It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Our social connections change as a function of age, typically forming a U shape across the lifespan, [associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence Stephen S.] Hardi says. As kids, we make friends easily because we spend so much time with our peers. Then comes a dip in early adulthood and midlife, when careers, marriage, and kids send us into lockdown. As these obligations ease up in our older years, we become socially active once again.” (“Friends for Life,” Better Homes and Gardens; April, 2011)
I find this life cycle of friendship fascinating.
But also encouraging.
Here we have scientific proof that my difficulty making new local BFFs when I first moved wasn’t because I’m a social leper or totally awkward. It’s because I was, and am, at an age where meeting new people is hard, both because I’m so busy and because my peers are too.
Last summer, my mother wrote about why it’s so important to hold on to your friends during the “lockdown” years. “Girls, don’t let the building of your adult life get in the way of maintaining the friendships you’ve spent so much time and energy developing,” she wrote. “You’ll find that whatever effort it takes—going back to your home town for a wedding or reunion, taking time out of a family visit for lunch or dinner with pals—you’ll be glad you made it. Once you emerge from those years from twenty-five to forty, those long-time friendships will mean the world to you.”
I know that she’s right, but I also like the idea that I’ll be in good shape for new friend making when I’m older. That the hardest part is right now, so if I can get through this, um, decade, I’ll be in great shape.
It’s funny, too, because when I started this search I thought not being a mom was the single thing working working most against me. I figured having a little one would mean Mommy & Me and Gymboree classes that would guarantee my next best friend. I was under the impression that the late-20s, early-30s were prime BFF time, now I know it’s the Empty Nesters who’ve won the friendship jackpot.
Now that I think about this research, I can’t help picturing the movie In Her Shoes (I never read the book), when Cameron Diaz’s Maggie moves into her Grandmother’s retirement home. Suddenly, she’s got a ton of new BFFs—and shopping buddies. I’m not saying that I want to move into a retirement community… but I’m not saying that I don’t.
Sure, age and lifestage influence who you are friends with, but do you think they influence your ability to make friends in the first place? At what age have you found it easiest to make friends? And for those of you in the so-called “older years,” is it true that your social activity has increased as you’ve aged?