.

This post is about the latter, but I mention the dog thing because for some reason people find it unbelievable that I could simultaneously love kiddies and not love animals. They are not the same thing, people! One is human, the other is… a dog! So I just want to point out that being someone who does not love dogs does not make me the devil because, well, I love babies. And that makes me warm and fuzzy.

But anyway. The first of my close friends to have a baby has a four month old. At 27 (kind of late, perhaps), I became a person with mom friends.

When I started my search, I believed in a huge divide between the mommies of the world and me, a non-mom. The reason I was Struggles McGee when it came to friends, I thought, was that I was at the in-between stage: too old to hang with the college kids, too not-ready for Mommy & Me. I figured anyone with a baby made insta-BFFs at Gymboree or Baby Yoga classes. And, as this logic went, I could never be friends with a mom because that wasn’t a life stage I was ready for. And when you’re at a completely different place in life, the bonding thing can be tough.

I was wrong.

Apparently, moms have trouble making friends too. That friend with the baby? Well, she’s the first one. None of our close pals have kids yet, so she has no one to bond with about breastfeeding and sleepless nights. Of course her friends love visiting her and the baby, but they (I’d say we, but said friend is in NYC so I’m kind of irrelevant here) have day jobs. She’s at home with the little one all day, craving adult conversation. She joined a Mommy & Me pilates class, but told me the other moms go to lose weight, while she’s there to make friends. So far unsuccessfully.

I recently found the blog of a 23-year-old mom-to-be. In a recent post, she wrote poignantly about the isolation of pregnancy. “I listen to my friends talk about their lives, about the parties, the fear of graduating from college, the cat and mouse of dating, the altogether unattached nature of their existence and as my belly grows so does the distance between us.” I’m sure that sense of loneliness is different for women as they get older, but I wonder if this is how my own pal felt.

Here’s the other big shocker: I’ve made a great new mom friend. BFF material for sure. And she’s not just a regular mom… she’s a mom of twins! And they are awesome. I sort of want to keep them. Now that I’ve met her, I can’t remember exactly why I was so wary of befriending a mom in the first place. I guess I figured parenthood, or my lack of it, would be a giant disconnect. “Mommyhood” was something grown-ups did, and I still felt like a kid. Turns out we can meet in the middle. I think.

Do you think motherhood impacts friendship? For the non-moms out there: Do you think it’s harder to befriend mothers? Does the vastly different priority list make it hard to stay close to old friends who are new moms? And mamas, do you find it easier to make friends as a mother, or harder? Once you have a baby, is it all about mommy friends? Is it hard to connect to non-moms? Lots of questions, I know. Feeling curious today…

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Shedding Unwanted Baggage

I’ve been wondering a lot about friend breakups lately. Studies show that ending things with a friend is more guilt-ridden for women than is dumping a lover. But what if you have to? Then what? Is there ever a good way to end a friendship?

When I initially wrote about friend breakups, I mentioned that studies show women are more likely to “slink away”—just stop calling or returning calls—then to actually have a direct ending-the-friendship talk. There was much debate in the comments of that post about which was the “right way” to handle things. Because while slinking away might be the easier (or, copout) approach, it’s more hurtful and confusing for the gal on the receiving end.

But all this talk seems to apply only to old friends. What do you do when you realize that things with a potential BFF just aren’t going to work out? That while the initial signs said this could be the beginning of  a beautiful friendship, closer examination reveals you’re not compatible? Of course, you could still be friends—not everyone has to be a best friend forever—but what if you don’t even want that? What if your schedule’s so full that you’d like to focus your time on friendships you want to nurture rather than waste precious evenings on people you don’t particularly like?

Being pretty deep into my search now, I’ve certainly met people with whom I didn’t immediately click. So far when that’s happened, it seems both parties have agreed. I may not have followed up, but neither did she. However, I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of the new friend slink away. I met one girl who was absolutely great. I really thought we hit it off. I followed up and eventually scheduled a second outing. It was more fun than the first! And then I followed up again. And again. And one final time. Three emails, no response. I can take a hint. In fact, I caught on after the second unreturned email, really, but at that point I figured I’d give it the old college try and round it out at three.

Since this was a new friendship, it would’ve been premature for this potential BFF to actually give me a breakup speech. I prefer her unresponsive method. I’m not really interested in hearing her say “I don’t think you’re friend material” or “I’m too busy for new friendships.” Perhaps she found this blog and decided she wanted nothing to do with its author. I really have no idea. And I’m ok with that. I’m not as offended as I probably should be. I have other potential BFFs who return my calls or—gasp!—even call me.

It’s times like these when I realize that though I may be looking for a different type of soul mate, what I’m doing here is dating. It’s tricky business. Sometimes you realize things just aren’t going to work out, and not because the other party did anything particularly wrong. Certain thorny issues are universal to all relationships: How serious must we be to warrant a Breakup Talk? At what point can I still pull off the slink away without seeming like a jerk? Theoretically, we’re only allowed one lover at a time. We can have as many friends as we want. So breaking up seems almost unnecessary, but when the eager beaver potential BFF emails three times, what do you do?

No, seriously, what do you do?

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Famous Friendships: The Golden Girls

A discussion about The Golden Girls is long overdue on this blog, and not just because of Betty White’s incredible career resurgence or Rue McClanahan’s death last week. Aside from being a work of comic genius, it’s a fabulous reminder of why friendship is important at any—and every—age.

Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia are the kind of friends I hope to have one day. They don’t always get along. They call each other out on pretty much everything. But they’ve got each other’s backs, and they’re fiercely loyal. If Blossom and Six had the kind of BFFship I wish I’d had as a kid (I even bought one of those hats!) then the Golden Girls are who I want to be when I grow up.

I didn’t know until tonight—thanks Wikipedia—that Blanche, Rose and Dorothy weren’t lifelong friends. They met when each responded to a room-for-rent ad—Blanch and Rose were widows, Dorothy was divorced. It certainly got me thinking about what life can throw at you. And how much easier it gets when friends—new or old—are in the trenches by your side.

So to honor the show, and also the brilliant women who made up the cast (only Betty White survives) I spent the last hour on youtube watching clips. This is not an endeavor I recommend if you’re trying to get any work done today. They’re addicting. And amazing.

The final scene (if you’re reading this in an email or feed, you’ll have to click through to see the video) is pretty much perfect. A real thank you for being a friend moment. Makes me want to buy  a condo in Miami solely for group hugs.

Think it’d be possible to have a real life Golden Girls gang? And, if not, who do you think are the most realistic TV BFFs?

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