Monday, July 23, 2012

Friends Over 40

I have 251 friends, on Facebook.  Besides my sisters and sisters-in-law, whom I see, at best, once a year, there are maybe ten Facebook friends I see once a year, usually at a conference, and at most four or five I see with any regularity in Chicago. Outside Facebook, I have very few local friends.

I am not alone.  A recent New York Times article on "Friends of a Certain Age" identified friendship as an issue for many people over 30, or, in my case, chasing 50: "No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now."

According to the NYT, the difficulty with friends is that we do not have the proximity or time to form friendships, not in the way we did in college; many of us have partners and therefore have to look for two-fers, with a good fit for both partners; we have kids who take our time and complicate friendship -- both because we can't get away as often as we used to for drinks, dinner, movies and because when we try to befriend other people with kids, the two-fer of relationships compounds into the three or four or five-fer -- do my kids want to play with yours?

I can measure my diminishing friendships by the stillness of my home phone.  Used to be, my husband and I would come home from a workday or a Saturday out shopping and have five or six messages from friends, checking in, inviting us out.  Now, nothing. Most calls and messages we do get are robo calls, fundraising and surveys.  This is partly because we communicate with friends via email, Facebook and texting.  But it isn't just that.  It is that we have fewer friends, or fewer friends that we see with any regularity.  We have friends we can call if we have a party or we can invite for dinner.  But often those invitations take three months -- no kidding -- to organize.  Sometimes we get together with friends who have kids, and sometimes we manage to see our single friends outside the home.  Every once in a while, we have dinner with another couple.  But I have not had lunch or a drink with a female friend in ages.

I'd love to blame my friends, but I know  that I have become harder to hang with, too.  My husband and I have one night a week when we have a date and pay a sitter so we can go out.  We jealously guard that night as couple time and only sometimes decide that seeing friends is sitter-worthy.  I have one or two female friends who call me to chat -- they are both single and childless, and one is unemployed -- and I find myself rushing them off the phone.  Is it that I really have less time to talk than my mother -- coffee cup in hand, cigarettes burning -- or do I just have less patience? I knit but cannot imagine joining a knitting circle.  I exercise but can't imagine playing on a team or having a running buddy. 

I make playdates for my kids -- a bizarre formal ritual of setting kids up in an era when they cannot run down the street to see their pals.  I suppose I could have playdates, too.  Apparently there are friendship sites like those used for dating.  I imagine myself hunting for a friend there.  What would I seek?  "Friend, willing to be my BFF, but please do not call me, do not expect me to have lunch because I don't have time, and don't expect a girls night out because I don't want to take time away from my family.  Maybe you can meet me at the gym." 

1 comment:

  1. I hear you. But all this time I blamed my lack of friends on my status as a (former) Hyde Park Bohemian, assuming that I was far too intellectual for these North Shore preppies. But I'm going to try to go to the Music Box to see the Méliès films on July 28th. It's a matinee, she added, hoping that golf or tennis won't be an issue.