When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she's thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs--in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there's no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She'll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.
In her thought-provoking, uproarious memoir, Bertsche blends the story of her girl-dates (whom she meets everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites) with the latest social research to examine how difficult--and hilariously awkward--it is to make new friends as an adult. In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life is, you've gotta have friends.
In this sweet memoir, New Yorker Bertsche tells of moving to Chicago in 2007 to be with her future husband and leaving behind her closest childhood friends. In her new city, the 20-something author had just one friend, and most significantly, no gal pal to share in the milestone of her first wedding dress fitting. So begins her quest to go on 52 "dates" in the coming year to try to create for herself in Chicago what she had: to find "a Kate to my Allie. Blair to my Serena." The philosophy she learns along the way is twofold. First, say yes to everything. In socially shy Bertsche's case, this means taking a huge step outside the familiar and calling on buddies to set her up, finagling invites to book clubs, renting friends (literally), and chatting up random people. The second part is that to grow the friendships, she can't rely on anyone else to reach out to her and has to do all of the follow-up, at least initially. What she gets, in addition to a social network, is a shifting understanding of what she needs from friendships and a recognition of some of her flaws. This allows her to be a better friend and more appreciative of time alone and with her spouse. Bertsche's pursuit is grounded in what most everyone is looking for--more fulfilling relationships and a sense of belonging--and she bravely provides some of the tools, including openness, persistence, and self-awareness, needed to attain these rewards. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/12/2011
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December 20, 2011
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Excerpt from MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
FRIEND-DATE 1. As I approach the restaurant, there's a girl down the block walking in my direction. I squint to make her out through the January flurries. Average height, brown hair, peacoat. An everygirl. That's got to be her. When I enter Market, the new bar next door to my office, I do a quick once-over of the area near the hostess. Empty. The peacoat girl was definitely Hannah. She'll walk in the door in about 20 seconds. 19. 18_._._._My head starts spinning. When she gets here, do we hug? Or handshake? Hug is a little familiar for someone I've only met over email. But a handshake is pretty formal for potential buddies meeting for a drink. We did exchange "I feel like I know you already!" emails. And when you know someone, you hug them, right? 11. 10. 9_._._._I don't want to be overzealous in my hugging though. Definitely don't want to be that girl. What if I lean in for an embrace as she sticks out her hand for the shake? We'll end up in one of those one-arm-around-each-other half-hugs. That already happened to me once this week, with a colleague. Yikes.
She's here. We make eye contact. "Rachel?" "Hannah?" She goes right in for the hug. I reciprocate. Flawlessly, I might add. There's no sign I spent the last half-minute rehearsing this in my mind.
Let's back up. My inaugural girl-date and I exchanged our first email two months ago. She came to me via my best friend Sara. Actually, we should back up a bit further. Five years, to be exact.
After I graduated college, I moved home to New York and Matt moved to Philadelphia for law school. About a month into his Villanova stint, he broke up with me. I know now this is the natural course of events for post-grad long-distance relationships. Most of the women I know who married their college sweethearts went through the same thing. But at the time, I was devastated. I was quite sure Matt was out of my life forever and I was furious with myself for wasting years on him. I was lonely and frustrated and decided I needed a new social outlet to distract me. I started a book club.
I invited my other best friend, Callie, and Callie invited her cousin, Lauren. Then each of us invited two more people. The only requirement was that we bring in ladies the others didn't know. The idea was that if we were strangers, we wouldn't let gossip distract us from the book discussions. For three years, nine of us met every month. Over time, girls moved away and others were invited to replace them. Soon after I moved to Chicago, Hannah was called in as a relief book-clubber. After two years, and one bad breakup, she decided to leave Manhattan for Chicago, her hometown.