However and wherever you live, the effects of the economic downturn have been pervasive, leaving few of us unscathed. They're even affecting our friendships. With the cost of entertainment, transportation and meals skyrocketing, there's a natural tendency to hunker down, cocoon at home, and reduce spending. "In times like this, everyone is looking for ways to save," says Jo Gartin, a celebrity party planner and author of Jo Gartin's Weddings. "For many, that means bringing entertaining inside the home."
As recently as last May, when Sex & The City (the movie) was released, I was blogging about the popularity of Girls' Nights Out, women getting together dressed to the nines, meeting for shopping jaunts at high-end boutiques, and splurging on fancy meals and cocktails after work. The times they are a-changing. One result: Girls' Night Out has morphed into Girls' Night In. And when friends are still meeting outside the home, they're doing it on the cheap.
"In an effort to put additional funds in our 'freedom funds' (savings account to be used in case of sudden unemployment or other sudden predicaments), my best friend and I have opted for 'Dine-in DVR Fridays'," says Nicole Hernandez, who works in luxury lifestyle marketing in New York. Instead of going to dinner, they opt for take-out, splitting a meal with an extra side and purchasing a bottle of wine. "This past Friday, we spent a total of $27 and caught up on episodes of Lipstick Jungle," she says.
Heather Trimboli, a bridal consultant in Jacksonville, Florida, meets her group of friends monthly. "Each one takes a turn hosting our get-together at her home and supplies the specialty cocktail of the night. The rest of the group each brings an appetizer or dessert item, something easy to make and inexpensive," says Heather. "We even had a 'What Not To Wear' night once when we tried on clothes from the hostess' closet."
"Dinners get expensive and sometimes you aren't really able to catch up at a restaurant due to time constraints -- or someone doesn't like the food or there's not enough food -- plus there's the hassle of splitting the bill and making reservations, etc.," says Julie Ma, who works for an advertising agency in Portland, Oregon. For the last few months, Julie has been hosting after-work potlucks at her house every two-three weeks. Each of the 10-15 women brings a dish and a bottle of wine. "I would say that each person probably spends about $10-15 at the most (yes, cheap wine)," she says.
"My girlfriends and I have a Thursday ritual, when we go to our absolute favorite Argentinian tapas restaurant, Santinos, in Santa Monica," says Catherine Cunningham of Malibu, California. "We used to splurge. But now, we are all strapped for cash so we have been eating a bit at home before we go. We also have been bringing our own wine to save a bit of money and even have been skimping on the tapas, ordering only our favorite one or two; we used to order 4-5 for the table," she says.
With so many economic indicators pointed due South, it's normal for women to feel emotionally stressed as well. They worry about holding on to their jobs; being able to pay for heathcare, housing, and filling their gas tanks; and figuring out how to protect and/or salvage their savings and investments. This makes it even more essential to create and nurture rituals that bring female friends together. "I can definitely say that the economy has impacted me -- my morale is not as high and my confidence level has been affected," says Sandra Ordonez of St. Petersburg, Florida. "I've learned that women are actually programmed biologically to 'tend and befriend' other women when stressed," says Sandra.
Clearly, women are searching for creative ways to support one another and celebrate friendships -- on the cheap. "With all the parties I plan, the most important thing is that everyone has a good time. That's the great thing about girls' nights, when you are with your best friends and everyone is relaxed, laughing, and having fun no matter where you are," says Gartin. Another sign of the times: Orville Redenbacher Popcorn has teamed up with Gartin to provide women with tools for planning their own Girls' Night In.
Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships that will be published by Overlook Press in 2009.
To enter a special 'Girls' Night In' Photo Contest go to: www.fracturedfriendships.com/
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