Friendster

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
― C.S. Lewis

At one of our regular play dates, my friend Kristine recommended a book calledMWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for A New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche, an informational memoir about what it’s like trying to make new friends as an adult woman. Kristine pointed out that it’s kind of amazing this isn’t a subject that’s more widely explored, given that almost everyone eventually faces this challenge – often it’s because we move away from where we went to high school and/or college, but even if you live in one city your whole life you probably find that you need to make new friends in adulthood. And it’s hard!

For the book, Bertsche determines to go on at least one new-friend date per week for a full year. Her goal is not just to make new casual friends, but to find a best friend – someone she can call to hang out on a whim without feeling awkward. She’s got a leg up in that she seems to be a friendly, chatty, socially motivated person to begin with. Reading about her “dating” schedule just made me tired – going out four or five nights a week every single week would do me in in far less than a year, even in my pre-motherhood life. I also would find it overwhelming to maintain more than a handful of friendships, being introverted and all, but Bertsche aims to fill up 20 friendship slots in her life. Just thinking about it makes me want to get in bed with a book and hide.

Those differences aside, I think we all can relate to this quest. I would love to see a mom version of this book, too, because motherhood presents its own special array of friend-making challenges. On the one hand, you have this obvious “in” to all sorts of playgroups and mommy-and-me activities. On the other hand, throwing clashing parenting styles, misaligned work schedules, and the ever-changing naptime shuffle into the mix can make friending other mothers even more complicated.

We moved to Nebraska from Massachusetts in late 2006. I don’t know how it suddenly turned into 2013, but for the longest time I kept telling people “I’m new here” – that feeling of newness had a lot to do with how long it took me to find friends and feel like I had a social network. A real one, not online. I had to work on it – I tried a few different meetup groups, I said yes to lunches and coffee, I reciprocated invitations, I joined play groups. Having a baby made that harder sometimes but it also made me even more motivated to get out and find people to talk to about this whole crazy parenting thing.

Bertsche writes about the research that shows that you have to spend enough time, on a regular basis, with people you like to make and maintain friendships. That’s kind of a no-brainer, I guess, but these days we are so used to Facebook levels of friendship that it seems harder than ever to put the effort into getting together face to face, and to forget that that’s how intimacy is created. How you get to the next level (from acquaintance to friend, from friend to bestie) with someone – you put the time in.

A few months ago, in an effort to create more opportunities for friendship for Miles, I rounded up a little playgroup. We try to meet once a week. I wasn’t really thinking of creating friendships for myself, but that is what ended up happening (two people in the group were friends already but we didn’t get together nearly often enough!). We lucked out on the chemistry in the group and I look forward to these play dates so much. I could never force myself to go on a new friend date every week for a year even if I had unlimited money for babysitters and sushi, but it was definitely worth putting effort in and stretching my comfort zones to find real live friends to spend time with.

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