The Language of Friendship is an idea my friend Julia and I cooked up to explore the concept of friendship together. We have been in each other’s lives for so long that we can hardly remember a time when we didn’t know each other. We simply can’t imagine what life would be like for us if we didn’t have each other. We have grown up together, raised families together; played sports together, taken walks together; studied together, worked together; traveled together, watched each other settle down. You get the idea.
It’s no accident that our friendship has only gotten stronger over the many years since we first met, probably back in seventh grade at Beaumont Junior High in Lexington, Kentucky. Even though we are middle-aged moms now with extremely busy lives in cities located more than 1,000 miles away from each other, our bond remains rock solid. We are both so grateful to have each other in our lives that we decided to team up and tell our story. While we’re at it, we also plan to dive into the research on friendship to encourage and inspire ourselves and the people around us to make sure we are putting our friends, along with our families, at the center of our lives. Scientific research makes a strong case that our health and well-being depend on us doing just that.
So how have we remained so close, despite the distance and all these years? And why did we want to do this?
The answers are not simple. Life has a way of unfolding itself in unexpected ways, and our life’s paths have been criss-crossing since the 1980s. Our friendship story always seems to surprise people. We decided to do this project because we are both curious people with active minds who like to learn about people and write about what we’ve learned.
Along with her experience growing up smack in the middle as child #3 of five siblings, Julia has been studying consumer behavior professionally throughout her career as a branding and marketing expert. I have been researching, interviewing and writing about people and events throughout my career as a journalist and writer. During the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Julia and I found ourselves hunkering down in similar ways. We happened to be collaborating on a project advising a nonprofit. As that work began to wind down, we found ourselves feeling a bit sad. We knew we liked putting our heads together, so we began brainstorming interesting ways to keep our collaboration going. Joining together our interests around the topic of friendship just seemed to make sense.
We began feverishly reading books about friendship, loneliness and connection. It struck us that there might be a place for us to join this conversation. We are still figuring out what form that will take, but we are starting with this website and blog, and we will see where that takes us.
One of the biggest challenges we ran into in getting started was coming up with a name that captured what we’re trying to accomplish. After testing out a few ideas, we came up with the Language of Friendship owing to Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote: “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”
Most people recognize the strong bond that exists between siblings, who share DNA as well as critical life experiences, but what Julia and I have come to recognize about a close long-term friendship like ours is just what Thoreau describes. We understand each other’s thoughts and actions—or “meanings”—without having to explain ourselves to each other, and that allows us to be there for each other in incredibly powerful and rewarding ways. Having a friendship like this is truly one of life’s most enriching gifts.
As we dive further into the research on friendship, we are learning that the gifts from friendship not only act as nourishment for our souls, but they also extend deeply into our mental and physical well-being. Nonetheless, as we scoured the shelves at bookstores and on Amazon, we noticed the glaring lack of a publishing industry standard category for books about friendship. Books on this topic tend to fall into the broader category of Relationships, which breaks out into a bunch of subcategories, but mostly around Romantic and Family relationships. We were certainly confused about why Friendship is not important enough to have its own category. Certainly, this is a type of relationship that anyone can participate in at any life stage with crucial implications for mental and physical well-being. We came away thinking there is more work to be done here, so we decided to get started exploring the concept in our own way. Mostly, that will involve storytelling, book reviews, interviews and maybe a few more surpises along the way.
We hope you will join our journey. Do you have a friendship story you’d like to share?