Monthly Archives: June 2011

Friend Dates Gone Wrong

I’m always ranting on this blog about how wonderful and productive friend-searching is. How people are more open to friendly advances then we think, or how the hardest part is making the first move, or how swimmingly a girl-date went.

By now, you probably want to hear about the bad stuff, right? The awkward, kill-me-now, what-am-I-ever-going-to-say-to-make-this-meal-go-faster crap dates?

Because let me be clear: I’ve had them.

Like the time we had so little to say to each other that I actually heard those movie crickets chirping. Over email we seemed like a good fit, so I don’t know what happened. You know how technology can be tricky? Someone who’s all friendly and clever over email can be quiet and shy in real life? In this particular case, it wasn’t that. There was no shyness on anyone’s part,  in person or over email. Instead it was just that sense of being totally out of sync. Have you ever told a joke—a forced, trying-to-fill-the-silence type joke—and noticed that you are very clearly the only one laughing? Yup. That was me. The pattern of the dinner went something like this: her angry rant, my trying-too-hard joke, awkward silence, repeat.

Fun stuff!

Then there was the time that I wasn’t sure if my friend-date was going to end in a hug. There’s that moment in a first date (the romantic kind) when you can’t quite tell if someone is leaning in for the kiss, and you have that awkward  head bobbing interaction. Picture the friend-date version of that. Yup. My solution, obviously, was to just go ahead and make the announcement. “I’m going to hug you now.” In the words of Modern Family‘s sagely Cam: “You know how awkward I get when things get awkward.”

I met one girl who hated Chicago, and spent the entire meal telling me why she was a real New Yorker. Awesome.

There were also the bad non-dates, the ladies who never even made it to first friend-date status because they weren’t so into my “lets get together” suggestion. Like the woman I met during my yoga cleanse who, when I suggested that, “maybe you guys would want to grab lunch after our next class,” actually just gave me a blank stare. A silent one. And then turned back to her friend. (I swear! This happened!) Or the woman who blatantly stood me up. I waited the requisite 30 minutes at our agreed upon meeting place, and when she was a no-show (no call, email, text, nothing!), I had to actually say to the waiter who’d been waiting to take my order, “I guess I’ve been stood up. I’ll just take the check.” I was a total rom-com cliche.

If you go on some 52 dates in year, and then some, you’re bound to have a few duds. All that stuff about what doesn’t kill you and all…

Have you ever had a friend-date gone bad? Share below!

 

 

 

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The Best Friendship Chain of Events

“I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

It’s one of my oft-uttered lines about new friends. I’ve said it to Matt when he’s encouraged me to ask a coworker out to a last-minute brunch on a Saturday morning. I’ve repeated it to my mom when she’s suggested I call a new friend on a quiet Friday night. I’ve thought it to myself when I’ve wanted to text someone about my four jars of pickles or call her to vent about a bad day. In each of those cases I’ve held back because I didn’t think my new friends and I were “there yet.”

For a long time I’ve maintained that I had to wait until I had a BFF in order to cry on her shoulder, call at the last minute, ask for a ride to the airport. But I’m starting to think I got the order wrong.

If I wait until someone local is my best friend forever before making that just-to-say-hi call, I might not be dialing for a good long while. I still remember being a freshman in high school when Callie, then just a friendly acquaintance, walked up to me in the hallway and declared “I’m going to call you tonight.” She did, we talked for hours (or maybe 30 minutes, but in my memory it was hours), and were BFF ever after. The call came first, the bestfriendship followed.

The lesson here: It’s not the relationship that warrants the call. It’s the call that establishes the relationship.

Likewise, I’ve always thought that someone needs to be my best friend before I would bother her with my tears after a bad day. Now I feel like it’s that kind of sobfest that would earn someone BFF status. In those moments—the phone call, the tears—you’re communicating that you trust this person, that you count on them and that they can do the same.

It dawned on me this weekend, when I was trying to think of someone I could ask to join me for a night out. I had Saturday night plans to go to a party where I wouldn’t know anyone. I mentioned it to a faraway friend, explaining that if this were NYC I would ask one of my BFFs to accompany me just to be nice. But here in Chicago? I didn’t feel like I could ask anyone to sacrifice their evening to come with me to a random party, just as a favor. That’s the kind of thing you request of a best friend. And then it dawned on me: I could have asked someone. I have new friends who may not be BFFs (yet!) but they are the type who are always up for something new and fun. And a party night out, just the two of us, could have been the perfect platform to elevate the friendship to BFFness.

So I had a lightbulb moment. I could wait (maybe forever) for someone to magically become my BFF, or I could do what was necessary to turn someone into my BFF. Instead of saying “we’re not there yet” about a friend, I could just, you know, get us there.

Somebody’s got to.

Do you ever do that? Avoid reaching out to someone because you think your friendship hasn’t reached “that level”? And has “that level” ever been reached without one of you making the first move? Telling a secret or making a phone call? Do you agree that the only way to get “there” is to make it happen ?

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The Plus Side of Stalking

What’s funny—or is it scary?—about technology is that even if you break up with someone (platonically or romantically), you can keep an eye on them. You may not speak, but with a little Twitter-Facebook-LinkedIn-GoodReads-Blogging reconnaissance, you can put the pieces of someone’s life together without ever contacting her.

Even funnier, though, is how we’re increasingly able to to figure out just who is checking us out online. An example: Two days ago, a brand-new blogger told me about a girl with whom she’d had a falling out. The circumstances of the falling out are irrelevant, but the two hadn’t spoken in some time. The blogger told me she’d been surprised that her old friend hadn’t reached out at all. She’d been going through an especially hard time and was hurt that the ex-friend didn’t seem to care. Until the blogger started analyzing her blog stats. Google Analytics and the like can often tell you exactly where on the map your clicks come from. Suddenly Blogger could tell that her so-called ex-friend was checking up on her multiple times a day. Via the blog.

Reading someone’s blog is no substitute for reaching out in person, obviously. But for this blogger, knowing that her friend was at least curious, it made her feel a bit better. Like the friend hadn’t completely stopped caring.

This happened once at my old job, too. A coworker would blog during the workday and, in turn, we would read her posts from our cubicles. Until one afternoon she Tweeted something about how fascinating it was to see that her coworkers were stalking her blog rather than doing their work.

Um, weren’t you the one blogging during work in the first place?

And back in the days of Friendster (anyone else out there have a page?) you could always check out who was viewing your page. More fascinating than stalking, let me tell you, is figuring out who is stalking you.

I bring this all up to say, these days, a relationship is never really over. You may not speak, but it’s entirely possible that you keep up in other, quieter, ways. It can be both a relief and a terror, depending on who you’re dealing with. But often even your online stalking isn’t secret. The object of your interest could know you’re checking in.

This is mostly nerve-wracking. If my old college classmate that I was hardly friends with knew how often I check out her yoga photos (seriously, she is a Bikram teacher and does some serious contorting), I’d be genuinely embarrassed. But I do think there’s something a bit reassuring as well, at least when it comes to friend-breakups. So often when we breakup with a friend there are lingering, loaded feelings and loyalties that don’t go away. We want to be able to check in on each other, and there are ways to do that. And to know we’re being checked in on.

It’s at once completely comforting and totally creepy. Huh.

What do you think? Ever caught an ex-friend checking up on you online? Do you appreciate technology for it’s ability for you to keep an eye on ex-BFFs?

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Those Three Little Words

If finding a friend is the platonic version of dating, than declaring BFFship is like saying those three little words.

I’ve often wondered what I’ll do if and when I find The One. Or, even, The Ones. Is there a not-awkward way of telling someone that she’s your BFF?

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a reader with this same question. It read: “At what point do you tell someone that you consider them a BFF (or the BFF)?  What signs do you look for that indicate it’s the right time?  Do you wait for it to come up in conversation, or do you make a point to talk about it?  And what do you do if something heartbreaking happens:  you tell them they’re your BFF and instead of them saying ‘Oh, I feel the same way too!’ they just smile sweetly and say something horrifying like ‘Oh, thank you!'”

Perhaps, at this point, you are chuckling in your head at how date-y this seems. These are, clearly, the same concerns when we want to tell a romantic partner that we’re in love. But let me be clear—this reader is not alone. I’ve been wondering the same thing and, in fact, her timing was impeccable. It seemed as if she might have been reading my mind.

Reader went on to tell me about her relationship with a new pal. “I really want to tell this ‘close local’ friend that I consider her a BFF, but I feel awkward doing so because [I know she has other local best friends].  I’m pretty sure she would say she considers me a BFF too, but there’s a chance she won’t.  I tend to wear my heart of my sleeve, so NOT telling her she’s a BFF is quite painful for me.”

I’m the same way. You know how when you’re in love you want to shout it from the rooftops? That’s how I feel about new friends. As our relationships evolve, it’s all I can do not to give my friends a Best Friends Forever card. Or necklace. On top of that—and I’m totally serious here—when we go out and get drinks, if I get buzzed enough I get that giggly “I want to tell you how much you mean to me” bug that plenty of us get when we’re out with a boyfriend. Anyone who’s made a slightly drunk profession of love knows this is not the best idea.

As I told this reader in an email, most of my potential best friends in Chicago already have a best friend of their own. So announcing that they hold the title could be end up, well, with a “thank you.” (Like Emily to Ross!) Yikes.

The good news is that this isn’t romantic dating. Declaring BFFship isn’t a necessity in taking a relationship to the next level. No one (well, except me and this reader, apparently) is waiting for those three little words:”You’re my BFF.” So saying it isn’t a necessity. You don’t have to wait until the time is right. My advice, to her and to myself, was to wait it out. Making a pronouncement could be awkward, but letting it come up naturally in conversation—in a joke, or a fun toast—is, in the words of another Friend, Monica, breezy.

If you’re in a friendship that’s working for you, the rational answer to this reader question is that the label shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you are the official BFF or not, you’re still getting the same social satisfaction. Of course, my rational side doesn’t always win. Whose does?

So, what do you think? When is the right time to tell her you love her she’s your BFF?

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The Hard Facts: How Close is Close Enough?

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

“When a friend who lives less than a mile away becomes happy, it can increase the probability that you are happy by 25 percent. In contrast, the happiness of a friend who lives more than a mile away has no effect.” (Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler)

Yesterday’s blog post was another ode to consistency. But, as we know, proximity is another vital factor for friendship. The closer you live to someone, the better shot you have of hitting it off. Research shows that having similar addresses matters more than having similar values or interests.  Sometimes, a difference of mere feet can affect who you click with. The person you sit next to in class has a much better likelihood of becoming your best friend than the  student four seats down.

But what are the parameters? How close is close enough? Reader Marie inquired about as much in a comment yesterday: “I am wondering how close you need to live to a friend (or group of friends) to stay actively involved in their lives and not fall into a distant relationship? Obviously across the country is a distant friendship. But what about across the state? Or across a metropolitan city? That could be an hour away. How close do your friends need to be before your friendship starts fading due to the distance? Is a friendship that is 10 minutes away more likely to continue than one 30 minutes away?”

This is such a good question, and it’s actually one I put in my book proposal back in the day. Would someone I liked just-enough but lived in my neighborhood be a more likely BFF than someone I totally clicked with but lived across town?  I tend to think the mile-marker is a pretty good barometer. Someone who lives within a mile of you probably will have the most influence, not just on your happiness (as referenced above) but also on your loneliness level. Once a friend lives more than a mile away, it becomes tougher to see them on a whim or meet for a quick lunch.

When I first started this blog I heard from a potential friend who lived in Illinois, but still about an hour away from me. We discussed getting together, but ultimately it didn’t work out. The main reason? Distance. Once it takes an hour to see someone across the state, it’s not much more difficult (though certainly more expensive) to fly across the country. I think the ability to get a spontaneous Sunday morning brunch is the key to close friendship. Even if you never actually get that last-minute meal, knowing that you can actually helps a friendship thrive.

To answer Marie’s questions, I sort of think that, yes, a friendship might start to fade if a BFF moves from 10 minutes away to 30 minutes away. It’s not that you won’t be best friends anymore, but I think that sense of immediacy and closeness that you get from a nearby pal might wane a bit. I would posit that a 10-minute-away friendship is more likely to thrive than a half-hour-away one.

Basically, every little bit counts. 10 minutes is better than 30, but 30 is better than an hour. It might sound formulaic, but I think it’s just reality.

So, my take—with a little help from Christakis and Fowler—is that a mile is the magic distance. Just the simple fact that your happy friend is within a mile of you is probably what’s making you 25 percent happier, anyway.
What do you think? Do you have a friendship distance hypothesis? Think my one-mile rule is too limiting?

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Putting the B in BFF

I’ve been at this search for approximately 18 months now. I’ve made a lot—a lot!—of friends. GFFs. Good friends forever.

The question, now, is how to turn some of those GFFs  into BFFs. Best friends forever.

I’ve often said on this blog that consistency is  key. The more you see someone, the better chance you have of turning them into a best friend. But consistency is really hard. Yes, I have book club friends and cooking club friends, but I usually only see them once a month. It’s consistent, but not consistent enough. It’s sufficient for turning an acquaintance into a friend, but not enough to turn a friend into a bestie.

The other problem with consistency is that people are really busy. Especially during the summer. Sure, I have friends with whom I attend Saturday morning dance class, but when summer hits it becomes only bi-weekly, or monthly, because between the three of us someone is on vacation or at a wedding almost every weekend. People, including myself, have hectic schedules. It becomes impossible to keep a standing date. Life gets in the way.

If I can’t count on consistency, I can at least shoot for often, right? Maybe I can’t see my new friends every Tuesday like clockwork, but hanging out whenever possible should be the next best thing. The problem, of course, is that I’ve made so many wonderful friends that I want to see everyone as much as possible. As you might imagine—and as I’ve spoken about—that gets tricky.

Let me be clear: I’m not complaining. A girl could do a lot worse than to have made a city full of GFFs, and I’m in no way implying that I have too many friends (like that could even be a problem). I’m just recognizing, again, what this blog is about: It’s really hard to make a new best friend. Those of you who read this blog and think,’wow, she makes it look easy,’ know that it’s not. Not at all.

The more I work on this search, the more I believe that friendship, like everything in life, is about timing. You can do all the right things—accept and extend invitations, follow up, join, and be persistent—and still things could backfire if your timing isn’t right. If she’s busy planning her wedding or you have vacations planned all summer, the BFFship probably won’ happen. Not because you’re a bad fit but because the timing makes no sense.

All this to say, making a new best friend is hard. Even I’m still seeking advice, and I’ve been at it for a good long while. Got any?

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Friendship Fanfare

As a BFF, do weddings make you feel rejected?

That’s the question posed in yesterday’s Boston Globe magazine, in one of those articles that made me think, “Whoa there, how did this writer get insidemy brain?” It’s the kind of piece that made me want to send the author a note just to say “Yes! I think so too!” (In fact, I think I’ll do just that as soon as I’m done writing this blog.)

In the column, entitled “A Bridesmaid’s Lament,” author Carrie English writes: “Surely I can’t be the only person who feels like weddings are a bit of a rejection – two people announcing in public that they love each other more than they love you.”

Truth be told, I haven’t actually had that thought. (And you know I’d tell you if I had.) Perhaps that’s because when my BFF got married, we already lived states away from one another. Distance was a harder strain on our bestfriendship than her marriage would ever be. And, unlike English, I am a big believer that it’s having kids–not marriage–that alters your BFFship for eternity.

That said, I enjoyed this bit so much I want to share it: “There’s no denying that weddings change friendships forever. Priorities have been declared in public. She’ll be there for him in sickness and in health, till death do they part. She’ll be there for you on your birthday or when he has to work late.”

Maybe it’s because every woman I know lives with her husband before she gets married, but I haven’t found that nuptials have changed any of my friendships. Coupling off certainly has, but these days marriage itself doesn’t seem to alter much in the way of behavior. My friends who were independent before are still independent now, and my friends who clung to their boyfriends and refused to go out solo, well, they’re still being ridiculous.

But the part that made me scream “yes! exactly!” (if only internally) was this: “However much our society might pay lip service to friendship, the fact remains that the only love it considers important – important enough to merit a huge public celebration – is romantic love. This despite the fact that platonic love is the only love that’s truly unconditional.” English goes on to explain just how that unconditional friendship love is expressed. (It’s funny in its accuracy. Trust me. Read it.)

I know that I just wrote an entire post about why I think National Best Friends Day is bunk, and perhaps this whole “we should celebrate friendship” sentiment sounds like a contradiction to that. It’s not. I too feel that the only unconditional relationship that’s truly celebrated is romantic love. I support the argument that friendship deserves its due. It’s just that I think our way of celebrating friendship, of acknowledging its importance, should be to take it seriously and respect it as a social science, not just create a silly Hallmark holiday.

In the end of her piece, English encourages readers to go out and have an anniversary party with their friends. A friend-wedding, if you will.

It sounds so sentimental. And yet, every summer my mind wanders back to the first time I met my BFF Sara. We are coming up on our 19th anniversary and I can thinkoif nothing I’d rather do than drink champagne and bake a cake (well, Sara can bake the cake, that’s her domain. I’ll eat it) and celebrate each other for surviving what many marriages don’t–almost two decades together.

Do you agree with English’s contention that platonic love is the only true unconditional love? Does it deserve some fanfare? And have you ever felt that sense of rejection when a BFF got married?

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