Over the weekend I read a recent friendship best-seller, The Girls From Ames. It’s basically a biography of a forty-year friendship between 11 girls—who became 10 women—who’ve been besties since growing up together in Iowa. Every year, the ladies get together for a reunion, and the story of the book is anchored in their 2007 gathering.
The Ames girls reminded me of my group of friends from college. Granted we were 18, rather than 8, when we met. But we have a similarly tight knit gang, one that stays in touch collectively via “reply all” emails and annual reunion weekends.
Although, with a group of eight girls who are busy with burgeoning careers and relationships, keeping in touch as a group can be difficult. People forget to write back, or the annual reunion becomes bi-annual, and even then some can’t make it. According to author Jeffrey Zaslow, “When women are between the ages of twenty-five and forty, their friendships are most at risk, because those are the years when women are often consumed with marrying, raising children, and establishing careers.” (You might remember this bit of research from my mother’s oh-so-wise guest post.)
When I first moved to Chicago, I tried to call one(ish) friend a day. I had the time for that, considering my friendships locally were so few. Now that I’m constantly running from one outing to the next, it’s impossible to keep that phone schedule.
Inspired by the Ames girls, I wrote my college friends a group email yesterday morning. These days, when we email everyone at once, it’s usually to say, “Did you see his wedding announcement?” or “Did you see her baby pics on Facebook?” The notes are rarely the life updates we sent out until we were, um, 25.
The email I wrote was part life update, part journal entry. I’ve never kept a diary. Writing to friends I trust completely is the closest thing I’ve got. So, just as a diary entry might, my email covered everything from visiting my father’s gravesite over Thanksgiving to wearing my bright purple sunglasses at the Northwestern football game. Both utterly important topics.
My hope is that we’ll at least continue our “reply all” emails and reunions—even if they are few and far between—for the next twelve years, until our friendship is out of the danger zone. At which point, who knows where we’ll be.
Putting the gist of my life on (virtual) paper was cathartic, and receiving messages of support in return was a treat. And hearing my friends’ updates—stories of new boys and new jobs and career confusions and disappointments—reminded me why I conducted this search in the first place. Because let’s-grab-lunch friends eventually become let’s-talk-life friends. Both quite nourishing in their own way.
Have you found/did you find that the 25-40 years are/were the hardest for maintaining friendships?