Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Casual Pick-Up: Is There A Script?

Over the past two months I’ve done a number of interviews for MWF Seeking BFFQuite often, an interviewer will ask me, “We all know the usual ways to make friends—at the gym, say—so why was it so hard for you?”

To which I will usually respond that yes, we’ve probably all spoken to someone at the gym or the coffee shop or the grocery store. Wherever. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what to say to turn that casual conversation into friendship, or even a friend-date.

I’ve spoken to the girls on the treadmills next to me plenty. But how do you go from commiserating over the misery of a hard workout to “let’s have lunch and maybe be best friends soon?”

It’s tricky. And people glaze over this most important step.

In the dating world, I guess this is what guys call “closing.” You can flirt with a woman all night, but you haven’t closed until you’ve gotten her number. Before I did my Year of Friending, I couldn’t close. I’m pretty good at chit chat, I could throw out a quick quip and give someone a laugh. But then I’d flounder, stretching the small talk for too long while I tried to figure out how to non-awkwardly ask for digits. I’d usually walk away with nothing but the hope that maybe she and I would meet again. And maybe next time she’d be braver and more socially competent than I.

I’m still not great at this aspect of making new friends. I’m good enough at writing the “want to have lunch?” email, or following up for that second date. But that moment when you ask for a phone number or hand someone your card is still tough. These days I say some variation of “We should totally get together! What’s your email/number?” (I switch back and forth between these methods of conversation depending on the person.)

I’m still not great at using that line on someone I’ve only spoken to once or twice in line at the grocery store or at yoga. I can manage it with someone I’ve met for an extended period (an airplane ride, for example), but if it’s a casual neighborhood acquaintance…that’s tough.

But like I said, I keep hearing from interviewers: “I’m just the type of person who makes friends everywhere…”

So what I’m wondering is simple: what do you say to close?

MWF Seeking BFF is two months old today! Still haven’t picked it up? You can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

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Apparently, It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day

It seems like every day is another National Day of Something. Tomorrow is National Drink Wine Day. The day after is National Popcorn Day. Tuesday, Feb. 28 is National Pancake Day. You guys, I am not making this up.

But today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. And so I suggest to you these ecards to send your BFFs. And remember this tidbit from Gallup: “Those who have told a friend how much they value a friendship in the past month are 48% more likely to be ‘extremely satisfied with the friendships’ in their lives.” See? With a few random acts of kindness, everybody wins.

For your lifer:

For your mani-pedi partner:

For your newest friend:

For the pal you want to elevate to the next friendship level:

And… what NOT to send!

Happy weekend!

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Where Are They Now: Lynn and Jordan

In the two months since MWF Seeking BFF hit shelves, readers frequently ask what has become of my new friends. Who am I still friends with? Who has moved away? That kind of thing.

Someone, I think jokingly, suggested I do a “Where Are They Now” blog segment. A joke, maybe, but who doesn’t love a good where are they now? The Saved By The Bell crew, your favorite boy band heartthrobs, The Brat Pack.  Those are the best issues of People  and obviously the best specials on VH1.

So here we are — Where Are They Now: The Friendship Year.

LYNN
Lynn was a co-worker. You might remember that she was the very first co-worker I tried to befriend outside the office, even inviting her to come to my wedding dress fitting (a totally awkward invitation that I do not recommend extending to a new and still fairly surface friend. Lesson learned). During my yearlong search, I became closer with all of my coworkers, including Lynnie, as I lovingly call her. I’d feel less awkward asking her to my fitting now. But we don’t work together anymore. We both left our office in June, so now we’re just friends, rather than work-friends.

As one of her new projects, Lynn has launched a fantastic fashion blog: Style Alter. You must check it out. It’s so awesome—accessible, informative, and empowering. I love best her “how-to” posts: like how to make your own neon jewelry, or how to wear a plaid shirt three ways. Lynn also served as my literary stylist (keep in mind I’m the girl who wanted to wear a waffle shirt that Matt confused with a pajama top to a girl-date), and wrote an entire post about the authorly outfits she put together. As I mentioned here a while back, every girl needs a fashionista friend.

Jordan
Jordan and I met through our mutual friend Chloe. She and I took dance class together most Saturdays, followed by brunch, and became great friends. We’re still thick as thieves. And speaking of being thick as thieves… As I mention in MWF Seeking BFF, one of the first things I learned about Jordan was that she wrote an idiom newsletter. Well, good news folks! Her newsletter is now a blog: Making Heads or Tails of Idioms. If you are as nerdy as I, and by nerdy of course I mean way cool, then you will love learning the meaning, origins, and alternative definitions of idioms. Alligator arms. Harsh my mellow. Golden handcuffs. It’s fascinating!

My new friends are pretty fantastic. Once you read their blogs you’ll think so too, I promise. So check them out! Happy reading.

Word of mouth is the best thing that can happen to a book. Please tell your friends about MWF Seeking BFF! If you both read it, let me know and I’ll send you two totally awesome Blossom-and-Six style friendship bracelets. Because that’s how we roll. ’90s style. 

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The Hard Facts: Shocker! Stalking Can Be Bad For You

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

“A study published last month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.” (“Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want To Know” ; New York Times 2/12/2012)

I have admitted here to hours spent Facebook stalking. I’ll poke through online albums, checking out people’s pregnancy photos (“She’s the size of a large jicama! An ear of corn! A chinese cabbage!”), baby photos, vacation photos, party photos. I’ll assess who’s still BFF with whom, who broke up with who, etc. All of it. I’m totally guilty.

And while I get a weird buzz from mindlessly clicking though picture after picture, there is that moment when you think, “Wait, why didn’t I have 45 people at my birthday party? Should I, too, be zip lining through Costa Rica? How can I get a picture with Barack Obama???”

In this interesting article in the New York Times, Pamela Paul explains all the reasons why we are being bombarded with too much information about our friends these days. “Unless you are my best friend or my husband, I don’t need to know the macabre symptoms of your gastrointestinal virus. I don’t need to know about how much candy anyone, other than me, has eaten,” she writes. “As for my ex-boyfriend, I don’t need to hear about his wife’s ability to Zumba.”

But what struck me most was this quote from psychologist Sherry Turkle: “People pay a psychological price for seeing information about former friends and spouses and colleagues that they really shouldn’t be seeing.” It speaks to the idea that you probably shouldn’t know that your co-worker got wasted last Saturday, or see your ex-boyfriend cuddling with his new love. It’s kind of creepy, and  totally unnecessary. Facebook messes with your head, and the worst part, Turkle says, is that “it makes people feel bad because they know they shouldn’t look at this stuff — but they can’t help it!”

It speaks to the very loose definition of friendship that comes with Facebook. I want to see the wedding pics of my friends, but not those of my “friends.” And yet I keep looking. It’s not just a time suck. It makes me feel less fit, when compared with an old sorority sister’s marathon photos or a former classmates flying crow. Or less fashionable (see: photos of home-made adorable scarves or dresses I could never pull off). Or just less fabulous (weddings in Jamaica! Great seats at the Super Bowl!)

No surprise: That Facebook, it’s a blessing and a curse

Do you ever feel worse about yourself after perusing others’ lives on The ‘Book? Do you, too, find yourself looking through photo albums when you know you probably shouldn’t?

Does your book club want to read MWF Seeking BFFCheck out the discussion guide for questions. And let me know if you’d like to do an author chat via Skype!

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The Generation Gap

Last week I did my first book club guest author visit. It was so much fun. Every reader takes something different from a book, so it’s fascinating for me to learn which parts stick with different people.

One of the women in the book club made an observation that had never occurred to me. As she noted, I write a lot about the need for independent female friends. MWF Seeking BFF is largely about the importance of strong friendships that are separate from romantic relationships. “I think that’s generational,” she said. She went on to explain that whenever she tells her mother about how, say, all her girlfriends went on a vacation, her mom’s first reaction is to ask “what were [the husbands/boyfriends] doing?” To her mom, the idea that the ladies would go off and do all these activities independent of their husbands was strange. In her mother’s generation, this woman said, women didn’t just up and go out with the girls. And if they did, they first talked to their husbands to make sure they had plans, or were otherwise taken care of.

I’m not sure this is specifically generational. The woman who brought this up was about my age, and our mothers are probably similar ages. My parents, who were married for 30 years before my father died, spent a lot of time together but were also quite independent. My mother would leave for quilting retreats. My father, an American history buff, once went on a solo road trip of the antebellum south. I thought this was really strange at the time. Now I think it’s pretty cool, and was probably quite smart. When my mom left to quilt with the ladies, she didn’t feel the need to make sure my dad was cared for every second that she was gone… he was a competent guy, after all.

But I have heard these kind of questions. The “But what will Matt be doing??” inquiry, to which I usually respond “I don’t know, you should ask him.”

So I’m wondering, do you think the notion of it being ok to focus on friendships, even if that means leaving the men to fend for themselves, is a generational one? And what changed to suddenly make this more acceptable?

It’s Valentine’s Day! You know what makes a great V-Day gift for your be sties? (What? You love them too, don’t you?) MWF Seeking BFF. You can:
Order a copy
Read an excerpt
Get the book club guide

Watch the trailer

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R.I.P. Jeffrey Zaslow

It is with great sadness that I’m writing today’s blog post.

Jeffrey Zaslow, the author of The Girls From Ames and co-author of The Last Lecture died on Friday at age 53.

I didn’t know Zaslow personally. But I devoured The Girls From Ames in a single weekend, so taken was I with his documentation of the friendship between ten lifelong BFFs from Iowa. It was a book that made me think, a lot, about the nature of relationships and even made me question my own BFF search. I wrote about the The Girls from Ames in MWF Seeking BFF, and wrote blog posts about it herehere, and here (my mother even quoted The Girls in her guest post).

Last year, once MWF Seeking BFF was written and my editor and I had graduated to the “blurb” phase of the book process, we discussed who might be the ideal person to offer a quote for the back cover. Zaslow’s name came up immediately, of course. But would this long-established bestselling journalist have the time, or the interest, to check out a book from an unknown first-time author? I’m sure he didn’t have time for it, but he made time nonetheless, and offered a kind and generous blurb. I still remember the morning I opened the email from my editor to find that quote. It was such an exciting day, and I was—and still am—so grateful.

The literary and journalism world has lost a great man. Aside from The Last Lecture and The Girls from Ames, he co-authored Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope with Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly and Highest Duty with Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger. He was the replacement for Ann Landers at The Chicago Sun-Times for 14 years, and a longtime columnist and reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, he wrote The Magic Room, about the women who work and shop at a bridal store in Michigan. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from promoting that book.

In looking through my copy of The Girls From Ames, which still has about 30 mini post-it flags protruding from its pages, I’m struck by these lines in the introduction. “I do feel an almost urgent need to understand women. That’s mostly because I am the father of three teenagers, all daughters. I have seen my girls pout and fret and cry over friendships in turmoil, and I have seen how their friends have buoyed them at their lowest moments. … Having observed how my mother, sister and wife built lovely friendships over the years, I naturally hope that my daughters can be as fortunate. When I think about their futures, I want them to feel enveloped by people who love them, and I know they’ll need close, loving friends at their sides.”

He was a wonderful writer. And, clearly, a wonderful dad.

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Hola Amigas

Today I’m in Mexico. For a friend’s wedding! Sun, relaxation, books, margaritas. I’m very excited.

At the wedding will be three good local friends (four if we include the bride) who I haven’t seen in weeks. Or is it months? They live in Chicago, but for some reason—travel schedules, night classes, more weddings—we haven’t hung out in ages. As one of these ladies texted me recently, “I can’t believe we live half a block away and need to travel to Mexico to hang out.”

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a weekend with the ladies.

Which of course reminded me of another wedding-related trip to Mexico, though this one under different cricumstances.

I’m speaking, of course, of everyone’s favorite BFFs, the ladies of  Sex and The City, when they took a girls-only honeymoon to Mexico after Carrie’s canceled wedding. I truly believe that Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda’s Sunday brunches and Saturday night cosmos made American women everywhere take stock of their last-minute brunch buddies. They were the best besties.

And so, here, a Friday video clip. I’m thinking my Mexico trip will be just like this one…sans the broken engagement. And here’s hoping that I’m one of the laughing ladies. Someone else gets to play Charlotte, por favor.

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