As I mentioned earlier this week, I read Jeffrey Zaslow’s The Girls From Ames over Thanksgiving. The book, about the forty-year friendship between a group of women, gave me interesting insight into my search. Specifically, it made me think about how no one I meet today—even if we have that magic friend-love-at-first-sight click—will have known me my whole life. Sounds obvious, but there are implications of this that I’m just now realizing.
Much of my search has been about trying to recapture the relationships of my youth. How many times have I compared my would-be-BFFship to the likes of The Babysitter’s Club or Blossom? But reestablishing that spirit might be hard to do with people who didn’t know me way back when.
A friend of mine works for the company that published The Girls From Ames. After finishing the book, I wrote her a note elaborating on my lightbulb moment. “It’s clear that what informs the girls’ friendship is the fact that they’ve known each other since they were kids,” I wrote. “It made me think of my own story. No one I meet this year will have known me before Matt was in my life, or when my father was alive. That in itself will be an obstacle to forging a best friendship like the ones I had when I was, say, 16.”
My friend, who wrote with the caveat that she was feeling especially introspective after having just attended her 10-year high school reunion, had a different perspective.
“Sometimes when I see people from high school I feel trapped in the persona I maintained then,” she wrote. “Ten years have gone by, and I’ve changed a tremendous amount—both emotionally and in circumstance. So while my oldest relationships are incredibly dear, and it’s true that they know me so intimately, it can be freeing to have relationships built on exactly who you are at this moment. As you ease into these new relationships, you start working backwards and putting the pieces together from former lives that you both had. If it’s a good match, you’ll find that it wasn’t actually necessary for you to have shared all those experiences. Some of the friendships I’ve found as an adult are far more rewarding than those forged out of the convenience of adolescence. It’s funny, when I read TGFA, I felt like I was at a disadvantage not having what they have. These days I’m feeling differently.”
(Aren’t my friends wise?)
Both viewpoints are valid, and there’s certainly a place in our lives for both types of friendships. But I’m still wondering, is the fact that you can’t make a new old friend going to hurt my search? Perhaps I need to redefine what I’m looking for.
When you hear about groups of friends who’ve been together for decades like the Ames girls, do you feel a pang of jealousy if you didn’t have that? Or do you breathe a sigh of relief?