Anyone Over 40 Can Agree with Reese Witherspoon’s No-Nonsense Friendship Advice

Preach, girlfriend

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At a conference in Boston hosted by Hubspot over the weekend, Reese Witherspoon, 47, took the stage to talk about friendship—mainly, the importance of cultivating an inner circle as we age (gracefully).

When prompted by a question about how she fits friendship into her busy life, she explained that it’s simple. “Editing. Edit your friendships,” Witherspoon replied.

She went on, “Everybody out there over 40 knows. If you aren’t adding to my life, get the heck outta my life. My grandma used to say people are radiators or drains. Stick with the radiators.”

Credit to Witherspoon, who I already adore for many reasons—her movies, her clothing line, her general joie de vivre based on Instagram—but as a 41-year-old Brooklyn-based working mama with a plethora of hobbies to boot, this sage friendship wisdom unlocked something inside of me. It sounds silly, but it made me feel free.

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Here’s why: For one thing, it’s empowering! The pressure to maintain female friendships is something that can often feel wrapped up in guilt, like a checklist you need to tend to. If you don’t schedule that phone date or make good on that quarterly power walk, you’re a failure and a let-down to yourself, but also your pal.

Speaking from my own experience, I often lambast my lack of calendar availability when it comes to friendship maintenance. But this is where Witherspoon’s grandma’s advice comes in: Deep down, we know who we want to prioritize. Given I’m in my forties now, I think I’m adult enough to officially lean into that truth.

Allow me to editorialize on behalf of Witherspoon for a minute. I’m confident that she’s not suggesting we edit our friendships as a mean girl move. It’s more, if the work to get together feels hard, it’s OK to let it go while still being grateful for what it was. In a lot of ways, the pandemic is something that forced that reality for so many of us. I’m so much more aware of my time, the friendships I’ve kept despite it all and who I show up for and who shows up for me over and over again, near or far. Those people define my inner circle. They’re my radiators, so to speak.

But that’s also kind of the beauty of all this—and speaks to the release I felt upon hearing Witherspoon’s advice. Yes, meeting new friends takes work (between 30 and 300 hours to reach best friend status, per The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships), but getting constructively selective about the friendships you choose to keep opens you up to so much possibility. It also measures the quality of the relationship, not the quantity of time you spend together.

Maybe your deepest friendship is primarily text-based, maybe another is with someone you only get to see once a year when the stars align. Maybe another is more casual: Someone you’ve connected with on the walk to and from school drop-off and pick-up. Bottom line: These are the friendships that add joy and value to your life. They’re worth it, even on the busiest days.

As for the others? A reminder that your inner circle should make you feel whole when things feel hard. Give yourself permission to make like Witherspoon and honor them, but also to let them fade.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...