Monthly Archives: September 2010

Caution: Objects May Be Lamer Than They Appear

Yesterday was Matt’s birthday. For the next seven months I will be married to an older man. Scandalous.

The search for the just-right card is perhaps the hardest part of any birthday celebration. And because I am a perfectionist only when it comes to the things that don’t really matter, I looked in three different places before picking one out.

During my search I came across a card I’ve seen once before and almost purchased both times. The cover reads: “I’m much more interesting on my blog.”

I haven’t actually bought this card because I can’t figure out the occasion for giving it to someone. Should I buy it as a warning, handing it out to people I meet in this corner of the Internet? We’ll meet for a bite to eat or a drink and before opening my mouth I’ll hand them the card as if to say, “Don’t get your hopes up.”

Or maybe it’s for the aftermath of a bad girl-date. As in, “Sorry we didn’t hit it off. Maybe I’m not who you expected.”

During the months of this search, I’ve met some women with whom I seem to totally click via email. And then when we meet… nothing. It’s as if our cyberselves are a perfect match, but the real life versions not so much.

I’ve never done the online dating thing—Matt and I met before I’d even heard of Match.com—but I imagine you could run into the same issue.

When it comes to modern-day relationships, romantic or not, there’s so much emphasis placed on our online personas. We’re expected to be interesting but not self-important; funny but not trying too hard; friendly but not cheesy; revealing but not to the point of overshare. If you’re not a blogger, than you no doubt have felt the pressure on Facebook or Twitter or even Evite. I recently decided to reject all the pressure to be witty when RSVPing to an online invitation, and now I just click “yes” or “no.” I was literally spending full minutes at my computer screen trying to think of the perfect quip. I had to throw in the towel.

When it comes to online representations of ourselves, we have all the time in the world to craft the perfect profile. But if the fabulous person you’ve described isn’t you, then it’s a big fail.

Another blogger recently wrote about people who were disappointed in meeting the real her after reading her blog. How unnerving to think that who we actually are might not live up to the hype.

Have you ever met someone online—dating website, facebook, or just via email—who seemed totally different when you met in person? Have you ever felt the pressure to be “on” online? Do you every worry you’re more more interesting online than in real life?

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships, The Search

Things Are Getting Official

I’m not saying we’re changing the world here, people. But we might be changing the world.

Just last Thursday, we discussed the lack of friendship vocabulary. In the comments, one of you made a call for “proper terminology that will inevitably be added to Webster.”

And then, the very next day and as if in direct response, the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary announced they added some new words and phrases. Topping the list?  BFF.

BFF n. (pl. BFFs) informal a girl’s best friend: my BFF’s boyfriend is cheating on her.
— ORIGIN 1996: from the initial letters of best friend forever.

Oxford says BFFs are female specific. But they also included a male version.

Bromance n. informal a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.
— ORIGIN early 21st cent.: blend of brother and romance

And how about this vital addition?

Frenemy n. (pl. Frenemies) informal a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.
— ORIGIN 1950s; blend of friend and enemy

Unfortunately they didn’t use any of these prime examples of classic frenemy quotes.

What have we learned? Ask and you shall receive. Now that we have the attention of the good folks at Oxford, I’d like to propose a few other words and phrases to be included in the next round.

Frenvy n. A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by a friend’s possessions or by the close relationship between a friend and someone else.
—ORIGIN 2010; blend of friend and envy

Girl Crush n. An intense but platonic infatuation that one heterosexual woman feels for another woman whom she admires or with whom she would like to be friends.
— ORIGIN 2005, The New York Times

Girl Date n. The initial meeting of two potential female friends.
— ORIGIN 2010

PBFF n. informal A person who one doesn’t know very well, but who one believes has the potential to be her best friend forever.
— ORIGIN 2010: from the initial letters of potential best friend forever.

What am I missing? Any other friend-related words you’d like formally recognized?  Speak now, Oxford may be listening.

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships

What Cost Love?

I’m breaking my own rule here, but this new research couldn’t wait until Wednesday. It’s too fascinating.

Think true love is priceless? Think again. According to Oxford University researchers, led by Robin Dunbar (the anthropologist behind the 150-person max social network), the cost of a romantic relationship is exactly two friendships.

According to the study, the average person has an inner core of five friends (the people we see at least once a week, the ones we count on in a crisis), but as a new romance grows, those numbers change. “People who are in romantic relationships, instead of having the typical five [individuals] on average, they only have four in that circle,” Dunbar told the BBC. “And bearing in mind that one of those is the new person that’s come into your life, it means you’ve had to give up two others.”

When I cited this to a colleague yesterday she seemed unsurprised. She lost a friend when she started dating her husband, she said, because that friend had just gotten out of a relationship and was bitter that anyone else was happy and in love.

Friendships end, or diminish, for various reasons when it comes to romance. Maybe your BFF doesn’t like your significant other (or vice versa). Or maybe she doesn’t want to hang out because she hates feeling like the third wheel.

Researchers chalk the lost friendships up to time constraints. When you’re dedicating a chunk of your schedule to romance, girl-time gets whittled down. And as soon as you stop seeing friends consistently, “emotional engagement starts to drop off, and quickly.”

Now that we’re aware of this friend-for-romance tradeoff, we should probably do something about it.

If you’re in a romantic relationship, remind yourself of the importance of platonic ones. They’re meaningful especially when you’re in love. Nothing kills passion like talking to your man about the TMI stuff. He doesn’t want to hear about bodily functions, or how your butt looks in those jeans, or your 800th analysis of the conversation with your mom last week. That’s what BFFs are for.

Have you lost friendships due to romance? What should people do to avoid this relationship evil? Is it possible to maintain close friendships and a quality romantic relationship, or should we just accept we can’t have it all?

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Filed under The Search

I’m Fluent in Friendship

A few weeks ago I attended a speed-friending event hosted by GirlfriendCircles.com. It was surprisingly fun. Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked—I signed up didn’t I?—but just the word “speed-friending” (or is that two words?) sounds awkward, right? I thought so at least.

It turned out to be great. One of the most interesting parts of the evening was listening to GFC CEO Shasta Nelson—a former pastor and life coach, and thus a practiced and engaging public speaker—expound on the importance of friendship. Not just why we need it, but how we can create it, and what just doesn’t count. (“If you meet someone tonight, and then never talk to her again, that is not a friend.”) One thing that really stuck with me—and I’ve heard Shasta say this before—is that there’s no vocabulary for making new friends. There are no platonic words for flirting, picking someone up, having a girl-crush.

When I talk about my search, I have no doubt that an outsider would think I was ranting about a romantic relationship. My sheer excitement about a great new prospect, the references to “going on a date” and “picking a girl up”? The vocab screams lovers. Never mind the fact that in my home, date has become a totally platonic term.

“What are you doing tonight?” Matt says.

“I’ve got a date,” I say.

“Cool.”

The latest romantic term I’ve brought into my friending is “the honeymoon stage.” You know that point with a new friendship when you’re so excited about this person, you think she could be your new best friend forever, and every time she reaches out, you get all giddy? I’ve had that with some friends for sure. I’ll get a text and immediately shove my iPhone under Matt’s nose so he can read it himself. It’s the part of female friendship before you’re too aware of the other person’s flaws, and if you are aware they don’t bother you. They’re just “quirky.”

Recently, I was writing about a new friendship. No matter how I pieced the words together, it sounded like I was pursuing a budding romance. And while that can be funny, in this instance it was just frustrating. I could think only of Shasta, wishing there was a fix to this lexicon dilemma.

We could change the dialogue right here and now. If someone has insight into the language of friendship, I’m all ears. Is there a less misleading way to say “I asked out a girl I’ve had a crush on—we’ve been flirting for months—and now we’re going on a date?” See, just writing that feels awkward.

Mostly, I just want to understand. Why are there no platonic words for creating a new—and vital!—relationship?

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Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: Paging Emily Post…

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

“According to [a new AOL study] more than half of children surveyed (54%) don’t personally know all the friends accepted into their social network.” (“AOL Launches New SAFE SOCIAL for Parents with Social Networking Teens” 8/24/2010)

There’s a new set of etiquette when it comes to friendship in the 21st century. Knowing not to hook up with your BFF’s ex, or that friends don’t let friends drunk dial, isn’t enough. You must also know that a friend who tags you in an unflattering photo is no friend at all.

I’m still navigating the world of social network protocol. Here are my most pressing dilemmas:

1) Should I accept friend requests from people I’ve never met? The answer to this question should be no (hello, Internet predators), and yet I have a good handful of these phantom friends in my newsfeed. You never know who could be The BFF, so I err on the side of “confirm.” The fact that teenagers accept strangers is entirely scary, but as an adult it’s less an issue of getting bullied by fake accounts and more just a general “how much am I willing to put out there” debate.

2) What if I want to unfriend someone? It’s a sticky situation, one so common that “unfriend” was named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year. Real-life friend breakups come with all sorts of guilt, and Facebook has added a whole new element. The reasons for unfriending must be serious—you’re cutting this person off from all information about you—and yet the act of unfriending itself is pretty passive. A simple click of a button. “This absence of body language, and the single click immediacy of online sharing has created problems that have no ready parallel offline,” wrote Austin Considine in a recent piece in The New York Times.

3) How soon is too soon to friend someone? Today I got a request from a new friend, one with whom I’ve gone on two friend-dates, with this message: “How many friend dates before we can be Facebook friends?” I love that she called out the awkwardness of this protocol. Clearly I accepted. But I’ve had girl-date situations in which the potential BFF has friended me after we’ve scheduled the plan, but before it’s taken place. Meaning we’ve met over email but not face-to-face. I think that’s too soon. I wait to send the request (or not) until after we’ve hit it off (or not). But if the soon-to-be friend requests me? I always accept, despite sometimes wavering.

It seems worthwhile to mention here (last time, I swear!) that this blog now has a Facebook page. So if you’re a fan of the blog, perhaps you want to become fan of the page? So I can see your pretty face? Why thank you!

The jury is still out on these Facebook conundrums. Do you accept strangers? How do you defriend? And when is the appropriate time to send a friend request? Weigh in!

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships, The Hard Facts

At Least It’s Not The Skulls…

When you’re on a hunt for a new best friend, one of the key moves is to sign up for various activities. I wouldn’t say every activity—some perfectly glorious events just don’t lend themselves to socializing—but you’d be surprised how many different organizations base their entire evenings around ending up at a bar for a bonding session. Since January, I’ve signed up for mixer events ranging from straight mingling to volunteering to theater to running. This fall I’ll do my first religion-and-socializing group.

One of the most fascinating aspects of infiltrating all these worlds has been to see how passionate a subsociety exists within each one. They’re like fraternities with a twist. Special languages, internal politics, even their own forms of hazing. I kid you not.

Take last night. A new friend invited me to join her for a Hash House Harriers run in Chicago. I had no idea what I was getting into. Because I didn’t have time to do my own research, I said yes before I really knew what I was saying yes to. All I knew was that hashers (as they’re called) are self-proclaimed “drinkers with a running problem.” I took this to mean that there would be some running, and then later there’d be some drinking. Turns out the drinking—and socializing—happened before, during and after the run. Other things I didn’t know till I showed up: Everyone goes by a code name—my run included Bubbles, Corn Star, Horny, and Rumpspringa; there is a song—usually a dirty one—for every occasion, and there’s an entire hashing vocabulary, one that would take me six months, at the very least, to master.

Similar insider knowledge—vocab, politics, inter-org relationships—has emerged in other activities. At lunch after my One Brick outing, I listened in on a conversation about who got to be EM and EC, and who wanted the positions but were rejected (EC is event coordinator and EM is event manager, though none of the insiders used the full titles). Improv, which is definitely growing on me, comes with its own set of VIPs. And when I went to showtunes night at a gay bar last Sunday (totally my mother ship calling me home), I felt like an outsider since I wasn’t in on the call and response for each song.

There’s something fascinating—and reassuring—to the concept that no matter what you like to do, there is almost certainly a community out there dedicated to it. And that in each community there are die-hards, occasional members, and the people who fall everywhere in between.

In one sense these cultish subcultures are reminiscent of the college greek system. They include secret society hooplah that you must know in order to feel a part of the group. The non-sorority aspect of it though is that anyone can join. You don’t have to rush or be chosen. If you want to run around town with the Hash House Harriers (any town! It’s worldwide), you’ll be welcomed with open arms. They love Hash virgins. Believe me, I now know this to be true.

Inside jokes and knowledge, when you know them, are the fastest track to feeling included. Over these months I’ve learned that the organizations with all these “secrets” are almost always the same ones that people are most passionate about. Participants who are fluent in hashing, say, are super comfortable at the event. Then there’s me, the random girl in the corner who only understands every third word. But the more you feel a part of a society, the more loyalty you feel toward it. And suddenly you’re going back every week, and you have to fend of the potential BFFs with a stick.

Have you witnessed other subcultures—speechmaking, yoga, rollerblading—that have a subsociety of dedicated members? Were you put off by them, or were you eager to join in? I feel like these communities, once you find one you like and immerse yourself, make the BFF search easier by giving a sense of belonging. Do you agree or am I crazy?

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Filed under The Search

When Worlds Collide

First things first. Last week marked six months of this blog. As a bit of recognition of this half-birthday, MWF Seeking BFF now has a Facebook page. You can “like” the page for blog updates, discussions, or just to be friendly. Like it by clicking here, or on the little Facebook button on the right. Thanks! I really appreciate it.

One of the things that blows my mind when it comes to Facebook is when two people I know in entirely different contexts—one from camp, say, and another from a work project—are somehow connected. Maybe I’ll notice them in a photo together, or one will comment on the other’s wall. I can think of three times in the last month that this has happened. Every time my first reaction is “Whaaaaa???”

It’s always funny when worlds collide. I think of the different phases of my life—elementary and middle school, high school, college, camp, work—as totally separate. When they start to mix, however it is that they might meet, my mind gets all boggled. But why? If I get along with all these people, it stands to reason that they might hit it off with each other.

This happens most at weddings. The happy couple’s different worlds collect in one place, and you just never know the connections that might emerge. This weekend, on my way back to the hotel after Callie’s wedding, one of her friends from college turned to me and said “There are so many worlds colliding right now my head is about to explode!”

There are two schools of thoughts on world collision. Some people are psyched, because suddenly all the friends and family they want to spend time with are friends themselves. You get two-for-one playdates. You are a connector.

Other people feel like this:

(Click through for the short video if you’re reading in an email or a feed.)

Which one are you?

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Filed under 21st Century Friendships, Everything I Know I Learned on TV