Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Hard Facts: Can You Keep A Secret?

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

“Researchers found that women are overcome by the desire to gossip and can typically wait  no longer than 32 minutes before spilling the beans. Depending on who the gossip is about, their husband, mother or best friend are most likely to be the initial recipients of the information. The study of 3,000 women by facial skincare brand Simple found one in ten admits being unable to keep a secret – no matter how  personal or confidential the news is. And  85 per cent said they relish hearing gossip  from others.” (“Can You Keep a Secret, Dear? Of Course (For 32 Minutes At Least)”” ;,  11/14/2011)

This is not about to be a lecture in how women are gossips and untrustworthy, don’t worry. After all, I love gossip. I’m the kind of person who, ten minutes into a coversation with an old friend, will say “What’s the latest? What’s new with everyone? Give me the gossip.”

The truth is that right now there’s much less gossip in my life, simply because my friends aren’t all in one group. Gossip really thrives in cliques or networks, right? Camp gossip, school gossip, neighborhood gossip. I’m guessing when the mommy phase comes along, there will be gossip there too. But right now, I get pretty little. Sometimes I’ll ask Callie to dish the latest and she usually says: “I don’t really know! I don’t see anyone that much.” Bummer.

To see our secret keeping abilities quantified…well, it is a bit horrifying. Though personally, if I tell someone a secret and say “don’t tell anyone,” I usually expect that they will tell their spouse. I always felt like that was accepted. If I specifically don’t want the hubby to know, I articulate it.

Also, I do sometimes share secrets with my Mom, but I feel like that doesn’t count. Who’s she going to tell? (Sorry, Mom.)

Maybe the answer is to take in your secret and immediately run to the TV. One two-hour episode of Biggest Loser and you’ve basically beaten the average by four times.

I think a lot of us have learned by now which of our friends are good secret keepers and which have big mouths. I like to think I’m a decent secret keeper, though I’ll admit my skills probably vary by the level of secret. If it’s something serious and I am told absolutely not to tell anyone, I won’t. I’ll also keep it to myself if I think revealing it will hurt anyone. If it’s something more exciting, like a friend is about to propose, I’ll probably tell Matt. Or Mom. Or both.

I know, who am I to judge which secrets are worth keeping? No one, that’s who. I’m just being honest.

Overall, I like to think of myself as a trustworthy person. I would never ruin a surprise or truly betray a friend, I hope. And certainly not in 32 minutes!

Does that half-hour estimate surprise you? Do you consider yourself a good secret keeper? Be honest! We’ll keep it between us.

You know what’s not a secret? MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in three weeks. December 20 to be exact. Yesterday the Cincinnati library called it a “future bestseller.” You can help make that a reality! Maybe you want to:
Pre-order a copy 
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press and praise
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

Thank you!


Filed under The Search

She’s Out Of My League

In yesterday’s conversation about friendship avoidance—and how to handle relationships with service providers (workout instructors, hairstylists, trainers, etc) when you’ve taken a break from their service—a reader made a comment that really struck me. Erica wrote that she has had a similar worry with her spin instructor, though, as she says, they aren’t really friends, just friendly. The part that made me really nod in agreement was when Erica wrote, “Even if she became my friend (which would be awesome, although I feel like she’s out of my friend-league), it would not (thank goodness) obligate me to get up at 6 a.m. every week to climb imaginary hills.”

Out of her friend league! I love this notion, because I have this feeling all the time.

Remember the waitress I wrote about a couple months back? I thought she seemed great so I left my info on the back of the restaurant check? Well after our girl-date I called an old friend in NYC, told her the story, and explained why the friendship would probably not workout. “She’s too cool for me!”

“You’re crazy,” my friend said “What do you mean too cool?”

I then explained that the waitress has been to just about every music festival around the country because she loves to rock. Also, she was on Road Rules, the MTV reality show. And this was back when it was more cool, less total porn. She had a very distinct vibe of coolness emanating from her, whereas I was more the goofy sidekick telling her about my upcoming trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Listen, I’m not ashamed of it. I loved that trip. I’m just saying, it’s no indie rock fest.

I’ve met other women who I’ve felt were out of my friend-league. Usually it’s their air of confidence that tips me off. There’s something about a totally self-assured, together girl—one who’s funny, friendly, but doesn’t try too hard because she doesn’t have to, and can watch football with the guys as easily as she can do wine night with the girls—that makes me assume she’s too cool for me.

I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person who feels this way. Add this to the list of why friend-dating is romantic dating all over again.

Have you ever met someone you felt was out of your friend league? Did you pursue her anyway? Did you become friends? Do share and let Erica and me know we’re not alone!

MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in three weeks from today! December 20 to be exact. Now that holiday shopping season is here, may I suggest it as a gift for your own BFF? Or a BFF-to-be? (Or would that too forward?) It’s a great way to show your bestie how much you appreciate her. You can:
Pre-order a copy 
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press and praise
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter

Thank you!


Filed under The Search

Is Friendship Avoidance The Answer?

Last night, I avoided yoga class.

I wanted to go to a 6 pm class at a nearby yoga studio–let’s call it Studio X– that I really love. I haven’t been to Studio X in a while because there’s another one closer, we’ll call it Studio C, that has a more convenient schedule. The thing is, all else being equal, I enjoy class at Studio X more. Since yesterday was a pretty lazy finale to the holiday weekend, and I needed a good stretching out after two 6 am flights (yes you read that right. Kill me), I planned to drag my butt and my mat to Studio X.

Here was the problem: I felt guilty seeing the teacher.

You see, the Sunday night yoga teacher used to be my most favorite of all yoga teachers. I went to her classes twice a week (sort of groupie-esque, but who’s judging?) and we developed a friendly rapport. We always chatted at the beginning of class. And again at the end. We were facebook friends. During my year of friending, I thought seriously about asking her on a friend-date. I didn’t, because I’ve heard that the teacher-student relationship is akin to the psychiatrist-patient relationship and I didn’t want to make it awkward. But then I got busy with all my friend-making and suddenly didn’t have the time for yoga that I used to. Despite missing this teacher, I was thrilled when Studio C opened up only 7 minutes from my house. And the classes were only 60 minutes. I put Studio X on the backburner.

I’ve gone back a few times, and whenever I see my old favorite teacher, I feel so guilty. We were sorta-friends! Should I have been more loyal? It doesn’t help that when she sees me she says “Rachel! Where have you been???”

The Jewish guilt is such a heavy burden.

I smile awkwardly, tell her I’ve been swamped and that sometimes I go to Studio C, but I feel like a cheater. A horrible no-good sorta-friend cheater.

And so last night, when I thought about going to her class, despite knowing how happy the actual class would have made me, I wimped out. I couldn’t face the “where have you been?”s and my own guilt for bailing.

I know what you’re going to say. She’s a yoga teacher. She’s not judging you. She’d be happy to see you back in class. You’re probably right, but the anticipation of that uncomfortable opening chit chat was enough to keep me home catching up on my In Style. 

I tend to feel this way a lot. If I haven’t been to the hair stylist in a while, or the gym, or apparently anyone in the service industry. Have you ever been in this situation? With a yoga teacher, or maybe a colorist, doctor, therapist, or trainer? What do you do? Remain more loyal? Avoid becoming too friendly? Or just act like an adult and have the 30-second uncomfortable conversation? Anyone do what I do–avoid, avoid, avoid? Your insight and wisdom will be much appreciated.

MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in three weeks! December 20 to be exact. I would be SO grateful if you might: 
Pre-order a copy 
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press and praise
See what people are saying on Amazon and Goodreads

Thank you!


Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: How To Be Thankful

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

“Grateful people aren’t just kinder people … They are also less aggressive. Giving thanks lowers daily aggression, hurt feelings and overall sensitivity. Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others and stimulates pro-social behavior” (“Gratitude as an Antidote to Aggression” ; University of Kentucky News, 10/20/2011)

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Mostly due to the mashed potatoes, Law and Order: SVU marathons and post-meal tryptophan-induced nap.

Not that I’m not grateful. Of course I am. I’m quite aware of how lucky I am to have a great family, a career I love, and new friends. This year, especially, has been a pretty good one (to be capped off shortly with a highlight!) and I am most definitely thankful. But I’m not someone who spends five minutes a day meditating on all the people who were kind to me in the last 24 hours. I don’t keep a gratitude journal. While I make a point to say the words “thank you” as much and as emphatically I can, I’m a pretty horrific thank you note writer.

But, no surprise, it seems the fastest way to be a new friend magnet (and overall happy, healthy person) is to be grateful. According to The New York Times, “cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.”

If you’re like me and sometimes (often?) trade in gratitude for frustration that the cable is out or anxiety about an upcoming deadline or annoyance at a coworker who droned on in the staff meeting, the New York Times offers a few interesting and helpful tips on incorporating the Thanksgiving spirit into your everyday life. This one, of course, especially struck me:

Share the feeling. Why does gratitude do so much good? ‘More than other emotion, gratitude is the emotion of friendship,’ Dr. McCullough says. ‘It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.'”

(I also like the tip about “gratitude lite.” That seems my speed.)

So, you know, it’s Thanksgiving. Be grateful. It can only help you on the road to friendship.

I’ll kick it off early: Readers, I am grateful for you. Seriously. Thank you for supporting my blog, my book and my quest for new friends. I couldn’t do it without you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in less than one month! December 20 to be exact. Maybe you want to:
Pre-order the book
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press and praise
See what people are saying on Amazon and Goodreads

Did I mention… THANK YOU!


Filed under The Search

How Many Styles of Friendship Are There?

Over the weekend, I worked on a quiz for Redbook‘s new website. It was a “What’s Your Friendship Style?” quiz, which is a pretty fun project for someone who obsessed over quizzes as a kid (and, oh wait, that’s right, as an adult too) even though I always got the lame middle-of-the-road result. You know what I’m talking about. YM asks: What’s your popularity status? And the result options would be “You’re a party animal!” “You’re a huge nerd!” or “You’re level-headed.” I was always level headed. Boooring. (Sometimes I would pick the “party girl” answers just to feel cooler, but it was a sham and I knew it. My level-headed self couldn’t hack it.)

I’ve thought plenty about the different types of friends, but telling someone she’s a flake, or a disappearing friend, didn’t seem in line with the project.

My quiz was about all the different types of great friends one might be. Maybe you’re the social gal, maybe you’re the listening ear, maybe you’re the easygoing, reliable friend. Or maybe you’re…..

I don’t know. Throughout all my research, both anecdotal and academic, I had a tough time coming up with other types of friends.  Most of us can be split into these three large categories.

Personally, I think I’m the listener. At least, I hope so. I’m certainly not the cruise director. Being the organizer is not so much my forte. I did a lot of that during my friending year, and while it was incredibly rewarding, it was also exhausting. Luckily, though, I made some new friends who are stellar social chairs, so now I get to be social without having to be in charge. Win.

I’d like to think I’m part easygoing up-for-anything friend, too. Though I know that sometimes I’m not actually up for anything. Like if the “anything” involves going to a standing room only indie rock concert, or to a club with bottle service, or horseback riding. I just… I can’t. I know myself, and I’d just get tired and no fun. I wish I were cooler, I do. But I’m not. (I did get better at being breezy, too, during my year o’ friends. Moral: Extreme friending can make you super well-rounded.)

Most people are probably able to categorize themselves into one of these styles, maybe even two. But are there other broad-stroke friend categories? Or is everyone either a confidante, a social butterfly, or an easy-breezy gal?

Where do you fall?

MWF Seeking BFF, the book, is out in less than a month! December 20 to be exact. If you’re inclined to buy the book, can I entice you to pre-order? I’d like to offer a small token of gratitude to those who do, as pre-orders are hugely important to a book’s first week sales numbers and also help build media and bookstore buzz. A friendship bracelet? A personalized note from the author? (I wish I could sign them all!) Anyone have a great idea? I’m open to suggestions.

If you want to learn more before buying, you can: Read an excerpt! Check out advanced praise! Read reviews (from Publisher’s Weekly, book bloggers, Amazon readers, Goodreads contest winners).


Filed under The Search

I Should Have Known Better

Lately, I’ve found myself falling into a very dangerous trap: Thinking I’m caught up with friends because I see what they do online.

I’m not just talking Facebook and Twitter. I saw a friend on Friday night and immediately pointed to her cute high-socks-under-boots look. “I saw your fashion tutorial on Pinterest!” I said.

If you’re not up on this latest Internet sensation, Pinterest is an online pinboard where you can “pin” pretty pictures, or other things that interest you on the web. It’s basically a way to bookmark things online, visually. So, say, if you’re a super-cook, you can pin recipes you want to try. Then, when you’re not sure what to make for dinner tomorrow, you can check in on your “Things I Want To Cook” pinboard. And friends can see what you’re pinning, too. This is social media, afterall.

The same has happened with Goodreads. I’ll do a quick scroll through my latest updates, and see that one friend is reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and another is reading the latest Joan Didion, and suddenly I feel like we’re totally caught up. Knowing what someone is reading feels intimate.

Usually, when I see friend activity online that I want to comment on–she’s marked a book I like as to-read, or he’s traveling to a city where I’ve been and have recommendations–I make a mental note to shoot off an email. But, often enough, that email gets composed in my brain, and never in Gmail. What is wrong with me???

I can be a real homebody. And on the days when I’m curled up on the couch, my first thought is not to reach for the phone and play catch-up. I like lazing around with a book, or Top Chef. And, yes, sometimes I putz around on Facebook et al. But when you realize you only know about your bestie’s recent happenings from a status update or recently added photo album, that’s when you’re in trouble.

I’ve warned against this plenty, so you’d think I would have seen the signs. But the computer makes it so easy. Fifteen minutes of procrastination on Facebook and suddenly I forget I haven’t spoken to my friends in weeks. Oops.

My plan is to try for one phone call a day (at least) for the foreseeable future. Old fashioned voice-to-voice contact. I gotta do it in order to catch up. Otherwise I’m going to find myself lost in the online void, never to be heard from again. It’s a real possibility.

Have you ever found yourself in this position? How do you handle it?


Filed under The Search

This Weekend’s Girl-Date, Brought To You By Starbucks.

Asking women out on friend-dates is hard. It’s awkward. Kind of embarrassing sometimes, even though it shouldn’t be.

We know this. We’ve discussed this.

I’ve given lots of theoretical advice as to how to go about it. “Invite her to work out!” “Have her over for wine!” “Join her improv class!”

But today, I’ve got a tangible solution for you. (And thanks to Laurie, who commented yesterday, for the heads up!)

From yesterday through Sunday, Starbucks is offering a buy one, get one free deal on their holiday drinks. The deal, called “One for me, One for you” is tailor-made for a friend-date. Not that we should have to, but sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse to invite someone out. “Want to get coffee? Starbucks has a two-for-one deal” is so much easier to say than “Want to get coffee? I think we could be friends.” It shouldn’t be, but it is. Let’s be real.

So this weekend, use this as incentive to finally ask out that would-be BFF. The deal is running through Nov. 20, from 2-5 pm each day.

And if you’re like me and you don’t even like coffee, don’t worry. These drinks are so sugary they’re basically milkshakes.

What do you think? Will you be Starbucksing it up this weekend? And do you know of any other fun deals that provide a good girl-date excuse?


Filed under The Search

One and Done? Or Group Effort?

One of the most fun things about having a group of new friends (or a group of friends, period) is getting caught up in those “am I normal” conversations? They’re the ones where you learn you’re not the only one who has to pee more and more the closer you get to the bathroom. Or something.

These talks usually end up with a lot of laughter and people talking over each other. So fun. Like last night, at my cooking club (which at this point is mostly just a dinner club). I learned that the infrequency with which I wash my sheets is not normal. But my friend who washes hers every other day? Also not so normal.

The rarity of washing my jeans? More normal.

And apparently I take my dry-clean only clothes to the dry cleaner too often (a friend says you’re technically only supposed to take it in every couple of months??), but that seemed in line with everyone else. Normal.

Oh, and my attempts at whistling? Also not normal. Last night the cooking gang (you might remember that these are the very same girls that I only sorta-knew when I brought everyone together for the pizza-cooking night) tried to teach me the fine art of whistling. I was a disaster (I’ve never been able to do it) but apparently totally entertaining, because every time I tried to curl my lips in the right formation, they all burst out laughing and told me I looked like an old woman. In a nice way, of course. All in good fun.

After a 15-minute whistling lesson, one friend turned to me and said: “You should write a post about this. Because this is ridiculous.”

But that’s what friends do, right? Get caught up laughing and joking about the trivial stuff. That’s why I went looking for them in the first place. Not so I could have someone to reveal major secrets to, but someone who could laugh at my whistling attempts. Because I can tell my secrets to Callie over the phone, but the whistling lesson only happens in person, on a whim.

This search started out as a way to find a single BFF, a la Oprah and Gayle. But maybe the more worthwhile effort, for those of you out there on a similar search, is to try to track down a group. It can be hard to build one friendship up to Oprah-Gayle levels, but gathering a group of 6 and meeting once a month is doable and has similar benefits. We’ve met once a month since July 2010, and now we’re legit buddies. Two of the girls in the group are even having Thanksgiving together! Not to toot my own horn but…. yeah, I’m pretty satisfied with myself for making that introduction.

So here’s my question: If you could choose, would you opt to have one super-tight BFF, or a group of great friends? (I want both. Greedy, I know, but it’s my blog so I get to say that….)


Filed under The Search

The Hard Facts: I Shouldn’t Be Sick

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

“Friendship may be Miracle-Gro for your immune system, Research shows that the fewer human connections we have at home, at work, and in the community, the likelier we are to get sick … In one study, researchers who monitored 276 people between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those who had six or more connections were four times better at fighting off the viruses that cause colds than those with fewer friends  ” (“Build Your Immunity” ; Today Health 10/2/2011)

I’m sick. Again.

I shouldn’t be.

At the end of October I came down with a cold that turned into bronchitis. It took forever, but I eventually shook it. I was better for, I guess, a week or two. And now, over the last few days, a new cold has appeared. The phlegmy cough, the runny nose… what? Too much information? I thought we were close enough for bodily function reports by now.

I’m pretty confident that this ongoing germfest has something to do with all the traveling I’ve done. We’ve had five out-of-town weddings in the last eight weeks. That’s a lot of flights with kids who don’t cover their mouths when they cough.

But despite that, I figured I had friendship immunity working in my favor. All these new social connections in my life should be helping me fight off viruses, right? (Though there is the counter point that fewer connections means fewer germs? I’m not a germaphobe, but that sounds correct too.) I’m supposed to get sick less often. Ugh.

According to this article, which I found on the Today Show’s “Build Your Immunity” calendar, stopping by a co-worker’s office or even emailing friends should boost your system. I email all the time! Granted I don’t have coworkers anymore, but I try to connect with people live and in person every day. What gives??

When you find yourself getting sick a lot–the sniffles, a cough, the usual common cold stuffs–can you pinpoint a culprit? Help!


Filed under The Search

In Which I Pinpoint The Root Of All Our Problems. (Or Totally Overanalyze An Overheard Conversation.)

Last night, as I was leaving yoga, I overheard the tail end of an exchange between two girls. The farewells went like this:

Girl #1: Let’s hang out!

Girl #2: I know!

And then they turned and went their seperate ways.

My immediate reaction was to laugh out loud. Probably not the most polite response to a conversation I had no part in, but I couldn’t help it (and they didn’t hear me). These ladies sounded like quintessential “valley girls” (is that even a thing anymore? Or did I just break out a straight early ’90s phrase?), plucked directly from a Saturday Night Live  skit. I felt ok about my giggle, too, because I know I’ve been one of those girls before–and people have laughed plenty at me. It’s the circle of life.

But then, when I thought about what they actually said, it hit me: This is the problem today! This is why we find ourselves on BFF searches. The first girl, the one who suggested the hang out, gave no indication that she meant it. First of all, it wasn’t an invitation so much as a statement of fact. Second, she said it as she turned around to walk away–it wasn’t as if she waited for an answer, breaking out her calendar to get the hang-out on the books. It was a courtesy, like “nice to meet you” or Chandler’s “we should do this again.”

And girl #2? “I know”? What is that? It’s not even a response that makes sense! She too walked away as she said it, calling over her shoulder as they parted ways. Not “I know, we totally should. Call me and let’s set it up.”  Or “Ok. great. I’m free Saturday.” Just “I knooooow,” said in a whiny tone that implied she is sad to never hang out with girl #1, but has no intention of actually making it happen.

Witnessing this brief interaction, it was one of those moments where I was like “Oooh, right. This is how we got here.”

I don’t know these girls from Adam. They are probably perfectly lovely people. But I haven’t been able to shake the exchange, probably because I felt like I was witnessing the precursor to a BFF search. Or maybe it just felt like watching myself, two years ago. I wanted to be like “You both seem to actually want to hang out. So bust out the schedules! Make it happen. ‘I know,’ isn’t going to get you very far.”

We’ve all been party to these conversation. I wrote about my own experience with such an exchange last week.(Btw, our date was fab.) But  if I had to choose just one thing that could change the situation for every one of us who’s ever friend-searched it would be this simple nugget: When someone says “let’s hang out,” call them on it. Say, “Ok I’m free on Thursday.”

Bam! Friended.

What do you think? Think this small exchange is emblematic of a larger problem? Or am I overreaching?


Filed under The Search