friendship

Do We Still Need “Best” Friends?

Friendship has been a cornerstone of my life since the earliest days.  In 1953, at age 3, I met my best friend Michelle at a half way point (a large rock) between our suburban homes which were 4 houses apart.  At that stage I somehow knew that life without her wasn’t as much fun, and we both understood we could share anything and everything and it was just between us.  Our friendship did not survive forever – though a few years ago we connected by phone and tried to “catch up”. It was a great call, but Michelle no longer is the only one I want to be with.  And that is OK.  She was an awesome “best friend” as a little kid.

In 8th grade, I met Joan at a “Math Fair” at a college connected to the private high school we were set to attend together come 9th grade.  Not sure why, but we just “clicked” and became lasting and incredibly joined at the hips best friends who shared and grew up together as teens, figured out being smart together, how to be  good people, how to share and explore feelings, and also how to be grown up career girls as soon as we could.  Many wondered at our closeness — I was an outgoing and bold girl, Joan was quiet, introverted and rather risk adverse.  But we became BFs and explored so much of life together before we were nearly middle-aged and drifted apart as our life choices and life experiences pulled us in different directions and locations.  Am planning to see Joan next year at our mutual 50th high school reunion next year – we will hug and always know we shared a unique special bond.  She really was an awesome best friend when I needed one.

Teen best friends

Teen best friends

As a 34-year-old single working woman, I met Alayne when I moved to a small town near NYC and went about growing my work expertise and expanding my business. We lived in the same apartment building on the same floor – she, newly broken up with a long-term boyfriend and was working successfully — me into my career with a complicated love life.  In any case, we spent lots of time together and bonded as special and yes “best” friends.  We both were at a place in our lives that made  “hanging out together” and constantly sharing and talking the easiest and simplest—and yes, best way, to handle our lifestyles and pressing life issues.  Alayne was in my wedding in 1998 and a few years later literally dropped out of my life – she moved, I tried unsuccessfully to stay in touch with her, but she clearly wanted or needed to disappear.  I was extremely sad over this loss, but again treasured the times we had as “besties”.

My “best friends” Michelle, Joan and Alayne played important roles in my life.  They were part of who shaped me and part of how I became pre-fabulous.  The importance and enduring memories of our times together will always be a source of big smiles and a tug to my heart.  But now, as a fabulous over 60 woman, you may have found, as I have, that the concept of a “best friend” isn’t really relevant anymore.  Friends are more essential than ever, critical to our lives and our health, but defining one person or several as “best friends” seems somehow not just old- fashioned but childish and diminutive.  Being best friends was all about exclusion and needing absolute acceptance and reinforcement of ourselves as we were developing but hardly yet independent. Now, as interdependent older women, we need intimacy, support, and closeness – but we no longer need or want relationships that exclude others nor find it useful or beneficial to have friends who can’t disagree with us.

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Patty and Cathy

Friendship is a MUCH BIGGER concept to me than it used to be.  Friendships now include a variety of relationships – each unique and special and necessary, but not filled with nagging or long-practiced obligations.  I now recognize that every friendship forms and evolves – some last, others do not.  The reasons these friendships last or not are endless but ultimately unimportant.  We have wonderful friends in our lives at this stage because we want to.  We actively choose these special people to spend our shrinking and valuable time with.  We “release” those who are no longer a fit as friends, just wishing them well on their life journey. Sometimes a “friend” is a new person we just feel compelled to know and “be with” and we make it happen.

Patty with friends

Patty with friends

FabulousOver60 women have learned to comfort ourselves. We still need support and comfort from those we love, but we don’t need to be rescued.  Great friendship expands us now.  It helps us be smarter and better people.  The relationships are fun, supportive, and respectful of our own lives and needs – as well as supportive of our friends’ lives too.  We don’t ask our friends to be our mother, shrink, or solvers of problems and challenges that are our own responsibility.  We ask for advice from some, we avoid asking others.

We listen carefully to our friends.  We “read” when they need us and get ourselves THERE — and we know how to allow our friends the space and privacy they need till ready to share.  Our friends are those who accept us as we are.  We, in turn, accept them as they are.  No one is likely our ‘bestie’ anymore – we know all the great friendships we have are the surest way out there to add joy, peace, calm, insight, support and laughs to our lives.

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I am always saying “less is more” in Fabulous blog posts — let me take that back when it comes to friends.

Patty

 

 

Women Over 60 Are Great at Friendship, But Can We Help Others Do the Same In the Digital Age?

The capacity for and strong preference for intimacy and privately shared experiences was something we developed by “how it was” when we were young. “Dates” with friends, family members or potential or actual romantic partners were private, personal and involved sharing that was limited and in some cases closely guarded. Being friends meant a special intimacy and access that was limited — having friends necessitated judgment and consistent effort. Mistakes were punished in ways that often still linger. Betraying a confidence or making bad friendship choices had serious implications.
 
As for “sharing”, we had to consciously decide whether sharing something was “worth it”, “appropriate” or “important” given time, the value of a particular relationship and/or our need to bring (or not) someone “closer to us”. The great news was there was NO or virtually no possibility that anyone would share about us without talking with us first — the only exception being one’s mother or a soon to be “ex-friend”! For many of us, this limited and valued intimacy helped us learn to carefully choose and then create deep personal bonds of friendship with some people — after failing (and privately reflecting upon what happened) with others.
 
Most over-60s can relate to these types of friendship stories and could share similar ones back to me.
 
Sometime in the middle of our trip to Asheville, Ray (co-blogger Cathy’s husband) said to me – “remember when you were at the beach with us and we went out to get cigarettes and you and I smoked the whole pack?” I remembered the evening fondly, the next morning not so much. It was a night of special sharing that formed the base for many more — without cigarettes. Just for the record: I stopped smoking in 1985 and Ray prior to that.
 
We visited our friend of over 13 years Peter and his daughters in San Francisco. In the middle of the trip I took our God-daughter Emma out shopping while Bill and Peter went out to lunch separately. While getting close to a final choice for Emma — a pendant we were saving tons of money on due to a terrific clearance sale — Bill and Peter jumped from behind some racks and yelled BOO! We were startled, but hysterical. Thankfully we didn’t have our cameras recording for others what will be one of all our favorite private friendship memories.
 
At dinner in San Diego my former client, now dear friend Darian, regaled us with stories of real estate connected to the recent sale of her and her husband Wally’s home. It was such fun to listen to Darian share about “personal” and relatively unimportant stuff after our long history of “serious business discussions and strategic coaching sessions”. The time was both reinforcing of our relationship and enriching too as we found ourselves comparing notes of interactions with younger women we were coaching – especially those we thought were missing some critical skill sets and instincts: self-awareness, intimacy, connection and yes, making and sustaining friendships and relationships of depth.
 
The challenge for us fabulous “friendship” and “relationship” generation is to figure out how to share the characteristics of intimacy, trust and communication. That is, to share it with people never exposed to the privacy, quiet self-reflection and intense introspection which allowed us to develop these traits. We need to achieve this “wisdom transfer” without being negative about the wonders and advantages of the digital age.
 
For over-60 women, there were those moments when each of us was alone with ourselves for hours, or spending time talking with just one other girlfriend and that just was and is “the real stuff” of deep connection. Doesn’t everyone need this level of intensity and intimacy in their life even if we aren’t sure yet how to help them get it?

Making New Friends

Most of us old enough to be fabulous, sophisticated women remember meeting people as related to some smoke-filled room with tremendous amounts of alcohol and loud music.  We were trying to “meet new people” or otherwise find love, companionship or at the least great sex or a job lead.

Our parents and most adults had friends when we were growing up.  We learned that friendship meant lots of real back and forth communications on the phone or through the mail.  The primary way it worked was by mutual talking, listening and responding, following up, and remembering birthdays. It focused on listening to other people’s stories and lives and of course sharing – gossip, secrets, dreams.  We didn’t really have any place or way to present ourselves to others except through conversation or photo albums, or sharing experiences.  Good news is, most of us know how to BE friends, it is the ‘meeting the right people’ part that has become a bit of a drag.

Unlike our early searches to find new and different people, and also discover ourselves, we now know who we are. We’re comfortable in our own skin or REALLY working to be, and set on what works and doesn’t work for us in terms of acquaintances.  This is probably one of the very reasons it is so hard to find good new friends.  We know what we want—and will know it when we see it—but till then it is sort of hit and miss at the club, church, synagogue, neighborhood or volunteer activity.  We plan “dates” with singles or couples, with or without mates and see what happens.  Often, nothing happens.  It is a bust of sorts—nice people as we say—but nothing really “in common” or as fabulous women, we conclude—they are nice—but basically boring.

So what’s an adventurous person or couple to do?  How can you attract and find great new friends.  Well truly, I don’t know—but here are my sources, successes and failures; and for what they are worth, use them in your journey to find just the right people for you!

Good ways to meet people

  • Have something important to you in common—be honest—if you hate people talking about their grandchildren, do not look or try to reach out for people who are living very close geographically to their children.  If they live close they talk all the time—you will be bored and they won’t care because they are surrounded by their kids and that is all that matters.  If you have at least two or three other interests in common like art, food, politics or whatnot—OK to try them—but don’t get your hopes up.
  • You heard them talking to someone else, or they gave a talk or you heard them share something and just something about their style appealed to you.  If you find someone drawing you in—it is a possible friendship lead.  See if you can find out who they are and introduce yourself.
  • Reach out specifically to someone even if you they are not your age or other “obvious” category —hey if you live in a small town or even NYC—you read about someone owning a gallery, writing a book, opening a restaurant, starting a club and think—hey that sounds “neat” or “cool”—contact them and suggest coffee or an iced tea—you are fascinated by what they do or are doing and would love to meet them—if you have an eye on George Clooney or Ryan Gosling I wouldn’t get my hopes up—99 percent of real people will be flattered and meet you.  And if they blow you off, who cares—you don’t know them YET.  We are long out of ANY school—and NO ONE CARES. Their rejection just proves you are not yet the best at pre-friendship selection—but you will get better.
  • Clubs—golf, or otherwise—or churches—or neighborhood associations—but make sure you are truly in the demographic stereotype– (there is a grain of truth in most stereotypes—especially in terms of what you are doing here)—what I mean is don’t join the local country club hoping to find others who adore President Obama and want to get involved in inner city volunteer activity—most country club members really are republicans—not all and maybe not one or another specific club–but wake up—it isn’t a happy hunting ground for friendships for the very liberal . . .
  • Ask around—remember that one—ask your vendors if you use any—hairdressers, law professionals, your new lawyer or local accountant—who is fun, or who is interesting—who are their favorite clients and why—I really like our neighbors—but unsure how to connect—till Sherri showed up in the seat next to me having her hair colored by MY Jason at MY salon.  The old adage that birds of a feather means something.  Likely someone like you will love the same people—including people like your hairdresser.
  • Do dump people you don’t like quickly—it is like dating—you kind of do know after a lunch or dinner that it just isn’t going to make it—let it go with grace—and style—don’t extend again and if you really don’t like the people/person, be direct but very nice—“hey we really just don’t have more time for new friends”—sounds cruel—but if you say it in a nice and light-hearted way people get it—and if they don’t aren’t you glad you are dumping them?

As the Rolling Stones put it: “you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.  The key is self-knowledge coupled with some assertive useful rules of thumb—we fabulous women are good at that—or try to be.

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