What do Bad Blood-era Taylor Swift, The Real Housewives (of any city) and the synchronized sorority sisters of the University of Texas at Austin’s Alpha Delta Pi have in common? They all belong to a squad, a crew, a posse, a tribe. They roll deep. And as I approach 40, I think I’m finally ready to admit that I don’t, to embrace the possibility that I never will and to own that as a choice.
Before we start brainstorming centerpieces for my pity party, I wish to clarify: I have friends (I swear). Cherished, lifelong ones. More recent bonds forged in the trenches of preschool drop-off, fired by the kiln of toddlers with separation anxiety. New yet promising one-sided girl crushes, and cross-country connections that date back decades to my days as a magazine assistant, when no dream was too lofty, no tube top too tight. Some of these relationships are sustained by nothing more than biannual text banter that makes me laugh at my phone while standing alone in line at Stop & Shop.
I adore these individuals, but I continue to seek community. Even recently, I’ve had lightning-in-a-bottle moments when I’ve suddenly found myself simpatico with an entire dinner table full of women (usually we’re all yelling about breastfeeding; it’s glorious). I’m so grateful when that happens. Still, it’s the exception, not the rule.
The reality is, my friends barely know each other. On the rare occasion that they cross-pollinate (say, at my wedding or my kid’s birthday party), I find myself awkwardly overcompensating for their stranger-hood. I overdo it on the introductions, trying too hard to fit together the independent puzzle pieces of my fragmented social life, flailing like George Costanza as my worlds collide. Pop culture only magnifies this insecurity. From Sex and the City to Girls to Bad Moms to Girls Trip to Bridesmaids to those relentless traveling pants, my lack of a sisterhood is reflected back at me as a loss—an indication that I must somehow be lacking. I have #squadgoals but no squad. I am always the guest but rarely the bridesmaid. I get sweaty thinking about who I’d invite to a hypothetical Friendsgiving. And how am I even supposed to feel about Jennifer Aniston’s annual trip to Cabo?