Friday, April 10, 2015

Adult Friendships, Ugh

So, I know "adult friendships are the worst" isn't the most unique topic of all time, but it's something that has been on my mind lately.

Lady BFFs

I am always so insanely jealous of the people who have had their PERSON since they met at the arts and crafts table in camp in third grade.  I don't have that person.  In fact, the summer after 3rd grade my best friend of three years ditched me for a new best friend (she was new and a twin and therefore infinitely fascinating), and I pretty much either didn't have a best friend or had a different one every school year after that.  At the end of eighth grade, there was no one I was particularly close to, so I was quite happy to move on to high school.  (I went to Catholic school, so I was with the same 45 people from 1st - 8th grade). 

If you had asked me at the time, I would have said that I didn't click with my grade school female peers because I was just different.  I was the smartest girl in my class, and I always had my nose in a book.  They were almost all cheerleaders, I was the only one who didn't make the team (and preferred soccer, anyway).  They liked rap, I wouldn't figure out that I was a 90's grunge girl at heart for another few years.  They had big hair and wore makeup, I couldn't be bothered.  Most of them were pretty and popular, I stopped caring about popularity around 5-6th grade. 

But if you ask me now, I was also a smartass with a bit of a mean streak.  I was always one of those people who would rather attack than be attacked, which I suppose protected me from being bullied for being the giant nerd that I was, but also made me kind of a bully myself.  There is one girl in particular who my 7th grade best friend and I made fun of constantly, and adult me is horrified when I look back on it.  HORRIFIED.  Ugh.  Kids are the worst. 

I was less of a bitchface in high school, and I'm still close with my core group of friends from back in the day.  It helps that even though a lot of my friends moved away, their families are still in Akron, so they visit whenever they are in town.  These ladies are awesome because even if we don't talk for 6 months, we can sit down to dinner and gab like no time has passed at all.  I wasn't able to keep this kind of relationship with my college or grad school best friends, mostly because we are all from different places and FB wasn't a thing yet when we were in school.  A few years later and I think we would have kept in better touch.  My friendship strategy in my 20's was basically to make a group of friends at whatever school/job I was in, go to a different school/job, get entirely new group of friends, never speak to the old ones again.  This is so weird to me now, but that's more or less how it went. 

So now, on to adult friendships.  Making friends when a) you work in a place whose core demographic is old white dudes b) you live in a town that everyone leaves (so so true, David Giffels), c) you are married and d) you have small children is SO FREAKING HARD.  I guess I have always had friends as an adult, and usually I'm closer to one of those friends than anyone else, but I haven't had a true "best friend" since high school.  I wish someone had told me to do a better job of hanging on to relationships back when I was in school...that female friendships are far superior than anything I had going with whatever dude I was dating at the time...that it really sucks when you have no sisters and no clear frontrunner for your maid of honor...that if your best friend is the person you married, you have no one to bitch to ABOUT the person you married, especially when marriage is hard and shit gets real...that powerful women make the greatest friends.  This is a lesson I plan on DRILLING into my kids - to hold on to their friendships, and to always be kind.  If you don't shine, I don't shine (seriously, listen to Call Your Girlfriend...shine theory needs to be part of the fifth grade you're about to bleed everywhere class curriculum). 

I was really bumming about the lack of a BFF when the girls were smaller and I felt chained to the house and super isolated, right around the time a friendship I previously treasured turned awkward, but in general things are looking up now that I can actually have some semblance of a social life.  I think the most important thing in making new adult lady friends is to say yes when someone invites you, don't be flaky / back out, to not be afraid to be the initiator, to keep lines of communication going (even it it's just a few emojis letting them know you are thinking of them), and to support them no matter what.  While I still haven't found the magical formula to find a ride or die lady BFF (yet), this strategy has resulted in me getting closer to my book club ladies and lovely coworker lunch buddies (I still don't know how to make friends I don't read or work with, haha).  Annnnd now this is a good segue into the next section...

Man BFFs

...I am also in the process of making a new man BFF (at least that is my plan, anyway).  Which, I am quickly learning, is also just as difficult to navigate as an adult as lady relationships.  Well, at least if you are married.  It's not like I have never had close friendships with a guy before, it's just that my last two serious guy friendships were formed when Justin and I had been dating for maybe a year and therefore he was very aware that if he got weird about it I'd walk out the door. 

Historically, I have had TONS of guy friends.  I think that since I have two brothers and a ball buster smartass personality, it has always been easy for me to be just one of the guys (but I was also enough of a flirt to make it clear that I was NOT just one of the guys).  I wasn't one of those "girls are awful, I refuse to befriend them" people, but guy friendships were definitely easier for me.  And more fun.  Hmm, maybe this is why I consistently fail at lady BFFs, maybe I am just better suited to have a man BFF instead?

Making a man friend now is kind of awkward.  First there is that "What is this guy's deal? Why does he want to hang out?  Is his marriage okay?  Is he the cheating type?" stuff that needs to be sorted out.  Then there is the explaining to the husband that you are now hanging out with some other guy, but not OVER explaining because apparently that means you're cheating and not just overly sensitive to the perceptions created by having a man friend.  Then there is worrying about what the heck HIS wife must be thinking, and trying to figure out how to convey that I'm not a man-stealer.  Maybe I am just overthinking things, I don't know.  Are you the same way when making friends with a member of the opposite sex, or is it just me?  Should I continue to proceed with caution, or just shut up and go with it?  I haven't clicked with someone like this in a long time, it's nice.    

Couple BFFs

As complicated as the man BFF situation can be, I am on the path to finding one of those before Justin and I achieve the holy grail marriage scenario...finding a couple BFF.  I am beginning to think it's simply not possible.  Maybe it's because he and I are two completely different people, maybe it's because SO FREAKING FEW of our friends even bother to get married, and even fewer have kids, maybe we smell funny.  I don't know, but it seems like every time we meet a new couple, one or both of us can't stand one or both of them. 

I will say, however, that we do have some prospects.  There is a couple who sometimes host game nights, and we both REALLY liked them the one time they were both present.  I (shockingly) get along with the guy half and Justin gets along with the girl half, but we both like both of them.  And there are other couples that go to their game nights that also seem like our kind of people.  But the main couple we are trying to befriend is about to have a baby, and we have to find childcare whenever we go there, so it's still a tentative situation.

Justin's best friend also has a lady friend that seems really lovely, and he now has custody of his last lady friend's kids, who are conveniently two girls that are our girls' ages.  So if he hangs onto that relationship that is a strong candidate. 

Basically, I just wish life was like a movie and we had a ton of couple friends with kids and we could all, I don't know, go camping together and drink around the fire while our kids entertain each other and get muddy and go swimming and climb trees and stuff.  But realistically I will settle for ONE other couple with kids (because our girls need kid BFFs too) and a handful of other adult friends who all like us and like each other.    

ANYWAY, that was a lot of words about BFFs, or the lack thereof.  Do you guys find adult friendships to be as challenging as I do?  Why is this so harrrrrrrrrrrrdddddd?

(PS, I'm trying to write more during my lunch hour, when I'm not wining and dining a potential new friend, haha.)


Kara Keenan said...

My husband and I just achieved the Holy Grail! We found our Couple Best Friends, and it's everything it promised to be and then some. I work with the guy in the other couple, and I've known the woman in the couple for the past five years or so. But this past year we've worked up to hanging out together every few weekends for game nights or trying new beers and it's fantastic. It helps that both guys are beer nerds, Star Wars nerds and baseball nerds. It helps even more that we've both just reached the stage where our kids can be left home alone without babysitters that we have to pay OR if we're just at one of our houses, we know the kids will just hang out with little intervention. We'll have the ultimate test at the end of this summer, when we go away together for vacation.

Laura Diniwilk said...

Unpaid babysitters and a joint vacation with a couple BFF! I am drooling, Kara.

Caits said...

I love this post! I've never been able to make friends very well and as for couple friends... would love to have a couple to hang/travel with. :)

Jessica said...

SO, SO hard. As far as lady friends go, I'm having the best luck with my moms group, but it took a long time. Really, the best way to become close to people is to show up to EVERYTHING (every mom's night out, every playdate, every meeting).

For couple friends, we're working hard at it. We started a small group in the summer of 2013 and I feel like the families have finally really gelled and are getting closer. We liked each other from the beginning, it just took a lot of time!

Erica said...

Definitely hard and something I'm really focused on since we moved 2 years ago. I started a book club and made a friend in the neighborhood. I think maybe I scare people with my wanting to be friends-ness but oh well. I just keep trying.

mary said...

Yes! This resonated with me so much. Only brothers, job with mostly men, transitory area. Plus introverted husband with a solitary hobby - hard to find a similar couple.

Some of it I think has to do with luck - especially after college. You might move next door to an instant best friend, or land in a cube next to one. Of the field you choose - teachers for example, seem to have it easier.

Anyway, mostly I wish there was *one* person who was there for everything: college/marriage/births/deaths/concerts/vacations, etc. instead of a mish-mash of people that I could reminisce with. But I'd be happy with someone who got me without all the background too.

Maybe you've seen this but I absolutely love this essay by Robin Marantz Henig, "Guess I'll Go Eat Worms" about loneliness(even though she is married)

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