Monthly Archives: January 2012

Top 5 Circumstances That Could Launch a Friend Search

Back when I started thinking and writing about making friends, I thought I was in the specific situation that might cause someone to need new pals. Namely, moving to a new city.

One of the interesting things I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that so many women (and also, perhaps, men) have found themselves in my shoes—on the lookout for potential BFFs to supplement (not replace!) their lifelong besties. And these women didn’t always end up here because of a  move.

As it turns out, and I probably shouldn’t be so surprised by this, there are a number of situations one might find herself in that would spur a friend search. Here are a few:

1) You move. Like I said, that’s how I got here. This is typical: You’re in a city you’ve mastered—you know all the cleanest public toilets, you have ladies to meet for omelets on Sunday mornings, and you’ve developed relationships with the dry cleaning lady and the mailman—and suddenly you have to move. For a job, for a romance, whatever. Soon enough you’re in a new city, not super socially connected, and launching an onslaught of friend dates.

2) Your friends are getting married, having kids, and moving to the suburbs. (Or vice versa.) I hear this one a lot. Women will tell me they’ve never moved in their lives, but suddenly their pals have filed out to the ‘burbs to raise families and are making less time for girl talk over drinks. The flip side is also true—women often tell me they’ve moved to the suburbs and suddenly need a crew of mom friends.

3) You’re the last single girl. This isn’t totally different than #2, but in The Case of the Last Single Girl, it’s not that friends are having kids. It’s just that friends are coupling off, and your party-on-a-Saturday-night wingwoman would suddenly rather stay in and catch up on SVU.

4) You’re divorced. I’d never thought of this until last night, when a reader told me she recently split from her husband and lost a whole set of friends during the breakup. “It feels like another custody case,” she says.

5) You’re retired. Suddenly you have all this new free time and no BFF to fill it with.

So there you have it, the top 5 reasons women launch a BFF search. (And when I say “top 5,” let’s be totally clear that I have no scientific backing for this.) Have you found yourself in one of those situations? And what big catalyst for BFF-searching did I miss? Comment below!

MWF Seeking BFF is available now, and I would be forever grateful if you might: 

Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

Send in a photo of MWF out in the wild


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Tonight in Los Angeles

I’m taking the national holiday off from blogging, but a quick reminder to Los Angelenos:

I’ll be reading from MWF Seeking BFF tonight at 6 pm at Small World Books. Hope you’re not all too exhausted from the Golden Globes—would love love LOVE to see you there!

Thanks and enjoy your Monday off!

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My New Friends Are Awesome

You know how I’m always talking about how I’ve made new friends? I know you’re probably thinking “Prove it, Rachel. Prove it!”

Wait, that’s not what you’re thinking? Oh. Well, I’ve got proof anyway.

Last night was my Chicago book reading and party. Despite the snowy weather, my new amazing friends made their way to a local independent bookstore and packed the house.

And then….

At the party…

They revealed…

THIS!

It’s a cupcake recreation of my book cover! And the dot colors are perfectly coordinated with the actual cover. And the font is the same! And the cupcakes were delicious!

This amazing edible cover was brought to me by my cooking club. Remember when I introduced them? I wrote about it here, the next day. That was on July 11, 2010. This year we spent New Year’s Eve together. And last night they gave me a homemade cookbook: “Recipes for Friendship.” It had all the meals we’ve made in our year and a half of meetings.

It was the nicest thing EVER. But I didn’t cry… too much eye makeup on to let that happen.

So, there you have it. Proof. Searching works!

What’s the most thoughtful gift a friend has ever given you?

Exciting news! MWF Seeking BFF is reviewed in People magazine this week. They say that “this charming, funny chronicle of an ‘experiment in extreme friending’ explores the bonds between women–and the idea that the world is people with potential BFFs.” Me? In People? This is the dream. I’m freaking out! Check it out for yourself (the cover with “Murder at the Palace” on the front. Who could resist?)

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Independent Friends

I use the term “independent friends” a lot.

Like, “Oh, you know Isabelle from book club? Are you independent friends?”

What I’m referring to are friends who see each other one-on-one and are pals on their own, not because of someone else or some common activity.

My friend Chloe and I, for example, met through our mutual BFF, Sara. We were also in a book club together. For a while, we called each other friends, but we would only see each other at book club, or with Sara. I still, five years later, remember the phone call one quiet Saturday when we decided to have dinner, just the two of us, that night. From there, we started hanging out just us sometimes, and our friendship was a relationship all on its own. Not because we read the same books, or knew the same people. Just because we liked each other.

Over the weekend someone asked how Chloe and I knew each other so well. “Through Sara?” she asked. I responded with some (perhaps mildly defensive) statement like, “Well, we met through Sara, and them Chloe joined our book club, but we are independent friends!”

When you meet a potential BFF in the context of another person, or a shared club, it can be really tough to extract the friendship out of those circumstances. But once you do, it’s a source of pride. You did the impossible—you made a real friend! All on your own.

I’m in the process of “independent friending” another potential BFF, the one I wrote about a couple months back. She and I talked about getting together when we met at mutual friends’ parties. Now we’re en route to plain old friendship. It feels like a real feat.

Anyway, this term has been on my mind a lot lately because I’m always asking people about their independent friendships. I can use this blog/book as an excuse, but the truth is I’ve been fascinated by other people’s friendships—and how they came to be—for as long as I can remember.

Before my whole stint in extreme friending, I often got jealous when I heard about girls I wanted to befriend becoming independent friends themselves. Jealous, but also intrigued: how did they do it? What exactly happened to elevate the friendship? Now I have a better handle on the process, but I’m still totally intrigued by it.

So, anyway, if we meet and you tell me about this girl in your running group, now you won’t be confused when I say “So are you independent friends?” You’ll get me.

Is this a term that other people use? Or did I coin it? Do you have any relationships that you are proud to say went from just friends to Independent Friends?

Friends in Los Angeles! I’ll be reading on Monday, Jan. 16, at Small World Books at 6 PM. Would love to see you there. And Chicago! Don’t be scared of the snow, this is what we are built for. I’m reading tonight at 7 pm at The Book Cellar. I’d love to see you!

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The Hard Facts: Let’s Make a Plan

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

“While you are more likely to do something if you plan it in advance, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), shows that partnering up or planning with someone can really boost the likelihood of sticking to your resolutions. This finding suggests that ‘buddy schemes’ could make a big difference to people following dieting plans, health programmes and could be integrated into government well-being initiatives.” (“If You Plan, You’ll Do… But It Helps To Have a Friend” ; Sciencedaily.com 1/04/2012)

I’ve talked before about how friends can help you lose weight or show up at the gym. And with the new year and the rampant resolutioning that goes down this month, it’s no surprise that another study has been published to that end. What’s a tad different about this study is that it looked specifically at the act of joint planning.

Research has already shown, apparently, that setting up “if, then” cues to plan behavior is the key to follow-through. As in,”If that nice girl from yoga class is there today, then I will ask her out.”

But even more effective than setting up these cues is setting them up with a buddy. 

For the study referenced above, a group of participants were asked to increase their exercise. The authors of the study found that “it was quite clear that working together and joint planning really helped employees stick to their new exercise regimes. Moreover, the involvement of a partner in planning had a sustained effect that was still noticeable after six months.”

I extend this bit of research to all the long-distance BFFs out there. As much as you love each other, you’re not in the same city. I’m sure you each want the other to have pals in her current hometown. (Friends don’t let friends get lonely.) So I say, make a plan together. In between gossip about Blue Ivy and the upcoming Golden Globes, prepare for this week. “If I run into my neighbor, then I will ask her to coffee.” “If I want to go out, then I will follow-up with that long lost friend.”

Whatever it is, make the plan together. If you’re feeling super go-getter, you can even hold each other accountable at the end of the week.

It might sound like some sort of friendship support group, but then, it basically is. No matter. As one of the researchers said, “Individual change can of course happen, but it is even better to have a friend on your side!”

Will you try joint “if-then” planning? Have you? I’ve always felt that speaking my plans aloud holds me accountable. If you make your friending plans as concrete as these “if-thens”–and you do it with a buddy– you’re sure to follow through. What do you think?

MWF Seeking BFF is available now, and I would be forever grateful if you might: 

Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

Send in a photo of MWF out in the wild

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Those Cool, Older Girls Need Friends Too

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those “cool older girls” we all look up to/are terrified of in middle and high school. We all have them. When I was an eight-year-old at summer camp, these were the girls with hair down to there, big boobs, and a confidence that said they owned the place. In middle
and high school, they were the girls who were effortlessly flirty and comfortable around boys. They were, across the board, older, cooler, and kind of scary.

So it’s bizarre when you wake up one day as an adult and realize, suddenly, that you’re all just people.

I got an email the other day from a woman a couple of years younger than me with whom I went to middle school. She was so nice, saying she read MWF Seeking BFF and loved it, and admitted that, apparently, I was that older girl to her. I was shocked, as this is the first I’ve heard of anyone at all thinking I was intimidating or someone to look up to.

She went on to say that she wished she could travel back in time and tell her 11-year-old self that I would one day be looking for friends. Ha!

Yesterday I connected with another girl from my elementary school days, who told me she recently ended up at a birthday party with the older girls we were totally scared of once upon a time. “It was intimidating, still, but then made me realize we’re all in the same boat now that we’ve grown up.”

Friendship can be funny that way. As age gaps become less significant and the social hierarchy of high school fades, suddenly we realize we’re all just people, looking for companionship. We’re allowed to approach the older, super cool girls we once felt unworthy of talking to.

This actually happened to me recently– I talked to one of the summer camp girls I looked up to when we ran into each other at the airport. It was a perfectly adult, nice conversation.

And then I called Sara, squealing into the phone that “I talked to our 1992 captain!!!”

It’s hard to mature.

Know what I’m talking about? Did you have those cool older girls you looked up to as a kid? Ever reconnect with one as an adult and realize she’s just another person looking for friends?

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Making The Call

Ever since doing my yearlong search, I find that my visits to New York City are filled with realizations about friendship. If my time in Chicago is a case study in budding relationships—how they form, what makes them thrive, what to do when they aren’t working out—then my trips to New York give lifer friendships, the ones you’ve had for a decade or more, the same treatment.

Over the past five days I’ve been in New York, I’ve realized that one of the things I love about longstanding friendships is the fact that you can call each other out on stuff. My oldest friends know everything about me—the good, the bad, the crazy—and I know they love me anyway. So when Sara calls me out on acting like an insecure loon, for example, I laugh and realize she’s right. I don’t get offended or embarrassed.

I’ve seen it happen over and over this weekend. Someone behaves in a way that is characteristically silly, and her pals acknowledge it—sometimes teasing, other times more constructively. Of course it’s a fine line. No one wants to be friends with someone who is constantly correcting her, but I like having BFFs who hold me accountable. I want a friend who will honestly tell me when I’m right and when I’m wrong.

Plus, it’s funny. When I’m at dinner and one girl makes a comment about a guy she’s dating and her BFF says “that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You’re nuts,” that makes me laugh.

With new friends, call outs usually don’t happen. For a couple of reasons. First (and this actually makes the case for new friendships), we act like the best versions of ourselves with friends we don’t know as well. We try not to unleash the crazy. With new friends, we’re “on,” and that means we’re quite focused and conscious of how we’re behaving. With old friends, we’re so relaxed and so ourselves that sometimes we let our less-than-best selves show. I don’t mean our mean sides or anything… just the full picture. No one is perfect, and with old friends we don’t try to be.

Second of all, even if we do act wacky with new friends, we’re probably not yet at the place to call it out. If Sara told me I was going off the deep end, or somehow acting inappropriately, I’d take a good look at my behavior and likely try to change it. If someone new said as much, I’d probably go first to hurt/embarrassed/defensive.

I’ve seen it over and over this weekend. With me, with others, with groups of BFFs.

What do you think? Do you agree the act of “calling out” is the difference between old friends and new? I wonder how long a friendship needs to last before the call-outs start. Thoughts?

New Yorkers! I’ll be reading from MWF Seeking BFF tonight at The Half King (23rd & 10th) at 7 pm. I’d love to see you there. [Chicagoans: Thursday at The Book Cellar is next. Save the date!]

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I’ve Made More Internet BFFs (It’s Just That They Don’t Know It Yet)

I arrived in New York City yesterday, which is always exciting because it means slumber parties and drinks and TV marathons with my best friends. Last night was a good start to the trip because I did two different kinds of friending—first, I met a long-lost friend for drinks (my freshman year of college roommate, who I hadn’t spoken to in about four years but who is absolutely amazing), then I had dinner with my BFF Callie and another bestie from high school, Jill.

It felt so good to get a giant fill of friend-time, especially since so much of the night was dedicated to nostalgia. My ex-roomie and I reminisced about how insane we once were regarding boy drama—a less sensitive subject now that we’re both married and, well, less stupid than we once were. Later in the night, I made Callie imitate every teacher we ever had, which, in my short-on-sleep delusional state, was just about the funniest thing I had ever heard. (Her imitation of our various high school chemistry teachers is enough to make me pee myself just about every time we see each other. Apparently, one never outgrows such things.)

In the spirit of awesome friendship nostalgia, and because I like to keep it light on Fridays, I wanted to share one of my new favorite websites. Hello Giggles is “the ultimate entertainment destination for smart, independent and creative females” and was started by BFFs Zooey Deschanel, Sophia Rossi, and Molly McAleer.

I love Zooey from The New Girl  (I know some people are on the fence but I think it’s great—Schmidt is one of my favorite characters on TV), but I enjoy the site not because of her, necessarily, but because it celebrates the two things I’m most interested in: friendship (they have a BFF advice web show!), and awesome pop culture from the ’90s. Seriously, every time I click over there’s something about The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, awesome kids movies like Hook (Callie’s favorite), or a rom-com that I forgot I loved.

There are also funny, insightful and totally spot-on essays like this one, about annoying romantic gestures, or this, in which a normal girl gets the celebrity profile treatment.

Of course, I spend much of the time I’m on the site wondering why I’m not BFFs with every single one of their writers and founders. (According to their BFF ustream show, Zooey bought Sophia every single Babysitter’s Club book—including Super Specials!—for her birthday. Also, all the Sweet Valleys and all the Nancy Drews. What?? These are my people.) All in good time, though, right?

For some fun and friendly Friday reading, check it out.

Another thing to check out? MWF Seeking BFF. It’s in stores now, and I would be forever grateful if you might: 

Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

Send in a photo of MWF out in the wild

Thank you!!

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Friendship On The Road

I’m writing this blog post on the train from Boston to New York for the next leg of my book tour. The trip to Boston was wonderful–and not just because it kicked off what I hope will be lots of fun book promotion. No, even more fantastic was that fact that, in the spirit of MWF Seeking BFF, this trip was all about friends–old and new. I stayed at the apartment of one of my college besties. She was there with me before my first ever reading to calm my nerves and make me laugh. Because she’s the awesomest. And I got to visit with old friends of Matt’s, who knew him and loved him long before I did.

But I also got to meet new friends. Specifically, I finally came face-to-face with ladies I’d met only on the Internet—through their blogs and mine. Katie and I met for lunch, and of course, the first thing I said when we met is: “I’m hugging you!” (This is after I almost hugged a stranger on the street because I thought it was Katie. Ah, the dangers of blind friend dates. I said to the girl “Katie?” with arms spread wide. She said: “Huh?”) We talked books and blogs and new friends for an hour, and Katie even brought me tea because she saw on Twitter that I had a cold. Is that friendship or what?

This morning I met Lindsey for coffee. She was the picture of put-together. Wearing awesome red pants with leopard print ballet flats, and a camel sweater that I’m pretty sure I had in my “what I want to wear when I grow up” scrapbook once upon a time. I, on the other hand, showed up 10 minutes late with makeup still caked under my eyes, because my alarm didn’t go off and I overslept. In fact I woke up exactly three minutes before we were supposed to meet. True story.

And yet, Lindsey was totally forgiving of my scattered nature, and her outfit was only the first thing I loved about her. Funny, smart, thoughtful–all the things I already knew from her blog, but now in live action! If I didn’t have a train to catch I would have forced her to hang with me all day.

So for those who wonder if I’m still making new friends two years later, the answer is yes. No more 52 dates, but the quest never ends.

Ever had a friend you’d never actually seen in person (Internet, pen pal, whatever)? Did you finally meet? How’d it go?

MWF Seeking BFF is in stores now! You can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Check out the latest press
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

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The Hard Facts: If You’re Humble, You’re a Helper

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

“A new study shows that humble people are more likely to offer help than more arrogant types are. So if you’re in a tight spot, seek out people who don’t toot their own horns.” (“If You Need Help, Ask For a Humble Person”; Jezebel.com 1/3/2012)

I guess this can be filed under obvious. Humble people don’t inflate their own importance, so they’re not the types to think they’re too good or too busy to lend others a hand. Arrogant people are more likely to feel like they can’t be bothered.

This study is funny, though, because it involved some self-reporting. People had to choose words, like humble or arrogant, and also say how likely they would be to help others. But would humble people describe themselves as humble? Aren’t they too, er, humble, for that? And wouldn’t arrogant people be so arrogant as to call themselves humble?

Self-reporting is a tricky little bastard.

But this knowledge could indeed come in handy. Say you’re someone who’d rather a modest friend than a braggy one. (Because who wants a braggy friend?) You might be able to pick out your potential bestie by asking for help. Or by taking note of who helps you when you don’t ask for it. Like when you’re trying to haul your 25-pound carry-on into an overhead bin. In these telling moments, some people stand and stare and some people say “Can I help you with that?” I know this to be true because I live it. Often.

Or maybe you’re trying to balance one too many coffee cups at Starbucks while you fumble for your keys (I’m picturing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, here). The woman who reaches out and says “let me grab that for you”… Befriend her! Say thanks, and then make a self-deprecating joke about how you’re a bit scattered. This will show that you, too, aren’t all self-important and full of yourself.

Next stop: Friendsville.

See? That was easy.

Have you ever befriended someone because she reached out with a helping hand? Or have you showed off your awesome, modest self by helping someone else?

Friends in Boston: I’m reading from MWF Seeking BFF at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7 pm. I’d love to see you there. Also, I did my first morning show today on Fox 25 News. It was exciting–and I want to be best friends with the anchor. Go figure. Watch the clip!

 

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