We don’t go through life searching for one soul mate, we actually want at the very least two. One to “fall in love with” who fulfills our romantic dreams and desires, our better half, someone to start a family with perhaps, and secondly, we want a soul mate who completes us in, well, every other way. Your best friend. A “BFF.” Do you have one? Maybe you’re one of those people whose two soul mates are the same person, as in, “I married my best friend.”
Some of us are lucky and have found our two soul mates (or several), but you may be surprised that there are still a lot of people who don’t have what they would consider a best friend. In the fascinating article “Friends of a Certain Age” by Alex Williams from The New York Times, making friends doesn’t get easier with age, it gets harder: “As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.” If you happen to fall in this category – you’re approaching or in your 30s with hundreds of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Instagram buddies, blog readers, etc. – and yet, can’t think of a single person you’d want to call out of the blue to run an errand with or simply to chat about the mundane happenings of daily life, you are not alone. But, more importantly, you are not doomed to a lifetime of “KOF”s (kind of friends) either.
While it may be harder to make new close friends the older you become, it’s most definitely not impossible. I’ve gathered two success stories of making a best friend midlife, one female relationship and one male relationship, to show how it can be done. I noticed two common themes throughout, and they are, 1) a willingness to be bold and step out of your comfort zone, and 2) just be yourself.
Elissa, stay-at-home mom and Jodie, legal notices editor (met in their late 20s)
For new moms, having a baby can be surprisingly alienating. Simple things a woman used to enjoy with her spouse/partner and friends, such as spontaneity, sleeping in, pedicures or going out to lunch all seem to evaporate into thin air. The best way I’ve heard the first few months after having a baby described is like falling down a deep, dark hole until you’re finally able to crawl your way out, inch by inch. (Eerie … anyone else reminded of The Ring?) But once you’re out, new motherhood is thrilling and blissful. At this point, out of the dark hole, most moms are ready to hit the social scene again, only to find that schedules are downright impossible to coordinate, that toting a baby everywhere is exhausting, and that no one truly understands (or wants to hear about) the physical and emotional rollercoaster that is now your life.
Unless, that is, the new mother meets a friend who is not merely a fellow member of the mom club, but one who totes a baby the same age as yours. It’s a recipe for success because there is a limitless amount of things to discuss, share and compare.
The Hudsucker: How did you two meet?
Jodie: We were both members of an online birth club on BabyCenter.com where moms with babies born in the same month and year can post questions, make comments and share pictures.
Elissa: Eventually, a smaller group of moms from our birth club formed a Facebook group, which we were both part of as well, and one day I asked the group if any of the other moms lived in Reno, Nevada. Turns out Jodie was the only one! I was really interested to meet another mama with a baby the same age.
The Hudsucker: Were you “close” online? How long was it before you met in person?
Jodie: I wouldn’t say we were that close online, we were more excited about meeting another mom so near-by.
Elissa: I agree we were not close, but I was hoping to find a friend whom I could relate to. It was only a matter of a couple of weeks before we met up at a park with our babies, both girls and both born in the same month and year, for a play date.
The Hudsucker: Which must have felt a lot like a “first date” or “blind date”! Was it awkward at all?
Elissa: Yes, it was at first. I’m a shy person. Plus, it was the first time I had ever met anybody online in person. My family thought I was crazy, but I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try to make a new friend. The girls played in the grass and we just talked the whole time. It was really nice getting to know her.
Jodie: Me, too. And I wouldn’t say I am a very social person in the first place, so this was a huge step for me out of my comfort zone as well.
The Hudsucker: What was it that you two bonded over besides having children the same age?
Elissa: We both have very similar parenting styles. We both practice “attachment parenting,” and so even though I may have other friends or family members who don’t necessarily agree with what I’m doing (for example, I’m still breastfeeding my 20 month old), I know Jodie will understand and not judge me. She will tell me what she thinks, but we can both laugh if we disagree.
Jodie: Right, and as an AP parent I don’t practice “cry it out” and I co-sleep with my toddler. Elissa totally understands me and my parenting decisions, even though all of our parenting decisions aren’t exactly the same, they are very similar. We are also both really laid back when it comes to parenting. Neither of us knew in advance that we’d be AP moms, but we both just did what seemed easiest and natural, and it turns out we agree a lot on how we’re doing things.
The Hudsucker: What makes you BFFs today?
Elissa: As an adult, I’ve never had the kind of best friend that I could just call up whenever and say, “Hey, what are you doing today? Want to meet us at the mall?” I don’t make friends easily. With Jodie, things just instantly clicked. She is a very sweet person and is a really good friend.
Jodie: I’d say we are such good friends because, like I mentioned, we are both so laid back. We don’t judge each other. You see other moms that are looking at you and judging what you’re wearing, how your make-up is, what your kids are wearing or doing, etc. Elissa and I aren’t like that. We are also both at the same stage in our lives. I have friends that are still out partying or casually dating, so I can’t really relate to them at this point, nor can they relate to me. I can talk to Elissa about a lot of things.
The Hudsucker: What advice would you give to others who are looking for someone to call their best friend?
Elissa: You just need to be willing to try new things. Like, I never thought I’d be the type to meet up with someone I “met” online, but now-a-days, it’s not as weird or uncommon as it used to be. Just get out of your comfort zone and meet someone new, it is worth the first awkward moments.
Jodie: I agree with Elissa, and I would say to start off by looking for people who are at a similar place in life as you. You are much more likely to be able to relate.
Steve, graphic designer in the entertainment industry and Josh, photojournalist (met in their early 30s)
Even more difficult than being a new mom when it comes to making friends, it seems, is being male. Dr. Geoffery Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland who wrote the book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, says in a response on how he would characterize male friendships during midlife: “Male friendships have their ups and downs over the life span, though there are great individual differences in these fluctuations. When young, men’s friendships take on great importance. This wanes as men [in their midlife] find partners, jobs, and start families. They simply have less time for friends.”
The Hudsucker: How did you first meet?
Josh: I had just gone through a horrific breakup and moved out from living with my girlfriend. I moved to a new city and asked some friends if they knew anyone in the area that could help me find a good spot to live. Steve stepped up. Once I found an apartment, he was my first new friend in the area. First time we hung out, he showed up in his douche-mobile white convertible BMW with a hot red-head in the passenger seat. We all went to IKEA together and had a blast! The way he was flirting with her, I knew he had a degree of game that I respected. We bonded over our stories of hot chicks we hooked up with, which was exactly what I needed since I was newly single.
Steve: People immediately called us a “bro-mance” because of the kinds of things we would do, like watching deep movies and driving out to the desert to photograph summer thunderstorms. We never minded though, since it was fun to have a friend to spend hours hanging out with. It never seemed forced to talk about almost anything.
The Hudsucker: What was it that first made you think, “This guy is cool.”
Steve: Josh impressed me at a dinner I was at where he asked everyone at the table what superpower they would want to have if they could. After everyone answered, he singled out a few of them and mentioned how their answer told a lot about them and their deepest fears and insecurities. Some people were deeply offended! I was amazed at how insightful he sounded and how unafraid he was at ruffling feathers in order to have a conversation with strangers that broke through social norms and became anything but superficial.
Josh: Steve is the only person I’ve ever met that is almost as analytical as I am. He also is a great critical thinker. I very much appreciate that because I am that way. Many of my friends knock me for being so analytical, and thinking too much about things, but we’re similar that way, which is awesome. His sense of humor is also very similar to mine in that it’s edgy, borderline offensive, and I am pretty entertained by the degree of self-deprecation he instills in it (making fun of the fact that he chooses a convertible BMW to drive, for example).
The Hudsucker: Do you think it’s harder for men to make new friends than women? Particularly the older you get?
Josh: Definitely. Men have a bravado to overcome as well as homophobia. Bonding over a chick is a surefire way to connect to guys. But just like a relationship, there has to be a connection on a deeper level for the friendship to truly start developing in a natural way. Mutual friends help, but I think the most important thing is respect. I have a theory that people surround themselves with people that have qualities they themselves wish they had. For me, Steve has a social networking ability that I admire. I’ve always had a small group of friends that I connect with on a very deep level. Steve may have that, but he also has tens of other people that are just always around peripherally. I wish I had that a bit more in my life.
Steve: I think we both admire the other in how we can be the alpha-male in situations as well as how we can get completely lost in our own emotional confusion. I think with women, there is more jealously or cattiness, which we never seemed to have to the extent that my female friends do with each other.
The Hudsucker: Men are often portrayed in the media as having many friends, but very few close friends. Why is that? Do you think it’s true?
Josh: Probably true. Especially as they get older. When a guy gets a girlfriend, his needs for a friend diminish significantly, especially if the bonding was over chicks. Guys probably don’t have many friends where the bond is deep. Also, if a man finds a woman that he falls for, she becomes his number one, and all the friendships he has are put to a test. Without the bond of finding women together, is there a need to stay friends with this guy? And does the girlfriend like him? Does he like the girlfriend? These can be friendship killers. I have a number of friends that as soon as they get a girlfriend, they practically disappear. And there aren’t nearly as many single guys in their 30′s as in their 20′s, making it much harder to meet guy friends.
The Hudsucker: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a best friend, or a very close friend, but wishes they did?
Steve: I would ask them to look at them self and ask, “Why would someone want to be your friend? What do you offer?” Most importantly, I would say that a person without any close friends is probably too focused on themselves. If you wish you had people closer to you, but don’t, there is a disconnect between how you are acting socially and what you need to do in order to find what you are looking for. Just like in finding love, It all starts with yourself!
Josh: You have to find someone that shares something in common with you. But not just like, he likes soccer, I like soccer. That’s lame. Don’t force it. Start by aligning yourself with people that share a passion you have. Don’t mistake passion for hobby. If you are incredibly passionate about poetry, go to poetry slams and you may meet a good friend there. If you’re obsessed with photography like I am, go out shooting with other photographers, join clubs, network, etc. and you’ll bond with other photographers. I met a great friend that way at a fire. I asked him if I could shadow him on a shoot when I was starting out. He said yes, and we ended up having a lot in common in addition to the photography thing and became friends.
Thanks, Jodie and Elissa, and thanks Josh and Steve for your truly insightful thoughts!