Courting Female Friendship

December 2, 2013

Thelma & Louise

On my first day of graduate school, I walked into a classroom and spotted a young woman placing a pillow on her chair. While there was nothing unusual about her — other than the pillow, which I was super curious about — I instantly knew we’d become close friends. I didn’t know a thing about her and didn’t speak with her for weeks — she was shy and quiet. But sure enough, by the end of the semester we were friends, and eight months later, roommates. I was eventually a bridesmaid in her wedding.

That immediate sense of “friendship destiny” has happened to me on numerous occasions. But I’ve had many friendships develop in other ways, too. There are people I’d never know if circumstances hadn’t thrust us together, forging a bond between us. And with other friendships, one of us clearly pursued the other in the beginning, until it became mutual.

Pursuing friendship (or not pursuing it) is something most of us have spent significant time on, but often don’t discuss. An article last month in NY Magazine called, “Why It’s Smart To Court Your Friends” got me thinking more about this. I agree with the writer Ann Friedman when she says that “most of our courtship narratives are still romantic, which really tends to obscure the importance of friendship’s early stages, and downplay the thought and skill that goes into cultivating meaningful platonic relationships.” Here’s another excerpt from the article:

“Nearly all friendships are based on a spark of mutual attraction. Some people describe platonic love-at-first-sight stories, wherein they were instantly drawn to a new acquaintance and just knew they would befriend her,” says Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are. Still, she says, “We often drift into friendships, especially when we’re young and in a work or school setting that makes it easy to automatically ramp things up without having to make a concerted effort to develop the friendship. The main point of my book is that we should be more conscious of how and whom we befriend, since these people have a huge impact on our life trajectories.”

I find that the older I get, the more particular I am about who I spend time with. I only have so much time and energy, and with age comes the deep realization that life is short, and I want to spend it with people and endeavors that mean the most, the ones that truly enrich me.

Have you ever consciously pursued a friendship — or been the one pursued? Do you think friendship should always develop organically or is there room to be deliberate about cultivating our platonic relationships?

Image from Grazia Daily via Sundance Channel

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1 Renee December 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm

This is really interesting, and I look forward to reading the article. It’s something that’s on my mind a lot, because DC is a very transient city, and we have cultivated several wonderful friendships only to have the person move away a year or two later. When I was pregnant (in prenatal pilates) was the first time I ever “asked out” a new friend (yes, it took me until I was 29 to ask someone to grab coffee – sad!). We developed a very nice friendship, but she and her husband and daughter just moved to another DC suburb about 35 minutes away. Seems like nothing, but in DC traffic, it is everything. I am wondering whether our friendship can survive, since we were still in the fairly early stages. I’m thinking about joining the neighborhood parents’ group in order to make more acquaintances and see what develops, but I am not that good at putting myself out there.

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2 Zoe Saint-Paul December 5, 2013 at 10:36 am

I lived in DC and it is very transient indeed. It can be tough and discouraging to start developing a friendship only to have one party move away. I do think some friendships can survive distance, even if they’re new, but I guess it kind of depends on what the connection is made of and how good both parties are about making an effort to talk, email, text, and visit. Some people are not great about maintaining friendships outside of their daily-routines and geographical radar, and some people are. I hope you’ll persevere in your quest for friendships — the great ones are so worth it!

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3 Lauren December 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

Great article, great discussion! I am definitely more deliberate about my friendships now that I am older, have kids, and have less free time. I have noticed when I am being pursued as a friend and also when I am doing the wooing. However it happens, it is magic when it works out!

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4 Zoe Saint-Paul December 5, 2013 at 10:31 am

Older…kids….less free time… that does tend to make us all more deliberate, which I think can be a good thing.

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5 Kristin W December 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

We just moved to a new town, where I know no one, so I’ve had to set about making new friends. I sometimes feel bizarre, walking up to people and feeling them out, trying to decide if they’re worth a “second date.”

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6 Zoe Saint-Paul December 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

Ha, kind of funny! And not funny :-) I suppose, though, this goes along with what we’re talking about here… friendship is based on a kind of attraction to a person, a compatibility, certain points of connection or similarity, and mysterious elements that are sometimes hard to pinpoint. Good for you for putting yourself out there to meet new people!

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7 Therese December 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

Thanks for sharing your reflections and the article itself. It has given me a lot to think about, especially as it relates to the very important, challenging, and ongoing task of maintaining a community of homeschooling friends.

I had advice early that it was important to be more assertive about pursuing friends as a homeschooling family, since you don’t just fall into a classroom with daily opportunities for interaction. I couldn’t relate to the “wooing” language of the article, but it helped me recognize why the process of making friends is an effort for me (a worthwhile one, but still an effort). As an “internal processor” on the Meyers Briggs scale, the whole “wooing” and “being wooed” process was never comfortable for me. Seeing making friends described similarly make me see how my discomfort, insecurities, sensitivities, etc. could translate to all relationships, not just the romantic ones. So interesting!

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