Single women in New York City are always busy. And they almost always seem to be in pairs. The younger ones are dating or meeting their friends for drink mostly unless they’re off to the gym or to run or bike or skate in Central Park. The older ones are meeting friends for dinner or movies or theater or are at a museum. They all shop, but that can be a solitary pursuit.
So, all this business gives the impression that New York women are both self-sufficient and socially fulfilled. Is this really true? If you eavesdrop a bit (a socially acceptable and extraordinarily satisfying perk of solo dining) you may hear a different story.
Two young women, overheard in a tony Pan-Asian place, were taking about the lack of friendships in their lives. Both were young enough to still be going back to the family home many weekends. They did this to spend time with their folks and just chill out a bit. Their high school friends? No longer interesting. Nothing in common any more. College friends? Seen only at yet another wedding. Both women concluded that if it weren’t for a very few close friends (who they never saw often enough) and work friends, they would have no one. Both women found this upsetting; neither had a good solution. Life, they felt, was just too busy to cultivate friends.
Fast forward about forty years to two other friends splitting an entree after a museum afternoon. They too were talking about a lack of friends. So many of their friends were homebound, caring for ailing spouses or parents. Some had moved away to warmer environments. Some were just too tired after work to go out again. Some were too financially strapped to manage as many nights out as they used to.
Is this a New York thing? Does it vary by neighborhood? Or is this what we’ve become? Articles abound on the aging of FaceBook. Tweeting has become the new conversation for many. Will our friendships become increasingly virtual?
There’s a sense of community on the express bus I often take into Manhattan. Some of the ladies are not only actively in conversation on their own bus, but on their phones to buddies on other buses. Some, early on the route, provide wake-up calls for others further down the run. These women dine together, go off to Atlantic City every so often, and share each other’s triumphs and sorrows.
The Transition Network started Peer Groups so that women over fifty could come together with their peers for monthly conversations about life transitions. These monthly meetings have become the lifeblood of the organization.
Maybe it’s time for us all to pay a little more attention to building community. Can we start speaking to our neighbors again? Volunteer someplace? Build new kinds of community? Don’t be lonely tonight!