Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Hard Facts: The Obligational Friendship

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

“19.5% [of women] have a friend they hang out with strictly out of obligation .” (“Girl Bonding”; Women’s Health, September 2012)

Women’s Health conducted some research about female friendship in this month’s issue, and they found some pretty interesting stuff. 53 % of women have been dumped by a friend. 63% have done the breaking up. 66 % are still friends with an ex.

But in my opinion, the stat above about friendships out of obligation is the most interesting. It made me wonder: Are these 19.5 % of women the ones making the plans, or are they just accepting invitations because they feel they have no other choice?

I’m guessing the latter. According to the same Women’s Health information, of the 63% who have broken up with a friend, 55% say they slowly cut the pal out of their life. Slowly cutting a friend out sounds to me like they just stopped issuing invitations. But actively cutting ties with a friend–choosing to reject invitations and not answer phone calls–takes initiative that I’m guessing feels too mean for some women. So they accept invitations out of obligation, and nothing else.

Truth be told, I’m surprised at that 19.5 number. I actually thought it would be more. From what I can tell, a good amount of women have someone they hang out with because they feel like they should, or they must. It’s amazing to think about, really–friendship is supposed to be this very active relationship. Two people who enjoy each other, choosing to make time to spend together. But so much of friendships come from other influences–families, offices, spouses that force you together.

So I’m wondering, how many of you have friends you hang out with out of obligation? Are there pals you wouldn’t see if it weren’t for their invitations?

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New Friends 2.0

It’s been a while since I wrote a post that speaks to the origins of this blog. After BFF searching for more than two years, I’ve been lucky enough to make a  lot of new friends. A life that was once filled with wine-sipping TV-watching solo evenings is now filled with wine-sipping TV watching friend evenings!  It’s an ongoing effort, finding Your Person, but I feel like my journey thus far has been a success. 

Still, now that I’ve become accustomed to hitting on ladies, or throwing myself at them if the friendship potential dictates, I can’t stop. I continue to meet and pursue new pals, never knowing where the next Callie or Sara might emerge. So I thought I’d take today’s post to update you on some of my new, post-2010 pals. For all of you on your own BFF search and looking for inspiration, here’s how I met the latest additions to my roster. [Names changed to protect the innocent.]

Michael: My newest man friend. If the question is “can men and women be just friends,” the answer is apparently yes. We are great buds. We met at the gym where I was working a couple of shifts a week, and, though I thought he was intimidating at first, eventually started chatting whenever I was in. He’s a single guy, I’m a married girl, so I became a go-to for dating and girl advice. We don’t hang out a ton outside the gym, but the friendship has graduated to phone chats.

Gabby: Stay with me here: Gabby’s boyfriend’s mom is one of my mom’s new BFFs. Got that? As some of you might remember from MWF Seeking BFF, my mom was on a BFF search of her own during my year of friending. She found a winner in a woman who moved into her building that year. One night, my mom and I went to dinner with Janie and her son’s girlfriend. After that night, the two younger ladies made a dinner date for just us. The rest is history. Now we’re fast friends.

Missy: Like so many couples, we met at a wedding. After hanging out plenty over the weekend (this was a destination affair), we got together for study dates upon our return to Chicago. The fact that we both work from home helps. We haven’t spent as much time together as I would likd, but considering she is in the midst of planning a wedding and prepping for a new baby, she’s a bit busy. Still, there’s a future there.

Molly (real name): Blogger friends! Molly is a fellow author and we are in the Class of 2012 together over at The Debutante Ball, a blog for debut authors. There are only five authors per class, but luckily enough the two of us are both in Chicago. Which means we’re not only Internet friends, but now real-life friends. It’s great to have a fellow author friend to talk shop with–especially since we’re both so new at it–and Molly’s also a writing teacher, so she’s kinda brilliant. Also, you should all read her YA book The Princesses of Iowa.

McKayla: Another fellow writer. This one of the freelance variety. We met through some mutual friends and had a few dinner dates. But our real friendship has blossomed as work-from-home buddies. We meet at a local cafe once a week or so to do our solitary work with some company. We bounce ideas off each other, share editorial contacts. She’s the closest thing I have right now to a coworker.  Oh, and I introduced her to my gym and part-time job, and she got one too! So we’re kinda the same person. It’s awesome.

Kerri: A friend of a friend, now just a friend. My wonderful new pal Jackie brought Kerri into our new(ish) cooking club, which is now not a cooking club at all but a group of friends, about a year ago. She’s fantastic, and of course fit right in. Now she’s an integral member of the gang. I’ve talked here about it can be tough to bring someone new into a group, but not Kerri.

So that’s it — friends of friends, work pals… looking back I guess we met the usual ways, but it’s fun to see how they’ve evolved. How did you meet your most recent new friend?

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It’s Wedding Season

I’m leaving tomorrow to fly to Philly for a wedding. And next weekend to Cleveland. And two weekends ago to Colorado. And two weeks from now I’ll celebrate a friend’s nuptials here in Chicago.

It’s wedding season, and it slows down for no one.

I read an interesting editorial recently that asked the question, “What is it about friends getting hitched that leaves us so unhinged?”

The author Maggie Shipstead writes:

I’m 29, squarely in the middle of that heady span of years when the tempo driving the game of conjugal musical chairs has suddenly accelerated and summer weekends are spent zipping around the country watching friend after friend tie the knot. There is something numbing about all this marrying. The thrill of the first friends’ weddings, when everybody was young and lifelong commitment seemed wild and transgressive, has worn off, and a jaded peanut gallery has sprung up: guests with finicky expertise on food and venues and fine points of policy, like whether bridesmaids should wear matching dresses or whether there should be bridesmaids at all.

I’ll admit, I love weddings. I must, or I wouldn’t attend so many. (Anyone who has seen me commit to the dance floor knows how much I enjoy myself.)

But I know there are people who don’t. People who find them depressing (“half of these will end in divorce!“) or obnoxious (“Another speech? Really?“) or just plain boring. And I know there are some women who only half-mean it when they congratulate another friend on an engagement. Sometimes it’s because one side is jealous. Remember this perfect scene from Friends?

Rachel: Isn’t it incredible?! Monica and Chandler, gettin’ married.

Phoebe: I know, they’re gonna be so happy together.

Rachel: Ohh… I mean two best friends falling in love, how often does that happen?

Phoebe: Not that often!

Rachel: No! I’m so happy for them!

Phoebe: Me too! So happy for them!

Rachel: I’m so happy and not at all jealous.

Phoebe: Oh no! No God, definitely not jealous!

Rachel: I mean I’m probably 98% happy, maybe 2% jealous. And I mean what’s 2%? That’s nothing.

Phoebe: Totally. I’m like 90/10.

Rachel: Yeah me too.

Other times it’s because friends suspect that the marriage might be the end of the friendship. According to Sandy Malone, author of the June Huffington Post story “Why Getting Married Means You Might Lose Some Friends,” “most of the women I know who have been married for five or more years aren’t friends with at least half of the people featured in the pics on their walls, including me.”

Harsh.

There are a zillion reasons why friends getting married stirs up emotion . Just google “friends getting married” and you’ll find all sorts of help for the emotional roller coaster BFF nuptials can send you on. Man, friendship is so complicated.

How do you feel when you hear a friend is getting married? Happy? Sad? Jealous? Regretful?

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The Hard Facts: Don’t Stand So Close To Me

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

“Commuters often go to great lengths to close themselves off to strangers while traveling and now a Yale researcher has documented some of these antisocial tactics. … The most sacred rule, she found, was that sitting down next to someone when there are rows of open seats makes you look like a ‘weirdo.’ But these rules change when passengers know the bus will be full and they will have to sit next to someone, [study author Esther] Kim found. ‘The objective changes, from sitting alone to sitting next to a ‘normal’ person,’ she explained in a statement.” (“Study Reveals How Commuters Avoid Each Other” LiveScience.com. August 1, 2012)

When people ask me if I’ve changed since I started my year of friending, I often use my behavior on an airplane as an example. “Before I did my year, I was that girl who put on her headphones and stuck her nose in a book the minute she sat down on an airplane,” I explain. “Now I look around, make eye contact, smile at people.”

Notice I don’t say “Now I sidle up to my neighbor and chat for the whole flight whether she likes it or not.”

There is a fine line between being friendly and being intense, and I aim for the former.

Similar rules apply to other forms of public transportation. The unwritten rules that Esther Kim refers to above are spot on. It’s not about friendliness so much as it is about personal space. If I’m on a bus or a train, I don’t sit next to someone when there are empty seats. But I don’t consider this being antisocial, I think of it as being respectful of a person’s area. Take last weekend. I was in Las Vegas, and the drunk woman next to me kept pulling up close to me with her chair and whispering in my ear with her hot drunk breath. Ugh. That’s not friendly, that’s having no concept of boundaries.

But even when I’m on a bus or a train, I try to develop an unspoken camaraderie with my nearby passengers. I like to establish myself as friendly early on so that if the occasion arises for us to chat, we will. I also like being polite so that when I inevitably ask to borrow a pen or what time it is, people will respond kindly. Basically, the message I go for is sort of “We could be friends” rather than the super-aggressive “We will be friends.”

What do you think about the unwritten rules of public transportation as Esther Kim outlines them above? Do you agree? (It goes without saying that ‘normal’ is a subjective term.) Ever had to deal with someone who didn’t abide?

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