Over the weekend The New York Times addressed a matter of contemporary lifestyle that pretty much anyone can relate to: Friendship. Specifically, how hard is it to make friends as an adult? Is it, as writer Alex Williams would have us believe, nearly impossible to make lasting, deep buddy relationships past the age of 30, once the halcyon days of college are complete and adults turn their focus onto their careers, marriages, home lives, families, and children?
Hanna Rosin writes on Slate's XXFactor blog that actually, she hasn't had trouble making friendships in her grownup life at all. She explains, "I’ve definitely witnessed the patterns Williams is describing, but it strikes me as much more a man’s way of going through middle life than a woman’s"—and actually, her "experience of lifetime friendships is exactly the opposite." As for what Williams experienced, we get a common tale of would-be friendship based on instant chemistry (liking similar songs and movie lines, finishing each other's sentences) that was held up by both men being, essentially, too busy with other things. He writes of that initial meeting,
That was four years ago. We’ve seen each other four times since. We are “friends,” but not quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.
Our story is not unusual. In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.
Williams cites research that identifies three conditions key to making close friends: "proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other." For adults in this day and age, goes the argument, those things are in as short a supply as are friendships. It's undeniable that this may be true for some, but Williams seems to ignore another key factor here: As people couple and marry and have children, thereby defining and narrowing their personal networks out of necessity (there's just not time for everything), there are singles who do perfectly well maintaining their own support networks of friendships, because those friendships have become their own "families" so to speak.