Category Archives: The Search

The Hard Facts: Being Alone Is Different Than Feeling Alone

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

“The majority of lonely people (62.5 percent) were married or living with others — an indication that feeling lonely and being alone are not the same. ‘It’s not the quantity but the quality of your relationships that matters,’ said Dr. Carla M. Perissinotto, a geriatrician who led the study. ‘You can’t tell who may be feeling lonely. It’s not just a little old lady living all alone.'” (“A Longer Life Is Lived With Company,” New York Times, 9/11/2012)

The study mentioned above found what anyone who’s ever read this blog already knows: Make friends, live longer. But the interesting finding, IMHO (that’s webspeak, I just learned, for In My Humble Opinion. Aren’t I hip?), is the note that the people who qualify as lonely aren’t necessarily the ones in isolation.

Intuitively, we know this. Maybe the loneliest you’ve felt was at a party full of people. Or you were alone at the movie theaters, enjoying Les Miz, and felt totally content. Personally, one of my loneliest times was when I realized I was short on local friends. This, even though I was newly married, had family less than a mile away, and went to an office full of ladies every day. Loneliness isn’t about how isolated you are, it’s how isolated you feel. It’s about self-perception. After all, plenty of people who find themselves in the exact opposite situation as I was in–surrounded by friends but lacking a romantic partner–feel lonely, too.

According to Perissinotto, the necessary next phase of research is to find out why people are lonely. A pretty valuable first step given that apparently 20 percent of the population is chronically lonely. 20 percent! That’s nutters.

Tell me: Have you ever felt lonely in a situation where you were anything but alone? Was it hard to talk about? Personally, I hated saying I was lonely, even when I was, because I felt like I sounded ridiculous. “I just got married and am constantly surrounded by people… I’m so lonely!” It sounds like melodrama, even if it’s real. Have you been there?


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Poll! Which Celebrity Lifestyle Do You Want For Yourself?

As some of you may know, I’m working on a new book that will hopefully be in stores early next year. I’m super excited about it, as it deals largely with some of my greatest obsessions: Pop culture, celebrities, and the lure of the weekly tabloids.

Here’s the official description:

Author of MWF SEEKING BFF, Rachel Bertsche’s JENNIFER, GWYNETH AND ME: The Pursuit of a More Perfect Existence, One Celebrity at a Time, about the author’s efforts to improve her life by emulating the aspects of A-list stars’ lives that she (to say nothing of our celebrity-obsessed culture) most admires, such as Jennifer Aniston’s workout regime, Gwyneth Paltrow’s kitchen, and Tina Fey’s work ethic, to Jennifer Smith for Ballantine Trade Paperbacks, by Kari Stuart at ICM (world).

As I’ve been writing–and taking on these various megastar lifestyles–I’ve realized that sometimes the aspects of a celebrity’s life that we think  we want, isn’t really something we’d choose for ourselves when it comes down to it.

Still, I’m curious what you all think. If you could make over just one aspect of your life to be just like a certain celebrity’s, what would it be? Want Jennifer Aniston’s abs? The Garner-Affleck seemingly perfect marriage? Wish you could go all Julia and become totally zen? Please chime in on my poll, and feel free to write-in your own answers in the comments if none of these appeal to you.


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The Hard Facts: New Year, New You

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

“Reading more books has topped a list of most popular New Year’s resolutions, according to a survey. The poll conducted by LA Fitness asked 2,000 people what their aims for 2013 are. Saving money and losing weight are the second and third most common resolutions respectively, ahead of redecorating and taking better pictures.” (“Top 40 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 Revealed,”

While neither “make new friends” nor “spend more time with friends” are on this list, plenty of the most popular resolutions have to do with socializing “better.” By better, I mean mostly in person, and with people that make us feel good about ourselves.

Here’s the list of all 40:

1. Read more books
2. Save more money
3. Lose weight
4. Redecorate
5. Take better photos
6. Go traveling
7. Sell old unwanted stuff on eBay
8. Buy a tablet
9. Organize photos
10. Do something for charity
11. Spend more time with kids
12. Buy a Sunday paper
13. Less TV time
14. Connect my computer to my TV
15. Leave work on time more often
16. Less time on Facebook
17. Totally revamp my wardrobe
18. Try a new hairstyle
19. Get a six-pack
20. Eat less chocolate
21. Socialise more in real life rather than Facebook
22. Drink less alcohol
23. Buy less coffee from Starbucks/big chains
24. Start my own business
25. Tell someone I have feelings for them
26. Quit smoking
27. Gain a promotion
28. Learn how to use Twitter
29. Run a half or full marathon
30. Call people more than text
31. Cut someone out of my life who isn’t good for me
32. Meet online contacts in real life
33. Watch less reality TV
34. Text people less
35. Try to save relationship
36. Try extreme sports
37. Get better at social networking
38. Stop contacting/going back to an ex-partner
39. Have a face-to-face with my boss to find out where I stand
40. Do a bungee jump

Life has gotten crazy lately (whose hasn’t?) and I let this site slip during the holidays, so my resolution is to get back to blogging! I hope to see you all here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

And if your resolution is the ever-popular “read more books,” might I suggest MWF Seeking BFFIt’s a fun, easy read, and the perfect push you need to kick-start your year of better socializing.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?


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The Hard Facts: When The Weather Outside is Frightful…Make a Call

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

“During what the study authors called ‘uncomfortable’ weather — be it hot, humid, wet or cold — people tend to have longer phone conversations, but with a smaller circle of people than usual, including close friends and family.” (“Bad Weather Leads to Longer Chats with Family, Close Friends,”, 10/10/12)

When you’re stuck indoors, what do you do? Call your besties, apparently. There’s something comforting about snuggling into the couch with the phone on one ear and committing to a long chat like old times, and we never need comfort more than when the world outside our windows is keeping us indoors.

It’s not that we talk on the phone more when it’s gross out, according to researchers, just that our phone habits change. “We found that during uncomfortable weather, our ‘ringing anyone’ behavior declined, talking on the phone for longer to our close friends and family more than our wider network,” said Santi Phithakkitnukoon, co-author of this study.

The researchers put forth a couple of reasons for this: Maybe bad weather increases our feeling of isolation, so we reach out to stay connected. Or maybe bad weather simply makes it harder to interact with anyone face to face, so we go the next best route.

What do you think? Do you tend to call BFFs more when it’s gross out? (I’ve never noticed this phenomenon myself, but I’ll be paying attention now.) Why?



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BFF Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Christmas is coming! Hanukkah too. And what you really want to get your bestie is a throwback necklace. You will take the “Be Fri” and she’ll get the “st ends.” (The Be Fri is so obviously the better half.)

But those necklaces are so 1991.

The good news? The ’90s are back, just slightly upgraded.

Here, the modern-day half-heart necklaces and friendship bracelets that make for the perfect BFF stocking stuffers., $80, $84

Because they’re like the old school necklaces, only better.$product410x615$

Anthropologie, $28

Because DIY is so 2k13. Why buy one bracelet, when you can buy a whole bracelet making kit, and have a TGIF jewelry party?

Target, $29.99

Because it’s winter. And these are awesome.

And two bonus gifts for those tried-and-true pals…

Kate Spade, $78

Because she’s held your hair more times than you can count.

Spencers. $9.99

Because it’s true. (And it’s better than another Starbucks card.)

What are your favorite BFF holiday gifts?


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The Hard Facts: Is Facebook Social or Stressful? Or Both?

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

“A large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.” (“More Facebook Friends Means More Stress, Says Report”; 11/26/2012)

I find scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed both stress-inducing and addictive. It’s like a bad drug. Every time I lose 30 minutes to the social network, I feel worse. Like I’ve just wasted time spying on others, while doing nothing productive myself. It stresses me out to see all the fabulous activities others are doing or links others are reading or vacations others are taking. I should be doing those things–and more!

But for most people, the source of Facebook stress isn’t that it’s virtual crack (apparently, I’m flying solo on that one). The issue is who to add as friends, and then what to allow these friends to see. “The more groups of people in someone’s Facebook friends, the greater potential to cause offense. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety,” this report says. “Stress arises when a user presents a version of themself on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online ‘friends’, such as posts displaying behavior such as swearing, recklessness, drinking and smoking.”

When I started working at my last job, I was hardly on Facebook. I had a profile, but I logged in once every two months. This was in 2007, before everyone posted every moment of her day. As my superiors started adding me as a “friend,” I got more familiar with privacy settings. I didn’t allow my bosses to see my photos. (Not that they were particularly incriminating, but you never know what someone else is likely to post. And there are some pics of me in college–scanned from actual print photos and posted online, thankssomuch guys–that I didn’t need out there.) I created a work group listie thing that I could exclude from seeing certain status updates. That job is behind me now and so are those privacy settings, but I understand why it might cause anxiety. Thank God I was a bit older when Facebook hit the scene. If I was in college now, having pictures of every drunken night plastered all over the Internet, I’d be stressed too. Especially when it came time to apply for jobs.

According to this study, plenty of our Facebook friends aren’t necessarily friends, anyway. “Researchers found that on average people are Facebook friends with seven different social circles. The most common group was friends known offline (97 per cent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 per cent), siblings (80 per cent), friends of friends (69 per cent), and colleagues (65 per cent).” It’s no shock that one might get anxious when parents, grandparents and colleagues are constantly kept abreast of her actions.

The author of this study gave this analysis, and I think it’s on point: “Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”

Do you agree? Is Facebook the awesomest frat party ever? Or the most awkward family gathering of your life?



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What’s More Important Than Friend Time?

The thing about spending time with friends (new and old) is that it often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. We put off adult play dates because of work obligations, because we’re under the weather, because we haven’t been to the gym in a week, because our kids need us, because we have a date with our husbands, because the cat needs to go to the vet, because we have a million errands to run, because we have to read for book club, or because we’re tired and just want a quiet night at home. I try really hard not to cancel plans or put off hanging out with friends, but when I do it’s usually because I’m feeling sick. Having been sick for about a week a couple of weeks ago, I had to send more “can we reschedule?” emails than usual.

I do find that I put off scheduling friend time when I’m feeling overwhelmed–with work, or just general life overwhelmedness. It’s a feeling that can come up plenty during holiday time, in fact. That sense that you just have so much going on, and you need to soak up any down time you have. Deep down I know this is a bad reason–being with friends relaxes you! It’s scientifically proven!–but still, the siren song of the couch is even louder when stress levels are high.

So, that’s it for me. Stress and sickness are the culprits that get in the way of my friend time. What about you? What is it that keeps you from scheduling more time with pals? Kids? Working out? Exhaustion? And what steps can you take to make friends a bigger priority?


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The Hard Facts: Time to Give Thanks

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

“About nine-in-ten adults (89%) said they would be having a Thanksgiving meal with members of their family — and not just one or two. Among those who said they would be sharing a drumstick with family, more than six-in-ten (62%) said that ten or more relatives would be at that Thanksgiving meal — and a quarter (27%) said there would be 20 or more. Overall, the typical host would be setting places for 12 family members.” (Pew Research Center)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because mashed potatoes are my favorite food.

It’s about family and friendship — and traveling near and far just to spend time with the people you love. In fact, 56% of drivers will travel at least 100 miles to celebrate with loved ones, while the average long-distance trip is 240 miles. (I’ll be getting on a flight from Chicago to Boston later today.)

The whole point of the holiday is gratitude, which researchers agree is almost as important as friendship. In fact, studies show that gratefulness can boost your happiness, strengthen your relationships, help you sleep, and even inspire you to stick to an exercise routine.

So this Thursday here’s a sampling of what I’m grateful for:

Great family
Fabulous friends
Three days a week of SVU marathons (I love you USA Network!)
The Cosby Show and Friends on Nick at Nite
My book club
My editor and agent
And, of course, as always…. YOU! Thanks for returning to the blog and supporting MWF Seeking BFF , the book! (Shameless self-promotional side note: It’s a great book for holiday reading. A strong reminder of how lucky we are to have BFFs…another thing to be grateful for!)


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Dispatches from the Other Side

When I started this blog two-and-a-half years ago, I was looking for new friends and had little to no idea how to find them. Much has changed in the time since. I’ve made lots of new pals. I’ve figured out a number of ways to meet new people–joining groups, getting set up, accepting invitations. I’ve settled into a life in Chicago that I never saw coming when I started on my friend quest.

And lately, I’ve found myself on the other side of the friend search. Recently an old acquaintance moved to town and reached out for dinner. I met a woman in a doctor’s office who suggested we exchange email addresses, and we did.

It seems the friender has become the friendee. 

As such, I wanted to pass along some notes from the other side of the fence.

Such as…

If you invite a potential pal to brunch (or drinks, or dinner, or even a non-food get-together), and she doesn’t immediately reciprocate with an invitation of her own, this does not mean she didn’t like you. Sometimes it just means she’s really busy, or she’s trying to keep up with other pals and she honestly hasn’t remembered to reach out because your friendship is brand new. I’ve long hammered the point of making the first move, and then the second, and even the third when it comes to new friends. Reciprocity is a rule of friendship, but if you’ve only met once, you’re hardly friends. The rules don’t apply. That new acquaintance I met? We had a great time at dinner. I didn’t reach out again immediately, because my schedule was jammed with travel and some dates already on the calendar. But when she texted me a week later to say hi, I was reminded to invite her along on a girls night, and we both had a great time. I was so glad she reached out that second time, because I had been meaning to get in touch. I didn’t think she was weird or desperate or pathetic. I thought she was smart, and cool.

People really do like connecting. After meeting a new friend in the doctor’s office–we exchanged email addresses and talked for ages as we left the office together–I was so excited! I called Matt squealing, as if I’d made my first friend ever. It was just so flattering to have her simply say, “Would you want to exchange email addresses? I’d love to chat more.” Um, yes please. She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with. Friender McGee over here. In the context of sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I probably would have been too shy to ask for her email, so I was so happy she did the dirty work.

The lesson here is one I mention a lot: If you extend a hand of friendship, it is the rare person who will call you a weirdo. And, not to sound like your mom, but if she does call you a weirdo, who cares. She’s not worth it.

I’ve been on both sides of the friending fence now and I make you this promise: No potential friend is analyzing your attempt at friendship as much as you are. So go for it. Couldn’t hurt. Really.

Has anyone ever tried to friend you? How did you react? Share your dispatches from the other side!


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My BFF Is Here!

Do you ever feel like your friends have a radar for exactly when you need them? I was sick last week and have been feeling crummy for a bit since, and suddenly my BFF Sara tells me she has a work trip and is spontaneously coming to Chicago for the weekend! She absolutely could not have timed this trip better — it’s the perfect pick me up!

So of course we will have the perfect girls night: Twilight (VIP movie seating!), drinks, snacks and probably some late-night girl talk. Boys not included. Honestly, is there anything better?

Tell me folks: What does your perfect girls night look like?


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