It was like one of those "meet-cute" scenes in a Hollywood movie, minus the romance. I met Susan, an author, through a mutual friend a few months ago. She was from Dallas. I was from Dallas. She'd lost her mother. I'd lost my mother. She'd written books. I'd written books. A few coffees led to dinner with our husbands and the friendship chemistry was apparent. If I'd have met her in my 20s, we might have been godmothers of each other's children. But now that we're older, the friendship thing doesn't work quite as well as it used to. Kids, jobs and, well, just life get in the way of forging a real connection. Yes, we've gotten together, but not nearly as often as I would have liked.
And that's just how it goes as you grow older. The urgency you felt in your 20s, when every overture from a new beau required a 30-minute analysis with a friend over the phone, is gone. Or there's just not time for it. Perhaps it's that people simply grow more discerning as time becomes more scarce. Spending hours in a bar drinking margaritas with an egomaniac -- or with someone who can't let go of something I may have done wrong five years ago? Who has the time?
Thanks to Facebook, the idea of "de-friending" someone is not a foreign one. With a few simple clicks, you can wipe someone from your "friends" list and never again be faced with a seemingly endless stream of birthday party photos from someone you're no longer close to. But in the real world it's a lot harder to "de-friend" someone -- but it can be even more important to do so.
It's an interesting process, reaching such a level of self-awareness that you finally realize which friendships deserve tending -- and which are a drag, wearing you down. As someone who considers her friendships as life-sustaining as water, it's been difficult to take a hard look at the relationships I've cultivated through the decades and realize, with a heavy heart, that they're not all going to last.
Precious time must be spent taking stock of the like-minded people in your life. Just because I attended elementary school with someone, do I really need to keep reaching out to them? As I juggle work with kids, the answer often is "no" if we no longer have anything in common. So what kinds of friends do I want to hang onto? After giving it some thought, I came up with the following list. Have your own ideas about friendship in midlife? Let us know in comments.
5 Types Of Friends Worth Keeping Forever
1) Friends who make the effort.
I have one friend who -- although she is swamped with career and childcare duties -- never fails to reach out via text, email or phone every few days, no matter what else is going on. Even if it's simply something succinct -- like "just wanted to touch base and say hi" -- I truly appreciate these signals that I'm being thought about and that our friendship is important to her. I also appreciate my friends who are forgiving. I'm not saying that someone should forgive an offense quickly -- or superficially. It takes time to forgive. But if too much time is taken, bad feelings fester, and the friendship may never get back on track. No one is perfect and a true friend will understand that.
2) Friends who are genuinely happy for me when something good happens.
I'm fortunate enough to have at least a few friends who are sincerely and openly happy for me when something nice occurs. (You're probably wondering... shouldn't every kind of friend be happy for others? You'd think so, but that's not always the case.) Friends who are genuinely happy exhibit not a smidgeon of jealously, but seem truly thrilled about the sale of my book -- and the various accomplishments of my three children. They watch and revel in my glory -- without any inkling of bitterness -- and I do the same for them. (After all, friendship is a two-way street.)
3) Friends who are upbeat.
You know the opposite of this type. They are those folks who ruminate over every little problem in their life again and again -- and yet never make one move to change their situation. They are Debbie Downers. And they bring me down. Misery loves company and downbeat friends generally are more interested in your bad news than your good news. People who are positive and motivated and optimistic and who lift up those around them are worth hanging on to. I have one friend who never fails to compliment me on something -- even if it's just "wow, are you parting your hair on a different side? Nice!" -- when she sees me.
4) Friends who are up for anything.
Earlier this month, I went with five girlfriends to a Korean spa in New Jersey called King Spa. The facility is like a mall, with three floors composed of all types of hot and cold spas. The night before our "spa day," we checked the website and realized we'd be naked -- and so would everyone else. But rather than cop out, we decided to go for it. And it was one of the best times I've ever had. There is something completely liberating about sitting with friends, chatting about our lives, while totally naked. Talk about shedding one's inhibitions! I left there loving the fact that my friends were willing to try something completely outside their comfort zone.
5) Friends who are authentic.
This is the steadfast friend who is anything but pretentious -- the one who's not afraid to see you without makeup or after she's been crying or when her house is a mess. She's not averse to showing you her true self -- or seeing yours. She's "real" and honest and will tell you the truth when asked her opinion. When your behavior is questionable, there is a fine line between expressing concern and expressing judgement. A true friend will tell you the truth -- and will let you know they'll always be on your side no matter what decision you make even if, in their opinion, it's the wrong one.