Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

My unexpected refuge

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, women on September 28, 2012 at 12:08 am

This is the view from what might be my truest home, one to which I’ve been returning — lovingly welcomed in good times and bad, whether I was lonely-and-single, freshly-divorced or happily-remarried — for more than 20 years.

It’s in Toronto, the home of a friend I met when I was just starting out in journalism, a woman 11 years my senior, a witty, fun, worldly publicist.

Through our work, and with her, I had some of my best adventures, both personal and professional, like one of my first-ever visits to New York where I (yes) performed eight shows of The Sleeping Beauty with the National Ballet of Canada (as an extra.) She took me to see “Sweeney Todd” on Broadway and loaned me money when mine was stolen.

As I spent my 20s in Toronto, forever single but professionally doing well, she saw me through some mighty tempestuous affairs, one with a local legend, an eccentric/talented guy we still talk about and recall with some fondness. My own parents never met or even heard of some of  my ex-es, even the Big Deals, but she remembers them all.

Like me, she’s had plenty of dishy beaux and never had kids. Living alone suits her.

What she so generously offers, to me and many others, is a place of refuge.

I once stayed with her for three weeks as I recovered from being victimized by a con artist in New York in 1998, an experience that left me so terrified and traumatized I seriously considered — for the first time since leaving Canada in 1988 — returning to Toronto for good. I needed time and a safe place to heal far, far away from the fear and, even worse, my local police and DA who dismissed his six felonies, and my experience, with a laugh.

In all my subsequent visits over the years, M and I rarely hang out or have long heart-to-hearts. She’s always super-busy, but gives me a key and we bump into one another in the kitchen for a few minutes or chat as she’s getting ready to go out to another meeting or event. But the full-to-bursting fridge is mine to raid, the teetering stacks of newspapers and magazines everywhere there for the pillaging.

Most important of all, though, her home is a place I feel safe and loved. Here, she helped me throw a birthday party for my 50th, inviting 10 of my oldest friends. Here, she helped me throw a birthday party for my husband’s 50th as well, only a few months later.

She is, it has taken me a long time to fully understand, true family.

I left my father’s house for good when I was 19. He sold it weeks later and went to Europe to live on a boat for a few years. My mother was traveling the world alone. My home, then, was a tiny studio apartment. I had no aunts or uncles or cousins nearby, no siblings and no family support.

My parents never told me it was OK to come home again, not after my divorce, not after losing a few jobs and trying to weather the recession. My troubled mother lived a six-hour flight away and my father had a new family with little tolerance for me hanging around.

M’s house — I finally, gratefully realized after all these years as I sat alone one morning this week with a cup of tea in the darkened kitchen — really is home, if home is the place you are always greeted with love and kindness.

I finally told her that this week, even though both of us are uncomfortable expressing so much emotion. (We WASPs just don’t do feelings!) 

Do you have an unexpected refuge?

Or have you offered one?

Have we lost the art of conversation?

In behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life, parenting, Technology, urban life on April 26, 2012 at 1:06 am
Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal

Talking in the evening. Porto Covo, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This recent think-piece in The New York Times argues that we have:

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates…

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

One of the rituals my husband and I enjoy is my driving him to the commuter train station in the morning. It’s only about 10 minutes door to door, but it’s a nice chance to connect and chat before his 40-minute commute and a crazy life working at the Times, one with six meetings every day.

We talk a lot, usually two or three times, briefly, by phone and maybe an hour or two in the evening. That’s a great deal more than many couples, certainly those with multiple children juggling conflicting schedules.

But sitting across the table from someone, sharing a glass of wine or cup of coffee, seems to have become an unimaginable luxury. How else can we ever get to know one another? I’ve had two female friends tell me, only after many years of knowing them, that they had each been sexually abused as a child.

That took a lot of trust and courage. I don’t think most of us would want to share such intimacies only through a computer or phone screen.

I love road trips, six or eight or ten hours in a vehicle with my husband, or friends, or my Dad. You get a lot said, and the silences are companionable.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, (on Virgin Air, maybe the reason for such indie fellow travelers), my outbound flight had a career musician beside me, Homer Flynn, who has spent a long life making very cool music in a band called The Residents. Their Wikipedia entry is huge! We had a great conversation, for more than an hour, about the nature of creativity, about managing a long and productive worklife, about inspiration.

On the flight home — 5.5 hours — I had a similar conversation with my seatmate, a visual artist a little older than I.

Ironically, she’d just opened and started to read a book about introverts and I figured she’d never want to chat. But we discovered we had so much in common we talked the whole way! She had even attended the same East Coast prep school as my mother.

Another flight, from Winnipeg to Vancouver, placed me beside a coach for the Toronto Argonauts, a professional football team. Orlando Steinauer and I had a great time comparing notes on the world of professional sport and professional writing. We found it hard to decide which is more bruising!

As you can see, conversation is my oxygen. I love meeting fun new people and hearing their stories.

It’s why, after 36 years as a journalist, I still enjoy my work — and the comments I get here. I’m endlessly curious about people.

Do you make time in your life now for face to face conversations?

With whom and how often?

If not, do you miss them?

You say goodbye, and I say hello

In aging, behavior, family, life, love, travel on April 13, 2012 at 12:58 am
F-82G 68FAWS Itazuke Nov1950

F-82G 68FAWS Itazuke Nov1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many times a day do you say goodbye?

Or hello?

In a life we often envision and plan for and treat as forward-moving, consistent and linear, it’s really more often one of constantly interrupted relationships — with people, with places, with ideas, with fantasies, with hopes.

This struck me on a recent trip to San Francisco, a city I had not visited since 1998, when I stayed with a friend working in Silicon Valley on my way home from a vacation in New Zealand.

I lost touch with that friend, who I’m deeply fond of, shortly thereafter and always hoped to see him again.

To do so, I emailed and then called the ex-beau who was our mutual friend back in 1996. The boy who broke my heart! But he and I are now both happily re-married and he readily put me back in touch with C, my friend.

What a joy it was to hear his voice again and to catch up on all those lost years. Who knew that our “goodbye” would last so long? I figured it was forever.

I stayed out there with a friend who is in her 70s and whose husband is 83. I wondered, when I said goodbye to them, if that was our last.

I’ll soon be finishing up eight weeks of post-operative physical therapy, working with a group of men and women I’ve known since 2000, when I had my first knee arthroscopy. Within 11 months after that one, I was back, having needed surgery on the other knee. So much for “goodbye”!

I returned there in May 2008 after right shoulder repair, in December 2009 to avoid left shoulder surgery and in August 2010 while I was on crutches. Crazy! (I’m normally very healthy. I just seem to have lousy orthopedic luck.)

But it’s been a pleasure to be welcomed back so warmly by people I like, who’ve twisted me like a pretzel and whose skills have helped me regain strength, stamina and mobility. I’ve watched them date, marry, have kids, graduate college. Who knows how long this next “goodbye” will last?

I attended summer camp ages 8 to 16, for eight weeks at a time, and our end-of-summer leave-takings were truly epic, with much weeping. It wasn’t just faux teenage drama. Sharing a cabin/tent/canoe/sailboat created a much deeper intimacy than some of us had with school-mates, even our own families in some cases.

And, oh, the glorious excitement as that bus, after a three-hour drive north from Toronto, finally pulled into the camp’s long gravel driveway the next summer.

Hello! Hello!

Every time I leave Paris, I feel bereft and the last last time we arrived, I burst into tears of relief and joy that I had finally been able to afford to return.

And yet, the past 12 months have also taught me the powerful value of saying goodbye to several toxic relationships that were making me really unhappy, no matter what efforts I made. That wasted time and energy — reclaimed — has brought some lovely new people into my life, hello’s that have deeply enriched it.

Which do you say more often and why?

Is “Help!” a four-letter word for you?

In aging, behavior, domestic life, Health, life, seniors, women on March 15, 2012 at 12:07 am
English: "A Helping Hand". 1881 pain...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just experienced the most dependent month of my adult life.

Having had full hip replacement, returning home bruised, swollen and sore, I needed daily — even multiple times a day — help to do the simplest of things: eat, dress, pull socks, stocking and shoes on and off, get in and out of bed, bathe.

I left my parents’ home at 19 and lived much of my life after that alone. I’d been sick as hell alone in my apartment or traveling far away where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language, in places like Venice or Istanbul. My family has never been close emotionally or physically — it was made very clear to me what, pretty much whatever happened to me, physically, financially, emotionally, it was up to me to figure out, and cope with it.

I hated being weak, needy and vulnerable. Surprise!

I finally drove this week — and showered (alone!) and tied my sneakers (unaided!) — for the first time in a month. I went by train into Manhattan, our nearest city, and saw a movie with a friend and did some clothes shopping. It was all deliciously new and deeply pleasant.

But I didn’t, as everyone expected, sigh with relief at finally regaining my cherished independence.

I loved having Jose home, to chat with and bring me breakfast in bed. Friends drove an hour to visit, bringing home-cooked meals and fresh cheer. Two close friends were kind enough to chauffeur me to physical therapy a few times, otherwise a $20 cab ride each way.

I’d never been so fussed over or cared for, and it was lovely. Our front door is covered in get-well cards. We ate dinners for three weeks cooked and delivered by members of our church.

As I’ve been walking our apartment property in spring sunshine, I’ve run into a neighbor, a single woman my age who is fighting cancer for the third time. She’s reluctant to ask for help, but she needs it from time to time.

We all do.

We are, even in our vigorous 20s or 30s, as likely to be felled by a vicious flu or a broken arm or a sprained ankle.

We need help, whether writing a better resume or finding the perfect wedding dress or learning how to refinish furniture or bathe a baby. But, for some reason, we’re supposed to shoo away a helping hand.

No, I’m, fine, really, we insist. Even when we’re really not at all fine and would kill for a helping hand or two.

Maybe we’re afraid no one will step up and be reliable and do the hard work, even for a while. As someone who took decades here in New York to make lasting friendships, this offered a huge and powerful lesson for me. We’re loved!

Do you find it difficult to ask others for help?

When you ask, do you receive it?

My baby, she wrote me a letter

In behavior, culture, design, domestic life, life, love, Style on March 11, 2012 at 12:06 am
English: Postal card mailed from Washington, D...

Image via Wikipedia

When was the last time you wrote — (yes, by hand, using a pen) — a letter or note on a piece of paper, let alone chose a lovely card or piece of quality stationery? Foolscap, notebook pages, the back of a receipt or a Post-It note do not count!

Did you put a stamp on it and mail it to someone: a business associate, a former professor or mentor, your sweetie or mom or nephew or former college room-mate?

When was the last time you received a card or letter and ripped open that paper envelope, wondering who had been so thoughtfully old-school to choose it, write it, buy a stamp, find your mailing address and, in time for an occasion, send it to you?

Here’s a recent op-ed in The Guardian making the same argument in favor of paper-based communication:

A letter is a letter no matter whether it lands on the doormat or pings into your electronic inbox.

Actually, though, there is a difference and it is one that worries historians like myself who spend their days combing the correspondence of ordinary people written 150 years ago. The protocols that govern letter-writing mean that even the simplest of communications come packed with extra bits of information that never make it into an email. “A … letter, should be loose, cover much ground, run swiftly, take risk of mortality and decay,” Saul Bellow once wrote – and while most peoples’ communications don’t quite match up to these exacting standards, they do strive to do more than simply arrange where to meet tonight, FYI, or chortle over last night’s debauch down the pub, WTF. Even the most listless letter-writer generally includes a bit about how they are physically and emotionally, a snapshot of their recent activities, a nod towards future holiday plans and a final comment on the state of the nation.

To a historian this stuff is gold dust. For buried away in the interstices of the most apparently banal note you will find all sorts of data, not just about how people lived, loved, ate and dressed a century ago, but – and this is the important bit – what they thought and felt about it all. Letters are a prompt to reflection and what cultural critics call “self-fashioning”. Put bluntly, we get to know who we are and what we think by writing about it to other people.

I recently had major surgery and cannot adequately describe the pleasure, comfort and moral support I got from the many cards and notes I received, whether slid beneath my apartment door by neighbors, sent from old pals in Canada or mailed by members of our church.

(I loved getting e-cards, too.)

But, years from now, when I sort through my papers — literally — these pretty, physical, time-specific memories will fill my hands: Valentine’s, birthdays, weddings, condolence, congratulations.

Here’s a link to 30 gorgeous modern thank-you notes, from one of my favorite daily blogs, Design Milk.

Especially at times of sorrow and stress, a thoughtful, personal note on lovely paper is an air-borne hug.

Here’s a great story from NBC Nightly News about why sending cards matters so much.

And a year-old blog devoted to saving the use of snail mail.

Writing a novel? Here’s a fascinating argument by one writer why writing letters is so beneficial to writers of fiction.

Mail one today!

You’ve Got To Have Friends!

In behavior, life, love, women on February 9, 2012 at 12:09 am

Image via Wikipedia

Bette Midler sang it, and oh is it true…

I moved to New York, to a wealthy suburb filled with soccer moms, (I’m neither), in 1989. When I first married, in 1992, many of those attending were more acquaintances, with a few old friends, all from my native Canada, mixed in.

Only in the past two years have I finally — thank heaven — felt like I, and my second husband, have found a strong network of good friends. I’d always found it really easy to make friends, so was surprised and hurt at how hard it was for me here. I’d only lived in one other place that was lonelier, in a town in rural New Hampshire for 18 months, that was the roughest place I’ve ever been.

No matter what I said or did, or how many times we entertained, nada. Everyone was married, pregnant, eager to become so, or a mother. I had nothing in common with anyone I met — until the very last month after we’d decided to get the hell out and move to New York when I met Penny, a funny, warm, down-to-earth single mom in the rug store where she worked. We stayed friends for a decade.

It’s not easy making new friends as an adult, once you’ve left school and especially if you, as I have for six years, work alone at home all day.

Which is why I read and enjoyed this charming new book, “MWF Seeks BFF” by a young (28 yr old) writer who went on 52 dates in Chicago in search of new friends. She writes lucidly about the challenges and how rare it is to just click! with someone new and hope they’ll carve out room in their life for you.

As I headed into major surgery, and Jose made up a list of people who might want to hear about my progress, I realized how lucky we are now to have found so many people who genuinely care about us both.

How did I meet them?

– Freelance work. Several are people I met at professional events aimed at writers. One is a woman who intelligently and sensitively edited my work when she ran a women’s magazine.

– My husband’s colleagues. He works full-time in an office at a newspaper, a place where people are really busy. But I found a lovely new friend in his department, a fellow Francophile.

– Pool aerobics. I don’t hang out with my classmates, but seeing the same women week after week for two years has created some new friendships, even if largely limited to the locker room.

– Church. I’m not at all like most of the women at our church, but the women who have become close friends have taken the time to see past what some see as my bohemian exterior. (I’m hardly a hippie, but we don’t live in a huge house, or a house at all,  and our household income is probably 30 percent of theirs.)

– Board work. Any sort of volunteer work where you have to show up regularly means you have time to get to know one another, know that you share a passion for the same issues and care enough to commit time to that cause. One of my best friends is someone I’ve been on a volunteer board with for a few years. You see one another in wholly different roles and behaviors than simply going out for drinks or a movie.

– Friends of friends. One local woman is an artist I met at a party here.

– A dinner party filled with strangers. One of my favorite women friends first sat opposite me at a fun dinner party held occasionally for 20 paying strangers at a home in Queens. Turns out her Mom attended the same Toronto ballet school and we’re both Canadian, have lived in foreign countries and both speak French.

Team sports and classes. I’ve been playing softball for a decade with a group of men and women from their 20s to 70s, including a retired ironworker in his 70s and a 30-something pastry chef. We have lawyers, a few doctors, schoolteachers, and have gotten to know one another very well on that dusty field. Athletic pals see our sweaty, exhausted, sore, injured (and triumphant) core.

– My own work colleagues. One of my new friends is someone I met through my freelance work for The New York Times, who has since moved into another full-time position elsewhere.

– Blogging. One of my new friends is a man who also blogged for True/Slant when I did, and we quickly became mutual admirers of one another’s work. We’ve read each other’s manuscripts and I love having a handsome, smart, single guy friend to keep Jose on his toes!

My friends range in age, from 30 years younger to 30 years older. Some have young kids, some have grand-kids, some have teenagers and a few, like me have no kids at all. Maybe typical of the women I find interesting, we almost never talk about kids, but about work, the news, our families.

How do you make new friends?

Friendship? Who’s Got Time?

In behavior, domestic life, life on August 19, 2011 at 1:00 am
Three best friends

In the same room! Image via Wikipedia

If there is one ongoing lacuna in my life  it’s face to face time with friends.

I miss them.

I miss it.

I feel very out of step where I live, in a super-affluent suburb of New York.  People here, and in the city, seem to devote the bulk of their time to work, commuting, family and self-improvement, not to time spent among friends.

I know this likely feels tougher for me because I spend about 80 percent of my life alone at home, where I work. No office cooler jokes or chitchat leaven my days. I miss the eye-roll!

Nor do I have any family members nearby, all living far away in Canada.

I recently made a new friend while we were both attending a conference in a city far from our homes. He lives in Zurich and I live north of New York. It was one of those instant coups de foudre, an immediate meeting of the minds that I find so rarely and which is so blessedly precious. Maybe because I’m not doing most of the things women my age do: worrying about kids and grand-kids, climbing or clinging to the career ladder, racing back and forth to my country house, I rarely meet women here I can identify with.

Frankly, it also seems to be a question of money — I live happily in a one-bedroom apartment and drive a 10-year-old vehicle. The women near me here live in enormous mansions and often out-earn me by many multiples. We have little in common except our gender.

Tristan and I spent a fantastic day together, as it turned out we’d both stayed after the conference with no fixed plans or agenda. We wandered (!) the Mall of America, all 520 stores and 78 acres of it. A world traveler with sophisticated tastes, he wanted to eat lunch at…Panda Express, a fast-food Chinese joint. We went out for dinner and enjoyed one of the best white wines I’ve ever tasted, from Argentina, which he chose.

It was terribly hard to say good-bye and I realized how rarely I now spend an entire day with a friend. When you spend uninterrupted hours with someone, the conversation has time to meander, from your earliest histories to your favorite bands, from that day’s news headlines to sharing stories of a fantastic trip five years ago.

People are too busy.

I do have some friends here in New York, and am glad, but if I see them once a month, that’s a lot. If we meet for a meal, it’s hurried. No one seems to have the leisure to just hang out. Emotional intimacy is not something you can rush.

But you have to want it, and you have to make time for it.

So this past weekend, Scott came to visit, about a 90 minute drive from his home. We see one another about every three or four months, punctuated with chatty emails. We celebrated with a big lunch on the balcony and he brought a great bottle of red wine and then we sat in the pool to cool off and talked about everything from the recent London riots to our own writing careers.

I live in the U.S., a culture weirdly addicted to the overshare, the blurt, the unwanted confession. Tristan knew of the conceptual model — whose name I forget, but I learned in my cross-cultural work with Berlitz — that visually explains how Americans relate to one another. It’s the opposite of many other cultures. Within seconds of meeting you, an American will unload a ton of extremely personal detail, but later remain emotionally aloof and distant.

In Canada, and other places, people often initially appear cold and unfriendly, but they’re reserved — wisely and cautiously reserving intimacy as a precious resource.

Self-disclosure follows, but takes time. You can’t rush it.

Scott is one of my 427 Facebook friends, but we’re also quite private people and there is much that only emerges over time. There is always news so good, or so bad, you need to share it in the same room with someone, not diced into status updates. I find it depressing as hell when people I’d like to become better friends with tell me — on Facebook — they’ve just had major surgery or their partner has died.


How are your face-to-face friendships doing these days?

The Locker Room

In behavior, children, family, life, love, sports, urban life, women on May 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm
YMCA office in (Ulan-Bator) Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

This one's in Mongolia! Image via Wikipedia

I work out and take classes at a local YMCA, which guarantees a wide mix of ages and income levels. A life-long jock, a veteran of boarding school and summer camp, I’m used to being around other people in various stages of undress.

But it’s the naked emotion that often surprises me there, not the glimpses of others’ flesh.

I learn a lot in the locker room and often leave it in a very different mood than when I arrived:

– the mentally disabled children who come to swim, bound up in splints and diapers, laughing and playing with their caregivers

– a diabetic woman my age who needed the EMTs after going into sugar shock

– the woman who casually announced it was her 83d birthday the next day, the one whose vigor and tart wit made me sure she was 20 years younger

– the scars of surgery

– what a woman’s body really looks like in old age

I value the very few places in American culture where little children and people in their 80s or 90s mingle freely, sharing space and ideas. One is church, the other is the Y. I don’t have children or nieces or nephews and lost both my grandmothers when I was 18, so I hunger for cross-generational contact.

A few weeks ago I was worn out, weary of holding it together. A conversation that began in the locker room after swim class with the 83-year-old was, suddenly, the most honest and helpful I’d had with anyone in months…Then we kept talking in the parking lot, even after I burst into embarrassed tears. Her unexpected advice was blunt but kind.

I’m used to being visible physically, not emotionally, a common theme in my life. I tend to keep feelings bottled up, not wanting to burden friends or family who have, of course, their own challenges as well.

I know you change in the locker room. I didn’t know it might be more than your clothes.

The Pleasure Of A Four Hour Lunch

In behavior, business, cities, food, travel, urban life, work on November 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm
The Standard Grill - Meatpacking

The Standard Grill, NYC. Image by via Flickr

I finally ate yesterday at the Standard Grill, one of Manhattan’s trendiest restaurants — the scene at the front door a dazzling blur of entitlement, of leopard coats and Goyard handbags and great jewelry and the set jaw of the people who expect everything now having to actually wait a few minutes for their pleasure.

But it was worth it. I’d made a reservation five days earlier, sitting on hold for 10 minutes, to meet a young friend there visiting from Ottawa. He’s a stylish guy and I knew this would be a good fit.

(One of the greatest pleasures of living in New York is deciding which bar or restaurant to take someone to who is visiting from elsewhere; tonight we’re heading to Toloache, our favorite midtown restaurant, which is a gorgeous room, serves amazing, fresh small margaritas and serves beautiful Mexican food.  Our guests tonight are friends from small-town Rhode Island, an artist and her professor husband.)

Our lunch was perfect, as much for the waiter’s patience as for the food and ambience — the penny tile on the floor actually was pennies. We had only met once before, last July in Vancouver, and we are still getting to know one another. Plus we’re both journos, both Canadian and love to read. I think we must have talked for at least half an hour before we even ordered.

The food was simple but good, and my martini blessedly powerful. We suddenly noticed the lights changing — and, having met at 1:00, it was now 4:40 and the sky outside was darkening.

My lunch companion was a young man half my age, someone (yay!) whom I recently found a job for through — who else? — a man who took over my Montreal apartment in 1988 and found me this summer on LinkedIn. We met on-line as bloggers for the same site, now defunct, and decided to have dinner when I visited B.C.

As someone self-employed, a long lunch and lazy afternoon are my best work-related “benefits”  — not a 401(k) match or paid sick days — but the ability, when and where possible, to savor a great leisurely meal in lovely surroundings with someone whose company and conversation I enjoy.

One new friend, who lost her job two months ago, meets me once a week at a local diner where we catch up. She is OK financially, if bored and restless, and only now — now that she has time to sit and relax and not rush off — are we finally getting to know another.

Time to enjoy one another has become the ultimate luxury.

Do you ever take long, lazy lunches? Who do you have them with, and where? What do you eat?

Making A New Friend

In behavior on August 8, 2010 at 12:31 am
my best female-friends :)
Image by GoodOldCitizen via Flickr

One of my favorite reads is the weekend Financial Times, and its many columnists. The latest column by Mrs. Moneypenny, a pseudonym clearly, looks at the challenge of trying to make a new friend:

Where do you meet new friends? Does it just happen by chance? You could be forgiven for saying that I don’t need any – these days, it’s hard enough to find time for work, home and other crucial activities such as shooting guns and flying aircraft. But life evolves and, like it or not, people move away, get married and find other friends. The result is that even I occasionally have vacancies for New Girlfriends.

I thought I would look back at the past few weeks and think about potential Girlfriends I have met. How did I meet them? The tried and trusted way, of course, is to put New Girlfriend (or NG) screening in the hands of others. Existing Girlfriends, especially very good ones, are usually excellent sources of NGs.

The opening weekend of the football World Cup, when England played its first match, was a good time to meet NGs. Very few self-respecting girls of my acquaintance were really interested in the football. So my Canadian Girlfriend, who has a wonderful house in Hampshire, complete with a heated outdoor swimming pool and unlimited supplies of ice cream, invited a select group of us girls down for a sleepover. I knew two of the other three guests well; the third was someone I had met infrequently…

By the end of the anti-World Cup pyjama party, where we stayed up late eating ice cream and talking about sex, I realised that the girl I had not known well before was definitely a candidate for a New Girlfriend. The formula for finding NGs became clear – let mutual friends identify them, and then meet them over an extended period of time.

A new memoir, Take The Long Way Home, by Gail Caldwell about her late friend Caroline Knapp, examines a deep female friendship that ended with Knapp’s premature death from lung cancer.

I’ve recently — yay! — made two new girlfriends, which comes as a pleasant surprise. I moved to New York in 1989 and have found it the least friendly place I have ever lived. People are crazed: work, commuting, family, taking classes, work, work, work.

One of my new friends is a younger woman with two little kids, but not obsessed with her family life and somehow willing and able to carve out a bit of time for a new person, me. We met at a conference where, oddly, she was pitching me a possible story about her company and its products. The other was a fellow blogger with me at True/Slant, a fellow journalist ten years my senior.

I think the best of friends come in all age ranges. This week I’ll finally catch up with Jess, one of my journalism students a decade ago. I tend to remain friends with people for decades and recently caught up with Laura, who I’ve known since eighth grade, and who lives so far away from me I am lucky to see her every two or three years. She, too, has two boys, but we still have lots to talk about beyond family.

Irene Levine, a professional colleague and psychologist, has a smart and helpful blog (and new  book) devoted to female friendships.

How have you made a new friend recently? Where and how?

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