Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Modern-Day Cosmo

Last week I was lucky enough to do a reading for a group of employees at the Miller Coors headquarters in Chicago. It was really fun. Not just to meet the employees, but to get to see what the office of a beer company looks like. There’s a bar! In the office!

The experience got me thinking about the relationship between drinks and friendship. As I mention throughout the chapters of MWF Seeking BFFmy girl dates largely revolved around sushi and white wine. It seemed to be the go-to drink: light, crisp, fun. I wasn’t usually looking to get drunk, but simply to relax after a long day at work. Red wine makes me sleepy, martinis are a fancy, weekend option. White wine, for me, is easy and casual, with a bit of a buzz.

Just like a perfect friend-date.

Remember 10 (or more?) years ago, when Cosmos were The Drink when it came to girls nights? Carrie Bradshaw had us all sipping pink sweetness out of martini glasses.

More recently, Bethenny Frankel and her ladies have bonded over SkinnyGirl margaritas–and, in turn, so have millions of happy hour loving gals.

I have to assume that the women of Girls won’t be inspiring an opium tea trend, but who knows.

Cocktails are always a nice addition to ladies night — they get the conversation flowing at the very least.

So, I know it’s a little early in the week to start drinking, but let’s do it anyway.

When you and the girls are gathered, what is the group’s go-to drink? And is ladies night always better with a cocktail?( I mean, isn’t everything better with a cocktail?) Why?


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BFFs In Their Natural Habitat: Getting Your Nails Did

So on Wednesday we discussed female animal friendships—they’re real and they’re deep.

To observe such relationships, anthropologists will travel into the wild to observe animals in their natural habitats.

As the wannabe Jane Goodall of friendship, I too have ventured out to study my subject. And I’ll tell you, there’s no better place to watch friends do their thing than at the nail salon.

I took a solo trip to get a manicure the other day, and, honestly, I could have stayed there forever. It’s a really fascinating place–pairs or groups of BFFs come in, settle into their comfy massage chairs, and talk about their biggest problems and innermost secrets at full volume, as if no one else can hear. Even when the chair next to them is holding someone (namely, me) who is pretty obviously listening in.

Mostly, women gossip. Nails salons are, as far as I can tell, the female version of the barber shop. Sitting quietly, you’ll learn of someone’s dating woes, marital woes, work woes, friend woes. You’ll likely hear her opinion on Kim Kardashian, what she’s doing this weekend, what she did last weekend, and who she did it and is doing it with. The other places where these conversations take place are probably the phone and a restaurant, and in both cases it’s hard for someone else to listen in. Not impossible, but it takes work.

At the nail salon, you have to work to not listen. Perhaps it’s that having someone massage your feet or hands relaxes you just enough. Or maybe it’s the relative quiet of the room. Whatever it  is, something is making women open up and share what’s on their mind. All while someone applies Ballet Slippers to their pinky toe.

If you’re ever wondering what other BFFs dish about on their downtime: go get a mani-pedi. Do what I do, call it research. Then tell me: What about these salons makes women feel as if they’re the only two in the room? Don’t get me wrong – I love it. But I’m definitely curious why BFFs will say anything they want in when getting their nails did, but suddenly on a plane, or at a larger gathering, not so much.


I had a great time reading from MWF Seeking BFF at Miller-Coors today as part of their Building Relationships and Empowering Women Initiative! It’s so wonderful to talk with groups of women about the importantance of making time for friends. 


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The Hard Facts: It’s a Jungle Out There

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

“In animals as diverse as African elephants and barnyard mice, blue monkeys of Kenya and feral horses of New Zealand, affiliative, longlasting and mutually beneficial relationships between females turn out to be the basic unit of social life, the force that not only binds existing groups together but explains why the animals’ ancestors bothered going herd in the first place.” (The Spirit of Sisterhood Is in the Air and on the Air.”;  New York Times 4/23/2012)

You guys, this is so cool! I’m not even much of an animal lover, but this article from this week’s Times science section is pretty fascinating. We already knew that animals need friends—but did you know that female animals need female animal friends?  I didn’t.

For example:

“Female chacma baboons with strong sororal bonds have lower levels of stress hormones, live significantly longer and rear a greater number of offspring to independence than do their less socialized peers.”

“Wild mares with female friends are harassed less often by stallions and have more surviving foals than do mares that lack social ties.”

“Female mice allowed to choose a friend as a nesting partner will bear more pups than females forced to share straw space with a mouse they dislike.”

“Female elephants keep in touch with their chums through frequent exchanges of low-pitched vocalizations called rumbles”… that scientists say they “liken to an elephant cell phone.”

I don’t even know what a chacma baboon is! But still, this is awesome.

The article goes on to explain the necessary number of friends for female animals (three) and how to spot BFFs (suckling each others’ lion cubs, or touching trunks, for example). But I’ll stop summarizing. If you love stories of animals BFFs—remember Tarra and Bella?—you should just read it.

I love friendship research because it reminds me that I’m not just some girl whining about missing her friends. It says that science is on my side. And this goes one step further. It says, “Rachel, you’re just like all the other ladies of the animal kingdom.”

Be warned, I gotta say it: I am woman, hear me roar.

Does this surprise you? Ever actually seen any animal BFFs?


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Am I Wearing Rose-Colored BFF Glasses? (And What Are BFF Glasses?)

I spend a lot of time on this blog bemoaning my lack of high-school style friendships. “I started this search wanting a BFF like I had in high school,” I find myself saying to book clubs all the time. “Where you hang out all day, then talk for three hours on the phone at night about what happened during your day, then repeat that routine all week. ”

And I really was lucky in high school. I had fantastic friends and I have little-to-no memory of getting in petty teenage fights with them that were motivated by jealousy and insecurity. (I’m not saying they didn’t happen, just that I don’t remember them. I do remember those fights from middle school.)

But lately I’ve been reading a lot of young adult books, and they’ve served to remind me how tough friendship can be in high school. How–as a teenager– if your friend beats you out for homecoming queen, you usually aren’t happy for her, you’re jealous. And how boys can so easily come between two best friends. And how the littlest disagreement can spiral into a massive blowup because you are 16 and your hormones are raging and you don’t always know how to properly address conflict before it balloons into World War 3.

As a teenager, you can fight with your bestie about spilling a secret or keeping a secret. She could be too needy, or too distant. She might flirt with your boyfriend, or totally ignore him. Every little thing  she does, and its opposite, can cause a fight. And everything you do, too.

At least, these are the reminders that my current batch of young adult novels are drilling into my brain. Because any YA book worth its salt will have BFF drama. That’s just High-School Stories 101. (See: All 142 Sweet Valley High books.)

It’s funny to me (funny weird, not funny ha-ha) that I’ve spent so many hours feeling wistful for a time that, back then, might have been filled with anxiety and uncertainty in its own right. And it’s plain old funny-sad that I’m just realizing this most basic of lessons (the grass is always greener!) two years later.

So I’m wondering, do you look back at high school (or grade school) friendships with nostalgia or horror? Do you miss the teenage friendship years, or do you give thanks every day to have moved past that stage?


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Did You Watch “Girls”?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new show Best Friends Forever, the NBC sitcom about, uh, two best friends forever.

But I’m far more interested in HBO’s new ode to friendship, Girls. The show, which premiered on Sunday, is about four friends in New York City, and their misadventures trying to navigate jobs, romance, and real life. Yes, it sounds like that other show about four New York City gals–but it’s much, much, less glamourous. And plenty more real. As The Daily Beast put it: “Girls is, in many ways, the antithesis to HBO’s own ladies-in-Manhattan fantasy, Sex and the City, offering a far more realistic portrayal of sisterhood than that of Carrie Bradshaw and Co.”

I think it’s pretty fantastic that new shows about female friendship keep rolling out. As they do, I’ll keep watching.

Did you watch Girls? What did you think? And what’s the most realistic portrayal of friendship on TV?


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The Hard Facts: Your Happiest Sobfest

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

“New research has found that tragic films can actually make us feel happierThe findings, published in the journal Communication Research, suggest that those tearjerkers have a way of bringing our attention to important relationships in our lives.” (“Why We Love Tearjerkers”; 3/27/2012)

I sort of hate tearjerkers.

Except Beaches, of course. And A League of Their Own. And Man on the Moon. And Grey’s Anatomy. Private Practice.

So….yeah. Maybe I don’t hate them all. But I rarely sign up for them. I’ve never seen Terms of Endearment or The Notebook, mostly because I’m never in the mood to sit for two hours and come out the other end a sobbing puddle of lunacy.

Turns out, according to this latest research, that indulging in a little sob fest will actually make me happier. It will make me think about all the people I love–my family, my husband, my friends–and count my blessings.

According to the Science Daily article about this phenomenon, “The more [the study participants] thought about their loved ones, the greater the increase in their happiness. Viewers who had self-centered thoughts concerning the movie — such as ‘My life isn’t as bad as the characters in this movie’– did not see an increase in their happiness.”

Point being, we get our happiness from thinking about others, not thinking about ourselves.

This is especially relevant research for me, as I seem to have an appointment to see that new Zac Efron/Nicholas Sparks film on Friday. I’ve never seen a Nicholas Sparks movie, which, I’ll admit, is a point of pride for me. But if it means a Friday night with my friends, then fine. I’ll go. Sobfests are indeed a girlfriend  affair. And now that I know the movie will make me happier, and more grateful for my pal, well…that’s double fab.

Plus, I’ll get some time with Zac Efron’s abs. So there’s that.

What’s the tearjerker that gives you your best cry?


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Women Have Friends, Men Have Buddies

Let’s chat about something I don’t understand about guys. Why do they never call their friends, “friends”? It’s always “my high school buddy and I used to down 40s” or “I’m going on a road trip with my buddy” or “my buddy and I totally watched Sex and City when we were college roommates, don’t tell anyone.”

I don’t get it. Aside from on this blog, where I have to exhaust every synonym for “friend” lest the same word appear in every sentence, I have never called a friend my “buddy.” Never. I do use it every now and then to refer to my 11-year-old Little Brother, but that’s it. Nowhere else.

But guys say it all the time. I assume it’s because they think “buddy” sounds more macho. Less intimate. It’s very “we’re just dudes. we’re buds. no big deal.” But when a guy says buddy, it doesn’t (from what I can tell) mean what I would think it should mean. To me, a buddy is someone you’re friendly with, but not really friends with. A pal, a buddy, someone you’ve hung out with once or twice.

But when men use the phrase, they always seem to be talking about their close friends. Even their BFFs.

There are some guys who go “buddy” more than others of course. A friend of mine from college calls every single one of his best friends his buddy. A couple of weeks ago I was at dinner and a dining companion used buddy exclusively when referring to old friends. My new good guy pal has girl “friends” and guy “buddies.”

Is it regional? These three men are from Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Indiana. (Yes I know that one of those is a city and the other two are states but I don’t know where in Wisco or Indy they’re from.) Is it just pure machismo? Or is buddy just another word for friend that I am totally overanalyzing?

I don’t think so on that last one. Have you ever heard a woman use “buddy”? Ever? I thought not.

There’s some big linguistic study here waiting to happen. I know it. Scientists, you’re welcome. Please report back.

Have you noticed this “buddy” phenomenon? Why do guys love to call friends “buddies.” Why don’t women ever say it?


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Friendmaking Services

Over the last couple of years I’ve tested out a number of friend-making services. You’d be amazed how much is out there, and how not-awkward they are. It occurred to me this morning that I don’t have these different sites/organizations in a comprehensive list anywhere, and that some of you other BFF-seekers might want to give some a try.

So here it is: THE FRIEND-SEEKING DIRECTORY “The only online community that matches women into small local groups to meet potential friends in small, safe, effective and fun ways with others in the same area and age.” GirlfriendCircles is sort of like for friendship. But you don’t have to peruse the site and ask someone out if you don’t want. Most people go the ConnectingCircle route, where five or six women are matched and meet at a local cafe or restaurant. GirlfriendCircles also hosts speed-friending events. (CEO Shasta Nelson came up with my go-to friending formula.) “Grubwithus is a social dining network that facilitates friendships by bringing awesome people together over delicious food.” I attended the first-ever Grub meal and I loved it. It’s like OpenTable but instead of reserving a table you reserve a seat at a table with others. When you show up you’ve got 12(ish) new dining companions, and you get a well-priced family-style meal at a local restaurant. Food! Friendship! Yum. (There’s even an MWF Seeking BFF meal group forming in Seattle. Go join!)

Mac ‘n’ Cheese Minglers: Chicago only. “A group of people interested in expanding networks – social, professional, romantic – come to a home for an evening of food, drink, discussion, and low-key, no-pressure connection-making.The one caveat?  Everyone comes solo!” Local entrepreneur Saya Hillman does a wonderful job organizing these meet-new-people events. I met some cool and fascinating people. 

Meet Joe: Chicago only. “Joe is a regular guy who introduces you to new friends in the city based on what you tell him about yourself and the kinds of people you want to meet. If you’ve ever stopped to wonder how many great people you’d know and like in Chicago if you just had an opportunity to meet them, then Meet Joe is for you.” Joe Drake is basically a friend matchmaker. First you meet him to explain what you’re looking for, then he matches you with a couple of people from his extensive network.“The world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.” I tried a cooking group, but you can find local book clubs, running groups, knitting circles, webmaster clubs, theater groups…literally anything that interests you, there’s a group for that.

One Brick“One Brick brings volunteers together to support other non-profit organizations by adopting an innovative twist to the volunteer experience: we create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering, and after each volunteer event, we invite volunteers to gather at a local restaurant or cafe where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.” I absolutely love this organization. The volunteering is no-commitment, so you can sign up for one-time events around your own schedule. I worked at a local garden, and made a friend, all in one day! “ has friends from around the world available for hire. Rent a friend to attend a social event, wedding, or party with you. Hire someone to introduce you to new people, or someone to go to a movie or a restaurant with. Hire a friend to show you around a new town, teach you a new skill/hobby, or just someone for companionship.” Listen, it’s pretty weird, but it exists. I did it.

I’m going to post this list to make it easily accessible, and add to it if I try out new things. I know there are a lot of services that aren’t included here, and that’s because I haven’t tried them. If you have other suggestions, comment below!


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The Hard Facts: The Platonic Question

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

“Only once the sexes mixed on equal and familiar terms at school, at work and in the social spaces in between — only once it was normal and even boring to see a member of the opposite sex at the next desk — could platonic friendships become an ordinary part of life.” (“A Man. A Woman. Just Friends?” ; New York Times, 4/7/2012)

This article from Sunday’s New York Times is worth a read. The author, essayist William Deresiewicz, explores the political history of platonic friendship between the sexes, ultimately saying that after the feminist movement of the 1960s, friendship between a man and a woman–one without sexual undertones–became possible, and even the norm.

Deresiewicz goes on to say that, really, most people do engage in totally harmless relationships with those of the opposite sex, and it’s only popular culture that pretends it’s so tough. That’s because it’s not interesting, or sexy, he says. “It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end,” he writes. “Put a man and a woman together in a movie or a novel, and we expect the sparks to fly.” He also contends that as a culture we don’t quite “get” a loving relationship that isn’t familial or romantic. It just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve been skeptical of male-female friendships in my day, too. During my year of friending, I made exactly one guy friend, and we didn’t spend nearly as much time together as I did my female friends. I guess I thought that if I was spending time with a man, I should be with my new husband.

But I’ve made one great man friend as of late. We’re good buddies, and it’s totally platonic. The other day he called to tell me about some girl he is into and explain how his pursuit is going. I gave advice… or tried. (I’ve been out of the game a while.) It was refreshing, and pleasant, and completely nonsexual.

Maybe I’m evolving.

So what do you think, are male-female friendships totally normal? Does pop culture only pretend it can’t exist since it makes for a boring story? Or are we not nearly as evolved as Deresiewicz lets on?


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The No-Longer-Friends Formula

A couple of years ago I was given a friendship formula: Someone is a friend once you’ve hung out twice a month for three months.

I’m wondering now if there’s is a reverse equation. Is there a specific length of absence  that says “we are no longer friends?”

There are some people I see and chat with once a week, at the gym for instance, who I wouldn’t call friends. And then there are people who I talk to once every four months, and see even less, who I do call friends.

A lot of that is history, of course. The friends I never talk to are still friends because of our shared past. We’ve been through stuff together, so they’ve earned the Friend title.

But what of the friends I don’t talk to anymore, and don’t expect to? At what point do they go from “friend” to “friendish person” to “a girl I was once friends with.”

To me it’s a year. If I haven’t spoken to someone (via phone or email) or seen her in a year, I’ll usually go from saying “we are good friends” to “we were good friends.” Twelve months might seem like a long stretch, but things get busy and sometimes months can go by before you realize you haven’t spoken to someone you consider near and dear.

These aren’t the friendships that end due to a blow-up or any other conscious decision, of course. In those instances, it’s quite clear when the friendship is kaput. I’m talking about the relationships that quietly fade. The ones that make you think “Huh, I guess we aren’t friends anymore.”

Even thinking about this makes me want to run to the phone. I don’t want to lose friend status with anyone just because we’ve been in a communication rut!

So what do you think? Is there a formula for no-longer friends?

Attention Nashville! I’ll be reading at Parnassus Books on Thursday, April 12 at 6:30 pm. Hope to see you there!


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