We have another brand new friendship essay from one of our amazing contributors, Shannan Ball Younger, who writes for Tween Us. Shannan shares her feelings about her own friendship history after reading Jeffrey Zaslow’s book about a group of women who have been friends since childhood. Did you read The Girls from Ames?
Am I The Only Grown Woman in America Without a Close Friend From Childhood?
While I found the book The Girls from Ames to be a good read, it gave me a complex, or at least significantly exacerbated one that I already had. It is the non-fiction account of 9 women who have been friends for decades who all grew up together in Ames, Iowa. They have remained close despite different life paths and geographical distance.
And as I read it, I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have those kinds of life-long friends?”
I went away to college and graduate school and then moved even farther from where I grew up. I feel very, very fortunate to have a number of amazing girl friends, but I would not say that any of my close friends are the ones with whom I grew up.
When I think about female friendships, I often feel like I have failed or that something is wrong with me because I am not friends with my best friend from kindergarten.
Not that I don’t think of my kindergarten best friend on occasion. I remember the day we met and thinking that I should become friends with her because she was very fair taking turns on the slide at recess. We stayed friends through elementary school and even through middle school, which included a New Kids on the Block lip syncing contest that was broadcast on cable access.
I feel like this is the beginning to all the great friendship stories, but mine comes to an end in high school. She became a goth as I became a band geek. I realize that it sounds like an episode of Glee; it pretty much was. I remember being in high school English class with her and trying to strike up a conversation as we neared graduation, but there just wasn’t a connection. We haven’t spoken since.
Even those who were close friends in high school are ones from whom I’ve grown apart. While I certainly enjoy being Facebook friends and the occasional dinner when visiting my home state, they are among those with whom I confide, overshare or ask advice.
I do have those friends, and I am crazy grateful for them, its just that I met them later in life.
Why does that make me feel so odd? I wondered if my perception that I’m on of the few without a childhood friend to whom I’ve remained close for decades.
This is not the first time that my perception is not, in fact, accurate.
Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that “a Harris Interactive Inc. survey in 2004 found that 39% of women between ages 25 and 55 said they met their current best friends in childhood or high school.”
That means 61% of us do not have that life-long bond with a friend. That’s a pretty solid majority. I am not the friendship leper I feared I was. It’s more that a book about friends of a few years is apparently not quite as exciting to publishers as a friendship story spanning many decades like that of the Ames girls.
I probably should have realized that I needed to get over my complex before reading that statistic, but honestly, it helped knowing that it’s not just me. I’m certain there are numerous reasons that I do not have those sustained childhood friendships, and those will take more than a blog to explore.
Instead of wondering what was/is wrong with me, and there is a fair amount wrong with me, I’m going to focus on the close friends I have who remain in my life despite my flaws.
That’s not to say that there isn’t great benefit and comfort in old friends, but I think I can say that I know that first hand. I find that one aspect of birthdays that I love now that I’m old not young is that it makes my college friends feel like “old” friends. We’re coming up on two decades of friendship and that’s pretty solid, in my opinion. The friendships with those girls are well aged, if you will.
All this has called to mind the Girl Scout song “Make New Friends and Keep the Old.” (You hear it in your head now, don’t you?)
A friend from college sent out an invitation not long ago to a cocktail party with the explanation that she knew a lot of “awesome women” (her word choice) and that she thought it was high time that we meet each other. There was no specific pressure to become friends, but we did. I loved the idea of friendships begetting more friendships.
In the past year I’ve made new girlfriends with whom I’ve instantly clicked. They feel like old friends. I’m as comfortable with them as I am with my favorite, broken in sweatshirt. And for that I am grateful.
Friendship cannot always be measured by a calendar. I’m wondering if it should be measured at all, or only in the quality and not quantity of smiles shared, ears bended, tissues passed, shoulders offered, hands lended and hugs given.
As we prepare for the release of our book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, we have a special offer for e-mail subscribers only! We will send a newsletter on Friday to all subscribers with an exciting offer- if you aren’t a subscriber yet, it’s not too late! You can subscribe to our weekly email newsletter by entering your email address in the sidebar.