Friendship Incentives

Here’s a new one.

Yesterday I met a woman who told me she uses an incentive program as a way to meet men. Not just anyone is allowed into the program, but the friends who are invited are presented with these guidelines: Introduce me to the man I marry, or even a man I stick with for for the long-term (anything more than a year), and I’ll reward you with two round-trip first class tickets to Hawaii.

I can’t remember if hotel was included, though I don’t think it was.

This is fascinating to me. And of course my first thought was, would this have worked for friendship?

It’s unconventional, sure. But since we met, I’ve been wracking my brain for her perfect man.

Hey, I’ve never been to Hawaii.

I’m sure there are many arguments against this means of meeting your mate. Perhaps it feels to business-like and transactional. Perhaps you think romance should be more “locking eyes across the crowded room” than “I’ll provide you one Mr. Right for one first-class airfare.” But how is it any different than hiring a matchmaker? And it’s better, because you only have to pay if the match is successful. And the person you’re rewarding is a friend. And the matchmakers are people who really know you.

I’m not pro or con, really. I just think it’s intriguing. As someone who so deliberately looked for friends, I certainly believe in using whatever means necessary to find the right person for you. The whole “it just happens” thing doesn’t work for everyone. So, I guess I am pro, after all.

That said, I don’t think this could work for friendship. Mainly because there is no way to tell who is The One. If you meet a man and get married, that’s a pretty definite way of saying, “ok, this one stuck.” There is no BFF ceremony. (Though, omg, how fantastic would that be? I picture two ladies exchanging friendship bracelets with the Friends theme song playing in the background. Perhaps this would take place in front of a jungle gym like the “weddings” at elementary school recess.) And you can have more than one BFF. Or you could think someone is your BFF and it turns out that she doesn’t feel the same way. It’s not as cut and dry as romance. You could end up having to send a lot of women to Hawaii when you find yourself surrounded with new lifers.

The best way I could think to start a BFF incentive program is to say to a long-distance pals, “set me up with a new BFF and I’ll fly you out here to hang out with us!”

Presumptuous? Maybe. But more friend time for you! Or maybe there’s an exchange program here. Like, you reach out to your single guy friends and say “I’ll look out for girls for you, and you look out for girls for me.” Actually, that seems like a smart idea. Perhaps I should have tried that.

What do you think about relationship incentive programs? Is there one that might actually work for friendship? Do you think the incentive this woman is offering for her mate is totally nuts or just good business? And what would the BFF ceremony look like?!?!

Anyone out there near Lansing, Michigan? I’ll be reading/answering questions/signing copies of MWF Seeking BFF  at Schuler Books & Music (Eastwood) this Thursday, 1/26 at 7 pm. I would absolutely love to see you there!



Filed under The Search

14 responses to “Friendship Incentives

  1. Um, the theme song playing for the BFF ceremony would totally be “Thank you for being a friend” by Andrew Gold. The whole “she thinks I’m her BFF and I don’t feel the same way” thing can be interesting and awkward, however… good future blog topic. Thanks!

  2. The issue I could see with the mate-incentive program is that it provides that woman an incentive not to stay with a man. I mean, if she’s with someone and it’s coming up on a year, she would have to be really certain she wanted to stay with him to pony up for the Hawaii trip for whoever introduced them. I guess in a way that’s good because it’s an incentive not to stay with someone you’re not happy with (which, surprisingly, a lot of people seem to do), but on the other hand, nobody’s perfect, and this kind of system could cause her to make too much of her potential mate’s flaws and never find someone she’s satisfied with.

  3. Why a “BFF”? Can’t you have several great girlfriends (and male friends) that are dear to you? I think trying to find THE one isn’t such a great idea because people’s priorities change over the years and someone who could be a BFF right now may not be one 10 years from now and you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment.

    Plus, I think it’s kind of rude to other friends to name one as the “BFF.” I always cringe when a good friend of mine refers to her other friend as her “BFF” and secretly think, “What am I, chopped liver?!” Friendships are supposed to make a person feel good, not feel like second best or less. In a self-absorbed world where everyone is trying to one up each other, we certainly don’t need another status symbol or label.

    • Lauren

      BFF just means best friend forever, and you can obviously have more than one best friend, so I’m not really sure where you’re coming from. Rachel’s looking for a local BFF in addition to her two best friends across the country!

  4. Christina

    It’s interesting that you mentioned friendship ceremonies, because I just got done watching the movie, “Snow Flower And The Secret Fan” which was about women in China during the 19th century, where they had to undergo painful foot binding and all of that. Anyway… Chinese women during this time period would have a Lao Tong ceremony which was a signed written contract where you’d promise to be each other’s sister for life.

  5. Katie

    What an interesting concept. Perhaps I should suggest that to a friend I know who is forever talking about the dearth of acceptable men 🙂

    At any rate, I just read your book over the weekend on my flight to my former grad-school city to reconnect w/ old friends and while I’m sure you’ve heard the same refrain over & over, thank you for illuminating the difficulties & importance of finding close gal pals. A few of the points that really hit home w/ me:
    1. there are no vocab terms to describe this world of gal pal friending. you end up using romantic terms, which is funny, but also awkward occasionally.
    2. being exhausted from “normal life” yet trying to balance “saying yes” to be able to meet those potential BFFs
    3. following up (why don’t more people do this?! maybe I’m OCD, but seriously, sending an email is easy-peasy)
    4. frequency/consistency of interactions being a key factor in maintaining that connection (this might be why I’ve been in a comfort bubble of being friends w/ my husband’s cohorts SigOs)

    from your book, it doesn’t appear that you’ve crossed the “local gal pal becomes a new mom” line, where it can be tough to navigate the shift in friendship…and not just for local friends, old friends as well! I haven’t read your blog from top to bottom, but I would be interested in other viewpoints there if you haven’t posted about it already.

    so, thanks! helpful to know that I’m not alone and there’s a proactive way to go about this whole search and that everyone gets a couple of odd ones & awkward encounters along the way. wish I had a larger city to peruse, but will do the best I can!

  6. I would agree with you that this sort of incentive program would probably not work with friends.

    I know how much you love movies, this weekend I saw “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” (it is a lovely book as well) which details the story of two friendships. In this movie they actually do have a ceremony where they swear to remain true and loyal friends. A contract is signed and burned at a temple. While watching I thought it was a beautiful concept and wondered if I could convince one of my BFF’s to commit.

  7. Wow – so, after reading the comments, my takeaway is that I need to add ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” to my reading/watch list… two comments on the same movie!

  8. Lindsey

    I just finished your book and am SO inspired. Thank you. I remember you writing that even if you think the artist or writer will ever read comments you should still do it because it might mean a ton to them. So – thank you for motivating me to go on my own friend search. Basically, we have the same life! I moved to a new city with my fiance a year ago and your book could not have come at a more perfect time. A “lifer” of mine gave me your book knowing the struggles I have each day not having a go to friend to get a pedicure with or call for brunch. My husband travels out of town almost weekly and in the past few months I have realized how much I miss having girl friends to go out to dinner with or simply call when I don’t know why I have so many jars of pickles in the fridge!

    I have already asked two girls out on friends date and they happily agreed. I am excited to begin my journey finding new friends. Thanks Rachel!

  9. Frume Sarah

    Having moved across the country, leaving friends behind, I can understand the desire to do almost anything to find a local BFF.

    Hawaii, huh??

  10. My husband introduced one of his friends from college to one of my friends from high school. We could tell on their first date that they were hitting it off. He joked, “If you guys get married, you should get me a big screen tv.”

    It showed up on our door on the day before their wedding! They just had their first baby!

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