Tag Archives: friendship in adulthood

Dating in Later Life…for Friends

friendship

friendshipI went on a date recently. No, I wasn’t cheating on my husband. I was meeting a friend of a friend for coffee.

Much like real “set-ups,” I put this one off for a long time. Our mutual friend had introduced us months ago. And while I periodically emailed this woman – and she me – to try and find a convenient place and date, neither one of us really put much effort into it. The meeting languished on my “long” To Do list, falling somewhere between “polish silver jewelry” and “figure out religion.”

And then, one day, when I was scrolling through my email, I came across her name and thought: “What the heck?”

Finding Your Type

I’ve written before about how hard it can be to find your “type” when you’re dating for friends in adulthood.

On the surface, this lady I eventually met up with had everything going for her: she was a psycho-therapist (and we all know how I love a good therapist), she specialises in mid-life transitions (Hello!) and she was Jewish (Nuff’ said).

But, of course, people can look great on paper and still be total duds in real life. (I once went on a date with a guy in DC who seemed like reasonable enough boyfriend material, but who then spent the entire evening telling me how he’d been been listed as one of Washington’s 100 most powerful people. Right after telling me his salary and his work-out regime.) Blech.

Not so here. Within half an hour, this therapist and I began jointly analyzing the link between my being the youngest of four children and how that affects my attitudes towards my own kids’ sibling rivalry.

I knew I’d found my people. By the time we ordered our second pot of fresh mint tea, I was in love.

Why Real Life Friendships Matter

In the hyper-connected world which we all inhabit these days, it’s easy to fall back on virtual friends.  I, myself, have made loads of friends Online over the years. Some of those friendships have now claimed a seat at the table on my personal Board of Directors. Others are people I simply enjoy catching up with from time to time on Facebook.

But the internet can’t yield the sort of benefits that derive from close, real-life friendships. Research shows that having robust, diverse social relationships can have a host of wellness benefits, including longevity, happiness and professional success.

And it’s not just close friends who matter, either. The New York Times recently published an article on the importance of loose ties. The thrust of the article was that by cultivating low-level friendships at places we frequent – whether churches, bars or PTA meetings – we become less lonely and more empathetic. These “low stakes” friendships are also a fantastic source of recommendations for everything from hair salons to accountants.

The Value of Friendship

In a compelling column in 2014, New York Times columnist David Brooks declared that if someone magically gave him $500 million, he’d use it to foster adult friendships. His vision was sort of like a giant summer camp, composed of grown-ups drawn from all different backgrounds. Brooks believes that having close friends helps you make better decisions, adhere to a higher standard of behavior, and – ultimately – be more authentic.

I’m totally with him. I’m not sure I’ve got the cash right now to go to camp. But I do know that I need to keep putting myself out there, meeting new people, and soldering old ties.

In the meantime, I’m having dinner next month with my new Bestie. She’s bringing her husband and I’m bringing mine.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll become friends too.

Image: Backlit Dawn Foggy Friendship by Helen Lopes via Pexels

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

a. One of my favorite new (to me) websites is The Conversation, whose tagline “Academic Rigor, Journalist Flair” had me from “Hello.” Check out this fantastic post on why zebras aren’t like horses. (“They look like stripey horses so why can’t we ride them?”)

b. Another recent discovery is Better After 50, a website devoted to sharing real stories from women about life after 50. I was thrilled that they featured my recent post about the Brangelina divorce as well as one on friendship in adulthood.

c. If, like many of us, you’ve been pondering that whole Bob Dylan Nobel Prize thang, distinguished writer (and friend!) Naomi J. Williams has a hilarious blog imagining what would happen if we opened up all of the Nobel prizes to other disciplines.

d. On a more serious note, BBC Mundo has some absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking photos of the war in Colombia.

e. If you’re a Billy Joel fan (say it loud, friends) you will love this archive of interviews and performances with the pop star. Here he is talking about Piano Man. Sniff.

f. In the category of “Just For Fun,” here are famous art masterpieces revisioned with smartphones. Brilliant.

g. And finally, over on Slate, I give you the Dress Tent.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Breaking Up With Friends Online…and In Life

I broke up with a fellow blogger recently.

She doesn’t know it, of course. Because I don’t know her. In that curious Online way in which we now Friend and Follow and Subscribe to many of our “friends,” you can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unsubscribe to someone’s RSS feed and they won’t necessarily even know that it happened.

It was a weird experience for me, nonetheless – the end of this relationship. She was one of the very first bloggers that I began to follow, long before I launched my own blog. I followed her because she seemed wise and funny and edgy. Most of all, she had super-insightful tips on an array of topics that interested me concerning blogging and career change and work/life balance.

Over time, however, she began to blog less and less about these professional topics and more and more about her personal life. That didn’t bother me, at first. For starters, she has a super-interesting personal life. And she’s also got a terrific voice. And, let’s be honest, blogging is an inherently narcissistic activity. So if you don’t have a strong voice, it really doesn’t work. (Thank goodness for all of us that narcissism is no longer in the DSM…)

Still, the more I read her blog, the more I came to feel that I was going there out of some voyeuristic impulse, rather than than because I was getting all that much out of it. In other words, somewhere along the way, our relationship had changed and I didn’t feel that it was particularly healthy for me anymore.

And that was when I knew that it was time to break up.

Once she was gone from my life, I found that I didn’t really miss her. To the contrary, I felt a sense of relief. It was just like ending a long-standing romantic relationship that’s become unhealthy and unproductive, one where you can no longer remember why – exactly – it was that you first hit it off but, regardless, the chemistry simply isn’t there any more.

Which got me thinking that my Online breakup with this blogger was a bit like breaking up with friends in real life.

We’ve all been there:

*The childhood friend with whom you shared everything – even your chewing gum – but is now embracing social and political causes you can’t quite stomach.

*The co-worker whose banter was fine at the office, but slipped into something more inappropriate after hours.

*Or simply the person you befriended because he seemed cool at the time, but, upon closer inspection, turned out to have several bodies hanging on a meat cleaver in his basement refrigerator.

Sometimes those break-ups can be painful, especially if you didn’t initiate them.

Sometimes they enable you to find a new equilibrium. I wrote not long ago about a semi-unhealthy best-friend relationship my daughter got into – and out of  – last year. Once she severed that tie, I was sure that particular friendship was dead and gone. But now she and her old Bestie are friends again – albeit of a much more casual sort.

A big part of growing up is figuring out what’s important to us in a friend. But equally, it’s about realizing when it’s time to move on.

Image: The Broken Hearts Club by Chrissy Ferguson via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Friendship In Adulthood: What Do You Look For?

I saw an old friend over the holidays while I was back in the States. She moved to a new town a few years back and has slowly sunk roots there, buying a house…putting her kids in school…joining a synagogue. You know, the usual.

When I asked her if she’d made any close friends in her new town, she answered matter-of-factly: “I click about 85% with four or five women I’ve met. And I think that’s pretty good.”

She went on: “And I’ve finally realized what I look for in a friend: ‘Negativity.'”

I laughed out loud. But I knew exactly what she meant, both about the “85%” figure and about the negativity.

The fact is, it’s really hard to find people you connect with. I once wrote a commentary for Chicago Public Radio about the elusive search for female friends in adulthood. The thrust of the piece was to illustrate – by example – what a nightmare it is to have to “date” for friends once you grow up and have kids. So if you’re batting at 75% or over, like my friend is, I’d say that’s a pretty good average.

I can also relate to the negativity point. Despite my penchant for dark films about family dysfunction and self-destructive behavior, I don’t actually look for negativity in fellow friends. But I do look for some combination of intelligence coupled with a sense of humor, preferably on the self-deprecating side (which is actually what I think my friend meant by “negativity.”)

The problem is – even if you know what you’re looking for in a friend – how do you find those friends when you’re starting from scratch? And even if they’re out there…will you take the time and effort out of your busy life to “date” them?

In the hyper-connected world which we all inhabit these days, it’s easy to fall back on virtual friends. Women, in particular, are drawn to Online networking and community-building. I, myself, have made loads of friends Online in the past two years, of all different shapes and sizes.

But you can’t have coffee with a computer. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) And the internet can’t yield the sort of benefits that derive from close, real-life female friendships.

In case you’re wondering whether this entire discussion is academic, it isn’t. I myself, had to dip my toe back into the friendship-dating waters recently.

For months, I’d been trying to have coffee with a close friend of one of my cousins back in New Jersey, who moved to London last summer. My cousin spoke really highly of this guy, but between his schedule and mine, there just wasn’t a ton of overlap, despite the fact that we live about 10 minutes from one another.

And let’s face it. I knew that the probability that we’d hit it off was close to zero. So while I was happy to get together with this guy, I figured that this would be more of a “getting him oriented” in London kind of coffee, not the start of something beautiful.

Well, needless to say I LOVED him. Absolutely adored. He was cool and funny and smart. And we had tons of stuff in common. Not just the surface demographic-y type stuff, but a deeper appreciation for the same jokes, the same cultural references, the same reactions to British education. He was, in short, my people.

I was lucky that I happened upon my new BFF through my cousin. But close friends can just as easily sneak up on you at a book club, or that school function you dreaded going to, or that wine tasting that was so much better than you expected.

The point is to get out there. And experiment.

Who knows?

You might just find your soul mate.

Image: Making Friends by behang via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl