As a middle-aged adult, I have no idea how to make new friends
Ok, so how do you always seem to be thinking the same things as me, Jenna?!? I was contemplating much of these ideas just a few days ago: the disappearance of the mom friends once your kids get through elementary school (or junior school as we call it here in the UK); the way that our kids spend much less time out with their friends than we did, instead spending evenings watching movies online, whilst chatting to their friends who are in another house a mile away...it always seems a bit sad to me, the way Covid has changed the way teenagers interact. But then I also interact with people I have met in this space, who are interested in the same things as myself but who live all over the world, and who I would likely never have connected with otherwise. It's a strange old time, turning 50, isn't it?
PS .The fact that Blanche was only 53 in The Golden Girls just blew my mind...I too thought they were ancient at the time...
When I move to NYC I would love to meet you for tea and see if we could be friends! I don't want to give up on the idea of friendship because it's such a precious resource. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
Your post was so insightful.
That’s funny you say all that (being a mom is a gateway to friendship), because not being a mom has a somewhat quiet drastic change to friendships as well. The divide of team children vs team no children has a huge impact on female friendships as well. My friends who are moms now have their priorities shifted (as they should!), and I hope they remember that I will be there for them.
Yes, the older ahjimah clans have their friendship on lock down. I think socially they were taught early on that building friendships is necessary for emotional health. When my mother passed away at 55, her three close friends showed up at my wedding years later (they were friends since they were 12).
Is that why they call it your Golden years (your 50s)?
You have been eavesdropping on my mind! My younger kids are seniors in college this year, and while some of the moms from their teen friend groups have tried to stay in touch, I’m finding I really badly need my own friends, people who reflect my own core self. I’m introverted and love to sit at home, so I don’t even know where to start. Not to mention, I’m Asian and living in a very white--albeit lovely--place. Would love for this convo to continue, it’s reassuring to know that it’s not just me being cranky!
This isn't for everyone, but weirdly, here's my answer to making friends in the last few years:
As someone who has worked from home for 11 years now, and then left my steady job during COVID, I got really accustomed to putting in some extra effort to push relationships to the next level if I find someone intriguing. So, as you know (hah!), my intentional move with online friendships is, whenever I'm chatting with someone in online comments or DMs and the conversation starts feeling more like the start of something... I'll say, "hey, I'd love to chat about this more on a call!"
In the years since the start of the quarantine, I've probably had 1:1 Zoom calls with dozens of people from my life -- some who came into my sphere in the last few years and some whom I've "known" as internet friends for years, but we just never talked more deeply. A few times, it was clear by the end of those calls that there wasn't really any more to say -- pleasant and often enlightening chats that left us feeling warm, but like a natural end. But way more often, I felt genuinely closer to someone whom I liked, and we'd continue something that feels more like an IRL friendship -- full of random texts, inside jokes, future Zoom calls just to check in, etc.
It's weird to contemplate if these are "real" friendships, but these days, who's to say what makes something authentic or not? I just know that it feels good. I feel connected to a lot of people, hopefully they get something out of the relationship too, and one thing that I found really interesting across the board: even when I felt like, "oh, I know what's going on with this person, I follow them on all these platforms," inevitably in our 1:1 chat, new things would come out and it'd almost feel like a relief for both of us to be able to talk in an unvarnished way with someone else without thinking "how do I frame this for social?"
I retired, moved way way out in the country as Covid distance hit ... I’d worked so much I hadn’t realized that my social life was not existing. I don’t know how one makes friends. But one comment about “expired friends”, I have reached out to people that I haven’t been in touch with since university, since the kids were young and found that many of them also are lonely. They have been happy to come to visit and to reunite. It takes some effort to think of activities ( more than just dinner dates) but I’m slowly learning. Having been friends before makes it a little easier, kinda like meeting relatives you haven’t seen for ages.
I could have written this! And I know you know I have shared most of the stages with you and have experienced the ebbs and flows. It was somehow easier to make and maintain friendships when the kids were little, which is puzzling considering how hands are they were! But parenting teenagers was way more work than I imagined, especially on the cooking for two teen boys and wrestling with college applications front. I was so happy to see you (live! in person!) the other week and truly hope it's the first of many outings. Here's to the Golden Girl era (OMFG).
Oof. Well, this hit home, Jenna. And hit hard, truthfully. My life was a *bevy* of friendships once I hit my 20's and lasted well into my early 40's. But it was then that life started turning sideways with my parents' Alzheimer's. I was certainly less available to people with the increasing responsibilities and demands of their care. But, frankly, this period also illuminated how superficial a multitude of these relationships were in actuality. A majority simply wanted me at my best and most entertaining and when I just couldn't consistently deliver in my haze of exhaustion and depression, the distances grew as rapidly as the calls diminished. Thrown into the grief of my parents' passing all but ended most of my friendships. It certainly led to the demise of a 17-year best friendship, sadly. These days, I can count my remaining friendships on one hand – and those are all long-distance relationships. (Nothing like up and moving to a whole new community during a pandemic to put the hatchet to one's social life, lemme tell you.) As things have opened up, I've tried connecting with a few people in my new community but those have gone nowhere and had me wondering why it all feels so hard now...? My age? My life experiences? Are we all tired? Are we all used to isolating ourselves so much so that social interactions feel more draining than stimulating? I don't purport to have the answers but I'm damned glad I have a cat, I can tell you that.
p.s. – I sure used to love all of us on Twitter at ungodly hours back in the day. And even if we don't talk as much I am immensely grateful for staying connected in some capacity all these years. Lastly, I adore your writing SO much.
You’re never getting rid of me 👻 I really do miss the old Twitter camaraderie and ease of communicating. I’m brewing some kind of return to blogging, so maybe spending more time here communicating and connecting with others will feel really good? We need a place to be social on social media since the algorithms, ads, and no chronological timelines has sucked the joy out of it all.
Beautiful, Jenna! I was just thinking about this topic myself. I used to throw around the term “best friend” over and over -- only to realize that right now, I don’t really have one. Not the way I defined it as a child. I have a sister -- does that count? I have a guru -- a mentor -- does that count?
I’m not sad about it -- but simply realizing the term is largely a western conception and it’s largely tied to self worth and success. It’s okay to have friends, close friends, and chapters where the magnitude of it ebbs and flows!
For most of my adult life, my friends were usually people I met at work and those relationships sort of fell by the wayside when I moved on to a different job. Then my husband died and I retired, and I wondered where I’d meet people. I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, something I’m passionate about, and I met so many people who shared my values and interests and it was so easy to make friends! I was shocked! I signed up to help maintain the public gardens where I live, and met another fun group of people and I learned a ton about plants and gardening! Anyway, I found that volunteering was a great way to meet new friends!
This is me! This is so me! To have it put out there by someone, the same experiences and questions about friendships… feels very comforting that I’m not alone.
Idk what to do about friendship in retirement either. My plan is to get a dog and do dog meet up groups 😂
Thanks so much for your posts, Jenna, reading them always feels like I'm reading a page from my journal and it helps to know that I'm not alone. I'm in a similar situation to you because of professional shifts. It's probably not healthy that so many of my friends are colleagues, but oh well.
Thank goodness for blogs! My closest friend is someone I met at Alt Summit in 2012. We live on opposite coasts so we rarely get to spend time together in person. A local friend I see more often, but still not very often, is also someone I met through blogging back in the day! It’s so weird - I think about friendship a lot, but I don’t really see friends very often at all. When I think about people I want to spend more time with they are usually those in other cities or countries. I also love spending time alone and need a lot of focused alone time for painting. I often feel like I don’t get enough of that, so to go out and do other things means that I’m giving more of that up. When I do see friends it feels really good and I feel like I’m really THERE and connected with them. I’d love to experience more of that.
I'm a broken record... you are in my head, the things I ponder, you always end writing about. I guess it does have something to do with being also 53? Haha. Observing our children navigating friendships has been especially painful for me, as you know mine is autistic... and though in the later years of schooling the kids have been mostly nice, I can't say that they have been accepting... tolerating would probably be the best description. And inevitably, we live vicariously through our children, hoping their journey is less fraught than our own, but for me, at times it's been hard to see. Fortunately there is a glimmer, she does have two friends, also on the spectrum, who she is still in touch with, and it is here where I am grateful for technology so they can text and facetime whenever they want, even if we can't always get them together.
But my own friendships, even the ones I deem close, seem harder and harder to keep up. The pull of life, work, constraints with geography... I dunno, perhaps the community I find through the internet (such as the space you have created) is really the new way to find community after all.