What I’ve Read: MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
Friendship is hard to define, yet all of us can point to multiple instances where we either instantly clicked—or didn’t—with someone. The fact that friendship relationships are so similar to romantic ones in their development and their maintenance is what makes the premise of MWF Seeking BFF so compelling. When I went to my sister and mother’s Master’s graduation this weekend, I sat watching all of the groups of graduate friends huddled together taking photos and celebrating and remembered back to my own high school and college graduations. At that moment in time, you think you will be friends with certain people forever. You’ll never lose touch. You’ll text, you’ll email, you’ll meet up! And then the emails are fewer, the texting stops and an occasional note on Facebook is about as far as your interaction extends.
Bertsche, newly living Chicago, laments that her friends live in every city in the country…except the one she’s in. She has work friends and acquaintances, but no one to call at the last minute to go shopping or see a movie with (the ultimate litmus test, according to her and I agree). She embarks on a yearlong quest to go on as many “friend dates” as possible to find a new BFF.
I found that the book’s subject matter spoke to me on a very real personal level, but I had a few problems with it nonetheless. First, Bertsche writes about a lot of studies done on friendships throughout the book. This isn’t so bad, but their placement feels awkward. It starts to feel a bit academic when she pulls one of these numbers: “I didn’t feel sparks for X right away. According to X study, this isn’t so uncommon. X percentage of people don’t blah blah blah.” You get the idea. It’s not the inclusion of the research itself that I have a problem with, but the way she incorporated it into her book. It interrupts the flow of the story and starts to feel formulaic.
The other problem I had with the book is that Bertsche does not always come off super likable. She can be endearing, funny and honest, but other times, I found myself thinking that I probably wouldn’t want to be her BFF either. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was about certain portions of the book that turned me off, but there was something there.
But, I don’t want to discourage you. This book put a lot of my exact thoughts and feelings about post-college friendships into words. I’ve never been one with a lot of friends—usually a handful of super close ones—but I find myself more isolated than ever. My best friend since the fourth grade lives in Dubai! It doesn’t get more geographically challenged than that. And, while I do have friends in the area, it’s hard to find time around life and work to make the effort to get together. In my experience, the hardest thing about post-college friendships is that they require maintenance and up-keep the same way a romantic relationship does. In college, it’s so easy to maintain your friendships—you see the same people all the time. You live with them, eat with them, go to class with them. Once work and children and significant others and distance comes into play, friendships need a lot of commitment from both parties to work long-term.
Another frustrating point for me is the dynamic of the online friendship. I’ve felt as close to or closer to some online friends than ones I’ve had in real life, and yet we’d never met. On one hand, these friendships are so rewarding, but leave you feeling even more isolated perhaps.
One passage in the book really caught my eye, because it explained what I feel is the ideal test of friendship:
My new BFF will be someone I’m totally myself with. No need to be “on.” No stress during lunch dates, wondering what to say next to keep the conversation flowing. The last-minute phone call is really just a manifestation of comfort, anyway. Does it feel natural to invite her to drinks in an hour? Am I at ease hanging at her house, watching TV in silence? Would I be okay crying to her if something went really wrong?
I feel so lucky to have a few ladies in my life who I absolutely feel like this about and hope to add a few more over the next few years!
On that note, want to be my friend?