The Group Mentality

Lately, whenever I tell someone from my past about my current search, they reply with a bit of surprise. “I thought you had a group of friends in Chicago,” they’ll say.

I usually explain that no, “a group of friends” is not how I would explain my social situation. Yes, there are four ladies from my Northwestern days that I have dinner with every month or so. And I most definitely have a pack of work BFFs. But I don’t have a gang the way I did in high school or college or post-grad NYC, where any combination of a set clique (it’s a bad word, but we should call a spade a spade) could get drinks together on any given Saturday.

In Chicago I have individual friends. There’s the girl I met at a mutual friend’s wedding, a fellow student from a cooking class, old college acquaintances, girlfriends of Matt’s buddies and so on. “I have lots of separate individual friends,” I’ll explain, “but they don’t know each other. There’s no group.”

I’ve always found this sort of disappointing. Groups of friends are the dream, right? The Sex and the City model is so prevalent in books and TV that it’s hard not to feel like something’s missing when we don’t have it.

My search has presented me with a number of one-on-one budding friendships, but the next step will (hopefully) be to introduce said friends and create a small social network as opposed to a plethora of distinct relationships. Then, like on TV, we can each fill a niche: The idealist, the sass, the cynic, etc. (Yours truly will be starring in the role of the neurotic. Please hold your applause.) Not an easy feat, single-handedly creating a group of friends, but you never know. Activities like my Ladies Pizza Night might be the first step. Sushi is up next!

The group versus individual friendships is one of the largest differences between school BFFs and adult ones. In the novel Commencement, author J. Courtney Sullivan perfectly sums up the distinction. The story follows the relationships of four Smith College graduates who met freshman year, and reminds me of the BFF novels I loved as a kid: Among Friends, Just as Long as We’re Together and The Babysitter’s Club. Sullivan writes, “Although she had made plenty of friends in the city, it still felt like each of them was alone, their lives running parallel but never quite touching. With the Smithies, it was different. There was sometimes no telling where one of them began and the others left off.”

Do you think group friendships, like those in Friends or How I Met Your Mother are even possible in adulthood? Would you categorize your friendships as group or individual? Is there one you’d rather have, or that’s easier to maintain? Why?


Filed under The Search

16 responses to “The Group Mentality

  1. Emily

    I’m not sure of those group friendships are possible in adulthood or not. The groups in both Friends and HIMYM stem mostly from childhood/college, where we already know groups of friends are easier to find. I think perhaps a key to adult groups of friends might be to find all of the people in a similar location, like church or a sporting team for example, and pull them together from there. At least then you know all of the people in your potential friend group have at least one similar interest – it might give the group a bigger chance of survival.

    • This is a great point. I think that might be the case with my improv class. We’re slowly becoming a little family, because we see each other once a week for three hours. Now, that would be a funny group of friends…

  2. megan

    It’s possible in adulthood because I’ve got it! Of course, I sort of cheated: I just made a bunch of friends from one place-church- and they already knew each other so my networking was done for me…

  3. Most of my Chicago friends were individuals I met at one place or another over the 14 years I’ve lived here. That said and like you suggested, I have introduced some of those friends to one another and small groups do emerge. The thing is, when we’ve all got busy lives with work and our individual friends and our spouses and even children, it’s hard to continue that group mentality. It’s easier to get together with one friend than it is to mesh schedules with four (or more!) other people. So, while I traveled in a pack of friends in the past, I’m much more comfortable and easy going with the smaller gatherings of today. And I don’t think there is one right answer, either.

  4. Ana

    I agree with Nilsa that as lives get more complicated, it becomes a bit harder to get together as a group. If you waited until EVERYONE was free, you’d be waiting for quite a long while! Its also difficult to predict who is going to get along…meshing friends from different parts of your life is difficult.

  5. san

    I also need to agree with Nilsa and Ana that as life gets more complicated, it becomes harder to maintain group friendships – although I’d like to think it’s not completely impossible.
    I loved to have group of friends back in high school in college, but then I moved away and now I find myself interacting much more on a one-on-one basis.

  6. Karen A.

    I think group friendships are fantastic. There needs to be a common ground to initially bring the group together, but after that things can be more fluid.

    There is no waiting for everyone to be free for a date. Plan the fun and if they can’t make it, they can join up on the next round. It is nice to have the occasional gathering that everyone in the group identifies as a must make, but other than that, who ever can, can. And by keeping the invitation open, there is no issue with chatting about the activity with others in the group, even if they did not participate.

    One group of ladies I know has claimed the day after Thanksgiving as their day to gather and work on making holiday gifts. They wanted to avoid the malls and shopping and getting together on that date helps them all focus on a more creative gift giving option.

    Life is too short to wait for everyone to have their calendars in sync!

    • I couldn’t agree more. What was great about my school friends is that we could hang out as a group in any variation. There was no combo of two or three of us that didn’t work. So, whoever can make it does, and it’s fun regardless!

  7. pamela

    The characters on Friends didn’t all know each other before they became a group btw.

    Let’s break it down, shall we?

    Monica and Ross are siblings.

    Rachel is Monica’s friend from high school.

    Chandler is Ross’s roommate from college.

    Pheobe is Monica’s roommate from NYC.

    Joey is Chandler’s new roommate by accident.

    So, what have we learned? Not all members of a group have to know each other, they just need to know one person and be introduced to others! Which means there’s hope!

    This also applies to SATC but I’m not as well versed on how they all met. 😀

    • Love this. And that’s exactly what I was thinking! Sometimes it’s not about all meeting in one place… and I think this is true most of the time. The real life adult groups of friends I’ve grilled all say the same thing. “I met so and so because we lived in the same building, and she worked with X, who went to college with Y…” It just takes one person to bring everyone together…

  8. Suzannah

    I love the idea if group friendships…but at 35, I
    have not really seen it….what I have seen is, strings of acquaintances….who have a major part of their lives in commonr…such as church, or children’s sports, just a weekly commitments….situations where you are forced to spend time. The relationships are genuine as long as that common ground is maintained.

  9. Group friendships are certainly possible with the aforementioned common tie that binds, but I agree that it is much more difficult as time passes in life. The one thing I can think of that’s kind of a no-brainer is kids, which isn’t going to work for you right now, Rachel!

    I’ve always kind of maintained the separate friendships while occasionally hosting a quarterly blow-out for everyone to get together since leaving my group of friends in college, but it can feel a bit like a wedding – everyone is there for you and you simply don’t have enough time to catch up with everyone the way you want to!

    Then there’s always the risk of trying to create group friendships then realizing that they went on and became better friends with each other to your exclusion… I don’t take this personally, instead I pat myself on the back a bit for my match-making skills. 🙂

    Finally, I don’t think you can force a group friendship. And I think they’re always evolving over time. Say you all started out as neighbors but then people move away, others divorce, someone has kids, etc.

    No matter what though, please keep trying! You’ll not only find others, like me, grateful to find new friends, but it is also a great way to establish yourself as a great connector and leader, which can only lead to good things in life.

  10. Fanfan

    I think the group presented in SATC is as unrealistic as the amount of shoes Carrie has. Women usually don’t have that many shoes in real life.
    However, it happens, I guess, but not to most people(just like the shoe collection) and you can’t force it. It is good to try thou.

  11. Samantha

    I just finished reading “How to be Single” by Liz Tuccillo (co-author of “He’s just not that into you”). The beginning of the story is just what you’re talking about – how she brought her individual friends together to help one of them through a divorce. They became an unlikely group of friends just because she brought them together in a time of need.
    I don’t recommend you getting a divorce just to get your friends to join forces, of course! But perhaps, some other cause as a reason to bring them together?

  12. Marielle

    I think it’s possible to develop group friendships after college! My group is made up entirely of post-group friends. One suggestion– try creating a monthly supper club! I think this has really cemented my group’s friendship. We’re going on our third year now! Once a month we all meet for dinner at someone’s place. The hostess choices the date (based on everyone’s schedule) and theme, which is where the fun comes in! We’ve had some pretty creative themes. Then everyone’s assigned a dish to bring (we use a year-long matrix, we’re pretty hardcore, haha). It’s SO much fun and really helps everyone get to know one another! Plus it’s something guarantee to look forward to every month. The other thing that has helped my group form our group friendship is organized kickball… try starting a team with your individual friends so everyone can get to know one another better!

    • I love this idea! It reminds me of the make-you-own pizza party I hosted last month. This month we’re doing make-your-own sushi, and I’m hoping we will continue it throughout the year…

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