I was a Girl Scout for a couple years in elementary school. Whether it’s middle age or I’ve just blocked it out, I don’t remember a lot from my younger years. But, I do remember Girl Scouts. I have fond memories of taking the pledge, selling cookies, going to camp and, my favorite, singing songs. But, one song sticks out above all the rest. It goes like this:
Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.
A circle is round, it has no end
That’s how long I want to be your friend.
Here is my hand, and here is my other
Let’s put them together, and we have each other.
That was it. Song sang. “Silver” friendship made. It all seemed so simple back then. Whether it was or it wasn’t. It sure doesn’t seem so simple now. Thankfully, eventually, silver turns to gold. I have a handful of “gold” friends. Ones that I carry in my heart every day. Most of these friends seem more like family than friends. I have a lot invested in gold. But, these days I find my cherished gold scattered across the country. That doesn’t make those friendships less golden, just more challenging to connect face to face with regularly.
Which brings us to silver. Why is silver so hard all of a sudden? For me, I think it’s because most of our gold friendships were established before a lot of our major responsibilities came into the picture. We have so much on our plates these days it’s hard to find time for it all. Now, as we get older and meet new women, we mostly talk about who is going to be snack mom next week or what we do for a living.
I’m sure most of us have been there or some place similar. A nice woman approaches you, pointing at the soccer field, and asks, “Which one is yours?”. That starts a long conversation about what schools your kids go to, growth spurts, how to get grass stains out of white shorts and the best pediatricians in the area. You walk away thankful for the lovely exchange, but in reality no real personal connection was actually made. It was all about your kids.
The same thing with the introductory, “What do/does you/your husband/wife do for a living?”. It’s a very common ice-breaker question. This might start a nice 10-15 minute conversation about your respective careers, where you walk away thinking that you know that person a little bit better. But do you? Now you know what they do for a living, but not necessarily who they are as a person. This is what I would call “networking” not friendship building.
I think that is why as we get older most of our silver friends are more casual acquaintances. Like “Jill, from the office”, “Susie, Jimmy’s mom”, or “Betty, from the gym”. We have to attach where they are from behind their name because they aren’t a part of our real lives. Just maybe a part of a small portion of our lives. So, the real trick is figuring out how to make “Judy, from MOPS”, just “Judy”. How do you escalate your relationship from an acquaintance into a piece of silver.This is where your local Girlfriends group step in. As members we are able to create and attend events that fit our personal hobbies or interests, and in doing so, meet people who enjoy the same things–or are looking to try new things! We meet people not as anyone’s mother, wife or possible networking connection, but as ourselves. No titles or explanations behind a name. It’s amazing how nice it feels to introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Allie”, and not immediately feel pressure to say, “Jaxon’s mom”, or “Richard’s wife”. It’s just Allie, and the best part is, that’s enough.
Recently, I have met so many women whose paths I would never have crossed organically. Women with whom I might initially seem to have little in common. This past year I have highly invested in silver. I recommend giving it a try because now I can say that I’m rich in both gold AND silver, and I couldn’t be happier helping others achieve the same.
Allie Stark is a wife, mother, co-founder of The Girlfriend Connection, and, now, an occasional blogger.