• Keeping Friends

What is a Spontaneous Friend?

Published: April 30, 2010 | Last Updated: March 14, 2024 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading

Making a spontaneous friend is a rare and precious gift.

Writer Rachel Bertsche moved from New York to Chicago with her husband-to-be, leaving behind her friends, her job, and a city she knew and loved. Apropos of the move, she faced one challenge she didn’t quite expect.

She writes, “…I’m on the hunt for Miss Right. A person who can fill the one void in the otherwise pretty great life I’ve set up in the Windy City.” Her blog and book, MWF Seeking BFF, chronicle her pursuit of the perfect friend. When she wrote to me, I couldn’t help but add my two cents because it got me thinking about a gap in my own friendship portfolio!

Before posting Rachel’s letter, I did a quick poll on my blog and found that more than 63% of my respondents didn’t have a spontaneous friend and wished they had one. So Rachel and I aren’t alone! Here is her letter and my response:

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor,

I’ve always had plenty of friends, and I’ve always had a BFF or two who I could go to any time for anything. In fact, I still have those friends, and they are irreplaceable. However, none of them live within 800 miles of me, so the “going to them anytime for anything” part is a lot tougher these days.

My BFFs live all over the country, but not here. I want someone local to have playdates with…. someone with whom I can call on at the last minute because I just feel like doing something fun, someone who will invite me for a walk spontaneously because the sun is (finally!) out, someone with whom I’ll share fits of laughter over absolutely nothing. You know, like Thelma and Louise. Lucy and Ethel. Oprah and Gayle!

I’ve taken the first steps. I’ve gone on lots of first “dates,” and I’ve put myself out there. It feels like I’m dating again. And it’s working, maybe. I have definitely made some potential friends. It’s early, after all, and making friends takes time… right? Right? But then, I hear whispers of people saying, “You can’t search for friends. They have to emerge naturally. They only show up when you’re not looking.” Is that true? I waited plenty of time for something to happen naturally, and I’m still looking for Rhoda, after all.

Do you think I’m asking too much? Is the one (or two) BFF-fits-all model outdated once we’ve grown up? The idea that I might be too old for BFFs is so sad… but maybe that’s my inner Peter Pan talking. Do you believe in best friends forever?

ANSWER

Dear Rachel,

You’ve posed a number of good questions, many of which keep popping up in different forms from readers of my blog. I couldn’t possibly answer all of them in one sitting; that would take a book (or two)! ☺ But I will address one issue you raised that really resonated with me: How do you make a spontaneous friend?

Having a spontaneous friend is a rare and precious gift. She’s the kind of friend you can ask to come over right away to help you decide what to wear tonight- or the friend sitting with you as you wait for your repeat mammography that was only scheduled this morning. She’s the person you can call on a Saturday afternoon to go for a walk in the park because the foliage is at its peak—or the one who will run over to TJ Maxx with you within a half hour of closing just to see what’s there. Plans aren’t needed because you’re always there for each other, even at the last minute, because your lives are so closely intertwined.

Friendships like this aren’t easy to come by because a number of things have to coalesce at once. These are some of the criteria a spontaneous friend has to meet:

PROXIMITY

She lives close enough to you that getting together isn’t a hassle.

INTIMACY

She feels as close to you emotionally as you do to her

ACCESSIBILITY

She is likely to be at a similar place in her life as you and share some of the same interests

FLEXIBILITY

She has a malleable schedule or one that seems to effortlessly mesh with yours.

Women’s friendships have become more complicated. We are more mobile, more likely to multitask and juggle homes, careers, and family. Like you, I have close friends far away whose career paths have veered from mine. I must schedule lunch dates weeks in advance with busy friends on my block. Both are frustrating!

Significant changes in a woman’s life (such as graduations, births, marriages, moves, men, and career changes) can topple a spontaneous friendship. I moved 250 miles away from my spontaneous mommy-friend, next-door neighbor, confidant Judy, who modeled much of what I know about parenting because her son was just a couple of years older than mine. My spontaneous work-friend, soulmate Linda, once shared an office with me, and we lunched together whenever we wanted to until she moved away from me and changed jobs.

To be honest, I’m experiencing a drought like you. Finding a spontaneous friend doesn’t happen spontaneously. It’s a little bit like finding your Prince. As long as you have the energy to do so, you need to continue to put yourself out there to find your other half (or perhaps more than one), although you shouldn’t make it a full-time preoccupation. You need to pursue your own life and interests, make time for your friendships, and if you’re very lucky—you’ll eventually find someone else whose circumstances, personality, and desires are close enough to yours that you click, just like Thelma and Louise, Lucy and Ethel, or Oprah and Gayle.

Hope this helps answer one of your questions!

Best,
Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (4)

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  1. I moved to a different state a year ago where I knew only my son. I was surprised to find it was easy to strike up conversations that led to spontaneous activities. But it is still hard to find a friend with whom you want to share feelings and history. About 13 months later, several neighbors are starting to evolve into true friends, although they are younger than me and we are at different stages. With that base, though, I have confidence that I will find other local friends or a friend with whom I can do spontaneous things and who will be a good fit for years to come.

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