In fourth grade, I was the new girl on the playground. The way I remember it, Jodi walked over to me and said hi. She recognized that I was new and commented accordingly. We remained best friends for almost twenty five years.
But what happens when you’re not nine anymore? Or on a sports team? Or in college or your first job where there are lots of new people. What happens when your kids are grown and flown and you no longer have the simplicity of being thrown in with the other parents, forced to make small talk while waiting for the class recital to start? Where do new friends come from?
Maybe you’re lucky. Maybe you’ve always lived in close proximity to where you grew up (unlike me who moved across the entire United States three times before I was a teenager). Maybe the friends you made along the way stayed put too.
Or maybe you’re like most women I know…your best friend is somewhere else. She moved away. Or you did. In any case, you are no longer a quick text away to go for a coffee run – or an emergency cheesecake session. Or to try out that new exercise class. Or to just have a wingman when you have to show up at that place you don’t really want to be.
When you’re young, making friends is as easy as saying hi to the person sitting next to you in homeroom or joining in the game being played on the playground during recess (yes, it was that easy when we were young! I’m sure “mean girls” have always been a thing, but I also think social media has given them traction.)
When author Rachel Bertsche moved to Chicago with her (now) husband, she didn’t know anyone. Even though she had plenty of friends in other parts of the country, she was missing that local connection for last minute get togethers or planned weekend brunches. She decided to go on 52 girl dates – once a week for an entire year – with women she met through digital means or the old fashioned way in classes she took or just striking up a conversation with someone she thought looked interesting. In other words, she put herself out there. The result was her book MWF seeking BFF: My year long search for a new best friend.
Most women are too embarrassed to admit they want/need a best friend. Here’s an interesting conversation starter – just ask the women you know “where’s your best friend?”
Rachel wrote her book almost ten years ago. I would venture a guess that embarrassment remains a huge factor why women are starved for friendship. On Amazon, in the book notes for MWF seeking BFF, it says: “In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life is, you’ve gotta have friends.”
Regardless of which camp you fall into, it’s never too late to be the friend you want to have. Put yourself out there. Strike up that conversation. Tell a woman you admire her [fill in the blank]. Be honest. Be kind. Be a great listener. If you have the opportunity to say something nice, SAY IT!
One thing that has changed since Rachel wrote her book are the number of outlets on- line for meeting people. (I’ll admit, I used a couple of the ones she wrote about in her book…and Bumble, the dating sight where women make the first move, added a completely separate BFF section to help women meet potential women friends.)
Then there’s the app Next Door. It’s rooted in your neighborhood so it’s geographically desirable for meeting a new friend. A couple of years ago, I happened to read a post by a woman (who had just moved to town) and wanted to join a book club for “youngish” moms. I said I was in my fifties, was that “youngish” enough?
Literally within one hour, there were thirty plus replies. One reader referred the “youngish” mom to a certain Facebook group and then suggested to me that since there was enough interest, we should start our own book club. Two weeks later, thirteen women, none of whom knew each other, gathered at my house to start our book club.
As we found our rhythm that first year, attendance started to drop after about eight months, so I told everyone I was going to open it up again on Next Door. In less than thirty minutes, we had eight new members and a waiting list of five more.
It’s been fun to watch the friendships grow outside of our monthly get togethers (and yes, we really do discuss the book!) All because these women were ready and willing to take a chance and show up. And wordlessly admit that we are, in fact, starved for friendship. No embarrassment necessary.
Think about the last time you made a new friend – when was it? Who started it? I’d love to know below – you will be giving someone else the courage to start the conversation.
P.S. Here are a few of my favorite books on the power of female friendship: Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood (Rebecca Wells); The Air You Breathe (Frances de Pontes Peebles); The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love (Jill Connor Browne); and any of Diane Mott Davidson’s books – Goldy and her best friend Marla are a fabulous pair.