Month of May , 2008

My Girl’s Night Out in Phoenix: Beschert

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Last night I was in Phoenix on business when I stopped by the Biltmore Fashion Park to pick up a gift for a friend. As I approached the mall, swarms of women with swag bags walked past by me---many of them with pink Cosmos in hand.

In an instant, I realized what I had tripped upon. Without even knowing where I would find myself, this friendship blogger had fallen into the Phoenix Girl’s Night Out event: two hours of food, runway fashion and fun celebrating Sex and the City. I caught up with the group just as they were heading from the mall to the AMC Esplanade across the street to see a special screening of Sex to benefit the American Cancer Society.

There is a Yiddish word called beschert, which can loosely be defined as something that is “destined” or “meant to be.” That's the way I felt!

 

One Girl’s Night Out: An Interview with Jessica Foley

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This weekend Jessica Foley will be celebrating her friendships by joining four friends for dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, Brown Sugar, and then see Sex and the City with them at Fenway, a movie theatre near Fenway Park in Boston.

Jessica is an accomplished 30-something trial attorney whose practice at Sullivan and Sweeney LLP focuses on family law, personal injury and criminal defense. She graduated from Northeastern University School of Law (J.D. 2001) and Smith College (B.A. Biochemistry 1997). She is a member of the Norfolk County Bar Association, the Quincy Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association---and she volunteers in local causes including the Scituate Animal Shelter.

Jessica graciously agreed to discuss plans for her SATC Girl’s Night Out.

Jessica, can you tell me a bit about the friends who will going with you?

We are all in our 30’s. Three of us met in law school ten years ago and have been close ever since. The other two are friends we met through each other. My law school friends and I have seen each other through a critical part of our lives. When we met we were young and single and just starting out. If I recall, only one of us had a serious boyfriend. We have seen each other through boyfriends, exams, more boyfriends, break-ups, divorce, marriage, re-marriage and kids.

Do you often have a Girls Night Out?

Sadly, not often enough. When we first met none of us were married or had children. Most of us lived in Boston or the vicinity and were able to get together a lot!

Why are you getting together for the movie?

Sex and the City celebrates female friendships among very unique and different women. We are all followers of the show and different from one another. For me, it’s a chance to connect. I went to Smith, a women’s college, and formed great relationships there. It taught me just how important it is for women to support each other. I feel very lucky that I have such fantastic women in my life!

What draws women to Sex and the City?

The show follows women through their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s---through marriage, divorce, kids, infertility, boyfriends, and cancer. You name it, they cover it! All while dressing fantastically! They also plan a time to get together regularly.

What are some of the challenges you and your peers face in maintaining female friendships?

Sometimes work and life get in the way of making time for ourselves and each other. We are all on crazy schedules and have different focuses – i.e. one friend works part-time and has two little girls; one friend works at a big firm, is newly married and very busy. I am married and work full-time. One friend lives on the Cape and one works full time and has a toddler. Add husbands and extended families into the mix and it’s tough to get together with just the girls!

How important are female friendships?

Very important. In my personal life and in my career, developing and maintaining female relationships are very rewarding and help me keep my sanity.

Any other thoughts you want to share?

Thanks for asking me all these questions, now I am going to email and/or call some of my college friends I haven’t talked to in awhile. Thank goodness for technology or we might never connect.


 

Reader Q & A: Sex and the City is Coming: No gal pal to go with!

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene:

I love your blog (well, love it AND hate it, because I see myself in too many of these posts!). You concentrate on "fractured friendships" and right now I'm feeling low because the Sex and the City movie is about to appear in theaters...my favorite series, and I have no gal pal to go with.

While others are organizing SATC movie parties, my two best girl friends long ago "fractured" (well, they were complete breaks) our friendships. One was my girlfriend since high school days who was my maid-of-honor, and lives far away from me; the second, a more local gal who took her place, and then gave up on me over a year ago. Inboth instances, they ended the longtime friendship because they disapproved of my having an affair (an affair that's lasted longer than either of these friendships, I might add...over 20 years). I never put any limits on my friendships with women OR with men; I love them for who they are, both the good and the bad traits. I don't judge.

But now with the SATC movie out, I guess I'll just have to go alone to a matinee andgrin and bear it. I even asked my (woman) hairdresser yesterday when I was getting a haircut/color if she wanted to go with me (she's half my age, and we are friendly but not quite "friends") and she replied she "hates going to movie theaters." [Darn those Gen Xers!]

Just wanted to bring this to your attention. This can be tough for women sufferingfrom "fractured friendship syndrome.” I have plenty of male friends -- much to my husband's chagrin -- none of whom would be caught dead in that movie theater with me next Friday! Keep up the good work.

Signed, Anonymous


ANSWER:

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks so much for reading my blog and sending your note.

Sounds like you are experiencing a friendship deficit, something that many women experience from time to time. It's been there but reading my post about Sex and the City probably made you more aware of it. That's good! Now you know you want to make more new friends. And just like relationships with men, you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you meet a prince.

Not wanting to see the movie with you doesn't mean your hairdresser rejected you. Instead, it may suggest that the person you selected may be a poor fit for you. I find that I have a hard time being friends with people who don't laugh at Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld, two of my favorite TV shows. It's not a fatal flaw but often is suggestive that there may be too many differences between me and someone else to be really close to one another. I do think that you can tell a lot about a friend by the entertainment she likes.

My suggestion would be to go see the movie alone. I'm sure you won't be the only "single" there. Sit next to someone else who is alone and start up a conversation. If you can't find an empty seat that fits the bill, having seen the movie will still serve as fodder for conversation with another potential female friend.

You seem to have no problem making male friends so you certainly have the relationship skills you need. Just put yourself in more situations with other women and give your relationships time to grow.

My best,
Irene

 

Sex: The Ultimate GNO is Coming to Your Neighborhood

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What will you be doing when Sex and The City (SATC) hits the theatres on Friday, May 30th? If you are female and haven’t thought about getting together with friends, you must be living in a cave. The trailers and marketing blitz have reached a feverish pitch.

On that evening (and the weeks and months that follow), single, divorced, widowed and married women will be making a beeline to local theatres in their Manolos---sort of like voting with their feet. They are seizing a girl’s night out (GNO)---away from husbands, boyfriends, jerks, work, housekeeping, caregiving, cooking and kids to enjoy and support one another.

The larger-than-life friends we all wish we had---Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda---are making it to the Silver Screen, providing the rest of us the kick in the butt we need to take time off to kindle our own friendships. A small sampling of what’s happening:

BOSTON

After the movie, 20-something Kristin Albano and friends will be heading to a favorite Italian place in the North End for Cosmos and dinner. Women never have enough time for friends: “Since we’ve all graduated from college, it’s hard to keep up friendships,” she says. “We work and have boyfriends, families and many other things that need our attention.”

MIAMI

Sarah Socarros and three others (Is this group of four a mere coincidence?) will shop, dine, and catch the flick at the Dolphin Mall followed by cocktails. “This is the perfect excuse because guys aren’t really that into the phenomenon. We can be more candid - a la SATC if ya catch my drift,” she says.

HOLLYWOOD

Carol Stevenson and friends (suburban mommies with young kids) will dine at The Bowery and go to The ArcLite Theatre and order Cosmos. Designer duds don’t always cut it when your days are spent changing diapers and cleaning up spills so this group is looking for fashion and fun. “My friend Sylvia is a great planner of adult-only functions,” she says. “Who needs a better excuse than a chick flick? Women love the fantasy of the lives the women on SATC lead. Most of us have never been able to be that carefree, even before we got married and had kids!”

Another group from Sherman Oaks has chosen The ArcLite where Monica Sagaser will be one of ten 30- and 40-somethings celebrating friendship. “The truth of the writing and the characters is compelling and addictive,” she says. “The girls of SATC are imperfect and make lots of complex, humorous and entirely identifiable mistakes. Also, the complexities of friendship are integral to every episode. We all dream of having that special BFF---but the world is too busy.”

FORT WORTH

Sarah McClellan-Brandt and three others will be sipping Cosmos at a local (only in Texas) “movie tavern.” “It’s a great excuse for a GNO because SATC is something guys understand but don’t want any part of,” she says. “There are so many women who will let their female friendships wither once they are in a serious relationship but SATC shows how important it is NOT to do that.”

MEMPHIS

It’s never too late. On May 30, Dominique Pryor-Anderson will purchase tickets online to watch the movie with 19 other friends on May 31 at the Paradiso Theater, followed by sushi and drinks. “All women have or want to have camaraderie like the girls had on the show,” she says.

NEW YORK

“As a woman living in NYC, I feel it necessary to pay homage to a show that embodies the essence of women across our great city,” says Denise Espinal. “It always feels good when you see yourself in someone else and I believe each one of the SATC characters is relatable. She had intended to share the special night with five of her closest friends until “word spread” and now there are thirty. “The impact that the show has had on my life is worth spending a night out in the city, wearing brand new stilettos and getting all dressed up to sit in a movie theatre. In a city full of stress and mayhem, busy schedules and deadlines, it’s good to find an escape.”

BIRMINGHAM

Lauren Burke sent out e-vites to 25 co-workers and friends in Birmingham. (She even sent me one, on the condition that I wouldn’t come). “I will be having ladies over to my apartment for a premiere party. “ They’ll play SATC Trivia, with Season 6 of the show playing in the background.” Lauren’s asked everyone to wear an element of pink, or to rock a big Carrie flower, or to come with some Samantha bling. But for her too, it’s the friendships that count: “Women love to talk about their lives and relationships. When you have a bad date, at least you have a story to rehash with your friends!”

SCOTTSDALE

“All my girlfriends, their sisters, and their sister’s friends are planning a big night out,” says Natasha Nelson. “We all grew up together and since many of us have started families and companies, we don’t get a chance to hang the ways we used to. Most women I know have girlfriends but the SATC girls really spend a lot of time together and seem to be each other’s true support.”

MINNEAPOLIS

Three weeks ago, Dani Gibbs relocated to Minneapolis be with her fiancée. She had planned to attend a GNO with old friends in LA (at the ArcLite too, coincidentally). Suddenly, she was in a new place without any old friends. It didn’t stop her. “I used MinneapolisLinkUp.com to host a quickie event to meet some people and then inquired about doing a GNO for SATC and--TA-DA! Yep, chicks in Minneapolis were interested too. It’s a good excuse because it’s a girlie movie and common ground for a lot of different women/personalities,” she says.

PORTLAND

GNOs are an every-other-week-thing for Julie Ma and her friends, most of who just graduated from college. There is always an excuse to “catch up with life, talk about whom we’re dating, how work is going, what our goals are, and to meet people and network,” she says. “We live in a fast-paced world and you have to have girlfriends to catch you when you fall, rescue you from the creepy guy on the dance floor, toast your successes and back you up on challenges.” After cocktails and hors d’ouevres, Julie’s group will see a midnight show.

ATLANTA

Skirt! Magazine has invited lucky Kristin Harmel to attend a premiere in Atlanta on Tuesday. Kristin, who fancies herself as a real-life Carrie of sorts, is making an evening of it with fashion designer friend, Amy Tangerine. “We plan to get our hair blown out and wear our Carrie Bradshaw best. Then we’ll head out for dinner and drinks,” she says. “I'm a big believer in looking inside ourselves for happiness and establishing strong female friendships instead of looking for men to ‘complete us’ -although I think it's wonderful to find a man to compliment the lives we've already built for ourselves.” Kristin already has plans to see SATC a second time as part of a foursome in Pittsburgh with friends Kristen, Megan and Amber.

PITTSBURGH

Mary Ann Miller and three friends are attending a Pittsburgh preview on Friday evening. “They were avid followers of the TV program and while I wasn’t as committed to watching, they always kept me up to speed,” she says. The local women’s center and shelter is sponsoring a cocktail party followed by the screening. The group has been meeting monthly for dinner for almost a decade and has silver Tiffany bracelets with a GNO charm.

WASHINGTON, DC

After Cosmos and appetizers at a friend’s apartment, Megan Erhardt and 20 friends will be hailing cabs to Georgetown to watch the movie. For her group, the movie will bring back lots of memories. ”Many of our best college memories include watching the show or referencing scenes, fashion, relationship issues.” Her pal, Mariel Poole, will be there too. “Girlfriends become your extended family,” she says.

VIRGINIA

On a grand scale, an organization call Success in the City, whose goal is “uniting women of achievement” will host a day-long SATC festival with a pre-party the night before. “The event is called, BIG, REALLY BIG, BIGGER THAN MR. BIG!” says CEO Cynthia de Lorenzi. An after-party is planned at Saks Fifth Avenue in Tysons Galleria Mall, aptly called “Saks in the City”---with Cosmos, shopping discounts, and networking opportunities. Guests will receive a SWAG bag and an opportunity to enter a drawing for an Eiffel Tower Purse like the one that Carrie carries in the movie.

SAN FRANCISCO

Suzanne Agasi is planning the ultimate SATC GNO. Her 150th clothing swap, Swap in the City, will be celebrated on Friday May 30th at the Intercontinental Hotel. Each participant will get a ticket for the Century 9 theatre a few blocks away. Four hundred SATC aficionados are expected to de-clutter their closets and exchange clothes at the swap that benefits three local shelters.

It’s not surprising that female friendships trump Sex. Friends help define who we are and who we want to become. The movie release provides proof positive of our need for close friendships and offers one convenient avenue to nurture them. Women need to find more ways.

 

 

100 Friends to See Before You Die

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Childhood friends, school chums, colleagues, neighbors, teammates and virtual friends---women accumulate hundreds, if not thousands, of friends based on where they’ve been and what they’ve done over the years. Friends are the living scrapbooks of our lives.

But every relationship doesn’t stick. In fact, very few of them do. It’s easy for friendships, even very close ones, to slip away--sometimes for no real reason at all. It just happens. A study of the friendship patterns of 10,000 people in the UK found that the average Brit collects 396 friends over a lifetime but winds up staying in touch with only one out of 12 of them.

This week a friend with whom I was once very close was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I hadn’t spoken to her in almost a decade and now I fear there might be time for only a brief reconnection, even though she is special to me and our friendship was an important chapter in my life story. Yes, we live in different states and no longer work in the same office. But why hadn’t I kept up the relationship? Was I really that busy? Maybe there wasn’t time to see her, but the ease of staying in touch via cell phones and e-mail make the excuse of being busy sound lame.

I know I’m not the only woman who is dancing as fast as she can. I once tried to introduce a close friend who moved to Washington DC to another close friend who already lived there. I thought they would enjoy each other as much as I enjoyed each of them. “I don’t even have enough time for my own friends so why would you ever think I would have time for yours,” said the DC native. And I understood.

Recognizing that life is finite (is that a new insight?), many of us have started composing “life lists” to set priorities. People are thinking about where they would like to go and what they would like to do before kicking the bucket. It’s not surprising that the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die became an instant best-seller. The same list-making mania has morphed into websites like www.43things.com. The film The Bucket List, which opened earlier this year, chronicles the story of two men, each with one year to live, who escape from the hospital where they meet to hit the open road and live life as they please.

Life is short. My suggestion: Make a list of the friends you truly want to keep in your life. To make the goal achievable, you don’t have to list 100 names and you don’t have to actually see those friends (unless you want to). You can just make ten phone calls or send ten e-mails, whenever it’s convenient, to tell your female friends how much they mean to you, before they disappear from your life.

 

This blog post also appears on www.HuffingtonPost.com/Living

 

Reader Q & A: Help! My best friend is driving me crazy!

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Might it be time to call it quits?

QUESTION:

My best friend is finally dumping her jerk husband of more than a decade and I'm glad about that but it's all wearing me to a nub.

Her frenzied dating is making me nuts. She talks about her boyfriends constantly, and about how many men are chasing her. She is convinced her life will be right back on track when she has a boyfriend, even though the divorce isn't even final yet.

She's really into psychotherapy which I hope might help her. I think she needs to stabilize before she gets involved with anyone but who am I to say? I don't know how to be supportive, honest, and not make my tongue bleed by biting it all at the same time.

I used to think that when she finally got away from her husband, who was emotionally abusive, she would grow into the woman she could be and our friendship would deepen. Now I just don't know. I'm feeling distant from her and irritated.

Please help!
Anonymous

 

ANSWER:

Dear Anonymous:

Sounds like you’ve had a hard time supporting your BFF’s choices almost as long as you’ve known her but you deluded yourself into thinking her rotten choice of mate was circumstantial: that she simply picked the wrong guy and had a hard time getting out of it.

In large part, people choose their circumstances, and if they don’t because they’ve fallen into them by mistake, they do have the free will to change them. Eighteen years of abuse must have eroded your friend’s self-esteem completely. What half-normal person would put up with all that stuff for that long?
Admittedly, this is probably a very difficult time for your BFF. She must worry about whether she will eventually land on the ground with both feet standing---and you may be wondering the same thing about her too!

Being indiscriminately “boy-crazy” diverts a woman from thinking about their own life (How do I know? Been there, done thatJ). Her interest in psychotherapy suggests that on some level, she would like to find her true self.

But let’s get back to you. It’s impossible to support a friend when you consistently don’t support her choices, unless she has other qualities that outweigh the negative ones. The value of every female friendship is determined by how well it meets our needs---I like to call this the concept of reciprocity. Friendships usually work when two friends feel like they are giving each other more---or at least as much---as they are getting. Sounds like this one isn’t working for you.

In this circumstance, what are your choices? You can leave things as they are and bite your tongue (but I think you are having a problem doing that or you wouldn’t have written to me). You can tell her things she isn’t ready to hear. Or there is one more approach that I think is the most prudent. I suggest that you take a friendship sabbatical.

You need to step back and give your friend time to work things out---and you need to give yourself time to think about whether the friendship is worth the angst. You can tell your friend that you need some time and space for yourself but you really care about her and what she is going through. In the meantime, spend more time with other friends and see if they can fill the deficit. Let me know what you decide and how it goes.

 

Best, Irene

 

 

Motherhood is a friendship-killer

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Mother's Day celebrates motherhood---as well as children, flowers, candy, and greeting cards. But there's a seedy side to everything---and motherhood is a known friendship-killer. Motherhood challenges female friendships for a variety of reasons:

• You are a mother, and your BFF isn't one and wants to be one. Her fertility problems are making her extremely frustrated, depressed, and angry at you.

• Your BFF is a merry mother of six and you have no desire to even be a mother of one. When you're together, she never stops talking about her brood.

• You and your BFF both have children but they are at different ages or stages (And one of hers is a biter).

• You and your BFF have vastly different views on child-rearing. You're permissive and believe in letting kids be kids. She believes in turning children into little adults.

• Your children and/or spouse don't get along with your BFF's children and/or spouse. When her son punched yours in the nose, her husband said your son provoked him.

• On a practical level, all other things being equal, you have less discretionary time for friendships than high-school or college-age women, married women without children, and older women. With all your responsibilities, you barely have time to shower.

• You are a mother-martyr who places the needs of your children and family above your own social needs.

• You have fewer opportunities to meet new friends than you did when you were younger and more care-free---you only go to noisy, active places with children where it's hard to have heart-to-heart conversations.

At different times of our lives, there are real shifts in the number and nature of our female friendships. Living in a dorm, you may have been surrounded by a circle of close female friends. For one or more of the reasons mentioned above, motherhood is one of those times when you might have more than your share of problems making or maintaining female friendships.

Many of us spend so much time juggling our roles as daughters, wives, workers, caregivers, and mothers that we wake up one morning and suddenly realize we have a serious friendship deficit! We think: If only there was someone we could call---or have coffee with---who could understand the gaping hole it has left.

This Mother's Day, give yourself a little gift that no one else would ever think of. Jot down an appointment on your calendar to have lunch with a friend, or to have a girl's night out. It's the equivalent of putting on your own oxygen mask first.

Taking small steps to build female friendships enhances our own physical and emotional well-being, and makes us better mothers in the long-run.
 

Reader Q & A: Should friends have open-door policies?

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QUESTION:

Not sure how I will find this once I post it, but here is a good question about women and friendship. If you are busy with work/play/school/other responsibilities and have a totally different time and life schedule, is it okay for a friend to drop by anytime without calling?

I have a friend/maybe had, that feels a friend should never have to call ahead to visit. She says her door is always open. We had a blow-up over that very issue. She was upset that she spent gas to come here and didn't get to be invited inside. I had left with someone, taking their transportation, not my own, so she assumed (car is there-pets are there) that I must be home and not answering.

I say, even if I had been, that is okay too, to not want company unannounced. My apology and an offer to give her money for gas led to a response that any friend would welcome me as I do them, open door. And she said though I did say sorry to get on with my life and if I want to visit her I do not need to call ahead.

-Anonymous

ANSWER:

Dear Anonymous,

You’re asking about whether it’s okay for friends to drop in on one another. There's no right or wrong: It depends on their relationship and how each friend feels about it.

In your case, it sounds like you may have an out-of-sync friendship. You seem to be on a fast-track, juggling multiple responsibilities; your friend has enough spare time to take a cruise to your house not knowing whether you’ll be there or not (even though the price of gas is nearly 4 bucks a gallon!) One of you is a casual type and thinks it is perfectly okay to drop in on a friend unannounced; the other would always call and expect to be called if the situation were reversed.

What concerns me more than these differences is that your friend is unwilling to accept the boundaries that make you feel comfortable, and she doesn’t trust or believe you when you tell her something.

Seems like your communication problems ended in what must have been an uncomfortable blow-up. These are your options: You can apologize when cooler heads prevail; you can make believe it never happened and visit her to “patch up” the friendship, or you can let go of the friendship---if it feels toxic and makes you feel uncomfortable.

Whatever you decide to do, hopefully, this unpleasant experience has taught you something about yourself, about your friend, and about the complexities of friendships.

 


 

Friendship and personal notes: An interview with Sandra E. Lamb

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When I picked up the mail last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brief note from my friend Linda hand-written on beautiful stationary.

Although Linda and I now live several states apart, we stay in touch by cell phone and email---usually several times a day. But there was something special about her note.

I immediately realized that Linda, who is probably as busy as me and you, stopped what she was doing and took the time to write a couple of paragraphs. It made me smile inside and out. Yes, email is quicker but her taking the time to slow down to tell me how much my friendship meant to her was more precious.

I reached out to Sandra Lamb, author of Personal Notes: How to Write from the Heart for Any Occasion to pick her brain about the topic:

Question: Is there still a place for personal notes between female friends in a world laden with email, social media sites, and cell phones? Have such notes become dinosaurs or ironically, perhaps, has technology made them all the more special?

Answer: Email is great, and always welcome, and so are the communications that occur on social media sites. And it's always good to have a heart-to-heart chat on the phone. All three offer the possibilities of an immediate and intimate connection. But, yes, there's still something very special about going to the mailbox and seeing an envelope that contains a personal message, complete with a handwritten address--your name and your address. It says more clearly than these other methods of communications that the writer has committed time, care, thought and deliberate action to make a personal connection.

Question: In your experience, is writing personal notes an art form that can be polished?

Answer: Yes, writing personal notes is an art form that can be polished and perfected until it sparkles like gold. There is something quite wonderful in the very act of writing by hand that allows us to go into the very deepest and truest parts of ourselves. What a wonderful way to create strong and lasting bonds of connection.

Question: Since Mother’s Day is approaching, what are your thoughts about personal notes between mothers and daughters?

Answer: The habit of writing personal notes to each other can create a rich, true, and cherished legacy for mothers and daughters. These heartfelt connections can be preserved and shared over generations. It's something that may well be missing in our society so it's well worth the effort of reinstating.

If you aren't sure what to write, when to write, or how to say it to a friend, Lamb's book will inspire you to find just the right words to express what's in your heart.