As another generation faces the realities of post-college life, there seems to be considerable analysis going on about the realities of growing and sustaining friendships once adulthood and Life get in the way. Beyond Oprah and Iyanla, that is.
The 2011 book, MWF Seeking BFF, chronicled one woman’s search for girlfriends after reIocating to Chicago. The workplace is not the guaranteed source of friendships that it used to be, it seems. Unstability, competition and mistrust all contribute. Geography plays a big role, not only because friends are scattered across the country and around the globe. Even living in the same city, divisions of East Side or West Side, island or midtown, suburban or urban can become easy excuses to keep apart.
Sometimes, deliberately, friendships develop to fulfill only specific needs. One friend for jogging, perhaps, and another to take to the wine bars. If it feels like separate silos instead of one-size-fits-all, it is. Silos are easier to find.
In a recent piece titled “Friends of a Certain Age,” NY Times writer Alex Williams noted that “once people start coupling up, the challenges only increase.” The result is that while 2 women may connect well with each other, the introduction of the menfolk can lead to a failed double date. (The reverse is can be equally chilling, when you disappoint your partner by not clicking with his friend’s mate.) Mr. Williams calls this “Friendship Stage 3”, and it probably feels familiar to most people. It certainly does for me.
“Stage 4,” according to Mr. Williams, is when “the kids get along, so the parents have to as well.” These hookups may not be the bonded best-bud links of your dreams, but they suffice. Women without children, however, move to what I’ll call Stage 4A, working to remain in sync with a friend as the other’s parenthood takes root. As for making new friendships with established Moms, the lifestyle differences can be a bump in the road. Sometimes it’s a big bump. No guilt or fingerpointing. It is what it is, as they say.
(Women volunteer so much info to me these days that I know it’s a mistake to predict what causes friendship hiccups. I just met a woman whose overtired Momfriend accused her of being “too cute” to hang out with her when her husband was around.)
I’m frankly envious of the unspoken connection mothers share with one another. Sometimes it pops and sparks like static electricity with a simple, “And, how old are your kids?” When Momfriends complain about how they hate PTA meetings and despise Saturday morning soccer, I remind them of the friendships, or at the very least, relationships, that they’ve built in those settings. NotMoms generally go to the grocery store or the gynecologist’s office to be in the company of that many women.
As for the Net’s potential for rekindling old friendships, I can testify that there’s one ending to the story we rarely consider: Perhaps the other person doesn’t want to be found. In an earlier post, I described my own frustration trying to locate Jan, someone I lost touch with during high school.
Wouldn’t you know! A Patch reader took on my search and found contact info for Jan’s mother. From her I acquired Jan’s number, but it’s been weeks and Jan’s yet to return my call. At least the mystery is solved, though, so that’s something.
Women are meant to be social, and living without friends is unacceptable. Enter the Internet once more. In 2008, a Denver woman wondered why she couldn’t find girlfriends the same way Match.com finds dates. Her solution: SocialJane.com. Post a profile and search the database. From online dating to online friend-finding. Not such a leap.