Nathan and I were talking about this Saturday night. In the 8 1/2 years Nathan and I have been married I have had more than a couple friends express to me how they feel like they have very few friends and even fewer close friends. They lament that when it comes to girls' nights out or families getting together, they feel left out. I'll admit, I've felt this way and I'm guilty of complaining about it. A lot. Especially when Nathan and I first got married and when we first moved to Ohio.
I think I've figured out why this is.
When we were in grade school we saw our friends every day. Whether we had many, or few, we saw them in our classes, at lunch, after school, and on weekends. We didn't have many opportunities to feel alone and friendless (although I'm sure teenage angst helped to us feel those things anyway at some point) because if we needed a dress for the school dance, we had at least one friend who would go shopping with us. If we wanted to go see a movie, we had a friend to go with us. If we wanted to eat at Denny's after the high school football game, we had a group of friends to go with us.
In college it isn't much different. I lived in an apartment complex full of girls around my age. I had 5 roommates each year of college before getting married and they were awesome. I never had to go anywhere alone if I didn't want to. I knew my roommates were my friends and we did everything together.
But most women, when graduated from high school or college, no longer have the daily interactions with the friends they've spent every day with for years. Those who enter the work place, unfortunately, don't always make friends with those they work with, but try to make time for friends from college, talk on the phone, email, catch up, etc.
Then comes marriage. Of course now I don't live in an apartment of 6 girls, in a complex filled with 60 other girls. Us married women, we live with one person. A man. A man who doesn't understand the need for cute earrings, or have any desire for a manicure, or want to make a YouTube video pretending to be a chef while you are hiding behind him, pretending your arms are his and creating a mess (or do other equally silly things college girls do with their roommates). Don't get me wrong, we have a wonderful relationship with our husbands, but it isn't in any way similar to the girl friend relationships we had in high school and college where we knew we had friends because we were always with them.
Sometimes when there is a large group of women, and in my experience this is at Church where we have a women's group called Relief Society, cliques form unintentionally. It isn't like the cliche high school where the cheerleaders run the school and only talk to you to make fun of you. At our age and situation what happens is a few of the women find they have something in common: kids around the same age, or no kids at all, same hobbies, or they studied the same things in college, or have callings at Church that throw them together one one time or another . . . and then they form friendships.
Others who feel outside those friendships sometimes look on them and think to themselves how they wish they had a close friend like that. Someone to switch babysitting with, exercise with, have chick flick nights with, or someone who would be comfortable dropping by unannounced and just hangout on a Wednesday afternoon. They want a larger circle of friends like they had earlier in life.
I remember thinking in our Church group in Logan, Utah how much I wanted to be friends with a specific girl. There were about three girls I really wanted to be friends with, but there was one in particular. I thought she was funny, nice, and there was just something about her (probably that she is from the south and so I felt a little geographical kinship with her). I had no idea how to go about it. "Hi, I've known you for three years now and in your mind we are probably considered friends, but I'd like to notch it up a level by having you tell me to my face that you consider me a friend and then maybe we could go to Sonic and have lunch while our hubbies are at school."? Instead I invited her and her husband over for dinner, I went to activities and tried to be friendly with everyone (it was really hard for me since it is sometimes painful for me to open my mouth and actually talk to people), I tried to participate in the Sunday School class that she and her husband taught. While I gradually realized we were better friends than we had been before I took the initiative (or at least I felt better about our friendship), we didn't just hang out randomly or do girl movie nights, or anything like that. The interactions that were so prevalent with my high school and college roommates still weren't present.
Nathan and I decided that it is this lack of constant interaction that sometimes causes women around my age and in my situation to feel as if they don't have friends. Despite Facebook and "friending" people, we sometimes feel alone. I think Facebook sometimes makes it worse, actually. We might live far away from those we went to school with and so we keep up with them on Facebook and then we remember how we used to have friends that would do stuff with us. But now, we stay at home with our kids and have to talk about Elmo and dinosaurs instead of current events and life. Or, we go to work outside the home, maybe with people we don't particularly care for, and are too tired to initiate a girls' night out or go to the one we know is happening. Or maybe we are just tired of watching Twilight :) So we stay home and feel friendless. Then on Sunday we look at all the women at Church and see those sitting together talking about how fun it was doing craft night, movie night, dinner, play group, sports night, etc. and we wonder, why didn't I know about that? Why wasn't I invited? How long has that group been going on? I went to that once and no one talked to me. Or when I initiated that group no one came.
We think all kinds of self pitying things and have our feelings hurt when no offense was meant. The truth probably is, we missed the email, we probably really needed to go to bed earlier that night, or those women probably got a small group together because one of them really needed a girls' night out to release stress from work or home or both. No one was intentionally left out, it's just that it was probably a sudden thing and so a few girls who have the most in common with the girl who needed the night out were the ones immediately thought of when phone calls were made or emails sent. Sometimes this does lead to cliques, but they are unintentional. They form because those women are comfortable with each other. If one was to offer the suggestion of broadening their "circle" the others would more than likely agree, but they don't think of their friendship as exclusive so the idea to include more doesn't pop up.
Those of us with kids are so dang busy and tired that it's hard to go out and see people anyway. I would love to go to lunch with a friend or two, but between getting the kids to two different schools, picking up the kids from two different schools, carpool, getting the daily house chores done, etc, I don't always eat lunch, let alone eat it with a friend.
So from now on I promise myself to not be offended when I don't make friends right away (this will be hard in 1 1/2 years when we move), or when I look at three girls talking about how fun some activity was that I wasn't invited to. I won't be upset when I think back to how I used to have friends, because I know that I do still. Some of us are further apart geographically, some of us are close, but busy. Still, I know that if I needed something important, they would help.
I will be better about initiating friendships and keeping them going by inviting others over for dinner, movies, games, etc. I will no longer sit around hoping for invitations from others, but will be the one to offer them. If those invitations are not accepted, or fewer people come than hoped, I will not be offended, but realize that those who didn't come probably had really good reasons. I will remember that there have been activities I've been invited to and have had to turn down even though I wanted to go.
I'm sure Nathan will be happy to have the whining over with.