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Friendship Groups

I told you I wasn’t finished discussing friendships.

I think the thing that struck me the most from the comments was the number of people who either stated or lamented that they had never had a best friend or that their best friend was gone.  I didn’t mention it in that post and I certainly have old friends that I’m in touch with, but I’ve always wondered about people who managed to keep close with their childhood friends.  Who still hang out with friends from high school who have known them through various incarnations as they reinvent themselves through life.

I’m certainly jealous of that.  I have a few friends who have known me since I was very young.  I have a few still from college or graduate school.  And both of those are a major feat in a fragmented world where people are constantly moving around.  It’s not like the pre-car era where people stayed in the same area and it was a given that you would still know each other into old age.

I think it is partially the friendships themselves — some connections are just stronger than others — but I think it’s equally the people involved in the friendships and having a mutual desire to keep it going (as opposed to having that desire unbalanced or not there at all).  It’s nature and nurture.

And I think it’s also a matter of perception.  I was once looking at an old friend’s Facebook page and saw that she was still in touch with all these people we knew in high school.  At least I assumed they were in touch, but when I questioned her about it, she admitted that they were just Facebook friends, vaguely connected in the ability to see each other’s wall updates, but nothing more.  Which isn’t really something to be jealous of at all.  I could have that if I cared.

Which is a long way of saying that I think it is more uncommon as people continuously move — both physically around the world and jumping from job to job — to keep the same friends (with the same intensity of friendship) over a long period of time.  And I know an equal amount of people who have strong female friendships vs. those who struggle with maintaining strong female friendships.

I think some of it is luck, some of it is skill, and some of it is just your road lining up with another person’s road and both of you choosing to walk together.


I think about my friendships a lot.  Sometimes I think my personality gets in the way of me being a great friend.  I have a tendency to hole up — either physically in my house or mentally in my… mind (where else would one hole up mentally?)  Sometimes I think my personality lends itself well to friendship — I can be very thoughtful when the other aspects of my personality aren’t getting in the way.

I have always had trouble making new friends.  I am shy, first and foremost.  I am also, apparently, forgettable.  I went to my high school reunion and people constantly said, “wait, you were in school with me?”  It would seem that I am very noticeable when I’m in front of you and forgettable when I’m not.  I was never tormented in high school — I wasn’t unpopular in that way — I was just a bit invisible.  I had my good friends and I stuck to my good friends and I could apparently sit next to someone for a year of physics and allow them to copy my homework daily and still be forgettable just five years after high school.

It doesn’t help that I forget no one.

Sometimes I like the fact that I have an irremovable invisibility cloak, especially when I’m feeling shy.  Other times, I wish I was a little more unforgettable.  I wish my actual person was as memorable as my words.  But if I had to choose which one I’d rather have people remember — my words or myself — I would keep it the way it is and stick with the unforgettable words and ideas.


I have both scattered, individual friendships where the friends may know one another through me, but they don’t have their own separate friendship without me.  And then I have a few small groups that I belong to.

This is one of the things I’m curious about — the people who have scattered friends vs. the people who have interconnected friends.

Which do you have?  Individual friends here and there?  A group you hang out with?  A mixture of both?

Obviously everyone has a small mixture of both, but I am talking more about people you would place in your figurative inner and secondary circles.

This breaks down further into another idea — interconnected friend groups that have a hierarchy and interconnected friend groups that have shifting equality.  In other words, one person may be the alpha one day and a different person may be the alpha on another day vs. groups where there is a clearly an alpha — a person in charge — and the other people circle around them.

Basing this on my own experience and observations, shifting equality groups feels distinctly female and set hierarchy groups feels distinctly male.  At the same time, I definitely also belong to a set hierarchy group (where I am quite clearly a delta — that fourth tier of influence) that is headed by an alpha female and comprised almost entirely of women.  So it’s not one or the other; I’m just saying that I associate equality with females and hierarchy with males based on my experience and observations.

With the exception of the group I just named, I can’t think of any other place where I follow a set alpha.  There is one group where I’d call one person the glue — she seems to hold all of us together — but I’d never define her as an alpha.  And truly, looking at every single one of my friendships, there is always a balance of power.  At least from my point-of-view.

Does this mean that I have less social experience with leaders and followers than the average man?

It reminds me of a recent Next Food Network Star episode where the group of girls were chastised for not having a clear leader, even though the group worked well collaboratively with one another.  They didn’t think they needed a leader.  The male judge told them they did.

Look at your friendship groups — do you have an alpha?  Are you the alpha?  Are you a different ranking in the group?

And more importantly, would you want to be an alpha?  I absolutely would not.  The thought of being the alpha of a group makes me itchy.


Instead of ranking people within a group and allowing this hierarchy to determine the push and pull of the group, I find that I mentally rank people in terms of their strengths and match a situation to a specific person.  For instance, one person is my personal alpha outdoor-activity person.  If I felt like going on a hike, she is who I would call.  A different person is my alpha coffee date, that person I most crave when I just need to go out and talk.  I have an alpha for when I have a parenting issue and a different alpha for when I have a non-parenting issue.

And then there are the multi-faceted individuals who fit themselves easily into any of my needs.


I’m not just interested in hearing about individual friendships.  I love hearing about the types of friendships people have.  The friendship set-ups.  Did you gravitate to a type of friendship — solitary friendships or a big friendship group — or did it find you?  Are your close friendships mostly a la carte or are you part of a larger groupAnd do you like your friendship set up or wish it was something different?


1 April { 07.12.11 at 8:39 am }

My best example of a group friendship are my friends from college. I’ve been referred as the glue in this group as the only female in the group and the one who was determined not to lose my friends after we all went our seperate ways. In fact, all of them were either in my wedding or were in attendance at my wedding. I met my husband through this group and I would call Paul my best friend over all. I don’t consider myself to be the alpha, but the guys tell me I’m the reason they have all stayed in contact with each other. Then again, they also tell me I’m the scary one out of the group which I find absolutely amusing.

In general, I tend to gravitate towards small groups. I’m fairly shy and have an odd sense of humor that puts off some people, but does attract like minded individuals. These are the people with whom I’ve been friends with the longest and we tended to gravitate towards each other. It wasn’t so much that we set out to find each other, it was more that we knew one individual who would introduce us to another person in the group and from there we gelled into our little freindship group. For me, it’s always been like this. When I’ve tried to join other groups, I’ve felt like an outsider and never quite clicked with the people in the group and eventually would drift away.

I don’t have different friends I call for different things. I have a few I can call for almost any reason. And these people are my rocks in the world.

2 missohkay { 07.12.11 at 8:57 am }

I haven’t had a group of friends since high school and I miss that sometimes. Surprisingly enough I don’t have any good friends from college that I still talk to (the occasional facebook comment aside). I have individual friends from all parts of life who wouldn’t gel particularly well if I were to have a party. If I liked parties – which I don’t. (Introvert.) The thing that really struck me about this post is that I am really forgettable too! Barely anyone talked to me or seemed to recognize me at my high school reunion (the aforementioned group of friends were not in my grade). And it used to really bother me that this one girl in college did all the same activities and internships etc. as I did, but she made all these great connections with people who never remembered me. I’ve moved on though 🙂

3 M.G. { 07.12.11 at 9:15 am }

I lived in NYC for 12 years – during my 20’s and early 30’s – and while I was there I grew strongly attached to a core group of people who were very different from each other, but each very similar to me in a particular way. NYC is an intense place, and so experiences and attachments there were more intense also. Since I left there a couple years ago and have been living in Texas (BIG culture shock) I have been aching for the kind of friends I have there. It’s not happening of course, it’s a different time in my life and a completely different place. I think it’s also easier to connect with people on a bigger scale when you’re younger and more outgoing. Whatever it is, the lack of new *super-friends* makes me something of a hermit. Those people KNOW me in a way that no one else really can, and not having access to them makes me feel lonely as hell.
I do a lot of pining and trying to stay connected with my old life via social media ~

4 a { 07.12.11 at 9:26 am }

I don’t know – the group dynamic never really worked that well for me. I’m more of a one-on-one type. I don’t want to be the alpha in the group, but I don’t follow well either. I tend to be a part-time sampler – if I’m not interested, I’m happy to wander off and do my own thing. This is usually seen as rebelling, which doesn’t work too well for groups. I’m fairly solitary anyway, so it’s fine for me. But at my heavily female workplace, I’m an outsider because I won’t take a place in the group. They don’t like that and it has led to some issues – but I think they’ve finally figured out that I don’t care.

5 Nichole { 07.12.11 at 9:37 am }

I have very few friends from High School and ironically enough, the ones I do have, I have just reconnected with over the last year or so and I graduated in ’99.

I have many friends from many different social groups that (like the above poster) wouldn’t mix well together if at a party. I can’t really say that I have a “best” friend, just a wide variety of “good” friends.

I desperately want the type of friendship like on “Friends” or “Sex and the City” but I just don’t think my personality warrants it, or I am really bad at picking friends…could go either way.

6 Kelly { 07.12.11 at 10:33 am }

I don’t think I ever started out as the Alpha in my friendship groups, but over time, I seem to have become the Alpha in most of my friendships. I think that initially I come in to groups of friend because I’m regarded as friendly and funny, and then people become reliant on me for advice, support, and dependability.

Early on, I was definitely in a group of friends-six of us became close in 3-4th grade, and continued that into Junior High. Within that group, we were paired into three teams of two besties, but all of us were extremely close. Junior High and the hormones that came with it was a different story. I still had my core group, but three or four new people came in, and as such, people started getting pushed out. There was a “Mean Girl” component to it, and no one was immune to that, even though we were friends.

High school was interesting, most of same group mentioned above, with a few more added. That seemed to be the breaking point, when you combined the sport of popularity with new people, new bonds, and the exacerbation that adolescent social norms brings. The friends within the group of friends had some shakeups, with new alliances and animosities formed. The drama of it all made me start seeking friends outside of my “home base” of friends for the first time, including forming close platonic friendships with boys, who never seemed to have the same level of uncertainty (and at times venom) that my close female friends did. I have to say at this point in my life is when I really became aware of the double-edged sword that female friendships can at times be-how strong you can love each other, only to turn on each other in an instant. Why is that?

Ironically, college found me mostly keeping with friends that I had known for years that also attended where I went-the familiarity was comforting, and it strengthened bonds that I had. Since graduating from Undergraduate, I have to say that the majority of my friendships have come from work, and to a lesser extent, Grad School. My early twenties friends were a group I came into through a close work friend, and my later twenties were also work friends, in various iterations.

Since moving completely away from everyone I knew to the west coast, I have had a more challenging time on the friends front. This is a first for me because I had never ever had problems having friends, or making them. I once again seem to have gotten most friends from work, although I have worked remotely since coming here so even though I’ve made more awesome friends, they live in Atlanta, Chicago, etc. I had a local group from work that I tried to keep up with, but it was harder to fit in since I was new, and they are quite dispersed in the metro area that I live in. I have to say, I’m probably to blame, as I wasn’t willing to put in the time and/or effort to get together as much as I should.

For the most part, I’m connected with nearly everyone in the circle of friends mentioned, and Facebook has been great with that. I keep in contact but don’t see anyone on a routine basis. Right now I don’t know that I have the time or motivation to keep up the friendships like I previously had to the extent it takes to be a really good friend. Right now, I’m in the throes of IVF, and I find that I want more privacy than anything. I’ve actually become a bit of a loner with friends, distancing myself because I don’t want to talk about what I’m going through with them, or having to go through the pain if I have to tell them it didn’t work. I’m not proud of it, but I also have not returned calls during this time simply because I really don’t care to hear the latest gossip or help someone work through an issue, because I feel the need to just focus on myself and positive stuff. I’m in a place where I feel that every attribute I have as a friend as mentioned above I’m not capable of extending, and I think people feel let down. I hope that they will understand, but it’s hard to both shift to and have people accept that you can’t be there for them all the time, and that you might not want them along for the ride as well when going through a challenging time in life.

7 Gail { 07.12.11 at 10:35 am }

My husband and I had a group of friends in our town. Some of them are couples while some are single. And, we also will break off into girls-only and men-only groups for various things. When we want to do something with some friends, we have different friends within that group for different activities. Those with young children are usually not our “restaurant-going friends” because the children can’t sit still and are picky eaters, but we enjoy going to BBQs or picnics together. We have friends that we travel with, friends that we go to movies with and friends that we just hang out with.
When it comes to planning our get-togethers, I am usually the organizer of the event. Take this Friday evening for example. A bunch of people are going to see the new Harry Potter movie with a stop at a local pizza place for dinner first. I sent out the email to the group to invite them and have been calling the theater for the showtimes for the last two weeks (they still haven’t posted the times and it opens in 3 days!). When the showtime is released, I’ll be the one to email everyone to let them know so that they can buy their tickets ahead of time and be ready for the movie. I don’t mind being the organizer, but there are times that it would be nice if another friend stepped up and invited us to do something fun. However, we’ve tried waiting a few months to see if anyone else would take the initiative and no one did, so I continue in my role as group activities organizer. I feel like a cruise director! 🙂

8 Denver Laura { 07.12.11 at 10:40 am }

Hubs and I have lamented that we don’t have friends here. We moved to Colorado 6 years ago and have not found a core group of people to hang out with. Either they had kids or we did (foster placements that come and go).

We did have a few ‘couple’ friends but the dynamics in those relationships just wasn’t condusive to making friends.

I feel like placing an ad in the paper: 30ish childless/foster family couple looking for couple for hanging out and friendship (no pervs). Must like dogs and camping. Social drinkers ok.

9 Esperanza { 07.12.11 at 11:22 am }

I might not have been able to talk about a wonderful, best girl friend that has stayed with me through life but I can talk about friend groups. In high school I was a part of two different friend groups. The first was through my swim team and was comprised mostly of girls. I still see some of them every once in a while too. We had been friends from the time I moved to California from Hong Kong (7th grade) through Sophomore year. They saved my sanity in middle school, when no one at my school liked me and for that I can never be grateful enough. Sadly we fell out of contact when I quit because I had bad shoulders.

Junior and Senior year I became friends with a rather large group of fairly diverse people. There were slightly more boys than girls and I was definitely better friends with the boys. We were a big party group and we had people that were a part of many other groups so when we had parties they were HUGE and people from all different stratas at our high school came. I was in all the AP classes but none of my friends from this group were so I had those people to bring with me. I also partook in my fair share of the green stuff so I brought those people along too. Some of us played sports while others didn’t. Others were in bands. It really was amazingly eclectic group. I still see that core group to this day. Many of them are still around and the core eight of us still get together for BBQs and such. I would say that the glue of that group is my best friend Mark, whom I’ve known since I was very little (our fathers are old friends). So I usually know what is going on because he and I are still really close.

In college I had an amazing group of friends that is still quite close to this day. We were this insane group in our dorm that was the life of everything. Again there were more boys than girls, actually it was quite boy heavy but I was really good friends with the few girls in the group (they are the college girl friends I spoke about before). After college the majority of the group moved back to LA (where they were originally from) and in the past few years things have really imploded. There are so many pairs of people that have issues with each other now. It’s sad. When we get together I have to remember that E doesn’t like B or J but J is still cool with E and so on and so forth. I used to be really sad that I lived far away from all of them and missed out on their shenanigans but now I’m glad there is that distance because I’m still friends with all of them and have been able to avoid the drama. As for an alpha person, I think that changes over time. I’ve never been that person and I wouldn’t want to be. But I can be the catalyst for people to hang out when I come into town or when I have a shindig up north and people come up to be a part of it.

I have always been very thankful for my college friends. I thought it was very common to have a tight knit group like that but I found that it’s not. I don’t take my group for granted. And while time and life are pulling us apart, I know that if one of us got married (which none of us seem set to do anytime soon) we’d all be there for that person and we’d have a great time celebrating.

At work there are some groups of people that hang out but I’m kind of on the outskirts of that. There is definitely an alpha person and I don’t think she likes me very much. Once there was a huge rafting trip and literally EVERYONE under 35 was there and I wasn’t invited. I found out right afterward on Facebook when everyone started posting pictures (it was also after I’d lost my pregnancy so I was already feeling really isolated and alone) and it was one of the harder things I’ve had to deal with as a social adult. When I asked some people about it the general understanding was that either I’d been forgotten or purposefully not invited because one of the guys who planned it (with the alpha girl) didn’t like me (which I didn’t know about until then). So yeah, that sucked and since then I haven’t been as interested in being a part of that group. I try to cultivate some friendships at my school because the staff is very social and close but I’ve never been able to forget that not one person remembered to invite me or stood up for me and this was a group of people that had known me for years.

I have no group of friends that currently has kids and that has been really hard. I was just talking to my partner about how I’d give anything for a community of women who lived near me and had children. But it seems to be an impossible goal so I’m trying to be okay with not having it. Maybe some day.

10 Sharon { 07.12.11 at 11:29 am }

I am blessed to have a lot of friends, and most of them are individual friendships, where they don’t know my other friends at all or, if they do, they only know them through me and don’t have an independent relationship with them. Even when I was in graduate school, when many people were parts of larger friendship groups, my friendships were with people from a lot of different groups.

The one small exception: some of my friends from my first job out of grad school. There is a lot of camaraderie in that office, and many of my friends there continued to work together after I left, so many of us socialize together and are friends with one another.

11 serenity { 07.12.11 at 11:51 am }

In HS, I was the “friend grazer” – never belonged to a group, but could wander from group to group during fire drills and chat with people.

Once I got to college, I joined the band. UMass had an amazing marching band and I really did fine 300 of my closest friends there. We aren’t in touch as often as we’d like to be, but we do lots of things with band friends – family camping weekends, homecoming, girls nights. The guys do a regular scotch club during the fall and winter months and an annual guys trip, so we get to see people every once in a while for sure.

I have three best girlfriends – none of whom know each of the other. It’s like I’ve made a deep connection with someone through periods of my life and kept them as I moved on, where the rest of my friends end up being on the outskirts of my life.

So the way I make friends is a la carte, even though I do identify with a big group from college. Because all my best girlfriends? One of them married a college friend, but she wasn’t really PART of the group. And my other two friends might actually have no idea marching band was that important to me.

12 Linnea { 07.12.11 at 12:46 pm }

This post has really made me think – and weirdly, I’m pondering more about your relationships, Melissa, than mine. I was really struck by your statement that you aren’t an “alpha” in your IRL relationships with other females – because you so clearly are a leader in this online community of women. And, you seem to have welcomed that role, and encourage others to see you in that way (for example by starting various forums such as Prompt-ly), and seem to really flourish as a leader in that context. It’s so interesting to me that people – and I think it’s much broader than just you – can find a entirely new angle to their personality through online relationships.

13 Lou { 07.12.11 at 2:10 pm }

Great topic. I think about friends and friendships often. I’m a people person and really enjoy interactions with friends. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of friends and that saddens me sometimes. While I always want friends, I’m not always good at maintaining those friendships and sometimes they drift away like a stick down the river.

I do, however, have one friend, a childhood friend, whom I met when I was 2 at day care. Today, 30 years later, we are still best friends. Our lives have gone crazy here and there, things happened, we got married the same summer, two years later she went through a divorce, I adopted…the list goes on and on. We don’t have as much in common now, but we will always be best friends, bound together by common childhood memories of growing up together in rural NH. She’s in Iraq now…for work, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her… I can’t wait to send her her next care package…

I really want to make more friends, but it’s hard for grown woman to do so. We don’t want to come across as vulnerable or weak…and we care a lot about what people think of us and sometimes fear rejection. Not sure on my path moving forward…but I appreciate the topic at hand. Thanks for posting.

14 Justine { 07.12.11 at 2:35 pm }

Love Linnea’s comment. But I don’t know … I sort of think you’re less alpha and more “glue.” 🙂 And for the record, I would never forget you. 😉

I have friendship groups, mostly mixed (though I’m making more “mom” friends these days, slowly). And I have a few single friendships — which have developed, oddly enough, as a result of my experiences with loss and infertility. In none of those is there an “alpha” … though sometimes people seem to want one, and try to elect me. I’m more shy than I let on, though, and I have moments of retreating completely. It’s hard to be friends with me! I ought to be less prickly. 😉

15 Queenie { 07.12.11 at 2:36 pm }

I wish Denver Laura lived near me. I would totally answer her personal ad.

I tend to have friends from different parts of my life: work; husband’s work friends; husband’s childhood friends (men seem to stay in touch longer than women); college friends; etc. Sometimes they know of each other, but don’t necessarily mingle. In part, it’s geographic–we’re not all in the same place.

The question I’ve been asking in recent years is how do you make new friends as an adult? When you have small children, especially, it becomes really hard to meet new people, but I feel like my life needs new people (and not just because we’ve moved). It’s incredibly hard, in part because people with small kids are so busy with the kids and jobs and everything else. Making friends was never anything I actually thought about when I was younger–it just was. Now it feels complicated.

16 HereWeGoAJen { 07.12.11 at 3:17 pm }

I’d say it is more of a group lately. Mainly because I tend to invite everyone I know when we do things. And I wouldn’t say that I am the alpha of the group or anything, but I am definitely the planner. I can’t think of the last time we all went somewhere that I didn’t make the plans.

I have one friend left from high school. But I married him, so he’s stuck with me.

17 Sarah { 07.12.11 at 3:36 pm }

My oldest friend and I have been very close since sixth grade. I was her made of honor, we still spend time together whenever she is in town, and I go to spend the weekend with her around twice a year in Chicago.

Besides her, the rest of my closest friends are related to me, or I met them around college age. I had a lot of friends in high school, and we are still close enough to attend each others wedding, or to talk about making plans, but we are never really willing to put in the effort. Now my college group of friends (which includes both my sisters, my cousin and my sister in law) and I are still very close. I actually wrote a blog post about them earlier this week. But of them, I would say I am definently the alpha. And it’s because of that that I feel guilt when we grow apart, because really I am the glue. And although it’s some pressure, it’s also wonderful because I feel like I have such a close relationship with each of them!

18 jjiraffe { 07.12.11 at 4:19 pm }

Love this topic. My friendships are all over the place. Figuratively and literally. I keep in touch with one friend from growing up (other than casual, Facebook friends) but she only comes to visit once a year.

I had an unbelievable group of girl friends in college. There was a tight-knit group of ten of us, and we’ve kept in touch and get together once a year for retreats without husbands or children. Unfortunately, they are all out of the area, except for one.

Then I met my husband and moved to London, and had a similar experience to M.G.: we made friends with a co-ed group of people and those friendships were intense and really important. As ex-pats, you’re away from family and friends become your family. This was a “Friends” or “HIMYM” like experience, where our best friends lived downstairs from us, and everyone was always hanging out, whether at our apartment, local restaurants or bars. It was, sigh, wonderful. I would say both Darcy and I were the glue in this particular group.

Then we moved back to the states and to the ‘burbs and never really recovered. Darcy’s friends from growing up all live here, but I consider them acquaintances: they only do small talk, which I don’t prefer. Finally, I have made some friends in the neighborhood, but everyone seems obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, and I got ripped at a dinner last weekend for being a SAHM. It hurt. I realized that these are a group of friends that I have to be very humble with, never complain to, and just kinda keep my head down with.

I also have a group of glamourous friends who live in the city and are kinda Real Housewives-esque. They are really fun, and funny, but I feel like I’m putting on a show when I’m with them. Which is OK, but I can only put on Spanx, wear 4 inch heals and put on makeup a few times a year. But they’re a great outlet for that side of me.

Thanks for such a thoughtful analysis. Friendships are so crucial to our lives, and I think everyone thinks about them a lot. I really enjoyed reading about other people’s friendships, too.

19 Heather { 07.12.11 at 5:12 pm }

I think 95% of my friends are from post-college days. I really prefer 1-1 friendships or small groups instead of large groups of friends. I also have a tendency to “hole up” when I’m busy or stressed, so I need friends that get that.

20 loribeth { 07.12.11 at 7:07 pm }

We moved around a lot when I was growing up. On your last post about friendship, I wrote about the sisters from across the street, & they are probably the oldest friends I am still in touch with.

In high school, I had two sets of friends: classmates & bandmates. I was probably closer to the bandmates but sadly have lost touch with all of them over the years. I am still in touch with four of my closest classmates. I guess you could call us a group, since we did hang out together, although some of us were better friends than others. I have lost touch with most of my university friends, even (very sadly) my college roommate. She lives in the same city & works in an office tower across the street from me. We used to have lunch together every few weeks, but she has had a lot of personal problems in recent years (marriage breakup, death of parent, etc.). She didn’t calle me in over two years. We had lunch together last November & that’s the last I’ve heard of her since then.

Like some of the others here, I’ve found it difficult to make & maintain friendships since leaving school. Dh has kept very few friends from growing up. He was very close with his cousins, & we hung out with them a lot when we were first married, but of course, everyone has gradually gotten married, had kids & scattered to the suburbs, so we tend to see them only at weddings, funerals & an annual family barbecue now. I have stayed in touch with a couple of former coworkers I was close with . We made some good friends through our pregnancy loss support group, and a group of about 8 of us girls used to get together regularly to scrapbook, & for an annual Christmastime dinner out — but then the subsequent babies started arriving, people got busy & we only see each other a few times a year now.

My mother lived in the same small town growing up & went from kindergarten through high school with the same group of about 40 kids. They have had reunions almost every five years since they graduated, more than 50 years ago now, & a group of the women have started getting together at least once a year at an in-between meeting point. I think it’s fabulous that they have stayed so closely in touch after all these years. I wish I had that.

21 slowmamma { 07.12.11 at 8:57 pm }

I have actually been thinking a lot about this recently in the context of my husband’s friendships rather than my own. I have been trying to figure out why he has such an amazing group of friends (lifelong) from his home (European city) and why he doesn’t seem to really click with anyone here (American city) even though he knows nearly 100% of the expats living here that speak his language and seems to know hundreds of other people.
I imagine that culture and age and gender and a million other factors come into play here but I can say that I have often been jealous of the incredible tightness of his friendship group. There are around 6-7 core members and the alpha position seems to shift among 3-4 of them. They are truly like family, even living thousands of miles apart. Interestingly, I noticed that women from his home city don’t seem to form the same kind of tight groups. I wonder if there is some fundamental female characteristic that keeps us from doing so. If there is, it stinks.

22 It Is What It Is { 07.12.11 at 10:26 pm }

First, is ‘irremovable’ a word, and even if it is, is it the word you were searching for?

I am definitely an alpha, although seemingly less so now, but I would imagine most of my IRL friends would think of me that way.

I used to have a very close inner circle of friends and then there was everyone else…peripheral acquaintances, work friends, etc. But over the years and as my life was mired in both my career and my pursuit of having a baby and that became the struggle with infertility, I lost most of that close inner circle.

I never ever thought I could be happy or fulfilled in my friendships if I didn’t have an inner circle. But my husband is my best friend, in a lot of ways, and now I have an amalgam of friends each who fulfills a different role for me. And, many of my closest friends are away from me geographically (San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia) so it takes effort on both parts to keep a relationship going when we rarely see each other.

I do miss having a bestie, someone I call and check-in with daily, who is up on the nuance of my life and I’m up on her, someone who I can get together with on the spur of the moment, someone who is literally ‘in’ my life. But, as I get older, that fierce need is waning.

23 Jamie { 07.13.11 at 3:48 am }

What a great discussion! I moved a lot until I was 28 and moved in with my husband. It always seemed like as soon as I established close friendships, I moved again. I do tend to have more a la carte relationships now than I used to (I’m 35 now), but I think that’s because I haven’t worked at an office in a few years. The last group of friends I was really a part of, we all worked together. After I left that office, I found I was the only one still making an effort to try to get together, and that just made me feel desperate, so I stopped trying.

The last four years have also been difficult as we have found our friends fall into one of two groups – married with living children, or single, no kids – and no longer invite us to do things with them because, being married with no living children, we don’t fall into their “category”.

Overall, I think my pattern has been to become the alpha in a group of friends, then get exhausted by the effort, and end up with a la carte friendships after that. I don’t mind being the alpha on occasion, for specific circumstances, but doing it all the time can really feel like you’re the only one in a relationship that’s making any effort. I think it has often made me feel taken for granted. When I stopped organizing and leading the group, it fell apart, or at least, I was unaware of any continuing group activities.

As far as a best friend, other than my husband, it’s been hard for me to establish that in my adult life. I’ll think someone qualifies, but then they seem to have other friends they’re so much closer to, and only contact me when they need something, and dissappear when I need them most. So these days, my best girl-friend is probably my mom. She’s the only one I can be brutally honest with, have fun with, and is always there for me as much as she can be. I have a handful of friends I can do individual, fun things with, but no one I can confide in the way I do with her.

24 mash { 07.13.11 at 5:11 am }

I have both, a group of friends, in fact two, one where I live and one where I grew up, but also individual friends.

Have you read the Tipping Point? He speaks of humans only being able to maintain relationships with around 150 people at any given time, which really makes sense to me. So those that are still strongly connected to people from school, in all likelihood haven’t created many new strong connections since then. Just a matter of choice. And also – he has a really interesting story about a company that sticks with the 150 rule, as soon as the branch gets bigger than that, they split. They have no clear leadership, everyone is called an associate. But it works, because people can manage the relationships and the peer pressure is what brings performance, not a leader.

I also heard some interesting information on women vs men in groups, where women tend to co-operate with each other and men tend to negotiate – the guy with the worst argument gets to do the work. It’s evolutionary – men were the hunters and women stayed behind and did the gathering (of e.g. fruits, berries, nuts etc).

Very interesting subject!

25 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 07.13.11 at 1:04 pm }

I haven’t been part of a friend group since high school. I am not now friends or in contact with the people who were in that friend group. Instead, I’m friends with two individuals who got along with that group but weren’t part of it (friendships which caused drama in high school along the lines of, “why are you spending so much time with her instead of us?”).

My husband, on the other hand, has several partly overlapping friend groups — much of the overlap being due to his proclivity for connecting everyone — most of whom he knows not just from high school but from elementary school. I literally have two people in my life who knew me before college, and he talks to multiple people who knew him when he was 6 on a daily basis.

The good thing about my approach over his approach is that I don’t have to deal with the undesired elements from the larger friend group. I have chosen to remain with individuals whom I value individually. With his larger groups, he is close to several individuals (talk almost daily), friendly (talk every week or two, hang out if they’re in the same city, but don’t share their every move or innermost thoughts) with a bunch more, and acquaintances with even more — many of whom he wouldn’t choose as friends if they weren’t in the group. We end up having to put up with several people we don’t really like because they’re in the group. At least my exclusivity (a.k.a. friendlessness) saves me from that on my end.

26 coffeegrljp { 07.15.11 at 5:26 pm }

I seem often to be part of a group. I think my natural drive to keep groups of people together and to facilitate makes me motivate to set up dates/meetings etc. My group of 7 friends from middle school and high school has remained intact with the exception of one friend who sort of faded away and despite our best efforts stopped returning phone calls etc. Still, the 6 of us who remain reunite at least once a year on average (although we live in 4 different states now spread from East to West Coast). It’s lovely and familiar and though we’re different in a lot of ways, it’s nice to have that connection. I think it’s esp. nice because I find it harder and harder to make new friends. I have a few friends from here in Seattle (where I moved to 10 years ago) but for the most part, it’s been hard to make new friends out here. There’s a lot of talk about “Seattle nice” and how people *say* “Let’s get coffee. Let’s hang out,” there’s rarely any follow through. I suspect this happens everywhere and that it’s just harder for people to be open to new friendships later in life when we’re more set in our ways, busy with work and family, trying to multi-task and not as focused on personal relationships. Still, it makes me a little sad.

27 coffeegrljp { 07.15.11 at 5:29 pm }

Oh and I had a similar experience to Jamie – the group of friends that I made in Seattle was from my co-workers. After a while of always pushing to maintain that group and friendships after we all went our separate ways when most of us quit at roughly the same time, I started to feel desperate. Was I truly the only one “friendless” enough or desperate enough to need them? Or were they truly too busy and distracted to get together despite their desire? I’m not sure, but I think actions speak louder than words and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that those friendships may be gone.

28 marilyn { 07.17.11 at 2:14 pm }

I love your posts..they are so inspiring:) At this time i just blog like a journal. In my friendship circles, I have always done better with one on one. Whenever there are groups, there is jealousy, competition, and gossip. These three things remind me too much of my family circle. I guess..what I have looked for in friends are people competely different than my family..hmmm…I just realized that! This is what i love about your posts..it is like I am learning about myself. ahhh! Sorry..anyways..:) Whenever I have had friends that start to get all alpha..I scram. I do not like to be controlled..friendship is not about controlling each other..it is about support and having a common interest. I guess that is why I do not have a lot of friends. These kind of people are hard friends to have. i do not waste my time with aquantances..life is too short. I have my mom, my husband, my three dear and best friends, and then I have a few cousins that I love to spend time with when they come to town. And of course my blogging friends.

29 coffeegrljp { 07.18.11 at 12:12 am }

Random find – I’ve given friendships a lot of thought over the years (why they don’t thrive, why they’re harder to start when we’re older etc.) and I’ve stumbled across this: http://lizpryor.com/story.asp
It’s not just one or two of us who have experienced this….

30 Bea { 07.26.11 at 8:18 am }

Lots of interesting thoughts – too many for tonight.

I am also a little invisible. We should get together and not see each other some time. Ha. Ha.

I think I often get the hierachy wrong. Or I just fail to respect it properly. Or something. I never could get the hang of all that. I also like to see each person as the alpha when a situation arises that matches their strengths, and then swap in the next situation which needs different strengths.


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