I’m in my thirties, with a husband and kids, the stay out all night-ness of it all has long passed and I do miss those days sometimes. It’s much harder to make friends in your thirties, your responsibilities give you less time to make new ones and it’s hard to find them. The secret club of friends is not taking on new members at this time or ever. For me, unless it’s a homeschool thing or a church thing, I rarely meet new people, and I thrive on meeting new people. I do have friends, the good ones are so good and not that many, which is preferable to me. I’d rather have five close friends than a gaggle of acquaintances. Forever friends (the ones that will be there for you at every important milestone and vice versa, the ones that will grow old with you and never judge you, no matter how messy your house is, or your life) are hard to come by. This article in the NY Times articulates it well. You are so right, NY Times.
I didn’t go away to college when all my high school friends did, I stayed in town and went to ASU while everyone left to form those lifelong friends I didn’t know existed. I grew up always moving not able to stay in touch with my childhood friends. I wish I had. I was always jealous of people that maintained the same friends since they were kids, what a luxury. While I struggled to stay in touch with people from my past either because I was the “bad” friend back then or our paths became further and further apart. I wonder how I could have made things different. I have a few suspicions.
I am incredibly thankful for some amazing people in my life. If we are close, you and I both know it, there isn’t any guessing about it. I hope I am as tenaciously loyal as I wish to think I am. also, I may not always be an easy person to love; I speak my opinions with confidence but it’s not always the right time and place, I don’t like being left out (a lifetime of rejection has insured that), I’m often misunderstood (might be perceived as rudeness), I can be too much personality for some people and sometimes people can’t deal with the level of closeness I expect out of friends. So, to the people that have stuck around through all of that, Thank you.
I especially struggled with other girls or woman nowadays. I hear a lot of woman say this but then alot of those woman have close girlfriends, so they are wrong. Growing up all of my closest friends were boys, they didn’t judge my tomboyishness or unnecessary roughness. I was at home with their jokes, their demeanor, their boyness. Girls didn’t know what to do with me and I much preferred hanging with the guys, going to shows, talking music, making jokes, etc. Then I got married and there was only one boy I could truly be friends with. You can’t hang out, in truly platonic ways, on the couch listening to music and talking about the world with other people’s husbands. That isn’t cool. I am happy that I still have a boy I can do that with, though, my husband is a truer friend than I will ever know. Girls though, I was as lost as ever, never a bridesmaid, only a bride, that one time.
I never had a best friend. I mean someone I called “best friend” and they called me. That may seem weird, I know. I had close friends and people that served in that capacity but never anyone that called me their best friend, with the exception of my husband (who is my best friend, truly) All my closest friends all had best friends already. A lot of times in my life I have perceived a closeness that in the end wasn’t recipricated and so my quest for BFF-dom was lost. Even to this day it stings when I hear my closest friends talk about their “best friends”. I am happy for them and maybe more than obviously jealous. I don’t know what magic has to happen to make friends, best friends, a mixture of stage of life, kindred spirits, time of year, aligning of the planets, data points on a plot chart, I don’t know, it’s far beyond my understanding and seems to me impossible, but it obviously isn’t. I’ve learned to manage expectations, somewhat. We can’t all have friends like “Friends”, do I want friends like “Friends”? I am thinking more along the lines of Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope, if Leslie Knope was mashed with Daria in a very bi-polar sort of way, that would be me. Now for my Ann?
So back to making friends in your thirties…It sucks. It’s either really difficult or non existent. I mean it’s hard keeping friends in your thirties let alone making them. It’s especially difficult when your friends are at very different stages of life, such as kids, marriage etc. it feels like the worst thing in the world when all your “single” friends or “couples without kids” friends do stuff together without you, or invite you out last minute when it’s far too late to make arrangements for kids, work, school, sleep etc. I’ll just cry about it assured in the most hyperbolic way that they “hate me” and then give them the benefit of the doubt and laugh maniacally to myself, in the quietest possible way, “One Day, One Day”. That’s probably horrible. I’m getting better at trying to show grace in these situations. So I think to myself, “Make new friends, ha, I can’t even keep the ones I have”. There are exceptions, you know who you are, a friend made in my thirties, a nice surprise. All in all I’ve learned a few things about friendship, some do’s and don’ts mostly for my sake also for others, learn from my mistakes and experiences:
-hit your friends. This may see obvious to most, but obviously not to me, current friends and past friends can attest, I’m a bit heavy handed with the jabs.
-get overly upset over being “snubbed”, people aren’t always out to get you, they don’t mull over that kind of evil, it’s usually not intended.
-blurt out everything you are thinking. God only knows I’ve frightened many people away with brashness. Although I have one or two friends that truly get it and are equally such.
-hold grudges, just don’t.
-overwhelm them, even though I get so excited about friends I want to send 500 texts, calls, emails, Facebook statuses, twitter @’s, etc. The worst feeling is no response, so don’t be too much, temper yourself when needed.
-be selfish of time, energy, gifts etc.
-get angry when you feel they are being inconsiderate, perhaps when it comes to making plans you could not ever make arrangements in time for like spur of the moment fun. They are being gracious enough to not forget you, they aren’t in that stage of life where things are better planned ahead.
-get jealous when you aren’t the selected “best friend”, even if you did introduce the new besties to each other. Be happy they found each other.
-cancel plans repeatedly, it’s a bit much if there isn’t a valid reason, like illness.
-be disingenuous. Say what you mean. Don’t tell someone you want to hang out and then avoid their attempts to do so. Don’t tell someone you miss their conversations but are always to busy to have one.
-be so cynical, so know-it-all, so you know.
-forgive always. Explains itself.
-return texts, calls, emails etc. Don’t be that friend that doesn’t respond to your friends texts. Being bad at texts or emails is not a good excuse, and is just that, an excuse. You will have a reputation amongst your friends that you will not want. Take two seconds to respond with at the very least, “can I text you later” and then actually text later.
-manage your expectations, these people aren’t fictional tv characters and won’t act as such. Your dream to lunch like the SITC girls or be as close as HIMYM crew may never happen, that is television this is real life.
-say thank you, a lot, for any kindness shown you. I’m working on this.
-get excited for them when good things happen, there is no need to compare your life to theirs or get jealous when things go their way, regardless how hard things may be for you.
-contact frequently, friends that are married with children have a lot on their minds, so remind them that their your friend by a kind text every once and a while. Single and couples friends need love too.
-be considerate of their time and circumstances. Some people can’t afford to hang out all the time at expensive eateries and bars, some don’t have time after long work shifts ( make time when it’s convenient for them) that need post shift sleep before their next shift, some friends need consideration if they have children, you can’t take babies to bars and they have to be home to get their kids to bed early, so give them time to make arrangements or make outings family friendly, don’t start events so late that it’s not even an option.
-be genuine, real, honestly interested, not distracted.
-be thankful you have friends, some will never have the luxury.
I myself am working on all of these, and im sure there’s more I’m not thinking of. It may all sound silly talking about making and keeping friends in my thirties, but it’s a battle, one worth fighting. Here is to your continued happiness with friends you love and admire. Am I forgetting something?