Groups of lady friends have always intimidated me. In college, my coffee shop co-workers nicknamed me “Blonde Daria”, and they weren’t the first to notice a similarity between me and my animated monotone doppelgänger. I’ve always had female friends, but we’ve never traveled in a giggly herd through malls, or clubs, or wherever else it is that ladies gather. On one hand, I’m in my mid-30’s and don’t have smile lines. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll see a group of chipper female friends and feel jealous of the ease with which they relate to one another.

When I first met my girlfriend, she was part of a fun and lovely group of female friends who all lived in the same general part of LA. By the time we moved in together, those friends had scattered to the winds, making homes in other states or countries. “I have no friends”, my girlfriend would say, and I’d remind her that wasn’t true. But I did feel an absence in our lives.

A year ago, we promised each other we’d make some new friends. We brainstormed places to meet people we might like and we agreed it sounded like work, but would be worth the trouble. And then life took over and we didn’t do the things we said we would, but something cool happened, too — our lives started to swell with friendship anyway.

We started planning day trips with a friend who shares our curiosity for strange man-made landmarks. We drove out to the Salton Sea and wandered around Salvation Mountain. We hiked into the Santa Monica Mountains and took pictures at an abandoned camp. And we all got to know each other better.

My cousin put together an article club for a group of five ladies, and since February we’ve met monthly to chat about articles that have covered everything from cults and a couple living like Victorians, to changing gender roles and curbing consumerism. I feel a lightness of spirit after our meetings unlike anything I’ve felt before.

One of the article club members is a college friend of mine, and often on club nights her husband and my girlfriend hang out together. Earlier this summer, all four of us went away for a weekend. It was relaxing and easy, and a fun thing I pictured myself doing as a younger woman, but never managed to pull off until now.

We also spent a weekend away with my college roommate and her new husband. My old roommate and I hadn’t spent that kind of time together in a decade, and it was a joy to reconnect with each other and have our partners become part of the mix.

Another cousin of mine moved to LA, bringing a charming husband and adorable baby daughter with her. I hadn’t had an actual conversation with that cousin in probably twenty years, but her family came to our engagement picnic and she bought me cupcakes on my birthday.

I didn’t have to become a different kind of woman for these relationships to bloom, I just had to open myself up and make more of an effort to see people. It happened so gradually, I didn’t notice my life was changing, but getting married has shone a spotlight on the ways in which my community has grown.

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to the first (and hopefully last) prospective caterer tasting and I left feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I was filled with delicious tacos, but also questions about busboys and hors d’oevres and is it essential to have a bartender.

As my girlfriend drove us home on a long dark highway, I was quiet. She patted my hand and told me to try not to worry, that we would figure it out. She’s right and I’m already less anxious today, because I ran a bunch of questions by one of my lady friends this morning, and she suggested the perfect wording for a wedding-related email I need to send. I’m having tea with two other friends on Saturday, both of them are married and I’m percolating a list of questions for them.

This probably sounds strange, but I’ve spent most of my life wondering what friends are for — I’m starting to figure it out. And just in time, too.

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