June 6, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a best friend? Are you a member of a small circle (~4-6 people) of friends?

A very common set-up of TV sitcoms is basing the show around a small, enclosed circle of four to six young (20s and 30s) people in the city. Think Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and on and on. All the people in this group of friends are only in this one group of friends; they are all the closest friends of each other, and one character does not typically also belong to another similar circle of friends. (Just the very name of "Friends" demonstrates that the show, on some level, tries to define the entire concept of friendship as being a member of one of these self-enclosed circles.) For many reasons, this structure creates an efficient framework for storytelling -- but I'm wondering how many people have something similar in real life.

Another very common conceptual understanding of friendship is "best friends"; that is, two people who are each other's closest platonic companion. Of course, this doesn't necessarily work as neatly in real life as it is idealized -- see, for one of many examples, the title of this AskMefi: "She may be my best friend, but I'm not hers...."


I'm thinking along these lines because, perhaps, I'm at a point in my life where I don't really have any close friends. For example, I have no idea what I'll be doing this weekend, and no one is making plans to do something with *me* this weekend.

So a few questions:

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

And finally,

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?
posted by lewedswiver to Human Relations (58 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
I have periodically had circles of friends, but they all peter out after about 2 years. People move or have babies or get significant others, and that is the end of that. I go years in between friend circles.

I have three best friends (yes, this is odd), who live in three different towns. One is in another state, another is about an hour and a half away, and the third lives in the same town as me but wants to move in a year (to where #2 is, hah). I've known #1 since 2003, #2 since around 2000 or so and #3 since 2007. It's mutual with all parties as far as they've said so. #1 and #3 have met when #1 visited last, #2 hasn't met anybody. (I ah, picked the numbers from farthest away to closest there, if that makes sense.)

Who am I hanging out with this weekend? I'm going to a casual friend's graduation party at some point, but otherwise I've been hanging with me, myself and I on weekends of late (see first paragraph). Friend #3 is off with her SO every weekend, and friend #2 and I haven't figured out when we are getting together next.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:32 PM on June 6, 2011

1) Yes. They are two former coworkers of mine, the wife of one of the two, and the roommate of the other. And me. (I guess that makes me Barney Stinson?) They are awesome. Mostly, we hang out and drink at a bar or at somebody's house. We talk about politics and books and sports and about our lives. Sometimes we watch TV or see a movie. We eat dinner, and the occasional weekend brunch. We keep talking about going out to play laser tag, but we haven't actually gotten around to doing it. We went to Chuck-E-Cheese once, and we've been to a couple of museums. We often hang out as a group of five, but sometimes it'll be just two or three or four of us, depending on who's available.

2) I have a best friend who is not part of this group, because she lives in a different city. We met in college, and I'm her best friend too. I also have a very close friend within my group of friends in my current city who I will colloquially refer to as my best friend because it's a convenient shorthand, and she does the same with me even though her actual best friend is actually her best friend from college who also lives out of state.

3) I'm out of town for the next few weekends, but the weekend I get back, I'm having a belated birthday dinner with many of my friends, including the four mentioned above. I also have theater tickets with two of those five and two other people.

Here's the thing: I get the sense that you're asking these questions because you hope they'll help you divine the answer to your real question, which is something like, "how can I arrange my life so that I have people around me who give a shit about me enough that I can count on them to be there when I need them, or even just when I feel like hanging out?" And I think the answer to that question is, it's really hard. It's harder to make friends as adults. If you don't have kids to help you make friends with other parents or a job where a bunch of people your age all go out for beers after work or a time-consuming hobby that people bond over, it's really hard. It sucks that it's hard.

However, there are things you can do to make it a little easier. Get some hobbies, ones that require groups of people to chat with each other. Join a book club or a trivia team or a softball league or a Dungeons and Dragons guild or whatever is the most social thing you're into. Date. I've made some of my best friends by dating their friends. Plan stuff that sounds fun to you, and then email some of your acquaintances and ask them to join you. The theater outing I mentioned is something I wanted to see, so I emailed twenty people, and five responded with interest. Some of them don't know each other, but that's okay, because we'll have the play to chat about. It's true that it's easier if someone is making plans with you, but you can make plans for yourself and for other people, and that's how you get to be included in things. And again, it's not easy, but being proactive about it at least makes you feel less powerless, and at best actually gets you to where you want to go. Best of luck to you.
posted by decathecting at 9:41 PM on June 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

Interesting question!

1. I would consider myself very close friends with a group of four other girls. Three of them have known each other since primary/high school. Me and one other met the rest when we all worked in a club together about eleven years ago. When we first started hanging out, our social lives revovled around drugs and partying. Now we're all older and in relationships we tend to visit each other at home, meet up for drinks and at least once a year, go away for a few days together. Two of the girls in the group actually don't like each other at all but they manage to get along most of the time. We all have larger interlocking circles of friends as well so for any birthday or big event, you'll always see the same 15 -25 people.

2. I have two. One I see every couple of weeks and is in the group above; and one I talk to every six months (she lives interstate) and have been close to for 17 years, despite only seeing other twice in the last ten. I would say they both consider me to be one of their best friends, I rely on and trust them both and hope they feel the same about me. I have a newish friend, a guy, who I have been hanging out with a lot more over the last year and I can see him becoming a best friend over time.

3. I have plans to go to an exhibition with a friend from 1. and my boyfriend on Friday night. Usually I don't have a lot of plans though, things generally evolve the night before - we all have partners now so are less up for doing anything.
posted by Wantok at 9:41 PM on June 6, 2011

I don't have a 'best friend', and until about 5 years ago, i wasn't a member of a small close group. I was part of a large group, and i considered one of those people my best friend (although i wasn't hers). I frequently didn't have any plans for the weekend until the last minute (or sometimes not at all), because while i had lots of friends, i wasn't the first person anyone called. I had plans when other people solidified plans themselves, and then added me in. I wasn't the priority.

I found that to be extremely depressing. It was hard. I was lonely. And jealous. And sad. And confused about how i'd gotten into that situation. That was my life, post university until about 28 years old.

I now DO have a tight, small group of friends. I'm so much happier with my 4 girls than i was with my group of 15 guys and girls. While i don't have a 'one best friend', i have two or three people who i count on for my social life, and they count on me. I'm 34 now. (And i'm single, which makes friends even more important.)

I met them because i met one of them while living abroad, and when we both moved back to our mutual home city, she started inviting me out with her friends, and they were open and welcoming, and i just kept hanging out with them, and eventually i became a solid member of their group. (I think this is rare though - joining an estabilished group.)

It took time for me to realise that the quantity wasn't more important than quality, and that quality didn't always mean the people i'd known the longest. As soon as i figured that out, i started making different choices about who i prioritized, and, lo and behold, those people prioritized me too.

(Also, i think the TV thing is just because show can't have big huge casts and characters the audience isn't that familiar with.)
posted by Kololo at 9:42 PM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, and my advice to you, from someone who's been there: just call someone and make plans. Or ask to join their plans. I used to be really shy and uncomfortable doing this (like "they'd call me themselves if they wanted me to join in") until i realised that most people didn't realise i needed them - they thought i was off with other friends they didn't know, and weren't inviting me out because they assumed i didn't prioritize socialising with them.

If you call them, they'll call you. That happens long enough, and you'll have a couple close friends.
posted by Kololo at 9:44 PM on June 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

Not really. I have a close friend and sometimes my husband and I hang with her and her husband and another couple. Not very often, though. They seldom call me to hang out and I don't call them. If I initiated more, we'd probably be hanging out more. I socialize with my sister and her SO more often. Even then, it's once a month of so. The last time I had a group was in high-school and twenties. I belonged to a group that would go to the same bar every weekend. We would play darts and drink cheap beer. I was never particularly close with any of the men that were part of the group. I was close with the women. I have never been the kind of person that initiates getting together on a regular basis. I have never been a person that was particularly vulnerable. Because of this I have had fewer close relationships.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I have a very close friend. She considers me a very close friend. Once upon a time we were "best friends". We had a falling out and reconciled. I have known my current closest friend since the 10th grade. I'm 38.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I know I will be hanging out with my husband and children. That's the way I like it. There used to be a time where I felt my social life sucked and I had anxiety that my spouse and I didn't have an active social life. I no longer feel bad about it. I'm more comfortable with hanging out at home and it's not because I'm some kind of hermit or have social anxiety. I no longer depend on being well-liked or popular in order to be content. Another reason I like to spend weekends at home is because I enjoy being sober. I'm a mother and cannot afford to have hangovers. Going out, even if it's playing cards at a person's house usually involves ingesting alcohol. I never had a drinking problem per se but I get drunk too quickly, can't seem to stop at one, and have painful hangovers even if I have 4 or 5 beers. If I go out, which I probably will one day this week and one day this weekend, I'll probably play trivia at a local family restaurant/pub place with my sister and her SO and go to movies or dinner with my spouse and children. I do think friends are very important. Very close relationships are more rare these days, I think. Even if you don't have a close friend I think happiness can increase even if you're socializing with casual friends. Having conversations with people increases happiness. Being around people in a fun atmosphere can be uplifting. Even socializing with near strangers at a ballgame can make me happier.
posted by Fairchild at 9:53 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

1) I am a member of a circle of friends. It's not as strictly contained as the group of friends you see on TV sitcoms, but it's usually the same group that hangs out together, plus/minus our SOs and other friends who are sometimes mixed in. Within our group of friends there are some people who are closer to each other and hang out more often on a one-on-one basis.

We all met in high school, but didn't became a cohesive group until university. We usually get together to have brunch or dinner on the weekends, have pot-luck dinner parties at each other's homes, watch hockey games, go shopping, etc.

2) I do have a person I consider my best friend. I've known her for about five years, and she's actually not a member of my core group of friends because I met her in law school and she lives in a different province. I don't know if she considers me her BESTEST friend, but I am one of the two friends she picked to be in her bridal party. So I might be one of two of her best friends, and I don't mind that at all.

She may well become a member of my group of friends, because she is moving to my city into an apartment across the street from me in one week! So excited!

3) I don't know for sure who I will be hanging out with this weekend (unless you count my husband), my friends and I tend to make plans on the fly unless there's a special occasion.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:55 PM on June 6, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

My two best friends are people I've known for 7 years, as long as I've been in Australia. I hang out with them a few times a month. They have their faults, but they're loyal and share my interests. We met a college. We go to gigs, parties, pubs, and the movies together.

I also have a large circle of casual friends, acquaintances, gig buddies, etc. Lots of people I know casually, mostly through Facebook. Sometimes I'll hang out with one or two for awhile - during the annual Horror Film Fest I hang out with the nerdier, horror friends for example. I usually keep in touch with them through Facebook. I meet them going to gigs, though some I know through college. Sometimes I'll hang out with other people's groups of friends.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I have no idea if my best friends consider me as such, but I've known them for 7 years.

And finally,

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I might hang out with one of my two best friends. If they're both busy, there are any number of gigs or movies I can go to where I'm sure I'll know somebody.

The 'loose grouping of friends' strategy depends heavily on Facebook and geographical proximity. Sydney is really small, so most people will be at one of 5 or 6 places on a given Friday or Saturday night.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:04 PM on June 6, 2011

I have been a part of twosomes, threesomes, and larger groups.

To answer what I think is your question: make a friend who has a lot of friends. They will become your friends, too. Maybe one of them will become your best friend, or maybe a group will develop. It's okay to be a little more aggressive than you think is appropriate (aka, invite yourself to things).
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:07 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

1). I was until mid-last year. Then there was sort of a group explosion followed by vague attrition. And now I'm group-less. It's a little disconcerting honestly, so I know where you're coming from.

2). Yes. He does. About 13 years (good lord. old.). Unfortunately, he lives on the other side of the country so there isn't much actual hanging out these days.

3). Uh, a show one night this week, this weekend will involve some MeFites one night, and then cat time :)
posted by grapesaresour at 10:16 PM on June 6, 2011

It also depends on perspective. In my early to mid-twenties I was definitely friends with a core group of 4-6 friends who were also friends with each other. I spent all of my time with them unless begrudgingly forced to do otherwise. Had you filmed my life, it certainly would have looked like they were the center of the universe. However, I am pretty introverted and enjoy interconnected close friendships. Had the camera panned to any one of them, it probably would have seen far more people and social circles. So I guess it depends on the view from where you're standing.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:20 PM on June 6, 2011

1) In my late 20s, early 30s, I had a close circle of friends. Most of us worked for the same company and we had similar recreational interests: camping, happy hour, dancing, just sitting around talking about music & books. But as we each married, had kids, changed jobs, the circle changed. I still know these folks, but we rarely get together. Our recreational interests have also changed; for me, they now center on the interests of my child. Most of my current "friends" are the parents of my child's friends and our social gatherings are related to the activities of our kids. When my daughter changes schools next year, we'll probably lose touch.
2) Do I have a best friend? Not really. Certainly not like I had years ago.
3) When I have free time, I hang out with my 13 year old daughter. We catch movies (today it was X-Men: First Class), hang out at the library, window shop at the mall, cook dinner together. Someday soon, she'll prefer to hang out with her own friends and I may actually have to learn how to make my own friends again.
posted by kbar1 at 11:08 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Engineer here... meaning you are about to be exposed to a categorization scheme; self-developed, of course.

Three levels: Kidney Club, Pending, Don't Care.

Kidney Club : A very small group of people to whom I would donate a kidney and who would PROBABLY donate one for me if I needed it. These folks are OK with being inconvenienced by me, OK inconveniencing me, know I am good for any money loaned to me, could count on me pitching in with loans/gifts in an emergency, have decent morals (i.e., consonant with my moral structure, which is another categorization scheme that you didn't ask about!), and whom are close enough to go into business with (but probably not marry). (I often say I'd marry people I wouldn't go into business with. The former are corrupted by love, which clouds judgment. The latter have to be more dependable, without the love part to protect them. That's the reasoning there. TMI, I know.) I have perhaps a dozen folks in this pile... maybe two. That's a lot, but I am old, kind of. These are the people of whom I can say we love one another; in a risk-my-life-and-fortune kind of way. Who would defend me without being asked to do so and vice versa. Folks who have stood the tests of time and distance, reliably.

Pending: Folks who have failed a key test or have yet to pass the test to get into the kidney club. Many, many, many of my friends appear here. They move up and down from here over time, and may or may not know that. These are the pile who would be comfortable asking for a kidney, but would probably not hand one over. Who might give, but with great reservations; whose character is under inspection but unproven, uncertain. It takes a lot of time to evaluate someone, and to tell if you are meeting on the same level. Here, I give time and money freely, and see how it comes back, and if it comes back. New arrivals go here and get 100 points (just kidding). They lose points for stuff they should lose points for and get points for stuff that is above-and-beyond. In a year or two or ten, they percolate up, down, or go nowhere. (Are there other options?)

Don't care (stolen from old school description of logic state (1/0/x, where 1=true, 0=false and x=don't care (i.e., irrelevant)) is the vast pile of people that I know, and whose primary attribute is recognition. The border between this pile and Pending is fuzzy, but scarcely populated. People wind up here because they've shown exceeding self-interest, moral dissonance, value conflicts, failed a lot of cheap tests they could easily have passed, are sociopathic, mean, not-growing. Folks here would be comfortable asking for a loan/favor, and would misrepresent to get it, and be lackadaisical about returning it. Folks with questionable or demonstrated bad judgment / ethics.

I'd say the distribution if 3%, 47%, 50%.

The thing is... I have moved around a lot. A number of people have not fallen out of my life, regardless of how far away we are. I don't see them over the weekend, but we do connect intentionally periodically and are uncomfortable if we don't. They'd be in my will in some form. I worry about them. I check on them. They are male/female/gay/straight/coupled/single/old/young.

The top level of the Pending pile is where the local folks go for the major part. These folks I pursue and vice versa. They are close enough to include spontaneously on things and who reciprocate. I think that would be the 'close circle' you mention, and in modern times, this can be over a wide geography.

Sounds more complicated than it is, but I've thought about what makes a true friend, a community member, and an acquaintance a lot. This is how it fell out, and is subject to new structure if I ever come up with one.

Active Enemy is the last group, and it stays empty on purpose. I have found most people consider enemies people who have done them serious ego damage. That's not a good enough reason for active hostility. Some Don't Care folks briefly wiggle in and out of there if I am angry, but dueling is illegal and murder sanctioned heavily, so there's no margin in wasting the energy to maintain enmity. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference, so the Don't Care is a better place for them.

There now, aren't you glad you asked? Engineers. Jeez.
posted by FauxScot at 11:23 PM on June 6, 2011 [61 favorites]

1) Not really. I've gone through periods where I have been. You know how in sitcoms sometimes there's a plot where they're offered the Big Job Elsewhere or they go off and hang out with their SO all the time or they make new friends or whatever, but by the end of the episode they learn the error of their ways and come back? In my experience, there's really not a lot of error in that. It's how things work, and that's OK.

I do, however, have a pretty close relationship with my parents.

2) Yes. Two. One is my dad, the other one is someone I've gotten closer to lately but who I've been friends with since second grade.

3) Dunno. I'll probably see Mom at least once; I'm teaching her to play Katamari Damacy. I usually see Dad on the weekends but he's out of town.

You might find the TVTropes entry on Nakama interesting. (Be forewarned, TVTropes will suck up your life.)
posted by NoraReed at 11:47 PM on June 6, 2011

There is a very small, core group of friends whom I consider family. None of them know the others (although they know of each other) as we met in different cities and different stages in my life. Only one of them currently resides in the same town I'm in. Although we don't see each other often or keep in contact as frequently as we once did, I can call any of them and it will be like we talked just yesterday. I cannot imagine my life without them in it.

I do consider one of these lovely, amazing people my best friend and the feeling is mutual. We've known each other for twenty years.

The closest thing I have to a circle of friends who actually know each other are the two coworkers I particularly like to spend time with. I've come to realize that I rarely see them outside work save for the Big Life Events (weddings, funerals), which I'd like to change. We're kind of an odd little group, come to think of it -- personal tastes and beliefs all over the place, different hobbies, etc. -- but we genuinely enjoy each other's company and look out for each other.

Previously, I had been part of small (4-5 people) groups of friends where we were all classmates or coworkers. The school-based groups faded away after folks moved, while the work groups petered out for me when I changed jobs. I've also "lost" a group of friends after a breakup as they were my SO's longtime friends.

As far as who I know I'll be hanging out with this weekend, it's just me. I have a short holiday in another town coming up, and I'll be spending that alone, too.

I don't make friends easily and sometimes I miss having a small group of close friends to share some time with.
posted by vespertine at 12:10 AM on June 7, 2011

I love talking about my best friend and best friends. I hope everyone can have meaningful friendships and a very best friend in the whole wide world. It's such an important relationship. My BFF got married two weeks ago and I gave a toast explaining that she has been with me for 13 years, and all the girls I have seriously dated have come and gone in that time, but my BFF is the constant through all that girl drama. Relationships come and go, but a best friend will love you unconditionally through it all.

I am really, really good at staying in touch with people who are important to me. I have one "BFF" but several extremely close friends whom I talk to (in whatever capacity) every day. Those people all have gotten to know each other or at least of each other because I will from time to time send an email to several people updating them on this or that aspect of my life, and I mention each other to them when chatting. "Lisa says..." etc.

I participate in a sport in my city which is extremely time consuming and I could easily identify the 2 or 3 or 4 of my closest friends in the club, and within the larger organization I belong to a team which is automatically close and then I have several friends on other teams, which is a significant relationship as well. That's how I developed most of my close friendships when I moved to this city (Seattle.)

I have a girlfriend, but that's pretty new. As that relationship develops I'm increasingly integrated into her network.

to answer your direct questions:

1. The closest thing I have to "Friends"-style friends is my teammates, but I haven't really found a small circle of friends to form organically like the sitcom Friends. Like I said, I tend to have several (4 or 5 maybe?) very close friends, but those people are scattered in different social networks and locations. My 5 closest friends are not each others' 5 closest friends.

2. My best friend Alison and I have been officially "Best Friends" for a very long time. We met in college 13 years ago. We say "I love you" to each other every time we talk, which is several times a day. We love each other unconditionally. It's from her that I came to truly understand what unconditional love is.

3. I will be practicing my sport this weekend, and then spending some of my free time with some of my closer teammates and with my girlfriend. I also spend some amount of time daily with my 2 roommates, who are a couple and are some of my most significant and important friendships.

One more thing I'd like to mention, while we're on the topic: My parents and my 3 siblings (and now, their spouses) are among my best friends. We have a family email distribution list which is very active and I believe has fostered an incredibly close family relationship in our adulthood. I am so grateful for it.
posted by palegirl at 12:25 AM on June 7, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

There's about 10 of us in the inner circle and another dozen or so that orbit in and out. We met about 10 years ago through a common interest which involved volunteering. Some of us live farther away now and most have kids so we get together only 3-4 times a year at weekends for some camping and hiking which we all like. The ones who live closer together see each other more frequently, often just by chance in day to day life. Also, some of the kids go to the same schools. Some like facebook, some don't. Some ring to chat, some don't. Most of us are still involved in the common interest and that means we get to occassionally hang out doing something important to us all.

I've three times had other "inner circles" and they came about through being single and moving into to share with 3 or more people. The first time we were all students, the second time we were all funky city professionals and the third time we were all tree-hugging artists. I am the only common denominator and I don't see any of them now but I goddam loved them and loved the households while they lasted. Good times.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I have my best oldest (since 13) friend, my best room-share friend, my best nearby friend, my best tall friend with a red car... you see where I'm going with this. It depends on what aspect of friendship I'm giving or receiving and what I need the friendship to provide at the time. I don't play favorites, I can just give and receive with some friends better than others at different times. I reckon my friends feel similarly.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I'll be catching up with Mr Red Car on Wednesday to help him with his exhibition. We won't hang out long because he has to pick the kids up from the bus. My inner circle have a gathering planned for July, I think? I don't see them much but their being and my connection with them is a good thing in my life everyday.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 12:35 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wrote some angsty stuff in this box, but it wasn't really an answer. All you really need to know is that you're not alone. I especially feel friendless in the assignment study hibernation that happens.

I do actually have friends. It's just not like Friends on TV (or Big Bang Theory, etc.)
posted by titanium_geek at 12:38 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

yes and no. I have a kind of 'inner circle' it still sort of exists as it has since unit (15 years ago) these are a group of 5-6 people that I think i' will be friends with for the rest of my life. BUT at the moment we seem to be spread out all over the world so I definitely will not be hanging with them this weekend.

I'm a bit alone in London actually and don't have core group. I just float around amongst some acquaintances..
posted by mary8nne at 2:18 AM on June 7, 2011

1) No. There is a mesh of loosely overlapping groups of people I've known for years, usually in the context of volunteering at a student/youth club, a roleplaying group, and old classmates. Almost none of these people I would be comfortable calling up at random for a drink at a bar. (although, I probably could. And if they called me, I might go if it was convenient.)

2) I can't really remember ever having a best friend as such. The only person I would have ever considered a 'best friend' drifted into the 'romantic relationship' area, and when that ended... well, let's just say it's still surprisingly painful after 3+ years of minimal contact.

3) My next period of free time will either be spent at the beach, cycling through nature, or reading a book.
posted by HFSH at 3:04 AM on June 7, 2011

I'm in a similar position myself - I'm in a new(ish) city, work from home a lot and can quite easily go a week without really having a conversation with anyone other than my housemate. My girlfriend lives in another city and we try to see eachother every week but sometimes that just can't happen for one reason or another.

The place where I lived before there was a really Seinfeld-ish situation where a group of us all would feel happy to drop round and knew which pub to find each other in at what time. It's been really difficult moving somewhere new, because I have been expecting for that to happen organically and it just doesn't. I think, unfortunately, it takes either a lot of effort or some great cooincidences to foster that kind of friendship.

2)yes, for a long time. I'd trust him with something serious but he's useless at trivial things - and if he starts on about conspiracy theories one more time, I'll throttle him.
3)No, perhaps going to see my girlfriend if I can afford it.

Sorry that's probably not very helpful, but it's nice to rant. I do think it's important to realise that being alone doesn't necessarily mean people don't give a shit and it's worth making the effort with people you know a bit to make them into people you know a lot. That said, I'll be watching this thread to see if someone has a magical solution...
posted by pmcp at 3:54 AM on June 7, 2011

Please note that in Friends, etc, those are very specifically post-collegiate setups, ie college room-mates who continued to live together through first jobs, etc. By the end of Friends a zillion years later, they had in fact broken down into different living relationships. The show maintained their super-close friendships to keep the show going but realistically, the friendships would have normally changed, too.

I tried to answer 1, 2 and 3 but the "BFF!" metric is so far from how I run my adult relationships it literally doesn't translate to your scheme. I have good friends, some of whom know each other but have different relationships with each other. My closest friend I am not also married to is also my oldest friend (12 years); she has people she's been with much longer (20+ years) and I assume on some level they are closer but it has never occurred to me to ask because I don't apply a rating system to my friendship pairings. I spend most of my free time with my husband (7+ years) because I like hanging out with him; that's why we got married.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:07 AM on June 7, 2011

I almost always have 1 closest friend. They are the sort of person I spend hours talking to, although we don't necessarily socialise together that often.

I have 2 groups of friends, each with 5-10 people in.1 where I live, and 1 spread out around the country. When I socialise, it's invariably with 1 of these 2 groups. I can phone/text on the off-chance, and hang out, go to the pub etc whenever. I'm also ridiculously introverted, so along with work this is enough people time for me.

I met 1 group at uni, and the other through a shared interest/hobby. I can tell it's a good group if the thing that brought us together goes and we're still friends.
posted by plonkee at 4:28 AM on June 7, 2011

I have habitually been a member of a small group of friends, but currently I am not. I would say that instead I have several groups of friends (grad school friends over here, college friends over here, friends met through my hobby over here), and that no one group is more dominant than the others. I think I actually prefer having one group that I see pretty much exclusively, but I've met so many awesome people in so many different places that that has become impossible. Thus, many small groups.

I do have a best friend, my boyfriend. However, I also have a very close female friend who, while we do not think of each other as a "best friend," I love very much and I know that we are in each others' "kidney club" (thanks, Fauxscot!). She lives several states away right now, but comes back to my area frequently and we email/chat on the phone regularly. We have known each other for 9 years.

What I will be doing this weekend: probably the only person I will see will be my boyfriend. However, I often see my friends during the week (at work or after work), so the weekends aren't necessarily my prime socializing time.
posted by Bebo at 5:26 AM on June 7, 2011

The only time in my life when I had a close circle of constant friends was back when a group of us were all employed at the same place. We did everything together. We pretty much socialized exclusively with each other for several years. Once divorce, unemployment, etc. entered the mix, the bonds frayed and people wandered off. Today, I don't really have a circle of friends. I'm kind off on my own and alone now.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on June 7, 2011

Keep in mind that television shows, especially sitcoms and procedurals, need to have a manageable number of cast members. For economy's sake, it's better to keep revisiting the same few individuals, even for tertiary characters (think Newman on Seinfeld).

But your questions.

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

Yes? Well, mostly - I have one set of friends who are at this point only friends, and other social circles based on work and my living situation. Which overlap, because I live in a film industry flop house (which my roommates and I have discussed writing a TV pilot about, a la Grey's Anatomy). Most of my friends-friends don't work in my field and are a refuge of sanity I can escape to when I'm not in work mode.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I didn't think I did, and then I threw out "...I want to meet her and she can be my new best friend..." about some random internet blogger type person I do not actually know in front of a very close friend. She said, "But I'm your best friend!" And she's right, she's the one I go to when things get real and I need someone I can absolutely trust. That said, I apparently was not her best friend a few years ago when she got married, as I didn't even rate bridesmaid. (Which was OK by me, but heh.)

And finally,

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I do, and, yep, it's people from My Group Of Friends.
posted by Sara C. at 5:39 AM on June 7, 2011

1) I am not a member of a small circle of friends. I was a few years ago, but not any longer.

2) I have a best friend, who I've known for 14 years, at this point. We haven't been close for all 14 of those years, and we can sometimes be at odds for periods of a year or more. I'm pretty sure he considers me his best friend, too.

3) I spend most of my free time alone or with my girlfriend.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:06 AM on June 7, 2011

I have a large group of very casual friends that I see at meetings and events and a small number of closer friends, most of whom only know each other casually. Perversely, I see my closest friends less often than my casual friends.

I sort of have a best friend - ie, we've known each other forever, can talk about anything and do each other favors without question. We've grown apart ideologically in recent years, but as long as we're both left-wing that doesn't matter (where it might matter - since it's quite a divide - with someone less close).

I go through phases where I make weekend plans and phases where I just want to be by myself. Lately, I'm on the "oh, it's Friday! I get to be alone at last!" thing. Weekend plans would probably be more casual friends, since they'd probably be activist event things.

My casual friends are mostly at least a few years younger than I am, because they are political friends and most of my longer-term friends have dialed back or dropped out of activism. I have a few older activist friends, but they tend to be insanely busy - my closest older activist friend is someone I see maybe four times a year because he has no time.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

B and K and I have been friends least 9 years now. They were a couple for a while then split but thankfully we have managed to stick together. I met them both at a UU church - we were the child-free, highly snarky minority. Get-togethers involve food, crafting, bitching, movies, going to antiques coops, etc.

Friends from high school (including someone who had been my best friend for over 14 years) have fallen to the wayside as they've gotten married, had kids, and "grown up." When I got divorced I felt a few people drift a bit more, and then events this year to which there was a non-response prompted me to cut ties with former-best friend completely.

Friends from college are a bit closer, though distance or families mean we don't see each other often.

I've met a number of very good friends in various online places and feel a few of them are as close as B and K, except for the physical difference.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

Does my dog count?

I do have a best friend, the above-mentioned B, and I believe he considers me to be his. Though we've known each other for 8 years now, it's only the last few months we've realized how much we mean to each other. He's the one person I can talk to about *anything* and we see/talk to each other several times a week.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I usually see my two closest friends every Sunday for brunch. I might go out with B one evening, as well....generally I'll get a last-minute chat in with one of my online friends, and if my folks are around, I'll probably hang out with them for a bit, too. Exciting, no?
posted by noxetlux at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2011

I am working out some of these issues right now as I have never had fewer close friends than I do right now, so, interesting question.

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?
I have been my whole life but not right now. The last group was from my knitting group and I left for a multitude of reasons, part of which was a move to another part of town and the largest of which was a horrible episode of major depression on my part. We would, however, get together for knitting, yard sales, coffee, community events, festivals and just chatting.

I still have a group of "kidney club" friends who, while we don't see each other as often as we'd like, we do spend every Christmas together. We were all working at an AIDS organization in the late 80s and early 90s. We all survived and it made us a super close-knit family unit more than friends but we've all had changes in our lives in the last decade or so, so we don't hang out like we used to but I know they'd do anything for my husband and me if we needed it.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?
My husband is my best friend. I have a best girlfriend. I have known her for 19 years. In the last 5 years she has had two children. It's hard because I have no children and she tends to feel extremely guilty about spending time without them, so things change...

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?
I have recently (in the last 6 months) found the depression lifting significantly. I have been slowly getting back into life and I've been getting into the urban homesteading movement so I've been going to a lot of really fun events around backyard farming and chicken/bee keeping. I see the same people over and over again. I am hoping that some of these people will become closer. Maybe I haven't met the friend that will become my BFF yet, but we'll see. One of my knitting girlfriends and I have stayed close and we're going on a road trip 4th of July weekend, but she is moving out of the country next month, so that friendship, while we'll still be close, will have to be more virtual than anything else.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:36 AM on June 7, 2011

1) No. I did, in college and shortly afterward, but as we took jobs in different areas, and then got married, 'close' ceased being part of the equation. We were as close as we were in part because we were the editorial board on our university's newspaper, so we were practically forced to spend tons of time together. But we still were close outside of the paper, and kept up the fight for several months after college, aided by weddings.

2) Not really; I tend to say my kid is my best friend. I think it depends how you define the term, which I think just writing that already disqualifies me from what you're talking about. I have a friend who I talk to/write to more than my other friends, and who I care about, but we can go weeks without talking. (And that's when I'm not even mad at him!) When he lived in NYC, where I work, we made sure to see each other for an hour or two every few months (aided in part by being almost evenly matched at basketball). Now he's across the country, and we see each other once or twice a year, but I wouldn't go out there just to see him. We've known each other since kindergarten, and our friendship has probably survived in large part because we've made music together. I don't know whether he would have called me his best friend at any time; he's extremely popular. I have another friend I mostly e-mail with, who is about as anti-social as I am. He might or might not describe me as his best friend, but while I would say we're 'friends,' I would not say I am a 'friend to him.' Does that make any sense? He might come back to the area every few years and not even think once to see if I could meet up.

3) Being married with one or more children can help you answer this question (or, if you prefer, keep you from ever having to answer it). But to sum up, I would say I became 'less close' with most of my friends when I got married in my early 30s, and even less close with everyone when we had a kid a couple of years later. I also stopped caring so much about the Red Sox.
posted by troywestfield at 7:58 AM on June 7, 2011

Here is my experience as a suburban husband and dad in his mid-30s: My wife of 10 years is my best friend. I know this doesn't fit into your definition of "best friend" as a platonic friend, but I can live happily without any close friends other than her (tho while I am also her best friend, she is more extroverted than I am and does not feel the same way about the absence of other friends). Marrying your best friend makes that relationship hard to walk away from; I can count on a best friend until the day I die.

Our closest friends consist of three other pairs of parents. One woman in this group is my wife's "best friend" in the platonic sense (tho she would say she has other "best friends" from childhood now spread out throughout the country). We met her when our kids attended the same pre-school class. This relationship, now going on four years, developed gradually: chats in front of the school led to sharing over coffee, and then to occassional dinners, and now to weekly brunch at each other houses; favors exchanged (often involving last-minute childcare) developed gratitude and trust; day trips with our kids led to weeklong shared vacations. Her husband and I, while not as close as our wives, get along very well; our friendship is fed by mutual admiration, shared interests, our kids, and our wives' devotion to each other.

Our weekends consist of meals at home with one or more of these three couples, or less frequently socializing with a larger group of friends (almost aways also parents). These events include birthday barbeques, dinners at restaurants, holiday parties, etc.
posted by hhc5 at 8:05 AM on June 7, 2011

I have 2 best friends: My wife of 29 years (many of them happy) and Dan. Dan and I have been friends for 44 years this month, since he was 5 and I was 4. We grew up 2 houses down from one another and were best man in each others' weddings. My kids call him Uncle Dan. We usually have coffee together every weekend. I moved to Austin in part to be close to Dan.

I'm sure she wasn't the first to say it, but I remember my mother telling me that a friend is someone who knows all of your faults and shortcomings but still likes you anyway.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:13 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

I do have one core group of friends, and most of us went to college together (some significant others have joined the group as well). We may be different, personality-wise, but we like to do a lot of the same sorts of things--I think one thing that's kept us close is meeting up once a week for movie night. We hang out at each others' houses for game nights/cookouts/etc as well. I have other friend groups as well that are full of awesome people, but the old college group is the core group.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

Yes, if you can have two best friends. The first one I've known 21 years. She lives several states away, but I see her a few times a year and talk on the phone regularly. The other is a friend from high school I talk to every day on IM.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

Yes, I'm heading back to my old hometown to meet up with two of my friends from high school. SO EXCITE!
posted by zoetrope at 8:18 AM on June 7, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

I have a few close friends I speak to a few times a week, but they don't live near me (some in other states). We went to high school together and used to go to out for dinner/coffee/movies etc. quite often. Now, though, we mainly communicate through electronic means.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I have a wonderful (and mutual) best friend who is also my boyfriend. I met him two years ago, and we have numerous shared interests. On weekends we often watch our favorite shows, play dominoes, or sometimes go geocaching.

And finally,

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

I'll be going to a monthly flea market with my boyfriend.
posted by cp311 at 8:37 AM on June 7, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

There are 5 of us - my boyfriend introduced me to a friend of his from art school. The two of them reconnected when we found ourselves living in the same foreign country, and I became friends with him, too. This dude introduced us to friends of his, a couple, and now we 5 are a unit. We like making art, card games, drinking beer in parks, going on walks, barbecuing and playing with puppies.

There is also a wider circle of about 10-20 people who I would consider good friends, but not so good I would call them in an emergency.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I have two best friends: one from high school, one from university. We live in different countries now and our lives have taken totally different directions, but when we get together it's like no time has passed.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

My boyfriend and I will probably hit up an art opening or two - very likely at least a few of the 20ish people I mentioned above will also be there, but I won't find out who until I get there. Maybe we'll barbecue or do something else with members of the inner circle, but we're all disorganised types who don't make plans til Thursday or Friday.
posted by guessthis at 8:52 AM on June 7, 2011

1. I have few friends and, apart from my "best" friend (see 2) I see them rarely - not least because they live some distance away from me. I have only one friend who lives within walking distance, and it's a longish walk. I see my best friend perhaps once a fortnight; the others every few months or less often. Mostly my time is alone time. When my best friend and I meet we typically have a few beers in a pub, grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant and then retire to my place or his place where we continue drinking, playing music, watching comedy and laughing like loons, usually until the following morning or near enough. Other times we cook each other dinner and then continue the evening as previously. Sometimes we go see bands together.

With my other friends it's usually a night in the pub and catching-up chat. Sometimes one of us might throw a dinner party but these days that's really once-in-a-blue-moon.

I met all of these friends at work and university. What are they like? Fairly different, but with certain things in common: wicked senses of humour, intelligent, educated, generous, non-timid, drinkers, enjoyers of life's pleasures, non-conservative and non-religious. all of these qualities seem to be essential for me if I am to become friends with someone.

2. I have a best friend, as mentioned. Does he consider me his best friend? I have no idea. We don't talk in those terms. I think it's distinctly possible he may consider me so. I certainly think he sees me as one of his best friends. We met when I was 24 and he 25 and that was, oh God, 28 years ago.

3. This weekend I will be hanging out with my lady partner, bedchum, other half, dearest love etc. I usually know what I will be doing at the weekend, even if it's just my own thing.
posted by Decani at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2011

I have moved around a lot as an adult, and so I've had this "circle of friends" in each place I've lived, except the most recent city. In this new town, I am married and have kids, so the dynamic is different, i.e., no one expects me to be available every weekend.

To be honest, though, I haven't had an exclusive circle since high school. (And even that circle was somewhat in flux. Only about 6 "core" people, and usually 4-6 more peripherals.) As I've gotten older, the idea of exclusivity has disappeared. Sure, there are people you just click with, and you want to hang out together all the time, but bringing in new people keeps it fresh. I want to meet new people and get to know them.

That said, I've had the same BFF since childhood, we haven't lived in the same town for years, and yes, she considers me her BFF, too. It doesn't matter that we hang out with other people most of the time.

I've often wished for a more TV-like dynamic where my circle and I are always apprised of each other's comings and goings, but it turns out that I am really just not that type of person.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:50 AM on June 7, 2011

it's funny, this is something i've been thinking about lots b/c my social circle has really changed in the 1+ yr that i've had my kid ...

1. at one point in my life (jr high/high school) i was a member of a small circle of friends -- we met in school & hung out exclusively with each other, as you described in your question. but my social circle hasn't been like that since high school (i'm now in my early 30s); at this point i have a bunch of friends, some of whom are also friends with each other & some of whom don't get along. i met some at work, i met some through other friends, i met some back when i used to be really involved in the local music scene, etc.

2. i almost always, for my entire life, had a best friend. right now, though, i wouldn't say that's the case. (nothing against Mr Oh Really, b/c he's awesome, but i used to have a boyfriend AND a best friend who were separate entities.) i think the girl who comes closest is someone i was very close with in high school (though NOT my BFF at the time); we're in sporadic touch these days but can share everything with each other.

3. my big chunks of free time almost always involve familial stuff these days, so i DO know what i'll be doing over the weekend -- chores, going to a wedding, & playing with Toddler Oh Really, who will hopefully not be stuck in Tantrumville.
posted by oh really at 10:04 AM on June 7, 2011

I went from high school to college to law school, and then to a new city after school. The answers to your questions would have been much different while I was still at either school. That said,

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?
Not particularly. I have a number of overlapping circles of friends, mostly from different schools, jobs, or hobbies. When I have a party at my house I'll invite all of the groups, though it takes a fairly big blowout to get them all in the same place. When I'm with the hobby friends, we do hobbies (mostly whitewater kayaking or snowboarding). When I'm with the other friends, our activities are usually centered around eating or drinking, with other things thrown in (camping, video games, going to a movie)

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?
I have 4 people who I would consider best friends, each from different stages in my life (high school, college, law school, work). One wouldn't consider me her best friend; one would, and I'm not sure about the other two. I've known them 13, 9, 5, and 2.5 years, respectively. I think of them separately from my fiancee, who may qualify under some people's rubric as my best friend. Only one of the best friends lives nearby, and we spend time together every couple of weeks. Another I chat with online almost every weekday. The other two I speak with every few months, if that.

And finally,

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?
Usually, this time of year I would be kayaking (hobby friends, and one of the best friends), but this weekend I'll be moving (with fiancee, with help from one of the best friends) and going to the birthday party of one of the best friends.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2011

1 - I spent the past four years with only acquaintances. Since January, I've somehow managed to acquire a variety of groups. My roommate likes to give them descriptive names so I have my:

"trans* friends": I went to a conference in January that ended up being really awful and treated trans* individuals like crap, so we banded together and complained repeatedly about the conference. A few of these people came from my city and we have similar interests, so now we still hang out. Mostly we're emotional support but sometimes we do activist things together, like setting up a larger support network for trans* identified youth in our area. (Minority Status / Politics)

"queer friends": These people I met at my campus LGBTQ. I don't hang out with them that often, but they're a nice go to when I want to go out dancing or see a movie. (Minority Status)

"D&D friends": One of the guys from "queer friends" knows a guy who knows a guy and they wanted to start up a D&D group. I was invited to join and have been quite pleased with the results. We meet once a week to play and share nerdy events on Facebook. (Interests)

"straight friends": I met these people through the same guy who got me into our D&D group. He was having a Boys' Poker Night style event and invited me. I ended up really getting along with another guy, who then started inviting me to things too! While it's not very close-knit, these people are all awesome and super protective and do a lot of stuff. Already planned this summer: paintballing, camping, a day at the local water park, going out drinking wearing suits, wings night, a kegger... etc. (No Idea But It's Kinda Neat)

2 - I tend to date my best friends, so I'm sorely lacking in this department of late. My closest friend and I met in high school but never really hung out while we were there. We would talk online while she worked and I procrastinated and we ended up developing a strong friendship. We've been friends for about... 6 years now, I think, despite not having lived in the same city for the past 4. I'd give her a kidney, gladly.

3 - I'm going to D&D tonight and one of my friends and I are going short-dude-formalwear shopping sometime this week. I don't have anything planned for this upcoming weekend yet but things tend to pop up last minute. (This week) I had 3 groups who wanted to go see X-men with me (trans, queer, family) and I assume more could've popped up had I asked.

Note: Despite all this, I often feel like I don't have any close friends. I don't have anything resembling a "Kidney Club" as FauxScot mentioned. There's no real lasting bond here. I am in my final year of my undergraduate degree, as are many of my friends, so I can see how these friendships might continue and intensify if we were to all remain together in this life stage for a while. However, a lot of us are going to be moving once we finish our degrees, so this is a transient thing.
posted by buteo at 11:41 AM on June 7, 2011

interesting question. I don't have a specific best friend right now. I belong to several circles of friends, none quite like the ones you describe. I've noticed the phenomenon, as well.
posted by theora55 at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2011

As far as meeting people & possibly forging new friendships, I can't recommend enough. I've joined a few groups specifically for hikes in my area, & have met lots of really nice people in addition to having a blast! It seems there are groups for a wide range of interests, such wine-tasting, photography, dog fanciers, etc. After you've joined a group & met people face to face, you can contact them through the Meetup website without seeming stalker-like.
posted by PepperMax at 11:45 AM on June 7, 2011

1) My circle of friends is centered around climbing and various outdoor activities. I typically send out a group email detailing our plans for the weekend with an open invite and we all go out to dinner afterwards. I originally met the group through a combination of sports and volunteering, and I'm always on the lookout for cool, safe people to add to the list.

2) My best friend is my wife, but beyond that I've had maybe 6 best friends in my life. I'm not sure if my current closest friend would also describe me that way, but he did call me his climbing partner which in some ways is more significant (to me).

3) Our plans are usually fluid, depending on the weather and what not, but I'm sure I'll be out with the wife and whoever else joins us.

When I was younger I was a bit asocial and remember being flummoxed when a friend described sport as a social activity (I was there to kick ass and take names). Now I see socializing as paramount and my expertise as something I can bring to the table. I also watch for opportunities for bonding, like a person in distress, someone asking for help moving, wedding invitations, etc. Probably my closest friendship ever was formed when I offered a new acquaintance the couch in my beach pad while he went through a messy divorce.
posted by Manjusri at 12:09 PM on June 7, 2011

1) I'm 33. I am sort of a "satellite" member of a few groups of friends. One of the groups is of folks that knew each other from college. I'm about 8 years younger than them, but was brought into the group by my now-best friend (we were casual friends when I met all of these folks) and wound up dating one of the friends for several years. We've broken up now, but I am still a "satellite" friend that gets invited to parties and stuff.

I used to have a group of Friends like those you see on TV. Three girls, three guys. Guys were all best friends from childhood. Us girls had all worked together for a time. We hung out, we went on trips, it was just like Friends. Only in Minnesota. When we all broke up it was horrible. It was worse than any breakup that I'd ever been through - friend, boyfriend, anything. It happened because one of the guys was dating one of the girls, girl cheated on him with another one of the guys, third guy refused to speak to second guy, cheating girl and first guy got back together and stopped talking to us, me and cheating girl had a huge falling out, me and non-cheating girl drifted apart after she had kids. Oh, the drama.

2) I do have a current best friend. She is the one that is in the group of college friends that I mentioned above. We met while doing NaNoWriMo in 2005. She was totally brave and asked if I wanted to go get coffee. We did, and I am so glad. She has two other best friends, I'd say - her huz, another girl friend. We live in different cities right now but are both internet junkies so we stay in touch pretty much constantly. My other best friend is my boyfriend, I guess. It's weird to think of him like that though!

My boyfriend and I don't really have any "couple" friends. I'd like to meet some other folks to be buds with, though.

3) This weekend I'm going to an art museum thing on Friday, haven't put much thought into it. Will probably go with boyfriend. On Saturday I'm going on a bike ride with boyfriend. I'm thinking of driving to visit best friend in the city on Saturday night and will probably visit my sister (who is also a best friend, we don't talk much but there's too much history there to NOT be friends) on Sunday.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:53 PM on June 7, 2011

Just a thought on the whole "nakama" (or urban tribes) idea: it's a nice one, but keep in mind that in reality, the "Friends" folks probably would have moved on once someone had a kid or moved, Buffy's friends (or well, any high school show really, the friends) would have gone to different colleges, and we'll see how well the HIMYM folks last after the baby comes. The Seinfeld folks probably stayed together forever because I doubt any of them would get married or move, but they're a rarity. In general, these scenarios last longer on television than they are going to in real life because everyone's signed contracts!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:53 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah - I agree with jenfullmoon. I also think these arrangements tend to last longer in major cities where people tend to migrate from other parts of the US, marry later, and have fewer children (and where the option to be childfree is more mainstream). Seinfeld and Friends are somewhat realistic in this regard. Especially considering that two of the main characters of Friends were siblings, and several characters paired off within the group.

My boss, who has to be at least sixty, still maintains close friendships from grad school. Granted, he's gay and is of a generation where gay people often didn't have close ties with their families of origin, not to mention he's prime to have lost a lot of people in the AIDS crisis. So clearly there are exceptions to the "tribes are temporary" idea.
posted by Sara C. at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2011

Cool question! This is something I have put a lot of thought into as of late.

1) Not right now, and it sucks. I graduated two years ago and up until then I always had a very, very tight knit circle of friends, from both high school and college-- and most of my high school friends I have known since 1st or 2nd grade (I grew up in a small community). In high school I belonged to one big group that had several interlocking groups within it, and in college we were 6 or 7 girls who were close all four years, lived together etc. Graduating and spreading out around the world has been a big shock to my sense of belonging, and I haven't really recovered it yet. I find that having several friends who don't know each other is not nearly as satisfying to me as having a group where everyone is close.

I still talk to my friends from college and high school online, some more than others. I am moving back to my hometown in July so I hope to reconnect with some of my high school friends who are there. Where I currently live, I feel pretty isolated and don't have any real friends outside coworkers (who are older and married, so we don't socialize outside work), much less a group.

2) Similar to above, I always have until recently: one from middle school- late high school, who I then grew away from (though we are still friends) and got closer to other girls in my class. I definitely had a best friend in college. I couldn't name my 'best friend' right now, but I am still close to these girls, though not as much the one from high school. My best friend from college, I talk to maybe every two weeks; another from high school, every month or so; and another from high school who I was close to but wouldn't have called 'best friend,' nearly every day. We both lived in the same city a year ago and hung out a lot, so she became more primary in my life.

The one from college I have known for 6 years (I'm 24, we met as freshman); the one from middle/high school, about 13 years.

3) Nope, no idea. I don't have a very active social life where I live, but it has picked up a bit lately, so probably going out at least one night to an ex-pat party or bar. The people I hang out with (when I do) are just people I drink with sometimes, and I find a relationship based just on that to be pretty unsatisfying.
posted by queens86 at 1:33 PM on June 7, 2011

1) I have been a part of groups like this, but am not currently. In my case, all of those groups were the result of shared educational experiences, so I had a tight group in college (we all lived together until we didn't anymore, but stayed close), another in grad school part 1, and another that consisted entirely of people who'd gone to my college but then ended up in the same city while i was doing grad school part 1. the third group had some overlap with both of the other groups, and mostly consisted of couples. i'm currently in grad school part 2, and haven't found a group like that, but i know some people in my program have. i'm hoping it'll happen eventually, but have found some individuals with whom i can form more one-on-one style friendships, so i'm not holding my breath. One of the things most of these small groups had in common was that we all liked to cook and eat, so we'd have get-togethers, usually at someone's house, that centered around those activities: barbecues, potluck brunches that lasted all day, and, briefly, a series of "shabbat dinners" in which one of the group tried to teach the rest of us about judaism.

2) there are several people who i'll refer to as "my best friend," probably one for each place i've lived, though perhaps more for places i've lived a long time. i think they've each thought of me as their best friend during the period when we lived in the same place, and some of them still do. for me, the best friendships don't require talking all that often, but are more about how we feel about each other when we do talk or see each other. I just flew across the country mostly to visit one of my best friends who was going through a tough breakup, and though I hadn't seen him in six months and we don't talk on the phone all that often, we still love each other like crazy. I miss him already.

3) i have no idea what i'm doing this weekend, but i do have dinner plans tomorrow. i find it's often the case that i have plans on weeknights but not weekends, and i'm not sure why this is-- some sense that weekends are saved for SOs or parties, perhaps.

4) my sense is that mass cultural portrayals of this kind of friend group contribute to a lot of generalized anxiety about how to break into these groups and how to become best friends with someone-- in my case i think my tendency to make weeknight plans probably has something to do with an unacknowledged (& silly!) sense that other people already have weekend plans, so i'll try to hang out with them on a less "important" night. then, because i operate that way, they assume i'm doing so because i have weekend plans, and we end up in that pattern, and maybe we're both hanging out with our cats on friday, but nobody will ever know. even if that's not the case, it's likely that if you're trying to break into a friend group and they have plans already, inviting one of them out on a friday wouldn't be a faux pas; they'd just ask you to join the plans they already have. so, um, call the people you want to make plans with this weekend? it is hard, but probably a good idea.
posted by dizziest at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2011

I have a group who lives near me of about 6-8 people (depending if I count spouses) who I could absolutely count on in an emergency and who tend to all hand out together. Those I would consider the closest. Then I have a few secondary circles of friends who largely branch off this group in various ways who I see frequently enough. I guess the main difference is with the first group we could just sit around in sweatpants watching TV together and it would be fine but with the extended group we tend to get together to Do Things of Common Interest. That group numbers about 30-40 total (just based on who I invited out for birthday drinks this year).

Additionally, I have friends who are very close who don't live here whom I make a point of maintaining a relationship with (it just requires a bit more work and a few plane tickets). This group includes my two best friends (we are now, oddly, all 8-hours apart timezone-wise) - we used to all live here but now they've moved away. And I have a few other "international" friends who are very close (e.g. I could absolutely sleep on their couches when I'm out their way no questions asked). As for my best friends, I don't necessarily think I am their absolute best friend as they both have sisters but we are very very close and they know I consider them my best friends. These friendships go back 15 and 10 years. With them both gone I know there's at least one person who will probably be "promoted" so I have a "bestie" in town.

I'm not sure what I'm doing this weekend yet - I have some possible plans but nothing firm yet (there's a newish guy around so things tend to be a little flexible right now). I do have plans with most of my friends at some point this month. Sometimes it's really busy friends-times; otherwise it isn't. It varies but if I wanted to go out I could always find someone to go out or hang out with. I like being alone though quite a bit. Sometimes I do actually look through my address book and think that I haven't seen X person in some time and email them to say so and I miss them and can we catch up next week.

Making friends as an adult is hard. I started out with just a few, but the circles grow and I try new activities and make friends from those. Sometimes, frankly, it's just plain strategic: if I start a new activity I try to make one new friend from it. I mean, as an actual goal. I think it's good to think about it that way (and then it's just the awkwardness of HOW you do it) and having new people around is always good. Sometimes those people are just my friend only but other times they've become integrated into the group, though that usually takes a few years.

One thing I will say about my group of friends, which I think other people have also said: it makes a difference that I seem to be friends with people who don't have, or don't want to have, kids. That isn't to say that none of them do, but those that do obviously spend their time with their families more than with the rest of us (though we try to make a point not to lose it entirely) or in some cases have little child-friendly-tribes of their own which makes perfect sense.
posted by marylynn at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2011

1) I am a member of a number of small groups of friends! I think the TV trope is valid up to a point—a group of between 4 and 10 friends always seems to arise in a given situation, but I don't think it's to be expected that a particular group be your ONLY group of friends.

I have a group of between 4 and 10 friends for a bunch of different areas of life, defined by how we met and what we do together. A few examples:
  • Whenever we are in that town, me, my s.o., and two or three other old friends from high school go out to eat and go see movies together.
  • I have remained close with 3 roommates from a particular year in college, and we regularly post updates for each other on facebook.
  • In my current town, I have a group of friends from graduate school. The 4 of us and our significant others get together in various combinations to have dinner, go to movies, play rock band, etc.
I expect that each person in these groups of friends belongs to a number of other groups as well.

2) My best friend is my significant other. He also considers me his best friend, although he also has a more traditional "best non-romantic friend," while I don't have any other friend who stands above the rest in that way. My significant other and I have known each other for about 10 years.

3) Yes.
posted by audacity at 3:13 PM on June 7, 2011

Kind of an interesting question, and one that I've also been thinking about more frequently lately. If you're looking for ideas, there's lots of good suggestions above (I highly recommend Meetup, volunteer events, couchsurfing - anywhere you're likely to see the same group of people on a regular basis).

As for the questions:

1) At the moment, sort of. I moved to my current city about a year ago - seems like I've made a number of friends here since then, but they generally move around in different social circles. One is made up of co-workers (we're all the same age and moved here around the same time), plus there are a couple of other groups that I managed to integrate myself into, mostly through Meetups. I also recently kind of fell into another social circle not too long ago (roommates/friends of someone I met at a cookout a few weeks ago) - I've only hung out with them a few times but we seem to get along really well.

2) Not really a "best" friend, although I think I've had a few particularly close friendships over these past couple of years. How close they are seems to vary - however most seem to have waned with time for various reasons.

3) I'm probably meeting up with one of my Meetup groups for happy hour Thursday night, and I think I might be getting together with a couple of other people I know on Friday night. Besides that, this is looking to be a pretty quiet weekend for me.
posted by photo guy at 3:51 PM on June 7, 2011

I know what I'm doing this weekend! Only because I've developed a routine over the last few years. I try to do laundry and cook my lunch for the week on the weekends. Sundays I go to ballet class, then go visit my niece. Sometimes I'll do stuff with people, I don't know.

In general, my close friends include a friend whom I've known since I was 16, but not from high school. She was way better at keeping in touch. We're not in the same city anymore :( but we keep in touch through email. She met another friend in grad school out west, who moved here, whom I've become good friends with. The first friend became friends in undergrad with two other people (who may have known each other already - not sure) and when the grad school friend moved here, we all started hanging out. So really, the friends that I have are because of the first friend I mentioned! :D (She's really good at making friends, because she values friendships. She has a BFF where she lives now.) The two uni friends - one is still here and one's working overseas. We used to get together more often in the day (when we were all in the same city) - go to a local eatery and shoot the breeze. Now that the two of them are out of the country, the remaining 3 of us don't get together as much. One of them I see fairly regularly, along with her partner (I worked with him in the same building for a year, we'd eat lunch together often which was fun, I consider him a friend).

I have a friend from undergrad that I'd consider a good friend who I see fairly regularly. She had a partner for a few years that I also became good friends with, but she is so busy that I barely ever see her. I also had another friend I knew in high school, but we became better friends in our twenties, had a mild break a few years ago. We're not really friends anymore, but we've kept in touch. I have another friend from high school - she was two years ahead of me, went to the same uni, and became better connected after that (I was actually on a board and she applied for a job at the organization, so had to interview her!), but I don't spend a ton of time with her even though I think she's cool and like her. I have three more high school friends - lost touch over the years, reconnected a few years ago but they're hard to get a hold of and can be flaky over email. One also works overseas right now.

And finally, another friend from uni - he moved overseas after one year (very sad!), we were very close, lost touch, I found him again through his blog and we keep in touch over email. This friend came the closest to being a BFF but we're in different places with our attitudes towards life. I still want to keep in touch with him though.

I have a couple of work friends from a couple of years ago - but it's SO hard to coordinate our schedules. We get together a few times a year.

So I didn't have anyone that I spent time with on a regular, frequent basis - spent lots of time with myself, which I was used to, but then I got bored. So I did online dating and found my partner and it's been a year and now I have someone that I want to spend time with on a frequent basis, and who feels the same way about me. I felt like I couldn't do that with friends - people are just so busy with their partners and lives and families that the way for me to have regular company was in a partner situation. And he's a good friend. I like him!

Things I do with friends are go out to eat and talk. With two of my high school friends, we may see a ballet performance together since we're into ballet. (Though I started doing ballet much later than they did.)

You can have close friends that you barely ever see due to life situations. It just depends on the relationship. But it sounds like you're looking for people to do stuff with, given that you say you don't know what you're doing this weekend. Are *you* making plans to do something with someone this weekend? You could!
posted by foxjacket at 4:00 PM on June 7, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

No. I'm not been a member of a small group of friends, and when I *do* become a member of small group of people, it's not for very long. I mean, jeez, doing the same thing over and over again? Boring. The same group of people tend to get stuck in a rut rather quickly. Plus, I and my friends move around too much to stick to one group of people.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

There are one or two friends I have whom I've kept for dozens of dozens of years, even with the thousands of miles between us. But a best friend? I suppose that depends on what you consider a "best" friend. I consider these guys my best friends because they've been my friends the longest and that takes some doing in my circles of life.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

This weekend? I haven't planned that far ahead yet. I do have a new boyfriend, but he's sick right now so I may or may not be going to his place. I may or may not be spending the weekend with a friend of mine watching movies, or I may or may not spend the weekend sewing. Or, I could be tutoring someone. Most of my weekends look like that on a Tuesday...

The thing is, I'm a loner by nature so not being involved in a "close circle of friends" really doesn't mean that much to me. It used to make me feel all depressed and stuff because I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I understand that there's nothing wrong with me, I just don't need those things that TV and society says I do.
posted by patheral at 4:47 PM on June 7, 2011

I'm a member of a medium-sized, medium-closeness circle of friends. There are about 25 of us, most of whom met early in college. There are various configurations of closeness (and indifference, and angst) within the group. I'd estimate 5 are like idealized siblings, 10 are like cousins, and 10 are like distant cousins. The group has existed for...getting near 10 years, egad, though at this point the smaller configurations, and unrelated friends, are more primary in my life than the group as a whole, and I think that's true for most of us. Most of us also have social circles separate from this group. Sitcom friend groups are how they are because they're convenient for a half-hour weekly time slot, not because they're based in reality.

I also have two best friends (who are not friends with each other). Both call me a best friend. One is a former classmate and roommate, part of the aforementioned group, so we're going on ten years, though we have lost touch for stretches of time and we currently see each other maybe once or twice a month. The other is a former coworker, not part of the group; we've known each other for a couple of years and currently see each other roughly once a week. He's the only person I've gotten very close to since college...I've found it quite difficult to get to know people since then.

Your last question sounds like you want to know how people make plans with their friends. I tend to have some specific plans that were made a week or month or so in advance, along with some more casual "hey, let's get together" plans that get figured out day-before or day-of. And then I'm married, so some time gets set aside to be alone with my husband. He also does a lot of the social planning. This weekend, I'll spend Friday night with one best friend and his social circle; this was planned a couple of weeks ago. I'll spend Saturday night at a birthday party that the other best friend is hosting for one of the other people in our big group, which I learned about this morning. The rest of the weekend is split between work, husband, and a personal hobby.
posted by orangejenny at 6:01 PM on June 7, 2011

1) I feel like throughout my life I've vacillated between being part of a core group of friends and finding myself a satellite member of various groups. It seems to me that it's a "grass is greener" thing because when I am a satellite I wish I had a group to hang out with regularly and when I am part of one close group I want to see some other people. Right now I am more satellite-like—there is a group I hang out with in my city when we're all free but they are not my closest friends, really. They are mostly friends of my high school friend's friend she met studying abroad (if that's not too convoluted for ya), as well as some of my college friends that are in our city, who I introduced to those folks.

2) I have a few people I'd call my best friends. (Got called out by a coworker on this because "best means only one!") Mostly people I've met in college. One in particular, but she lives across the country from me and is a flake about picking up the phone and I only see her a couple times a year, if that. There is something about her that goes "best" to me, though.

3) Now that I have a boyfriend I spend most weekends with him. Sometimes we hang out with other friends too; usually either someone is having a party or organizing an event, or I just email a couple of friends and ask if they want to have dinner or something. This weekend I am extra-full of plans since I am seeing two of my best college friends (including the one above) who are in town. Exciting!
posted by mlle valentine at 6:58 PM on June 7, 2011

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

Nope. I am a member of a large circle of friends, some of whom I know well and value a lot, and some of whom are only casual acquaintances. It's structured a bit oddly, I think-- there aren't exactly an Inner Circle and an Outer Circle, just stronger and weaker ties between individuals. I've known a few of the people in the group for some years, having met them in the town we all used to live in. But they moved out here before me, and found other people, and now I know the other people too. It's all pretty nebulous, but that is not unpleasant. I'm an introvert and need a lot of Alone Time, so the sitcom-style friendship model wouldn't work out so well for me anyway.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

Not really, I suppose. I have in the past, but my oldest friend lives across the country from me, and another former reeeally close friend also lives some hours away, and things have changed a lot in our lives. I have close friends, including my husband. And if one were compelled to choose, I guess he would be my BFF. But there's no one I would refer to as such. (There's a more convenient handle for my husband, after all.)

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

This weekend I have my Volunteer Thing I Do on Sunday. I will no doubt do something with my charming husband on Saturday, possibly other friends as well. And I have been roped into attending a bellydance class with a couple of friends tomorrow. Social things happen pretty regularly, and I don't usually worry too much about planning in advance. Indeed, my husband just dropped by to say that he is going grocery shopping with a friend of ours right now, and she might come over afterward to cook dinner with us, and so I must go and clean the house in preparation.

I'm quite happy with our scattered Tribe. But then, I was happy in my past social situations too, when I would sometimes have one or two close friends and a small number of acquaintances, or my social circle would narrow to include mostly a significant other for a while. Like I said, I'm an introvert. As long as I have people, they don't have to be around all the time. That's what my cats and snakes are for. The only time past high school I've been especially unhappy with my social circumstances was when I lived in a trailer in the desert with a crazy person, a thousand miles from anyone I knew and loved. And then my oldest friend swooped in with a rented car and got me out of that.

Wow, now I feel really lucky. And considering I was having a particularly mopey day, I rather needed that. Thanks!
posted by Because at 7:26 PM on June 7, 2011

These questions are fun to answer. I haven't really thought about my social life in such a coherent way for a while, although I do think about "being more social" frequently.

1) Are you a member of a small circle of friends? What are they like? How did you meet? What do you do together?

I'm in a D&D group and an ESL club, but both of these groups meet at most once a week, and neither of these groups are TV-sitcom close. I think this is normal. If you don't hang out with some sort of group on at least a monthly basis you are in trouble. But having a real close circle of friends is also rare. Anyway, that's my real life.

In my Internet life I'm part of a circle of 20-40 friends on an IRC channel. Because it's IRC I've been talking to them constantly pretty much every day, at work and at home, since early 2004. I have a horrible time remembering the details of people's lives, but through banal repetition, I now know all these people quite well.

2) Do you have a best friend? Does he or she consider you his or her best friend? How long have you known him or her?

I talk to a guy on IM every day. He's also on MeFi. We hung out in college for less than a year, our lives are completely different, I think it's been 2 years since I last saw him in person, but I still talk to him every day. I think he thinks I'm his best friend, too. I have known him for 5 years.

I had no best friend from kindergarten until college.

3) Do you know who you will be hanging out with this weekend (or the next time you will have significant free time)?

On Saturday, I'll be going to a concert with a lady from the ESL club and a coworker who seems to like me. On Sunday I'll watch an awful Z-movie with my IRC friends, a tradition we've carried on every damn week for about two years now.
posted by shii at 10:39 PM on June 7, 2011

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