Friendship

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.

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44 Comments
  1. This just might be your best blog yet. It’s so true, and your friends become your family.
    Bill

  2. Very beautifully put. You always continue to inspire me. Im leaving my native England to work and travel in Canada soon (I guess im procrastinating in living a responsible life but what the hey, im young and lifes an adventure) anyway, i will be trying to put myself out there so as not to become too homesick whilst I do and will try to initiate myself in some way to a creative collective. As always, good luck with the rest of the run of the show, and thanks again for always being an inspirartion. Yor words of wisdom always move me in to action when I need it! Take care xx

  3. Dear Jane–
    This blogsite is a dream come true for those of us who have been inspired by you and who admire your tremendous intelligence, talents and fortitude.

    I can’t believe I was just told about it. I have a LOT of backblog reading to do, but I wanted to say hello and congrats on the great performance and to tell you that NYC is a brighter place with you here!
    Sincerely–
    Frank J. Avella

  4. “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.”

    How very interesting to actually HEAR a woman who lived this, speak of this today. As a 40-ish woman, I still see this happening, don’t you? Though not as pronounced (maybe) as in the 50s, there is still a lot of catty-ness between women in the workplace, social settings, and in pursuit of relationships.

    The only way I see this ever changing for women is through REAL empowerment. Equality doesn’t have to forget that there are real differences between men and women. Those differences have to be embraced and VALUED. Being confident of your values, who you are, what you want and so much more would serve the world better for women than competing with each other in vile ways.

  5. I’ve been reading your blog every day from the begining and you feel like a friend. I read your wonderful book and your felt like a friend. I turned 70 this year and can relate to most everything you mentioned in your book. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the wonderful photos of your friends and your family. I look forward to your next book and also your next film. Being raised in the 40’s and 50’s movies were a very important part of my life. My mom passed away before your book came out so she didn’t have an opportunity to enjoy it as I did. She was a big fan of all your movies. I was raised in the capital region of New York State but when you went to school here I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I will miss reading your daily blog once your play closes. Thank you again for allowing me to enjoy just a small piece of your life. Vaughn

  6. I come from a big family, my Dad is one of 11 and my Mum is one of four, so with all of my cousins I have always been surrounded by lots of people who are very dear to me. We moved around a bit as kids, so it was hard to keep friends for long, but my best friend has been my friend since we were eleven. 35 years is a long time when your lives are so different, and we live a distance away from each other, but we’re probably closer than ever. It is hard enough to keep up friendships when you are just an ordinary, everyday person like myself, but I imagined it would be a lot harder for an icon like yourself. Genuine friends are hard to come by in any circumstances. Good on you Jane for keeping up your friendships and for giving good advice to others. My parents are in their late seventies and they are very active in their community and with their family and friends. It all helps.

  7. Another heart-warming and inspiring post from you, Ms Fonda. For me, you have created the most beautiful place on the internet. Thank you.

  8. That was very sound advice, Jane. Plus, you are absolutely right about asking people questions and showing interest as a way to initiate conversation. My best friend and I had a class together in college and for the longest time I couldn’t tell whether she was stuck-up or shy, so I decided that she was shy and one day asked her where she was from. Turns out we’re both from PA, so we went from knowing literally nothing about each other to being best friends. It’s amazing what can happen from making one simple inquiry.

    What I’ve found to be an issue since graduating, though, is that now all the close friends I made are scattered around the country (and some are even abroad), so when I do get time off work, I find myself flying around to visit those I love. Although it’s exciting to travel, it’s those long stretches of time in between being with your friends that becomes difficult. I basically lived with my amigos for a couple of years, and now that we’re apart the solitude has become depressing.

    It’s rare to find such deep connections with people, and you seem to have found that in many of your friends. That’s a gift.

    Thank you for making this post.

    All my best,
    Amanda

  9. As someone who has learned to deal with debilitating shyness over the years, this is excellent advice. Shy people often are misread as being standoff-ish or snobby when that’s just not the case! Thanks Jane.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing, I am an extremely shy person and have hard time finding friends. I am a deep animal lover and am going to volunteer at the nearest SPca, I hope this helps. When I was working outside the home I made friends easily, but since I am a stay at home mom now I find it hard to meet friends that I connect with. By the way I adore you. I am 42 years old and have fallowed your career throughout the years. I love your blog, and find it very inspiring. (except for the part about skinning an animal) yuck! But I still luv u

  11. “It’s better to be interested than to be interesting.” I absolutely love that line, Jane. Never heard it before in my life but definitely words to live by. Officially my newly adopted mantra for the year!

    And thank you for taking the time to do this daily blog. It is both fascinating and inspirational to me. I hope you’re getting as much out of it as your readers surely are. I don’t want it to end!

    xo Robert

  12. I think it’s great that you have so many friends. In high school I became very close to a couple of girls. I would do anything for them. I would never talk about them behind there backs and I would always talk very highly of them. I was and still am very loyal, but it also led to me being let down very many times. I would always find that a guy was always put in front of me, a guy was taken from me, or they didn’t want to believe that their saintly boyfriend cheated on them. When this happened, it felt like a part of me died. I had been so connected with my friends that I didn’t know what to do without them. They would always want to continue our friendship, but I couldn’t get over the hurt or the fact that they seemed to lose all of their intelligence when it came to guys. After these friendships ended, I always found myself being very close with teachers or anyone older than myself. I find it easier to make a connection with those who are older. They are wiser and I am able to learn so much from them. The only down side is that they still look at me as a little kid or a student. Their children are my age, and so I guess it would be odd for them to hang out with a nineteen year old. Either way it has helped me to find great friends and I am lucky that I have learned that age doesn’t make any difference when it comes to friends. The older the better!

  13. Very, very wise and touching words, Jane. Friends are my lifeline, no question, and, like you, I took a long while to figure it out.

    I am here to tell you that I would not have survived the death of my son two years ago, had it not been for the absolutely saintly support of several dear friends, as well as wonderful friends of my son and my daughter. I only hope I would be as loving a presence for them, should they ever need me.

  14. Hi Jane,
    My name is Mark and I am 24 years old. I have been reading your blog (sent by Rosie, haha) for about 3 weeks. This is a random thought, but I just wanted to say that my opinion about you has changed as I’ve read your daily offerings. I grew up hearing negative things about you, and it’s not until I’ve read about your life here that you’ve been (for lack of a better word) “humanized” to me. I still don’t know as much as I should about Vietnam, but now when I hear and read about your part in it, I’ll do so while ignoring the bias against you.
    Great epiphany about maintaining friendships, by the way. Very true.
    The best to you,
    ~Mark

  15. You’re so right! I totally agree. Thank you for allowing us to be your friends here on your blog.

  16. Jane Fonda, what a class act you are. How totally thoughtful of you — a busy actress with a bad cold and an exhausting schedule — making a point to respond to a blogger who wanted to know how to make friends. That says a lot about your character and your compassion for other people. Very sweet. I have so enjoyed your blog. Thank you for sharing your rich experiences and your heart.

  17. Bless you Jane. You are so giving. You have no idea how you inspire with your humility, and your generosity and goodness. You don’t preach, but you have so much to offer and you are affecting lives. Please, Please when you rest your head on your pillow tonight, know the difference you are making to so many, just by being yourself and acknowledging your own insecurities and sharing your wisdom. You will scoff and say it’s not wisdom…but it is. And your Father knew that you were wise. You have a gift and we thank you for sharing it.

  18. Jane,
    Thank you for your friendship through the blog and for basically everything you’ve ever done. I’m one of your readers/fans/lifelong admirers (who vaguely remembers Toni Home Perms!). I miss the friends I do have who live far away and wish I had more close by – I promised myself I would write to you to tell you how wonderful I think you are and have always been. I’m sure I will never see your play, because I live on the other side of the country, but I wish you all the best. Thank you for being such a great example of a woman true to herself.

  19. Thank you very much for this thoughtful post – there’s a lot there to take to heart, and it really touched me.

  20. What good advice. I am struck by a couple of things. You are a really good writer. (I recently read your most recent book and enjoyed it tremendously.) Also,l you seem to have goods friends from so many walks of life. Good for you for not just promoting friendship with people other than just the entertainment industry. It does keep one young, doesn’t it?

  21. Dear Jane,
    I stumbled on your blog by accident and of course I stopped to read your last entry. I have not had time to read more. I am a dog trainer in Brussels and have for years been involved with dogs in a dog club. In that time, I have learned so much about humans and about relationships. Dogs bring people together. They know nothing about politics, social issues, stockmarkets crashing and worry little about the weather, traffic jams or whether we should stop smoking, do exercice or take omega-3 tablets. In the dog club I have found that out through various experiences with dogs. People join a dog club for a mix of reasons. Most and foremost because they want to learn some basic skills but also because it is a community and for some ( divorced, bereaved, plain lonely, retired, something to do on saturday mornings) the classes take on another dimension. It is fascinating. I shant go about it longer as I can write endlessly on the topic but I felt I wanted to write to make contact with you.
    Si vous avez le temps, svp visitez mon blog. Je vous y accueille avec grand plaisir.
    Kind regards
    Michèle Hills

  22. I have a friend issue, i recently split up from my bouyfriend of three years and now i have all this spare time and i don’t see any of my friends anymore because it caused problems with my bf at the time (i cringe as i wright this i cant beleive i chose a man over friends that had been there for me for years). So i was wondering if you have any advice on re-starting old friendships because i haven’t a clue and i don’t want it to seem that i only want to know them now cause im single CONFUSED! lol
    P.s big fan of you and all your work i aspire to have some of your qualities when i am older.

  23. Dear Jane,

    Thank you for your thoughts about friendship. I’m very happy to have close connections with my friends. But over the last years I met some women with almost no friends – and they only noticed that themselves when their marriages broke up.

    I will try my best to translate your post into German to share it with them. I hope you don’t mind.

    Thank you and best wishes,
    Andrea

  24. Good advice about joining clubs or groups of people with similar interests in order to make friends. Universities often have “informal” classes which are open to the community that are centered on interests in areas such as cooking, exercise, computer skills, bird watching, music, etc. I think such places are ideal for making friends, because there is the built-in factor of a shared interest. Thanks for another interesting blog.

  25. That was great advice Jane! I just moved to Denver from New York City. I hated to leave, and once here started to fall into a depression thinking I made a mistake. I figure the best way to pick myself up is to volunteer my time for a cause I can get behind, with people who have compassion for others. It seemed like the best way to start. Take care, and enjoy Springtime in New York for me!

  26. Excellent, thank you.

  27. Miss Jane,

    I am a middle-aged female and I have NEVER been able to trust a woman. Beginning with my natural mother, who gave me and my sister away like old baggage, it has followed me through-out my life. However, I am an optimist by nature, so I repeatedly set myself up for disappointment, and I can count on less that all the fingers of one hand the females, outside of my mother and my daughter, who have withstood the true test of female/female friendship. I gravitated to males; I feel at ease with them, they are non-judgmental (as friends, that is), non-competitive, and I am relaxed in their company. I can be myself, say what I want, do what I want, whether it is extremely vulgar or sweet and naive. Question: Do you feel that these intricate pieces of our feelings/personality are developed in our early, formative years? I have long felt that my childhood traumas had a huge impact on the great pitfalls of my decisions. I only realized two years ago after having locked away the horrid memory that I was molested as a very small child, prior to be adopted by my mom and dad. Dad said,”Try to think of your life as beginning when you came to live with us.” I was three years old. I visited a psychic who warned me when I asked about those years I cannot recall, “don’t go there, trust me, you are now safe.” I asked my therapist, who also said, “I do not recommend hypnotism; what you learn could be devastating.” Somehow, she knew from our years of therapy that there was a deeper issue. I don’t trust women, PERIOD. Only this week my daughter VERY best friend from church revealed a side of herself that was unimaginable; the claws came out, she was vicious. Women talk about men, but I feel women are equally, if not more, hurtful and cruel. Me? I am the exception, no lie. Beaten, battered, wronged, whatever … I have never lost my idealism (my rose colored glasses are still worn every day) and my optimism. I love life and all that it brings to me because it excites me to learn, both the positives and the negatives. I refuse to go to my grave wondering, “what if?” Have a blessed weekend.

    Abbey

  28. Beautifully stated, thank you…..I, too, grew-up in the 50’s and 60’s when other women were considered “competition,” and, much later, came to find how nurturing the friendships and support of other women can be…I have especially found this now, late in life, in my sixties, and truly appreciate how this process of change–the third act as you put it–can feel so rich and a true blessing because much of it can be shared with others…The choice to open-up in this way is, as you write, an intentional one, particularly for those of us who have tended to remain very private in our lives, afraid to “burden” others with our problems. I also believe that the advice you give, for those finding themselves alone and without friends, is very important, and, in some cases life-saving. Over the years, I’ve offered similar advice in the context of my work, finding that my own understanding of that advice has changed: When younger, it seemed somewhat routine and formulaic, but now I’ve come to appreciate it’s wisdom and necessity–one more reason I am very grateful for having lived long enough to experience this time….Who would have ever believed that growing old could be such a gift, certainly not a member of the “life is over at 30” generation. What an amazing tripp this has become…

  29. Awesome advice. Another good conversation starter, with a married person is, “Tell me how you two met”. Most people like to tell that story. Or you can say “Tell me about your hometown [parents, pets, etc.]…” and leave it open-ended. I was a shy person until my mid-twenties and had to practice trying to talk to people, and it was tough. I learned these questions really help.

  30. Hi, dear Jane.
    First of all, I always read your blog. Every day. I do hope you’ll keep it alive after “33 Variations” ends.
    I’m sad because I can’t go to New York to see you. I’m in Europe, working, and it’s impossible for me to travel to the United States right now. What a pity! You’re one of my favorite actresses since I saw you in “Cat Ballou”. Beatiful, lovely, charming, very talented, always an interesting artist. And a wonderful human being, now that I know you a little more through your book and your blog.
    About friendship: I’m without friends right now because I’ve just moved to another country. Of course, I keep contact with my dear old friends by email but here, in other country, I’m doing exactly the same things you say in your message to meet people and make new friends. You’re giving great tips.
    Thanks for that and thanks a lot for sharing part of your daily life with us (and sorry if my English is not very good but my native language is Spanish and I do my best to write and speak English as properly as I can).
    Love you!

  31. such a touching tribute, Jane. I hope my friendships maintain as strong as yours.

  32. Dear Jane,

    This really spoke to me. I’m 37 years old and have always had difficulty making friends, even though I would love more friends.

    Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.” I tend to agree.

    Take care.

  33. Wow Jane,

    You nailed it to the tee! Especially, the ending (be interested instead of interesting). One of my favorite subjects. So many women long for relationships, but hold back., because of past hurts, fear etc.
    We are one of the best gifts to each other, Golden threads indeed. So glad you received an abundance of friendships to make up for the early years.
    My friends are a part of who I am, and have become. Each one uniquely precious, no time or distance can change our hearts for each other. I could not picture my life without them, and treasure each moment, and yes they do help us heal after surgery. My heart aches for those whom have yet to experience such joy, and nurturing,empowerment.
    Again you have not only touched on the needs of humanity, but have given them answers.

    Bless You,
    Roseann

  34. I would add social networking to your list. I took up blogging during our years in the Caribbean when I felt terribly isolated being so far from family and friends. It was during those years that I planted the seeds of friendship that continue to bloom today…even if I never meet some of those people IRL (in real life). Connecting online–truly connecting in an unconditionally supportive way–can be a godsend when one finds oneself in situations where in-the-flesh friendships may be scarce (for whatever reason). That’s not to say that one doesn’t need IRL friends..but online friendships can be a wonderful way to further enrich one’s life.

  35. “It’s better to be interested than to be interesting”…That is good advice. Thank you.

    I hope you continue to blog after play. I think it would be even more interesting to hear the daily blogging while you are working on a film.

  36. Jane,
    Thanks so much for mentioning the Peace Corps. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala in my early 20s. It was by far the most impactful, influential experience in my life. I was the youngest volunteer in my town. The other 3 were 42, 50 and 52. The oldest volunteer in Guatemala was 76–Janet Klepper. She was a truly wonderful volunteer.

    Thanks again for giving a plug to the “hardest job you’ll ever love”.

  37. Hi Jane,
    Great advice, I think when people start opening their ears instead of their mouths they are able to fully appreciate a person. Although we are not personally connected I would like to think of you as my “e-mail buddy!”

    Take care and have a great weekend!

  38. This hits home with me! I have found myself in a place where I need to re-start old friendships or find new ones because I have become a little too isolated. Thanks!

  39. This has been a very inspiring blog. I’m extremely shy (my mother and her mother were both shy) and find it hard to relate to people, expecially in large groups. I’m going to try some of your advise. I’m also making a copy for a friend who complains that she doesn’t have any friends. I’ve been a fan of yours since we both were young – I’m 67 and have always been positively impressed with your philosophy. I’ve also read your book and am looking forward to the next one. Wish I could come to NY and see the play – I’ve always enjoyed a good play but there’s not a lot here in the Columbus OH. area, I live 50 miles southeast. I’ll miss your blog after the play ends. Perhaps you will be inspired to continue blogging occasionally. Love and Luck always – Helen Eve

  40. Today there is increasing isolation–people have less time and perhaps too much technology.

  41. Had to comment on this entry – what a great statement about friendship! As someone who has lived in Atlanta almost all of my life, I’m also proud that you’ve made this a special place in your life. I have loved reading your blog as you have gone through the journey of this play and I wish you continued successes!

  42. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Friendship is about (or should be about) honesty, and that is wonderful advice. I am in a similar position to many other commenters where I find myself somewhat starting over with friends, and this was just the kick in the butt I needed.

    Thank you!

  43. easy to have casual friends, but not so easy to have real friends, and it costs you something too, so often people prefer causal or online friends over real ones…

  44. Jane, I continue to be inspired by you and to have my own feelings validated. I’ve always admired you as an actress, and an activist, but when I read your autobiography, I felt a real kinship – you are so relatable that it’s difficult to remember that you are not a personal friend! Please keep sharing. Isn’t it great that we stay healthy longer, stay active longer, and have the time in our “third act” to reflect – and the technology to share our reflections with everyone!! Such a blessing. Please keep it coming, and here’s too a VERY L – O – N – G run for this play! Respect and fond regards, BJP

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