Adult Friendship: Fool’s Errand or Noble Quest?

Ah, women of a certain age.

I’m referring to my own age bracket, mid-twenties to mid-thirties. I just finished reading MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend. This book was so on-the-nose for me that it was both painfully funny and just plain painful.

I’m a 27-year-old white woman living in a new town with her soon-to-be husband. I’ve lived in four states in four years, my friends from school are in Texas or scattered across the United States, and I don’t have any local, really-truly close friends.

Well of COURSE these guys are friends. Image via iloveyouman.com

The premise of the book is that it’s hard for women in their late-twenties to mid-thirties to make a new best friend. We all know it’s hard for men to make new best friends. But men have buddy comedies, bromances, I Love You, Man. On the other hand, everyone assumes that women make friends easily: we chat, we get involved, we’re friendly, whatever. But women have Bridesmaids, full of female competition and the difficulty of keeping lifelong friends; Sex and the City, which purports to be about friendship, but the hetero-sex-focus is built right in; and Thelma and Louise, which, well, yikes.

I’m one of those women who have always said it’s easier to be friends with guys. Less drama, more videogame fun  In elementary school I had a really close group of friends, and then in high school I had a rotating clique of close, if fraught, friendships. But in high school I hung out largely with my then-boyfriend and his friends.

A high school female friendship is, to my mind, a beast unlike any other. It’s prey to so much adolescent competition: for guys, for grades, for other friends’ attention. Mean Girls is exaggerated, but not by much.

When I hit college, I made good girlfriends again. The competition diminishes in college, partly because we’re all more confident in who we are and what we want, and we’re all looking ahead in terror at Real Life. Plus, it’s difficult to stay angry at someone when you’re relying on her to help you get back to the hostel in a country where you can’t read the alphabet, let along the language.

But then we all graduated and went on to jobs or more school, and we couldn’t just pop downstairs and pick each other up for brunch in the cafeteria. And random text messages just don’t cut it.

Is this even possible?

So now I’m (arguably) an adult, living with my chosen male life-mate, and settled semi-permanently in a place where I can find friends. But how do I do it?

I’ve got a couple of girl-crushes nowadays, sure, both in real life and online, girls I would love to move from the quite-friendly acquaintance space to the very close friend spot. Maybe you’re reading this, ladies, and wondering if I’m talking about you. (See how I inserted some needless drama?)

The trouble is, we’re all so busy just getting from day to day. And it’s hard to find someone I like who is not only local but also in the same life stage. This girl is great, but she’s got young children and maybe feels I can’t really relate. That girl is my age and we have some stuff in common, but our personalities don’t really mesh.

Early in life we make friends by circumstance, and we end up with tons of them. Later in life, though, we can choose our friends, but we find and keep fewer.

Rachel Bertsche, author of MWF Seeking BFF, goes on 52 girl dates, one a week for a year… and she doesn’t really end up with a new best friend. Friends, yes, but a best friend? No.

Is it an impossible quest? Will my new friends remain only friendly? Will I ever have someone I can call just to chat? I’m really not sure.

What do you think, readers? Women, how have you found adult close friends? Men, how about you? Or, do you readers think searching for adult friendship is like that snipe-hunting game kids play: cruel, hopeless, and tons of work that accomplishes only hurt feelings?