Monthly Archives: October 2011

I’m Living The Dream!

Yesterday I had a 4 pm appointment that got canceled at 3:10. Suddenly the afternoon was all mine, and I wanted to do something that didn’t involve sitting in my apartment alone.

At 3:42 I texted a friend from book club. “Watcha up to? Any interest in a spontaneous trip to Footloose?”

Minutes later she responded: “I can totally be talked into Footloose! Much better than cleaning.”

At 5:05 we met at the theatre.

When I told Matt the news that I’d made last minute plans with a friend (one I’d met due to this quest), he actually raised his hands to the heavens (Footloose has put preachers on the brain) and yelled “The quest is working!”

Pretty confident he was teasing me, but whatever. It’s true.

If the purpose of this search was to find friends for a last minute brunch–or, in this case, movie–I’ve done it. I made the last-minute plan, and I have a handful of other friends I would invite out on a whim. (Finding someone else who is available on a whim in the trickier part.)

Does that qualify as a BFF? When I started this blog, I thought so. Now, I think not. I think that the last-minute plan is one aspect of BFFdom. There’s also the idea that the two of you hang out or talk all the time. That you tell each other your problems, and are always there to listen. That you’d ask this person for a ride to the airport because you know she wouldn’t mind. There’s the knowledge that you can cry to her when things go wrong.

Of all the great friends I’ve made this year, many of them almost-fit most of the categories. We hang out when we can, though not all the time. They’re awesome enough that they’d listen and let me cry if necessary, though I might feel bad burdening them. And to be honest, the hardest slot to fill is the airport ride. That just feels like a big request–even if it’s only a 30 minute ride.

And there’s something you can’t quite put your finger on when it comes to best friendship. A you-know-it-when-you-see-it. Like porn.

But. The fact that I’ve found last-minute friends? And that instead of lying on my couch watching another SVU marathon alone, I got to put on my dancing shoes with a new great pal on a Sunday afternoon? When it comes to happiness, and loneliness, that’s absolutely the most important. That’s the part that has helped me go from feeling locally friendless to totally connected. And that’s why I started this project.

As Matt said: The quest is working.

How do you define a BFF? If you’re on a friend-search, what is it exactly you are looking for? A last-minute pal? A four-jars-of-pickles call? Or just a perfect confidante?

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My Internet BFFs: Weekend Reading

About a year ago I wrote a post sharing with you some Internet goodies. They featured people who would be my besties if I lived in the World Wide Web. In the past couple of days I’ve come across another handful of gems I want to share. Articles that made me think–Who wrote this? Why aren’t we friends?–and videos of kids who are so hilarious and happy that I just want to hang out with them asap.

So let me introduce you to my Internet BFFs: Volume 2. It’ll make for a good Friday pick-me-up.

First, there’s the new site Rookie Mag. It’s a website for teenage girls, technically. But it’s for teens the way Harry Potter is for kids or Sesame Street is for pre-schoolers. Which is to say, the target audience will love it, but so will you. (Watched Sesame lately? They have stellar inside jokes for the older set.) Rookie posts thoughtful, well-written pieces three times a day–after school, dinner time, and before bed–from writers like Miranda July and Paul Feig, and columns have names like “Literally The Best Thing Ever,” which makes me happy because it sounds like the kind of declaration I would make about something like, say, Puffins cereal or my new airplane eye mask or, well, Rookie Mag.

Of course I want to be BFFs with 15-year-old Tavi Gevinson. She’s the editor-in-chief of Rookie, a fashion guru, and is more accomplished at 15 then I ever will be. Also because they post a lot of stories about friendship and girl-crushes. This is for high schoolers after all, when friends are everything. But for today, I’ll direct your attention to this piece: Your Teen Witch BFF, which pretty much runs through all the super-powered teens you could be friends with, and why they are awesome. It’s real fun.

Speaking of online odes to best friends, reader Elise directed my attention to this “Awkward Letter To My Best Friend(?)” the other day. (Thanks Elise!) We’ve all chatted on this blog about how to tell a new friend that she has become your BFF. Here’s one way:

“Writing it to you in a public letter on a blog you read ranked only slightly above hiring a man with a megaphone to shout it at you as soon as you left your apartment in the morning. … As embarrassing as it is, the point of this letter is for me to say, truthfully, ‘You’re my best friend!!’ Congratulations? … If this were kindergarten, I’d be sharing my blocks with you, buddy. I’m really excited about you because you seem so great! This is true friendship. Don’t you feel so alive?! But I have concerns. Namely, I wondered: Should you tell someone that they’re your best friend? Is that weird? It feels strange to out of nowhere say, ‘Hey, you’re my best friend.’ Where do you slip that into casual conversation? … So uh, I guess what I’m asking is: Am I also your best friend? Not that it matters. It doesn’t. … I’m getting ahead of myself and probably being really creepy. I do that sometimes. You know that already because we’re best(??) friends.”

And finally, I want to be best friends with the girl on this video because she is awesome. Enough said.

Do you have any Internet BFFs I should know about? Send them my way!

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Did I Just Make It Weird?

I think I’m getting too forward when it comes to picking up friends.

Last night I met someone–a woman who just moved back to Chicago–who has loads of bestie potential. She mentioned, as I was leaving the gym, that we knew some people in common. This spiraled into a 30-minute conversation that could easily have been longer if I wasn’t totally sweaty and nasty and late for dinner. When I told her about the premise of my upcoming book, she gave me a high five and said “I know all about girl dating.”

So I said, “You could girl date me…”  And while I started the sentence with friendly conviction, by the word “me” I’d gotten totally awkward and mumbly. And my first thought was, did I just make it weird?

I’ve offered advice on this blog as to what to say when making the first move with a would-be friend. That advice has never been to offer yourself up for girl-dating like some sort of friendly prostitute. Not that I’d make her pay, but….

It’s been almost two straight years of meeting new potential friends, asking them out and developing friendships. In that time I’ve gone from awkward and nervous to cool and comfortable when it comes to making advances with potential friends. And then I got too comfortable, which allowed me to be so forward that I started making it awkward again.

I’ve come full circle.

There are reasons why “you could girl date me” is not the proper approach, in case you were wondering. (Though, to be fair, if I were cooler I probably could have pulled it off. It was that drifting off at the end that made it extra…. oy.) First of all, it’s not an invitation, it’s an offer. It sounds a bit like “I’ll let you hang out with me.” Requests for friendship, or just friend-dates, should be just that: a request. A way to say “I’d like to get to know you, if you are interested.” If some dude said to a romantic interest, “You could date me,” she’d probably send him straight back to his bachelor pad. Alone.

Also, while I find the phrase girl-date sort of charming and silly, it might be too aggressive on first meeting.

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that I picked up the pieces of my bizarro offer at the end of our interaction. As I left, I said “We should grab dinner sometime with Mutual Friend. That would be great.” She agreed.

I could have left it at that. I probably should have. But it’s a modern world, so I closed with a quick , “I’m totally Facebooking you. Like, tonight.” I just can’t be cool.

Ever been too forward when asking someone out? Or had any awkward I-just-met-a-potential-new-friend interactions? Share below!

 

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The Hard Facts: Stop Stressing

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

“A small new study shows that during stressful times, being around a best friend decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” (“Best Friends Can Help You Beat Stress”; HuffingtonPost.com, 9/29/2011)

This feels like old news by now, doesn’t it? Oooh, look at this, friends are good for your health.

What else is new?

And yet, every Wednesday, I remind you. Because it’s so easy to forget. Or ignore.

Stress is the type of plaguing misery that might inspire you skip a night out with the girls. I don’t have time, you think. I’m too stressed.

I get it. I have the same thoughts. A lot.

How convenient, then, that hanging with friends will actually lower our stress. It’s been proven, people. Spit tests were involved. Saliva has all the answers.

In a study of 100 children from ages 10-12, “during an unpleasant experience, the kids who were with their best friend didn’t produce as much cortisol as kids who weren’t around a friend during the stressful time.”

The fact that 10-12 year olds were used for this study might inspire some questions. Namely, what does a pre-teen have to be stressed about? How long they have to wait for the new Bieber album? (Only 20 more days…) Which photos they’ll tag on Facebook??

I kid, I kid. There are stressors to be had during those awkward years. But one might argue that juggling adult relationships, jobs, and family, is a bit tougher.

Still, I’d counter that adult BFF bonds are stronger too, so the effect is likely the same. I know that whenever I’m stressed, my best bet is to go to my cooking club. Or book club. Or on a girl-date. Spending  time unwinding and talking girl-stuff lowers my heart rate. I never notice it in the moment… but always during the drive home. I’ll turn on the radio and think, “Wow, those chest pains are gone.”

See?  No chest pains = pretty good news.

Moral of the story: Don’t use the stress excuse. ‘Cause your ninja friends are totally going to turn it on you, and prove just why you need them more than ever. BFFs are smart like that.

Do you notice your stress levels going down when you spend time with your best friend? Or does just the idea of friend time induce anxiety?

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My Career Path? Oh, I’m A BFF

I’m not shy about the fact that I love TV. But when it comes to the reality category, I’m not incredibly well-versed. I like reality shows with competitions—The Biggest Loser, Survivor, Top Chef—but get bored and, quite honestly, kind of depressed when I watch the “documentary” style series. (Documentary is in quotes because this category includes The Hills.)

Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Millionaire Matchmaker, 16 and Pregnant. They just don’t do it for me. (The exception here, I will admit, is The Rachel Zoe project which I love having on in the background when I’m cleaning my room. Shut. The Front. Door.)

All this to say, I don’t watch Keeping Up with The Kardashians. Or any Kardashian-related entertainment. So I was entirely unaware that Kim’s wedding was going to be aired on E! on Sunday and Monday in a two part four-hour special. That is, until my BFF Sara asked me on five separate occasions to tape it for her, and then got into a detailed analysis of the entire Kardashian family with another friend of ours.

Why bring up the Kardashians on a blog about best friendship? Because Kim the uber-Kardashian has built a entire big-bootied E! empire all on the foundation of once being a BFF. That’s right folks. In case you forget, the very first seed of Kardashian daughter fame came from Kim’s best friendship with Paris Hilton. That’s when I learned her name. And, more importantly, when Us Weekly learned her name.

In the age of reality TV, best friend has become a career path. Aside from the new Mrs. Humphries, it’s also how Nicole Richie became famous. And Kimberly Stewart. Being Paris’ BFF-of-the-moment really is a fast track to stardom. Hence Paris Hilton’s My New BFF. It’s a wonder that show didn’t survive.

There’s also, of course, the most famous BFF, Gayle King. She’s a journalist and a career-woman (she and the big O met while working together at a news station) so she doesn’t belong in the company of Kim and Nicole, but she’ll always be best known as Oprah’s Best Friend Gayle.

As more celebrities take on reality shows, more best friends get the spotlight. Rachel Zoe’s friend Joey. Jessica Simpson’s friend Casey Cobb. And I know I’m forgetting some others.

It’s a fascinating choice of career. If the opportunity arose, I’m not sure it’s one I could get on board with. I’d like to succeed on my own accomplishments. But, then, if Sara became uber-famous, we’d still be best friends. If residual success fell my way, I don’t know that I would reject it out of hand.

What do you think about these semi-celebrities who are famous solely for being a BFF? Fascinating? Or pathetic? Do you hold their famous-for-being-famous-ness against them? And who am I forgetting? I know there is someone!

 

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Quiz! How Well Do You Know Your BFF?

My best and oldest friend Sara is in town for a long weekend. The other day, while out shopping, we happened upon a book called “Do You Know Your Best Friend?” It’s a Mad Libs-esque quiz book on every small fact about your bestie.

It’s clearly for 16 year olds. So of course I bought it.

The point is to answer the questions for your best friend, then see how she would answer them, and score yourself on a spectrum of “Amazing!” to “Uh-oh, not so good.”

I’m not going to lie, this was a highlight of our weekend. The quiz has 100 questions. I thought I’d share the first 20 here so you can too can test your BFF smarts.

Because everyone knows that non-school quizzes are the most fun ever. Thanks Seventeen.

Pencils ready? Begin.

1. What’s her shoe size?

2. Within three, how many pairs of shoes, sneakers and boots does she own?

3. Can you list, with first and last names, each of her uncles, aunts and first cousins?

4. Where was she born?

5. What’s her idea of the perfect pizza?

6. When was the last time she: lied to a relative or good friend? took a vitamin? played ping-pong?

7. Can you name at least two brands of makeup or hair products she uses?

8. For someone she truly loves, would she willing to move to another country?  a) She’d go immediately, no questions asked. b) She’d give it a trial period. c) She’d stay home.

9. Does she ever wear fake: fingernails? lashes? hair?

10. Which of these confessions would she make? a) “I spend too much time emailing or IMing.” b) “I could be nicer to some of my family.” c) “I recently did something very stupid that I now regret.” d) “I’ve bought clothing. changed my mind, left it in my closet, and never worn it.”

11. On a free day, she generally: a) Sleeps late b) Gets up at her normal time c) Gets up earlier

12. How does she feel about her middle name? a) Loves it b)Tolerates it c) Loathes it

13. Who cuts her hair?

14. Has she ever trimmed: her own hair? someone else’s hair? A pet’s hair?

15. What will she say are her favorite names for children?

16. Which of these adjectives would she use to describe herself: insecure, stubborn, fun, obsessive, moody, ditzy, reliable, organized, ambitious, sweet

17. How many: scars does she have? pillows does she sleep with? CDs does she have? {Editor’s Note: Ok, so perhaps this is a bit dated.}

18. If a distant relative died and unexpectedly left her a fortune, her first thought would be: a)”Now I can buy whatever I want.” b) “Now I never have to work.” c) “Now I have the freedom to do exactly what I want.” d) “Now I can help out so many people.”

19. Has she ever: Changed the way she parts her hair? Stayed in bed all day even though she wasn’t sick? Read an entire book in one day?

20. She writes in a journal or blog: a) every day b) every so often c) never

Of these 20, Sara and I got about 14. (I don’t even know how many pairs of shoes I have! How should she??) That’s preetttty prettttyyy good, if I do say so myself.

It’s always refreshing to jump-start your week with a pop quiz. Take this test, send it to your BFF, and share in the comments how you did. (And if you’re dying to take the rest of the quiz, let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to post the next 80 questions in four more Monday installments.)

And for those of you lucky folks with today off…lucky. Happy Columbus Day!

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Friend At First Sight

Someone asked me the other day if I believe in friend at first sight. Which I do, but only in the same way  I believe in love at first sight. It happens, but hardly ever and if we count on it we’ll probably miss out on some awesome people.

Last night I went to a reading of Witty Women at a fabulous Chicago bookstore. When I first arrived I was introduced to one of the readers. During our brief introduction and handshake, I somehow formed an impression of her. Quiet, I thought. Quiet, shy and not especially friendly.

Then, I kid you not, she got up in front of the room and read a hilarious essay about touching her father’s… you know.  Her dad had had surgery, her mom was out of the room and her father was in pain, so this writer had to just “cowgirl up” and, as she so delicately put it, “come in contact with her dad’s junk.” The story had people doubled over, as did her performance of it.

I was extra surprised by this entire reading because in the all of ten seconds I spent with this woman beforehand, I had formed this completely off-base idea of who she was. This woman is like Steve Martin, I kept thinking during her performance. She’s amazingly funny in front of an audience and then so serious in person.

Not that I’ve met Steve Martin. But that’s what I hear.

Then, after the performance, I saw her talking with the bookstore owner and others, being totally friendly, and realized that she was no Steve Martin. She was an outgoing, funny, apparently awesome woman that I could probably only dream of befriending.

My first impression was, simply, wrong.

In the same vein, I’ve met plenty of women who at first I thought “she is It. The One!” and then we never spoke again after our first girl-date.

Basically, in both cases, it was pretty much the opposite of friend at first sight.

In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced this elusive at-first-glance relationship. Perhaps with Callie when we were in 9th grade. But since then? There was this girl in Starbucks once who I was sure could be my friend–don’t ask me why, I think it had something to do with her fun scarf–but every time I worked up the nerve to speak to her, she was on the phone. So that friend at first sight tingle was a one-way situation, apparently.

So, yeah. I believe in friend at first sight. I do. I always think I’ll just know when I spot The BFF, like one would know when they come in contact with the Loch Ness Monster or something. But I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered it first hand.

Have you?

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Book News! A Very BFF Christmas

There was a time when it wasn’t acceptable to talk about holiday shopping until Thanksgiving. Then it was moved up to Halloween. Once costume season was over, gift-giving season could begin.

But here it is, barely Columbus Day, and I’m touting Christmas and Chanukah gifts.

Let me tell you why: Last week, I found out that the on-sale date for MWF Seeking BFF has been moved up. For the last year, I’ve thought I had to wait until January to share  all my crazy friending misadventures with you. But not anymore.

The new MWF Seeking BFF on-sale date is December 20, 2011!

I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons. First, the book will be on shelves in less than three months! And even though I’m nervous, I’m mostly thrilled to see it out in the world. And potentially in a reader’s hands.

Reason number two—the big reason—is that now MWF will be available for holiday gifts. Christmas, duh, is December 25. This year, Chanukah starts on December 20 and lasts through Dec 28.  Perfecto.

And while, yes, perhaps I am a little biased…I really think MWF Seeking BFF could make a great holiday gift for your own BFF.

Maybe you’ve moved away from your bestie. This book can be your way of saying, “This is how I feel! No one can replace you!”

And if you see your BFF daily, the gift of this book will be your way of saying, “Thank God I have you and don’t have to travel the city trolling for women like this sad sack of an author.”

Either way.

I hope you’ll all forgive this shamelessly self-promotional post, but (nerdy as this sounds), when I get book news this is the first place I want to share it. You’ve all been so supportive of my quest so far, and plenty of you lived through it with me (both virtually and in real life).

If a funny ode to modern-day friendship, in the form of one locally friendless lady’s sometimes awkward and sometimes heartwarming memoir, sounds like the perfect gift for your BFF, you can pre-order the book today. It should arrive on your doorstep on December 20. Just in time to get wrapped up and put under the tree. Or next to the menorah.

And you’ll actually be doing double gift duty. Because you’ll be buying your BFF a gift, and you’ll be buying me a gift, too. (Who, me? You shouldn’t have!) Pre-orders are especially helpful because they contribute to a book’s first week of sales, which is the most important week. So if you wanted to grab a copy for yourself, or your BFF, or your circle of eight BFFs, I would be forever grateful. Forever and ever.

And if you don’t… well I’m still grateful. Because you are here, reading this. So thank you, as always, for tuning in and supporting my project.

If you are thinking of gifting someone with MWF Seeking BFF, I’d love to hear who the recipient might be. A budding new pal? A lifelong bestie?

(Oh, and if you’d rather get it for free–who wouldn’t??–you can enter to win a free advance edition!)

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The Hard Facts: Diversity Doesn’t Diversify Your Pals

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

“Logic would suggest that the more diverse a society or group of people is, the more diverse the friendships within that group would be. … But a new study finds that the opposite is actually the case.
At [a university with a large student body], students tended to have friends who mirrored their beliefs, values, attitudes and personalities more closely than those at smaller colleges. ” (
“Friends Like Me: Why Diverse Groups May Lead to Similar Friends”  healthland.time.com 9/30/2011)

I don’t find this research all that surprising, even if the authors are trying to make it sound counterintuitive.

Yes, it’s true that one main reason people move to big cities is for the diversity of the population. And it’s also true that one of the main reasons I chose to go to college at Chicago’s Northwestern over a small school in Vermont is that I wanted a more diverse student body. My visit to Vermont, while intellectually stimulating, was basically a blur of white people in North Face jackets. Everyone looked alike, and it was creepy. I wanted to be among all types of potential friends.

And yet, when I look back at my college experience, my gang of besties looked pretty similar to me. Most shared my religion and political views. Diverse we were not.

Just like the research says.

When you are surrounded by a huge student body, all the “options” can seem overwhelming. There are so many different potential friends, such varied groups to hang out with. When overwhelmed with choices, it doesn’t surprise me that people flock to what is familiar. Isn’t that how most decisions play out, whether you are picking friends or paint colors?

According the study, it’s more complex than that: “The authors suggest that these effects are due to greater social mobility: that is, the more people there are, the easier is it is to make new friends and then move to another social group if it doesn’t work out. So people continue to sift through the various social groups and seek out friends who are like them in increasingly fine-grained ways. Sociologist have shown that this granularity can extend as far as physical appearance, or even having the same first letter in your name.”

Scientific research continues to prove what I wish weren’t true: we’ve all got a homogeneity bias. Or, as the authors write in their study: “Similarity is ubiquitous and desirable.”

Have you noticed this research to be true? Are you more likely to flock to similar friends when you are in a large diverse group? Or do you use the opportunities afforded by a diverse population to befriend a more varied group of people?

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Introducing: The Sorta Friend

Last night, I decided to seek out the food pyramid of friendship (does the food pyramid even exist anymore? I think it’s now just some weird plate), which I guess would just be called the friendship pyramid.

I found two.

First, from Dr. Irene Levine’s  Friendship Blog.

Unless you have crazy eyes, you can’t read those labels, so let me help you out: From the bottom up, we’ve got casual friends, good friends, and best friends.

Second is a more detailed breakdown, from a website called Out On Limbs.

In this case there are seven layers. From bottom up: Not opposed (I assume this means someone you don’t hate), casual acquaintance, acquaintance, friend, good friend, cousin, sibling. Those seven layers are subsequently split into four groups: Family, Friend, Acquaintance, Other (that’s where the ‘I don’t hate her’ not opposed comes in).

To be honest, I’m not sold on either of these.

That first pyramid, in my opinion, is missing a base layer. There’s definitely a foundation of acquaintance that introduces friendship. You don’t go from nada to casual friend. You go from nada to acquaintance to casual friend.

But even of that, I’m not sure. I wondered once, on this blog, if there is a middle ground between acquaintance and friend. I think there is. I’ve met plenty of people in my life that I know too well to call  an acquaintance–we’ve hung out, we’ve chatted, maybe shared a drink or two (maybe)–but I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are friends. The best term I can think of is, simply, sorta-friends.

Oh, Dennis? Sure I know him. We were sorta friends once.

Elizabeth? I don’t know that I’d say we’re friends, exactly, as we haven’t talked in a while. But I definitely know her and we’re always happy to see each other when we cross paths. We’re, like, sorta friends.

I think there must be–or should be–a more technical term for this relationship. To me, a casual friend is someone who you see a bit more and know a little better. You are buddies. But an acquaintance is someone whose name you know. Perhaps you know her stats–where she’s from, what she does–but that’s it.

Is there something in the middle of those two friend categories? Or am I merely overthinking this?

And if there is something in between acquaintance and casual friend, what should it be called?

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