Ya Gotta Have Friends….or at least acquaintances
And the older we get the harder it is to make new friends.
It’s a sad fact that as we grow older we lose friends. Death, divorce, relocation, illness, and other life events separate us. And the older we get the harder it is to make new friends.
I always thought making friends was easy because when I was young I had a lot of friends, despite being a mouthy misfit who alienated as many people as I attracted. In grade school and high school I was never “popular” but I always had a few close friends. Then in my 20s, I went to City College of New York and knew I’d finally found my people. City college in the 60s was heaven for wierdos, rebels and nerds. I was all three.
I was in two crowds—the pot-smoking hippies and the “Steal this book” Yippies. I spent so much time smoking pot on the South Campus lawn that when people asked what I was majoring in, I said “South campus lawn.” But since two of my closest friends were serious lefties I also signed up for the Freedom Rides. Unfortunately you had to get up very early to get on the bus and I overslept. I didn’t regret it at the time, though now I wish I’d been there when history was being made. But somehow Jim Crow ended without my help.
My college years were the happiest years of my life, even though my post college life as a single girl in Manhattan in was a close second.
In retrospect my life in Manhattan in the 70s and 80s was just as fabulous as the life Carrie and the girls led in Sex and the City--minus the Mahnolo Blahniks and miniskirts. We lived fabulous, though financially marginal lives, clubbing, bar hopping, screwing around, spending hours trading stories of our exploits.
I even had my own Stanford Blatch, gay Bob, a shrink who commiserated with me about my romantic disasters and monitored my tendency to overshare.
Saturday nights in winter we all went to Hellfire, an S&M club in the meatpacking district. Hellfire was a scene from a bad porno film. I would have preferred a club where there was no whipping or nipple clips, but one of our group was experimenting with S&M. As soon as I walked in men would come up to me and ask, “What are you into?” to find out if I was dominant or submissive.
I’d reply “A serious relationship,” and they’d hightail it in the opposite direction as fast as possible.
Although we screwed around indiscriminately in those innocent pre-AIDS days, we still all wanted to get married. We paid lip service to women’s lib but thought we needed a man to be happy. Feminism had yet to create opportunities for women in the professional world so our options were limited. We assumed that the years we spent hanging out with each other, exchanging graphic details of our love lives, laughing about our exploits, discussing the deep inner meaning of life, were a big waste of time.
I thought I was waiting for my life to begin. How could I have known that it was already over.
Eventually we all got married. The less said about my marriage the better. My husband was a social-phobe who managed to alienate me from my old friends by bad mouthing them. In the end I wound up divorced and friendless.
I never found friends again like my old friends.
I’ve been in ‘Florida for 10 years and haven’t made any friends as close as I had in New York city. This, despite a lot of effort. I’ve joined women’s groups, gone to meetups, book clubs, happy hours, ethnic dining, concerts and walks in the wetlands.
Making new friends is hard. It takes a lot of time to make a friend. A fascinating study from the University of Kansas showed that it takes between 40 and 60 hours to form a casual friendship, 80-100 hours to transition to being a friend and more than 200 hours together to become good friends. When we’re young we’re thrown together by circumstance so friendship has a chance to blossom.
The problem is also me. I am a snob. I admit it. Most of the women I meet are decidedly less intellectual than my New York friends. But they’re also different in other ways—more family oriented, more into traveling and playing games. I don’t have a family, hate to pack for trips and have no idea how to play Canasta or Mah-Jongg. My idea of fun is binge-watching Succession and debating which sibling is will come out on top.
I have become close to only one woman in Florida due to a fluke—the pandemic. We live across the street from each other and it didn’t seem that we had much in common—until Covid struck. Carolyn and I were the only intrepid souls we knew willing to leave the house, so we met outdoors for a picnic dinner once a week-- for two years. We found we had a lot in common. We both loved movies and streaming tv series, and we both suffered from depression and anxiety. There’s nothing like revealing your vulnerabilities to cement a friendship. My friendship with Carolyn was the one upside of Covid for me (besides not getting Covid). Perpetually busy with children and grandchildren pre-pandemic, lockdown meant she couldn’t see them. The Pandemic slowed her down enough for me to get to know her
I now have a lot of acquaintances or casual friends, relationships that aren’t as intimate as close friends.
I’ve decided to suspend the snobbery. I’ll take what I can get at this stage of life. I still miss my old friends desperately, but I like being around people. I refuse to stay home and feel sorry for myself. No, I still won’t play canasta. There are limits. But, I tell myself to get out, socialize, don’t underestimate acquaintances. They may wind up becoming friends during the next pandemic. 😊
Awe, you're such a good writer. <3 This is why I love/hate the internet it can be a great way to meet like-minded people, then finally arrange in person meetups!
I lived in Halifax , Nova Scotia in the the early ‘70’s. My former husband was a medical student. I had no real friends-friends like the 2 back in NY with whom I grew up . I was lonely as hell. We moved back and forth-to NY, back to Halifax, and Philadelphia, and finally Albany. I made some new friends after my divorce but they weren’t my old friends with the tolerance to accept some of my off the wall behaviors. I was “locally” friendless again. As time passed I made new friends when I went back to work, and reestablished my closeness with my original two. That is due to cell phones and no long distance charges.