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?
16 responses to “Remembering Where You Came From”
I always enjoy your blog posts… they make me think about relationships and how/why we establish intimacy.
I have made my closest friends since my divorce at age 43. It was true that during 25-40, I was married and a very busy Mom. I just didn’t spend much time fostering friendships, though I do remember feeling a little lonely and sad that I didn’t have many close friends.
Since my divorce, I have bonded with so many others… many of them older singles who are going through the similar ups and downs of being a single parent. But I also have come to the realization that life is short so I don’t want to take the people in my life for granted. I do have more time to foster friendships.
It’s hard to make time for everyone, but sometimes fewer, more intimate friendships are better. Regardless of age or marital status, I think we all need some BFFs in our lives…
I share some similarities with Yvette. I have just exited the between 25-40 age, a single divorced mom, and I also remember feeling alone and sad without very close friends during the first 10 years of that age group. Around 34 or 35, I started to become more reliant on my friends and time we could spend together for support and fun times.
Each day is like a new page to write upon. It is hard to keep up with everyone all the time, but I wouldn’t want to miss the memory that can be recorded and cherished when the opportunity arises.
I have a group of friends that I’ve had since we were in middle school or longer and we’re all about 27 or 28 now. We send the emails back and forth as well and we try to get together every year around Christmas. Of course sometimes someone just can’t make it but we were all just together in September for a destination wedding so we have had an annual meeting but Christmas is sort of our tradition.
The hardest thing I’ve found since we graduated college is not that husbands or kids (none of us have kids) get in the way it’s that we just can’t get the time off. When we take vacation time, unless we’re taking a vacation together which a few of us have, no one else is off and more than likely we have actual vacation plans. Which is why we try to get together at Christmas but even then if you only get a few days off and some of those days are spent with family it’s hard. A lot harder than when we were all in college and had 3 weeks off every Christmas and no regular jobs.
I already find it difficult and I haven’t even hit 25 yet! Oh dear…
Yes, since about age 25 it’s seemed much more difficult to keep in touch as we have kids (at different times), move to new neighborhoods or cities, find boys, leave boys, etc. But we’re all in the same boat, so as long as we keep the perspective that it’s not that we’re crappy friends, just busy, I think the friendships survive.
I love your idea of the “journal entry” email. I’m about to compose one myself to a couple friends!
And Rachel, I’m still waiting for a blog post on what’s going on with Meredith and Christina’s friendship on Grey’s! 🙂
You are so right! Seriously, what IS going on there? I’m not even totally sure. It deserves some serious analysis….
I’m right in the age group with Yvette and Natalie. I am 44 and a single/divorced mom. When the kids were little and I was a stay at home mom I had a really good network of friends. Now I’m working full time and raising 3 teenagers on my own. I find I really have to work at maintaining any friendships. I put a special emphasis on it for 2010 and some of those relationships have reblossomed.
I absolutely have found from 25-40yrs. the hardest to maintain or establish new friendships…now at 35, I find a good portion of my social interactions are in combo with a must-do obligation..like soccer practice!….
and this understanding has made it difficult for me to reach out to new ladies as friends…I understand people are busy, and I do not to intrude on a already crammed schedule….but I consider myself a busy person…4kids, husband, full-time job, ect….AND I will find the time, so I try to remind myself others might feel the same way.
Suzannah, I totally agree. If both parties are interested, they will find the time. It’s like in He’s Just Not That Into You, where the authors say that “if a (sane) guy really likes you, there ain’t nothing that’s going to get in his way.” The same is true of a potential BFF. I think.
You can totally apply that principle from “He’s Just Not That Into You” to friends, new and old. If you want to see someone, you’ll find a way. Ironically, I was stood up for this movie by a newer friend at the time, which I definitely took as a hint.
The NY Times Sunday Book Review had a review of The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships by Kelly Valen, and I thought of you. The review on it seemed mixed, but it might be worth checking out for a future research Wednesday post? Or just for another opinion? Just a thought!
Thanks Rebecca! I read the review but haven’t checked out the book yet… Looking forward to it, though. Sounds interesting.
I love this post Rachel. This is so true. I have admired your search for new friends always as I feel I often struggle to keep up the great friendships/relationships I already have as life continues to evolve.
I am fortunate to still have many of my best friends close by, but even so there are weeks that go by when I don’t see them.
My friend Jenny from grad school has a great tradition of a weekly email titled: “Weekend Update” ( but often includes a week to multiple weeks worth of info) to all her friends. It’s much like what you described- a mix of a journal entry/update documenting events and emotions both small and big.
It’s written in an extremely personal way, which makes me feel connected to her, even when weeks have gone by without us talking or seeing each other. And of course, its not exactly the type of stuff you post to the world on Facebook.
I feel in so many ways that while Facebook can enhance some of our relationships and keep us connected, it can also dilute our true friendships and strip the lunch dates, emails, and phone calls. Many people are expectant that friends and family are constantly monitoring and aware of our lives via this the expression of ourselves online, but does it lead to fewer one on one sharing of feelings and lives to each other?
I walked into my high school reunion this weekend and one of my oldest friends said” Omg, congrats your boyfriend just moved in with you”– While I was flattered that she knew that( before I even said a word) , I found myself feeling like I would have rather enjoyed the conversation around” What are you doing, where are you living, how’s life” then friendships led by status updates.
I guess its my own doing for writing fewer personal emails and more fb updates for sake of ease.. but it really made me want to work on hearing about and sharing my lives with friends in a more meaningful way.
A few things:
1) I’ve seen your comments on other blogs I read, but have never clicked over until now. Don’t know why.
2) I share your sentiments about needing a BFF, but I’m very insecure about finding one because I’ve never really had one (even as a kid, or in college).
3) I’m totally intimidated by your bio, but I still think I like you.
Okay, that’s all I have the guts to say right now. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.
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