The challenge of making new friends

By Caitlin Kelly

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THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

This story hit home for me, recently reprinted:

After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship. Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with, said Marla Paul, the author of the 2004 book “The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore.” “The bar is higher than when we were younger and were willing to meet almost anyone for a margarita,” she said.

Manipulators, drama queens, egomaniacs: a lot of them just no longer make the cut.

Thayer Prime, a 32-year-old strategy consultant who lives in London, has even developed a playful 100-point scale (100 being “best friend forever”). In her mind, she starts to dock new friend candidates as they begin to display annoying or disloyal behavior. Nine times out of 10, she said, her new friends end up from 30 to 60, or little more than an acquaintance.

I like living in New York, and our town’s proximity to one of the world’s liveliest and more interesting cities.

But it’s one of the loneliest places I’ve ever lived.

I’ve found it tougher than I expected to find and keep friends here, maybe because…

 

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One of the best weeks of my life, working in rural Nicaragua — now still friends with these three

Not enough time together

New Yorkers face the longest commutes of anyone in the U.S., robbing them of leisurely moments for friendship. It takes time to get to know another person well.

Not enough spontaneous time together

Between work, family and commuting, all of which have rigid schedules, “Hey, let’s meet for a drink!” can take weeks, even months to plan.

– Few shared memories

I arrived in New York at 30, with my deepest ties back in Canada, to friends from childhood, high school, university, a newspaper job, freelancing. They remain, decades later, my most intimate friendships.

— Unresolved conflict

I lost three close New York friends within a few years. That still hurts. In contrast, I’ve had full and frank conversations with my Canadian pals — and they with me — and remained friends.

Here’s a list of 23 reasons (!) women can break off a friendship, from the parenting website Cafe Mom.

No wonder it can feel so tenuous!

 

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— Money differences

Journalists don’t earn much!

One casual friend finally told us his annual income was $500,000 and I was stunned; thanks to his humble style I had no idea. We live (modestly) in a very affluent region, and many people out-earn us by enormous sums. When one person, or couple, has to keep choosing pizza or ramen and the other can drop $200 a night on cocktails, how much can you enjoy together?

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— Political differences

Since the election of President Trump, many American relationships have been torn asunder.

— Professional differences

I’m nearing the end of a long and successful career, in a competitive industry, like my husband; I’m a writer and he’s a photographer and photo editor. Professional envy and competitiveness can, and do, make us cautious about what we share about our current clients and projects.

— Children

We have none. At our age, younger friends are obsessed with child-rearing and our peers with their grand-children, We’re never invited to join child-related events, even if we’d enjoy it. That cuts out a lot of socializing.

 

I do very much value my pals in far-flung places — L.A., London, Berlin, British Columbia, Seattle, Oregon, Alabama, Maine, rural Ontario. I just wish we could hang out more often!

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Are you finding it more difficult as you age to find and enjoy new friendships?

 

Making A New Friend

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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