Monthly Archives: June 2011

Friends Who Can Travel Together, Stay Together

Over the last few days, I was out of town on a mini-vacation with a friend. Since we both just finished up our jobs, it seemed the perfect time to take advantage of those online deals out there. The trip was fabulous. We were in San Diego, a city neither of us had ever visited but both ended up adoring. (As my pal said, “These are real California hippies!” We loved the surfer-boy vibe.)

One of the best parts of this trip was that my friend and I turned out to be fabulous travel companions. It was our first trip just the two of us, so who knew what could go wrong. I was confident we’d get along great—I wouldn’t have agreed to the trip otherwise—but one can never be sure. Sometimes two people who are a perfect match at home suddenly want to bite each other’s heads off on the road. You know how it is.

But is there  a faster track to friendship than traveling together? I would say no. Sharing a hotel room for three days is enough to a launch a lifelong relationship (or dismantle it).

In our case, all was well. We chatted nonstop and not an hour after we parted—we took separate flights home—were we texting. The trip was so good, in fact, that today I’m exhausted. Isn’t that the universal sign of success?

Have you ever traveled with just one friend? How did it go? Do you think travel is  make-it-or-break-it when it comes to potential BFFships?

9 Comments

Filed under The Search

Do We Need a National Best Friends Day?

Apparently, yesterday was National Best Friends Day.

I have to admit, I find this kind of holiday to be really silly. Not just because it is totally made up. Or because every day should be best friend’s day. But because even though I’m passionate about starting a dialogue concerning the realities of modern-day relationships, there’s a stigma attached to talking about friendship and this  kind of holiday contributes to it.

Here’s what I mean: When I first started working on my book, people would, of course, often ask me what it was about.

“Friendship,” I’d say.

They’d smile politely (or was it condescendingly?) as their eyes glazed over. I knew they were picturing those email forwards with the ridiculous pink fonts and the rhymes about how we should cherish our girlfriends. Or those black and white photo books with pictures of little girls holding hands and leaning their heads on each others shoulders. They figured I was writing some sappy ode to sisterhood, when in fact I was hoping to write a modern, fresh, realistic take on how difficult—and hilariously awkward—it is to make new friends as an adult. I planned to quote scientific research, not just Carole King and Dionne Warwick.

But it seemed no one considered friendship a serious or intelligent topic.

Eventually I amended my response regarding my book’s subject.

“It’s about friendship,” I’d say.”But not in a cheesy way!”

For whatever reason, people don’t take friendship seriously. Even in yesterday’s TodayShow.com blog post about Best Friends Day, reporter Jenna Wolfe wrote: “Today is Best Friends Day and while I’m not 7 (I’m…well… considerably older than that), I still honor and respect the gods of friendship who declared this a national (semi-celebrated) holiday.” I’m a big fan of Wolfe’s, but the fact that she felt the need to say “while I’m not 7” pretty much encapsulates the general public’s attitude toward discussing friendship: It’s for children. It’s juvenile. It’s frivolous.

I’m not sure where this sentiment came from. Quality friendships are one of the most significant contributors to our health. Being socially connected affects everything from our sleep patterns to our financial status. And yet, until quite recently, the study of social networks was virtually nonexistent. People researched group mentality or romantic relationships. But just friendship? Not so much.

We all know that women love and adore their BFFs. That is not new information, and new information—the science, the embarrassment that no ever talks about at having trouble making new pals—that’s what needs attention. So when we create made up holidays like Best Friends Day… I don’t know, but I don’t think it does much to lend credibility to the topic. Instead, it reinforces the idea that it’s a sappy topic for sentimental girls.

Do you agree? Or do I need to lighten up?

2 Comments

Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: To Move or Not To Move

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

“It is estimated that 40 million Americans will be moving this summer.” (“5 Things to Consider Before Moving Away From Your Friends” by Shasta Nelson; Huffington Post, 5/26/2011)

No matter how many reasons people have for moving, friends almost never factor into the picture. “We will move to have an extra bedroom, a bigger kitchen, a cheaper cost of living, a neighborhood with other kids, a better job or more sunshine,” Nelson says. So why not for friends?

I’d argue it’s because we’ve become such a culture of individualism that staying (or moving) somewhere “just” so you can be close to friends is considered weak. Which, of course, is silly since one’s happiness is derived so much more from friendship than it is from owning a big home or living in a nice neighborhood.

Nelson is very specific in her argument that women should seriously consider friendship when contemplating a move. It sounds touchy-feely, sure, but having no local friends will significantly diminish someone’s happiness factor.

This summer, a couple of my new friends are moving. “But we just met, ” I want to say to them. “How could you be leaving so soon??”

I joke all the time that I can never move again. What am I going to do, MWF Seeking BFF: LA Edition? The sequel? No thank you. I’m finding the people I need and I’m staying put. End of story.

But for those 40 mil who are moving this summer–or are considering a potential move in the near future–I’m curious. How much thought did you give your local social network while you were in the planning phases? Any?

12 Comments

Filed under The Search

Getting Even, For a Friend’s Sake

Have you read this Modern Love essay? About a woman whose best friend’s ex decides to take her spin class?  And she plots revenge for his mistreatment of her BFF by subjecting him to a miserable ass-kicking workout?

I love it.

The piece is at once funny and horrifying. It makes you love the writer, and also think she might be a tad nutty. She’s the kind of person I’d want on my side.

The gist of the story is that the writer, a spin teacher, is taken aback when the man who left her best friend shows up to take one of her classes–with his new girlfriend in tow. She decides to silently taunt him during class, making sure he gets the hardest bike and creating a special cheaters playlist on his behalf. It’s funny because the friend and her ex-husband get along ok. But the writer/spinning teacher? She’ll never be ok with him. She’s angry and must get revenge for his betrayal of her BFF.

I’ve always been fascinated with how affected friends get at their pal’s mistreatment. I’ve heard so many women say that they’ve broken up with a guy, and when they got back together–no matter how dramatic or trivial the reason for the initial break–they were able to trust him again, but their best friends couldn’t.

All guys who’ve screwed up, hear this: Winning back an ex is easier than winning back her friends.

An obvious reason for this is that female friends hear the truth about a guy’s bad side during a breakup. Good friends survive a BFF’s split by her side. They listen to a lot of bitching about the ex, or learn all the horrible things he’s done or said. Suddenly he’s not sounding so sweet after all.

There’s likely a second–admittedly more selfish–reason why friends aren’t happy when a BFF gets back with her ex. They don’t want to live through it again. If Sally coached and counseled Jane through a bad breakup, she won’t want to do it more than once. At least, not for the same guy.

Of course, and most importantly, there’s also the fact that a good friend wants to protect her pal. Wrong my BFF and  you’ve wronged me. It seems silly,  sure, but those bonds are what make bestfriendships, after all.

The other day I saw my friend’s very recent ex walking across the street in front of my car. He looked a little out of it, not entirely paying attention to where he was going. It was all I could do not to pound on my horn and scare the living bejeezus out of him. Not for any specific reason. Just to say, ‘you hurt my friend? Well I’ll hurt you.’

I like these protective tendencies. There’s not much better than hearing that your friend will torture a man in spin class for you.

Have you seen this play out in your life? Where the friend is more angry at her BFF’s ex than the BFF herself is? Do you agree that for a guy, winning over an ex is easier than winning over an ex’s friends? Share below!

5 Comments

Filed under The Search

The Friendship Limbo

Today I’ll change things up and kick the week off with a question: What do you do when you know a friendship is drifting apart, but neither party wants to actually end it? Or rekindle it?

I have a friendship in limbo. We don’t live in the same state, so we don’t see each other often. Our relationship has become approximately four months of phone tag to every one semi-awkward conversation.

You know that feeling when it’s been so long since you’ve talked to someone and there’s so much to say that there’s nothing to say? It’s not like you’re going to tell stories about work or what you did over the weekend, because that would require backstory that your friend doesn’t have and you don’t feel like getting into.

So you talk every few months–not because you want to, necessarily, but because you think you should. You’re supposed to. And on those calls you catch up on the basics: Work, family, relationships, kids. Perhaps you quickly catch up on mutual friends. And then someone finds an excuse to get off the phone because neither of you are saying much anyway. And then you think: we haven’t talked in four months and that was our conversation? Are we even friends anymore?

It’s not that either party wronged the other, so you aren’t in a fight. And you’ll see her eventually—mutual friends, remember?—which means you’re not about to initiate some dramatic break up. There’s no cause for one anyway.

So you continue along this path of half-assed phone tag, talking every so often, and wondering after each phone call why you even pretend in the first place.

I feel like this is one of the most uncomfortable stages of friendship, but also a common one. It takes a lot for someone to break up with a friend. We ladies feel so guilty about it that we try to avoid such action under all circumstances. But the infinitely-more-common slink away only feels possible when you know you won’t see her again. Otherwise, it just gets mucho awkwardo when you come to face-to-face and there was no real reason for the drift.

So you ride the friendship wave, right? Is there even another choice? I’m truly curious, because this exact thing happened to me last week. I talked to a lifelong friend on the phone, and it wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, but we just had nothing to say. Our friendship, for all intents and purposes, is over, but neither of us would ever say such a thing.

What would you do? Just keep talking every few months, more out of the respect for the friendship that was than out of actual interest? Or just disengage entirely?

12 Comments

Filed under The Search

New Career Phase. New Friend Phase?

After three and a half years, today is my last day in my office. Emotions are mixed.

Mostly, I am excited. More time to focus on this blog, my upcoming book, and other writing projects coming down the pike. I’m eager to try my hand at working for myself, though recently someone told me that anyone who works from home needs two things–a good agent and a good antidepressant. I’m hoping I’ll be able to establish a daily routine that will keep me from living in my pajamas, not showering, and never experiencing the high of human contact. I’m excited to start fresh. Now seems as good a time as any.

But also, I’m a bit bummed. In the friendship realm, I’m losing one of the most important factors: consistency. I am a steadfast believer that above all else, regularity of interaction is the single most important element in building a best friendship. Work attendance took care of that for me when it came to my office BFFs. Now there’s more effort involved, and not that we’re too lazy to do it but… well, there’s always the fear that we are lazier than we think.

Goodbyes are no fun. Coworker goodbyes are especially no fun as they involve some severe awkwardness on my part. Is this a hug situation? Or a handshake? Or the always-uncomfortable so-long-see-ya-later wave? Yikes. And when you’ve worked cubicles away for more than three years, does that make you friends? Or simply coworkers? How heartfelt do these goodbyes have to get?? What is the protocol?!?

Then there is the fear of the future. The one thing about leaving coworkers, usually, is that you are gaining new ones. As an old colleague of mine once told me, “you may be leaving these crazies, but you’ll get a whole new batch of ’em.” Because yes, there will always be crazy coworkers.

Until there aren’t. Like, for example, if you’re working from home.

So, yes, I’m sad about leaving my current wacky work family, but I’m equally nervous about not having a new one. Will I start talking to my houseplant?

I was about to say “where does one meet people??” until I remembered that this is how this whole search got started.  Before there was a proactive friend-dating quest, there was me, in between jobs, complaining to anyone who would listen about how I was going to be working from home and how, then, would I make pals?

In these moments of change, it’s easy for me to forget everything I’ve learned. That one can meet new friends at every turn, that people are excited to hear from potential pals. The good news is there’s one big difference between now and then: Now I have friends. I’ve got a year full of searching under my belt and the companions to prove it.

So the new challenge extended? Re-up the effort to see the friends I already have. Make sure to interact with a few people everyday. Don’t let myself fall into some ‘I have no friends’ funk I worked so hard to dig out of. And undertake serious networking as the next extension of this quest.

Any advice for this new career phase? Any must-heed advice for an official work-from-homer as of, say, 5 pm?

15 Comments

Filed under The Search

Friendship Dominos

Not to sound all ooh this search is bigger than just me but… I think this search has gotten bigger than just me.

Here’s what I mean. I started this shindig in order to make new friends. I was short a few pals, so I started reaching out to friends of friends, long-lost acquaintances, pretty much anyone who would have me. Eventually I met enough people that I decided the only way to maintain any semblance of consistency with any of them would be to form some sort of group. That way I could see a bunch of pals at once. Enter cooking club. Or any number of instances in which I have introduced my new friends.

As time passed, those friends I introduced became friends with each other. Some of them started making plans completely independent of me, doing their own things, just the two of them. Holding hands on the path to BFFdom. Which means that my decision to go on a BFF search has not only afforded me friends, but it has reached one step further, creating third party friendships.

I don’t do much sitting around thinking about the far-reaching consequences of my random decisions. But today, as I was going for a walk after work (sunshine! thank you!) and thinking about how a few ladies in my cooking club went on a group trip to Bridesmaids last week, or how two of them spent their Memorial Day at a Cubs game, I must admit I got a little self-congratulatory. To think that one day I was driving home from work, internally pep-talking myself into going public with this search (I was so embarrassed!), and because of that car ride two girls who probably never would have met are now close friends?

It’s kind of trippy.

6 Comments

Filed under The Search