I recently read an unattributed Internet fact that the percentage of men with at least six close friends has fallen by half since 1990; and that men today are five times more likely to state that they don’t have a single close friend compared to similarly-aged men thirty years ago. As the mother of two boys, I’ve been noodling on this (quite possibly completely made up*) information and I have a theory about it.
Our six-year-old is very friendly. He’s so friendly that when we go someplace we tell him, “Go make a friend,” and he will scurry off and return a few minutes later with a couple little ducklings in tow. He did the same at his big brother’s baseball tournament last weekend, hopping over to the playground and coming back with a rosy-cheeked pal.
“This is Lila,” he said. “She’s only five, but we’re still best friends.”
As we all know, in childhood, age is the number-one determining factor of friendship. One kid could be a mermaid and the other made of gelatin, but if they were both born in 2015? Friends Forever.
Also, as we all know, age as a friendship guardrail becomes completely inconsequential at some point in young adulthood. When my parents first moved to the Cities, my mother called me up and excitedly said, “You and Kyle need to come down this weekend and meet our new neighbors. You’re going to love them.”
“Oh, neat,” I said. “What are we going to love?”
“WELL,” my mother said, knowingly. “The husband is twenty-seven, and YOU are twenty-seven.”
We actually never met their neighbors (the twenty-seven-year-old husband played for the Vikings and got traded a short time later) but I’m guessing we would have been friends – not because we were the same age, which was silly, but because unless someone is a total jerkface, there’s really no good reason NOT to be friends with someone.
Grown-ups are flush in friendship opportunities. We have work friends, in which Human Resources sorts through all of the people in the world and finds those with the most compatible personalities – like eHarmony for pals. We meet friends on airplanes. We meet them online. We meet them through our similarly-aged children, and at social gatherings, and by going up to them and saying, “Hello, I’m Amanda” (or by using your own name, if you want). We have family friends, and childhood friends, and neighborly friends – because, like Mr. Rogers said, “The connections we make in the course of a life – maybe that’s what heaven is.”
So, to go back to the fact that men no longer have close friends…my theory is that everyone now has SO MANY friends that no one stops to say, “These people [gestures wildly] are my friends, and that person [points] is my close friend.”
I have a very best friend in the world. Her name is Raemi. I met Raemi when we were paired up as roommates for our freshman year of college. If I had met Raemi when we were in junior or high or high school, we would have identified the closeness of our friendship with the purchasing of jewelry – specifically, two necklace charms in the shape of half of a heart that when put together formed a whole. Since we met as semi-adults, though, we bypassed the jewelry and just gradually evolved from roommates to friends to very best friends in the world without ever stating it as fact. Even now, after twenty-three years, I bet I have only called Raemi my best friend a few dozen times (not including the 50 million mentions in this paragraph).
As far as I know, like Raemi and me, most non-teenagers do not swap friendship jewelry (although I feel like there would be a market for two pinky rings that form a human skull or a screaming eagle). So, unless we are going to collectively decide to adopt best friend jewelry across all of humanity, if two people want to be close friends, they just need to be that. It’s like the episode of The Office in which Michael Scott decides to declare bankruptcy and so he shouts, “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY.” Just stand up and say out loud (or think quietly), “That person is my close friend,” and cultivate that friendship as such.
Anyways, let me know your thoughts on this, and if you have a theory of your own. And if you decide to stand up and declare someone your close friend, shoot me an email in a few months and tell me how it’s going.
If you are reading this on Thursday, August 5, then today is Kyle’s and my 15th anniversary. The picture above is from our wedding day. It has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but I look really good in it.
This week’s news has a young author, and active grandma, and a new/old coach. Read on.
Fourteen-year-old Lindsey Undlin of Lansford is working on the second book in her series after publishing the first, Ruby Authur. (Minot Daily News)
Students at Watford City High School will donate 1,200 hours of time to community service. (McKenzie County Farmer)
Beulah’s Sue Lawson is North Dakota’s first CrossFit woman-athlete (and also grandma) to compete in the No-Bull CrossFit Games. (KX Net)
North Dakota’s “Operation Thank You” gathered up 2,000 hygiene products to give to local veterans. (Minot Daily News)
Former UND Women’s Coach Brian Idalski is the new head coach of the 2022 Chinese Olympic Team. (Grand Forks Herald)
*I Googled it and the found the source, which may or may not be a real organization**: https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/the-state-of-american-friendship-change-challenges-and-loss/
**I had to take a survey course in college, and the most impactful thing I learned is to never trust a survey.