The science of lady friends

Before I unroll the carpet on the topic of discussion, I want to start by noting that I have been quite lucky in having a set of really good, quality, well-rounded best friends. I’ve known them since middle and high school, and can call on them any time. They are there for the highs, lows, and daily, mundane chit chats. I’m a better person for knowing them and can honestly say that I don’t mind the long journeys or pricey flights that allow me to see them.

During my first ten years in the world I lived in eastern Europe, in a small country whose closed borders excluded any form of diversity. Everyone was encouraged to get along and feel like a member of the community so I was never short on friends and family. I remember celebrating my last birthday there by inviting my entire 4th grade class to my house. 

Once I arrived to the US friendship was this scary, calculating, hard to grasp process, because most kids either knew each other from their neighborhood, after-school activities, or class, but it always seemed to be based on a shared hobby. I came from too far away and did not share any commonalities, except physical location. It was a few years before my parents were comfortably adapted to the American culture and understood the importance of engaging me in school clubs or summer camp. During that time I was a really shy kid, not knowing whether my peers would like me, whether they’d recognize that I’m not a native, or whether they could relate to anything I liked. But as I said before, I was lucky, and became close friends with two girls that have now become amazing ladies and are still my best friends. It was their friendship that sustained me through all the changes that middle, high school and college (including life!) can bring.
Soon, I graduated and headed out to graduate school, all on my own without knowing a soul. Although my close friends were only a phone call away, I wanted to form local friendships, have someone to explore the new town with or collectively share how much we missed home. I did meet a few people, established good friendships with a couple, but I realized that the definition of friendship had shifted somehow. I felt like I couldn’t divulge everything about me like I was accustomed to. There’d be times when what I expected out of friendship, didn’t happen. 

After graduate school I started my first job at a small non-profit, and it was an office populated by 8 women. Suffice it to say that we, for better or worse, spent time with one another, either visiting each other’s offices or getting a drink after a long day of serving the community. We didn’t have very much in common except for work, didn’t really make plans independent of work but had created some type of bond. This was new for me – work friends. 

A few years later the doc and I moved to a new city for a couple of years where I embarked on a second degree, and it was time for new friends once again. What I began to realize with time is that forming genuine friendships can be a challenge. I would meet different people through class, work, or volunteering, but the friendships (for lack of a better term) sustained in that confined environment. It’s a challenge for me I have to admit, because I’m the kind of gal that’s always up for a good time or an adventure, so I’m always quick to suggest an idea that involves hanging out. I like sharing, hugging, making fun of myself, crack jokes and go out dancing like I’m still in undergrad. But I found out not everyone is the same way, and I’m not sure why that is, the guarding, the barriers that are sometimes created. It was difficult sometimes, not knowing who to call on a whim for coffee or a long run. 

This past June we moved once again to our current location, only this time we knew a couple in town. The transition was a challenge for various reasons, but for me, the thing that I was really hoping for is the possibility of making some good friends, especially because we will be here for a while. I thought that meeting with other docs’ spouses would provide some common points, if nothing else, adjusting to a new town or hubs’ unsteady work schedule. It started slow but I eventually began to make new friends, yet they all seem to be categorized. There are my book club friends, running friend, filler friend, wine friend, doc’s intern friends, and so on, but it’s been a challenge getting to that point where I feel completely at ease with someone. I’ve come across someone that I felt was a great person, but then learned more about their character and realized I assumed too quickly without considering all the facts. And that hurts. Finding out someone is not as genuine as they initially appeared. 

                                        banana republic dot v-neck dress/target merona wedges

I’ve gone on for so long with this topic because I find it so important for women, especially at this point in my life. I’ve experienced that feeling of ease that’s shared with a friend that just gets you, that respects, supports, listens, and encourages. Someone that may disagree with your views and has enough confidence to voice her own because she knows we can both learn from each other. I know that in some ways current culture supports large numbers (# of Facebook friends, blog followers, pages viewed, “likes” collected, etc) but it’s always short-term, fleeting moves that fade quickly. It’s always easy to send out an email and invite everyone you can think of, but what about the quality of the time spent together? 

One of the things that still amazes me is the way that friendship has been redefined via blogging. Through emails, scheduled meet-ups and daily comments I have come across some really friendly and kindred spirits. Stopping by each other’s blogs, leaving friendly criticism over flattering dresses or overpriced shoes, we’re there with good intentions, tuning in to learning more about each other. It’s a comforting feeling and one I enjoy contributing to. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Does anyone else see a change in friendship as time goes on? Do you have compartmental friends?

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚


18 thoughts on “The science of lady friends

  1. Love this post and can certainly relate to it. Have you read "MWF Seeking BFF"? Such a good read on female friendships and how true ones can be hard to come by as grown-ups living in new cities.Love your dress!

  2. Well considering when I was young, chat rooms were the place for creeps to hang out and now a ton of real life relationships come from the Internet, it makes total sense to me that the nature of real life friendships are changing. Think of Facebook and Twitter and about a million new ways to keep tabs on (and make new!) friends!

  3. First of all, I have to say: I saw that dress in Banana, and it is even more gorgeous in person than it shows up online. The fit is fabulous on you!About friendship, I have struggled with this a bit too lately. We moved from the East Coast to the Mid-west last summer, and I said goodbye to my buckets of friends, and said hello to a place where I know NO one. I too, try to be friendly and engaging (very difficult for me naturally), but have not seemed to be able to meet "that someone". I can honestly say that I am not overly lonely, but I do wish I had that girlfriend to have coffee, go for a run, etc… I think what is hard is that I had reconnected in a very strong way with my best friend of 28 years, and we had picked up where we left off. It is hard to be away from her.Thank you for writing about such in important topic.

  4. Thank you for this post. I'm just hitting the tail-end of university, and aching over so many of the things you've described. The handful of true best friends who are now too far away and have so little time. The "friends" who fill the space just because they're there – not because I can particularly confide in them. The compartmentalizing of those friends – that part of you is friends with that part of them, but it goes no further. (No work friends – I'm quite the youngest there by some 15 years.) The awkward sadness of not quite knowing if there's anyone you can call when you don't want to go for a meal alone. The definition of friendship changing, the forced changing of expectations with it…and how hard that is, especially when you've been spoiled by having a few very dear friends, and the relationships with them can't just stay the same.(The small East European country part is true for me, too – though for me it was only six years and not ten. My accent in English is flat East Coast American, but my name is so odd that I always felt like everyone would know I didn't belong. I was a Yugoslav, from the smallest country…where did you live, if you don't mind my asking?)

  5. Lisa, I remember you writing about your experience with internet chat rooms! And you're right, the role of friendships is definitely changing, but I still think that there's no substituting tangible friends. Life would be too lonely if there was no one on one interaction!

  6. Modernmom, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I can definitely relate, as you read, and it is hard to open up, especially when you know you have such a good friend in someone that cannot be replaced.

  7. Dea, I can totally relate to this post. All of my friends fall into categories and I still feel like I don't have the same network that I had before moving.

  8. oh I can totally relate to your experience! I'm not from the USA originally. I come from a place where if I meet you today, and if we have things in common we exchange phone numbers and set a day to hang out. We mean it, and we do it.It's been so hard for me to find good friends here. I know really nice people but I think Americans define friendship much different than the way I do. When I went to fashion school I tried to make friends the "Brazilian way" of saying let's hang out, most girls would say "sure" then when I would when and I could tell they really didn't want to hang out.I almost feel like making friends here is like dating: there are lot of prerequisites you need to have before you a worthy of a good friendship.I'm also mostly the one to reach out to my American friends, if I don't do it I probably wouldn't ever see them again. I've gone out of my shell to get to know girls, and those who I created a decent relationship through school, church and sometimes work, I would invite them out, but was never invited back. No, I don't think I suck that much lol these are people who I have things in common with and I know it's mutual BUT the point is that making new friends to them isn't as important as it is for me. I honestly feel lonely quite often, especially when my husband is working, and it's pretty outside, and I have no one other than my cats to hang out with lolI also have compartmental friends. I know if I were in Brazil I wouldn't be seeing my good, true friends that much because we all move on, many have kids and all that but it's amazing how I don't feel distant from them. I know my childhood friends and many other friends love me, they check on me and I do the same, even if months go by without communicating to one another I don't feel distant. But unfortunately I do feel distant from my friends here. Honestly if I have a bad day and want to vent to a girlfriend here I could probably think about 1 who would listen to me. I prefer having a small group of friends where we can be there for one another in times of happiness and sadness than having a bunch of "hangout friends" or social friends where I can't count of them to share good news (without having them getting jealous) or sad news.It's rough :/

  9. All so true! Most of my friends are compartmentalized – a couple of college friends, grad school friends, work friends… I don't live anywhere near any of my true friends, i.e. people that I really connected with 100%, and despite Facebook updates I know we are drifting apart. I'm also from an Eastern European country, though my story is a bit different – I came here on my own in the last year of high school as a foreign exchange student, ended up applying to college and I stayed ever since. So I also have my "friends from before I came to the US" category – some of the best friends I've ever had – that sadly, I almost completely lost contact with. I feel that the older I get, the harder it is to make real, non-compartmentalized friends. Is it impossible? At the moment, the only real friend is my husband, despite occasionally getting together with my/our other friends, and life is pretty lonely. I think the last time I had a friendship that was really open and didn't hold anything back was high school, the later ones eventually turned out to be much more guarded despite moments of feeling like they were the real thing. I hope that it won't be so forever!Oh and yes, that dress looks gorgeous on you!

  10. For some reason when I read the title of this post, I thought you were using "lady friends" as a euphemism for your boobs. Suffice it to say, I was pretty confused by your first paragraph until I realized you literally meant lady friends haha.I definitely can relate to having compartmentalized friendships. I have my school friends, my internship friends, etc. But I'm really lucky that I have a sister who's really close in age…she's my best friend! I'm really glad I have at least one person in my life that knows about all the different aspects of my personality and not just one little piece. I tend to be a little bit of a hermit with other people, though, especially b/c most people my age are really into the clubbing/bar scene which doesn't interest me at all. It's so hard to meet people if you're not really into those types of activities (or at least it is in Los Angeles).

  11. Sometimes I feel like I've lived several lives when I think about the "groups" of friends I've had throughout my years. Today, I can count on one hand the amount of women I call "friends". I may be 'friendly' with a lot of people, but the ones that I know I can call in a pinch are far and few between. And I like it that way. I have my work friends and non-friends and in settings where both meet, it's always initially awkward but I find that the reason I am friends with each person are the qualities that they end up finding in each other and people end up connecting and having fun.

  12. I would say your experience with friends mirrored mine, until I had children. The friendships I have made with women who are going through the most intense, wonderful, tedious and utterly overwhelming experience of our lives together are the most satisfying ones I have. Not every one of my kids' friends has a mom that I would love to hang out with, but it definitely gives you a common starting point of conversation. From there, we build on other common interests. I doubt I would have gotten to know my best friends where I live now if some of our children weren't the exact same ages. These moms are the ones I am "in the trenches" with – and when another woman is interested in and cares for your child, the friendship deepens. Sadly, I am moving soon and know that it will take a long time to develop the level of friendships I have now in our new town.

  13. Compartmentalized is such a good description of those people who we like very much but who are still on the cusp of potentially becoming closer with us. I agree with you that because of technological interaction, our notions of friendship have shifted and I have met and made so many friends thanks to messageboards and blogging. I do think it was easier to make less compartmentalized friends when I was younger because schedules and adult responsibilities can get in the way of just hanging out and getting to know a person (the way you could if you lived in a dorm or something). I enjoy when you share your thoughts. And I love your outfit! What a pretty dress!

  14. Hi DeaI've been following your blog for a while, I love the way you mix your clothes. I find it's harder to make friend's when you in a work environment. Women friends are sometimes too competitive too. I am lucky to have 4 sisters living near.

  15. Hi DeaI've been following your blog for a while, I love the way you mix your clothes. I find it's harder to make friend's when you in a work environment. Women friends are sometimes too competitive too. I am lucky to have 4 sisters living near.

  16. Yes. Even folks one has had for many years can no longer serve the same purpose. Some friendships come to a natural end, because as our lives change, so do we grow as people. That does mean that the need that a friendship may have filled doesn't exist anymore on either side. I am fortunate to still be friends with someone from 3rd grade. I will just say that it's been many years and while she was my BEST friend at one time, that no longer is the case, but holds a special place in my heart. We get together occasionally for movies, theatre, lunch, bowling, etc. and the years melt away. I have also cultivated newer (last 10 years) friends that started as work colleagues and developed into true sister friends. With that said, I'm still friends with someone who was my best friend from college, but I wonder what we have in common so much anymore. We have grown as people and as I've grown stronger and more confident as a person and more sensitive and discerning, I realize there are things about her personality that bother me. She hasn't changed, I HAVE. So, yes, I have just work friends. I have folks I just have drinks with, some that I grab a bite with and some that don't interact with some of ny other sister friends. I think people serve a purpose or a need in our lives and that changes over time, good or bad. There will be those we will grow old and grey with and those are the ones I love the most. Sorry to ramble on, but this post really spoke to me πŸ™‚

  17. Dea, I didn't read any of the comments yet, so I apologize if my message is rhetoric. But I wanted to pipe in and say I HEAR YOU, 100% with this whole moving business. We've moved many times for my man's training, and every time it's a challenge making new friends. It takes a while to break into circles that are already defined. It takes a while to find "your person", you know, the one you call when you need them to be a second you. Especially when kids are involved….you need "your person" to write down on permission slips, so the school will call them instead of you if they can't reach you if there's a problem. That's always a big decision for me. Who's "my person"? The ones you call 1/2 hour before and say, hey….doing anything? Wanna meet in half an hour? I have found it is much easier for me to find friendship and find "my person" through my church and gym attendance. Hands down, those have been the two solids in my life, since I'm committed to both. Us ladies, we'll always care more about friends, no?You look totally adorbs in these polka dots. Chic and classic. wanted to interject here, that my wardrobe choices (i.e. anthropologie) has opened up many a conversation for me, and in fact, I have formed friendships that all started because I was wearing Anthro. Lesson….don't underestimate the power of your wardrobe choices ;).

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