“You’re only as strong as the people you spend the most time with,” or so the adage goes and for many black women that includes a strong group of friends. Many of us watched as Joan, Maya, Lynn and Toni supported each other through breakups, career challenges, and general craziness in the hit show “Girlfriends” which debuted in the year 2000. It mirrored our own circles or those we aspired to have. The imperfections, the fights, the moments of reconciliation. But the older I get, the less those rifts seem to come back around and friend groups feel like a memory of the past as my circle gets smaller and smaller.
My best friend and I were once a trifecta. It’s easy to forget now because it’s been so long since our third seemed to drift off and away. We all worked at the same retail store and quickly formed a bond based on proximity and an odd racial divide in the store between the black co-workers and the puerto rican co-workers. We had to stick together, look out for one another and in the midst found we had a lot in common.
It started slow. We would get lunch together sometimes or go on an occasional shopping trip after work and it morphed into a true friendship. We knew each other’s families, we saw relationships bloom and some fall apart. We celebrated birthdays, which oddly enough became the point of our demise.
For each friend’s birthday, the other two would make the plans. Road trips to Atlantic City, a day at the theme park, a night on the town, or whatever it was. But in this odd turn of events, one friend just started opting out. First, by being completely insufferable during her birthday celebration and second, by completely going MIA while planning for my best friend’s festivities one year. I was working diligently to plan a trip to D.C. and I couldn’t get her to commit to a day. Eventually it resulted in the trip not happening, but also my best friend deciding she was done.
Even though my bestie and I threw in the towel with our third for that time, I found myself reaching back out a few years later. Likely on some forgiveness mission I decided to connect with her once again. But it didn’t last long. Some of our views and thought processes remained so different that I realized the rekindled comradery wouldn't last and that’s when the three indefinitely became two.
But so many years later, I find myself with a twinge of envy when I see groups of friends that hang out and champion one another because I just don’t have that. As one who works in community oriented industries, it would appear as though I have lots of friends but with a deeper look, it’s a lot more acquaintances than true and meaningful friendships and there are times when I feel that absence.
Most recently, while down at Essence Festival for a work trip, there were droves of friends enjoying the weekends’ festivities together and I could count on one hand how many friends I would even have to invite to something like that. In the past, I’ve even tried to rekindle some high school friendships only to fall flat and never quite fit in as well as I would have liked.
Not that things are bad for me. I have a wonderful husband, a handful of close girlfriends, although spread out in different cities, my parents, and an energetic two-year-old pup. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the idea of having a “gang” of sorts. It feels like I haven’t had that since high school and something about making friends as an adult gets really awkward, fast.
It’s not for lack of trying either. I often find myself reaching out to other women in my industry to try to build relationships but there is something about adults, who already have their own friends that makes it really difficult to make new ones. I also feel like I’m missing some of the life choices that tend to bring people together like working in a corporate setting or having children that all play together. I work from home in the small niche industries of music and writing and other adults don’t always seem ready and eager to play.
The success I have found in making new friends in this after-thirty season has been in-person meetups with a writing critique group that I host, Twitter, and every now again, through work. But a recent Tweet from someone I follow, reminded me that I’m not in this alone when they asked, “how are women meeting new friends?”
So many times, our guards are up, we can be stand-offish, and we’re to ourselves, but strong support systems have been shown to help evade infectious diseases, promote a more robust immune system and even proved to help women survive breast cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Good girlfriends are literally good for your health!
Mostly, I find that that growing older has been a lesson in appreciating the quality friends over quantity and coming to accept the fact that many friendships are indeed situational and maybe that’s okay. There may only be a select few that you can trust with your life’s most delicate moments, but finding some varied acquaintances for specific areas of life may not be the worst thing either. My writer friends have certainly talked me down once or twice and shown up in ways that I’ve needed in this journey.
Occasionally, my mind wanders to old friends I’ve lost and I wonder what they may be up to. But more pressing than that, I want to remain open to welcoming new and organic relationships into my life which isn’t always easy but worth it to keep shooting the shot, even if a little awkward or clunky to start.