There is a mother at my kid’s school who is lovely. Every time I see her, we make promises to get together for a happy hour or lunch or coffee. I think that for a total of three times we swore to make it happen. Has it? No. Because I have a ton of kids and a job. Also, we don’t live close. So now, when we get a glimpse of each other at school, we just sort of wave at each other with guilt and shame. I sometimes want to tell her I love her shoes but I’m afraid the elephant in the room will pop up—that we have yet to buy each other a chardonnay. We have to learn to cut each other some slack. Here are some tips for simplifying and re-defining adult friendships in our modern world:
1. Eliminate the Guilt
We already have enough on our plates. Are you feeding your children enough fiber and green vegetables? Are you making enough time for sex? Are you meeting your client’s needs? And on top of all that, you have to feel guilty about not having enough time to meet Tina for drinks? Let it go. Forgive yourself. She hasn’t called either. Acknowledge that you both enjoy each other’s company, and think of an event you both might be attending. You can meet up at the event and consider it a get-together. Sit with her, and accept that this may be the best you can do for now.
2. Be More Spontaneous
A lot of times, there are pressures to organize something. You have to get all dressed up and meet downtown and get a sitter. But what if you happen to be free on a Thursday because you find yourself without kids—they’re at a birthday party, a camp, or with other family members—and you feel like getting out of the house? Think of a friend you want to hang out within your area and text them. It could be as simple as, “Hey, I feel like getting out for a bit and I’d love to see you. Want to meet at the coffee shop in 20?” Often, they will say yes! It’s a wonderful thing to have a spontaneous date with a friend.
3. Use Humor
I have a good friend who lives an hour away. We just know that given our busy lives we aren’t able to meet as much as we’d like. Or ever. So we text each other funny things. Not long texts or emotional texts, just stupid little things like a book you read that you hated; what Kate Middleton is wearing; why couches these days in furniture stores are puffy and large like inflated pontoon boats; and complaints about why kids can’t eat nuts in school—even when you know why. My point is that there is no “I miss you; let’s get together; I wish we were closer” language. There are only funny and endearing things that have the meaning of “I miss you” in the form of “look at these ridiculous pants they are selling at J Crew these days.” It keeps the connection strong and makes you look forward to hearing from each other.
4. Ask them to Join You on a Far-Away Errand
Let’s say you have to go to IKEA and it’s a 45-minute drive. Text a friend to join you. You have all that time in the car to catch up and talk. You can swing by and get an iced-tea and walk around the store and take selfies in the tiny little make-shift apartments. Surprisingly it ends up being a fun thing that you may have dreaded otherwise. Then drop-kick them out of your car just in time for you to get the kids from school and BOOM. You just connected with a friend and returned the shower curtain in one easy step.
5. Be Intentional About Friendships
Our adult friendships are one of the most important things in our lives. It’s a life raft when we are floating adrift. It’s a steadying force. When friends show up in your life, it matters. So take the time to think about who you enjoy being around, and send them specific messages telling them about what you see in them that you admire. This could be through mail, facebook message, text— the forum is irrelevant. But if you think a certain person has a pleasurable voice or has a way of calming people down, or bringing joy to a room, tell them about it with specificity. Tell them about the time you were stressed but talking to them calmed you down. Or that they have a way of listening that makes you feel like the only person in the world. This matters because THEY matter. Continue to foster relationships with such intention.
6. Be More Demanding When it Really Counts
We are all busy, and I just told you to cut yourself some slack. However, if you are really suffering and you are in need of girlfriends, you need to be specific about it. Let’s say you’re going through a divorce and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. You need laughter, connection, and being in the room with actual people. When you shoot a note to friends, don’t casually ask if they have plans this weekend. Tell them that you’re hurting. You need connection. It’s important for you to see them soon. Then your friends will understand that it’s time to make it a priority. However, if you do this too often, you’re going to come out as a needy and strangely co-dependent person, so it’s a nuclear option. I’m kidding. You’re not needy or co-dependent. But really don’t do this unless it’s an emergency because they will all come running with milkshakes and Kleenex. That’s what girls do for each other.
7. Drop Things by Their House
I have a little dumb thing about where I celebrate Wednesdays. On this day, I leave my kids little gifts or write them little notes. So why can’t you swing by a friend’s house and leave them a small bar of soap or a bottle of wine or a jar of homemade salsa? Don’t tell me you don’t make homemade salsa—it is just an example. My point is that you don’t have to stop and chat. You don’t have to engage. Just leave it on their porch with a note from you and drive off. That’s it for you, and it can mean everything to them.
So yes, we all have busy lives, but we desire to live them with boldness and purpose. This transcends into adult friendships. Be intentional, be funny, be relaxed about getting together. No guilt or judgment, only love. Good luck, girls. You can absolutely do this friendship thing in a modern world.