I didn’t always have a lot of friends. Being my father’s daughter meant that I inherited the American myth of rugged individualism. You stand on your own feet, ask for no help and seek none from friends, faith or therapy. Added to this, I came to adulthood in the 1950s when women, for the most part, saw each other as competition and were reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to potential rivals.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant in 1968 with my first child, my daughter, that my heart began to soften and open to the special nurturance that only women friends can bring. This happened to coincide with the rise of the new American Women’s Movement and my burgeoning feminism shut the door on women-as-rivals and broadened and deepened my friendships. As I have moved into my third act as a single woman I realize that, next to family, these friendships are what give my life richness and comfort—the golden threads woven through my life’s tapestry. But we are all so busy in our own lives. I have to be very intentional in nurturing my friendships. I have to push it. Whenever I am in Los Angeles, I make a point of calling my friends to see if they can get together. Same in New York. I email regularly. When I was writing my memoirs, my research allowed me to unearth people I hadn’t seen in decades and I have made a point of maintaining contact. You have seen some of these rediscovered people in the photos on my blog.
Knowing now how important friendships are (they can actually help keep you healthy, even speed up healing after surgery), here is what I would do if I found myself without friends (and this is directed especially to the friend who said he/she had no friends and wondered how I had so many): I would join a club or the YWCA? YMCA that does things that interest me like lectures on foreign policy, painting, sculpting, outdoor activities, concerts; join a nondenominational church; become a volunteer at a senior citizen center or church group or library group or join the Peace Corps. In other words, I would intentionally put myself in a situation where I might meet people who share my interests and then, once there, I would make a point of asking people questions about themselves rather than talking about myself. If you are shy, say so. “I am a shy person, forgive me. But I am interested in making friends and I would love to know about you. Have you always lived here?” etc. Here’s a piece of good advice: it’s better to be interested than to be interesting.
Hope this is of use.
See you next time.