what the market will bear: the long game of female friendships


Hedge Fund (n): a limited partnership of investors that uses high-risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains.

How much risk are you willing to bear? Are you able to lay your hand on the table fully aware of the gamble you’re taking, cognizant of the fact that it is possible to leave with less than with what you started? Are you willing to engage in arbitrage — exploit your opponents when they’re at their weakest? Will your investors provide shelter through the most ferocious of storms, or will they find safe harbor, taking comfort in their abandonment while bearing witness to your public ruin? Are you comfortable in identifying that which is worthless and using that “junk” to yield financial gain? Can you build a life trading security? Can you weather what the market will bear? Are you comfortable calculating your worth based on what you’ve acquired and own? Will your partners stand beside you until the inevitable end?

When I was in college I became enamored with finance and its gameplay. The idea that a whole industry was devoted to partnership and risk appealed to me because the fundamental elements of finance reflected innate behaviors in human nature. We “short” friendships; we invest in that which is profitable and we fervently need to believe that we will come up solvent and prosperous in the end. We tether ourselves to the notion that if we make sound investments and take calculated risks, we’ll enjoy the inevitable returns. However, what happens when the market takes a fall that you hadn’t expected? What happens when your partner doesn’t hold up their end of the deal (think pyramid schemes, sociopathic traders and hedge fund charlatans), and you’re left in shambles, forced out of retirement or struggling to make ends meet? What happens when you play your boldest hand to then lose everything?

What happens when you arrive in the middle of your life with so much less than what you started with?

Lately, I find myself drawing correlations between playing the market and the ways in which we cleave to, and disconnect from, people. I find myself frustrated in friendship investments that consistently yield disappointing returns, friends who haven’t performed, risks that don’t fall in my favor.When it comes to relationships, I’ve placed equal, if not more, weight on my female friendships, echoing Rebecca Traister’s sentiment:

For many women, friends are our primary partners through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses. Even for women who do marry, this is true at the beginning of our adult lives, and at the end — after divorce or the death of a spouse. — “What Women Find in Friends They May Not Get From Love”

In my twenties, I was thick in the business of accumulation — I wanted to know all of the people, all of the time. I had no strategy; I just wanted the masses. Most of my college friends left New York so I found myself cozying up to coworkers, neighbors, and fellow graduate students. I operated a high-volume business, ushering in a revolving door of female friends and acquaintances while trying to figure out my identity as an independent adult woman. I figured that I’d winnow down over time; I thought I would slowly build my tribe. I didn’t count on feeling depleted and stretched too thin as a result of investing in too many people instead of creating a thoughtful portfolio. I ended up with a phonebook filled with people who were willing to uncork the champagne when times were flush but couldn’t be counted on during the moments when I wallowed my way down a bottle of red wine. I woke at 30 feeling as if I knew a lot of people but didn’t really know anyone.

At the same time, something else shifted — we grew up. Everyone was getting married and busied themselves in the business of procreation. Suddenly, we couldn’t roll into work hungover because we couldn’t hide in our cubicles. We had accountability and responsibility. Our devices multiplied while our attention dwindled. We were everywhere but not present. Friend dates turned into CIA logistical operations with multiple calendars being juggled and people prioritized. No longer was I a player in the open market — I had to go private. I was forced to be surgical and strategic in focusing on the quality of my friendships and how/to whom I would allocate my time, which seemed to be dwindling with the passing of each day.

There is no time, became everyone’s anthem, always.

In my 30s, I was myopic when it came to female friendships. I devoted myself wholly to a small group of women who were brilliant, funny, ambitious, and kind. Most were married, few were single, and I tacitly accepted the fact that casual connections gave way to scheduled friend time.People became comfortable announcing that they could see me because their significant other had other plans for the evening, i.e. you’re my backup plan since my husband isn’t available. I accepted that the word “I” would be replaced with the word “we”, and that affinities, hobbies, and passions became a collective, coupled sport. I accepted that the only people with whom I could talk about being single were other single friends because most of my married friends had developed amnesia about what it was like to be uncoupled. I accepted, with chagrin, the emergence of the “single girl dinner” as a cute trope when it’s my everyday reality. I accepted that I’d been deprioritized — that I was the hobby, “fun-time” for my coupled friends. Briallen Hopper eloquently writes:

“Because single women often put friendship at the center of our lives, it can be hard for us to be friends with people who see friendship as peripheral, as many partnered people do. A close friend once told me that her priorities were her kid, her partner, her work, her friends, in that order, like suits in a deck of cards. In her life, a kid thing would always trump a partner thing; a work thing would always trump a friend thing. This was the best way she knew of trying to impose some order on life’s complexity, but to me it seemed like a terribly reductive way to think about human relationships — plus, it was no fun to know that I would always be the lowest priority in her life. Our friendship didn’t last.” — “Relying on a Friendship in World Made for Couples”

I accepted that I’d see some of my close friends less and less because they opted to befriend other mothers — complements to the lives and the struggles they endured, others who “understood” where they were at a specific time in their lives. Still, I invested heavily. I nurtured a married friend through her bought with depression and her desire to divorce the man she’d just married. I took the late-night calls and the last-minute lunches from friends who needed me. I was the wall that would never crumble; I was the friend everyone could count on.

Until I could count on no one. This became the moment when it registered that my decade-long fund — replete with the strategy and risks I was willing to bear — was underperforming.

This year is the worst I’ve ever known. I’m enduring immeasurable loss and intense sadness. My financial security remains uncertain, at best. And the people I believed I could count on became demonstrably silent. They were “busy”. They didn’t know “how to handle it”. They swooped in for a series of caring texts to then disappear for months at a time. Even when I made it clear that I didn’t need a therapist, that my expectations were minimal, the years I spent being patient and devoted haven’t been reciprocated. Everyone is quick to “like” my minor triumphs and “heart” my Instagram photos — passive interaction has become the default setting, the status quo. When I announced to one of my closest friends I was moving to Los Angeles, she ceased all communication. We’d been friends for nearly a decade and suddenly I was speaking to a ghost. I sent pleas via email, text and post and silence. When I sent an email to another close friend pleading for work because I was frightened of losing my apartment and defaulting on my loans, two weeks later I received the equivalent of a form letter response. I never expected to be saved or delivered a kingdom. I never anticipated that my friends would swoop in and solve my life because I’m an adult and that responsibility rests solely on my shoulders, but it would’ve been nice to have my friends shoulder me through the dark places I once carried them through. It would’ve been comforting to feel that the risks I so assiduously born would have been shared by others — even for a little while. It would have been wonderful to feel less alone.

Here I was, spending a decade avoiding risk, leveraging my heart in my portfolio, and laying all of my cards on the table only to come out empty. Only to feel that my years of investing wasn’t worth it at all. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe those years spent being a good friend without expecting anything in return to find I never received anything in return was a hand folded, a return I should’ve accepted. Maybe laying my heart on the table wasn’t the wisest hand I could’ve played, but I can’t help but think that I spent my adult life constructing the safest portfolio to discover that not everyone lingers for the long game, that as you grow older your world becomes too small for anyone to fit. And who expected this when you believed that friendship was the one partnership that didn’t need regulating? That those moments spent in the dark with the friends you loved would be forgotten, discarded, left for a savored, sweet memory? I spent years studying derivatives, all of the ways in which one could mitigate risk, and here I was, at 40, and completely alone. Bankrupt. A slew of bad investments lay before me.

When does it happen? How does one regard the love between two friends as a garment worth shedding? How do you tell someone that you love them but that love has been deprioritized? How do you handle learning that you’re a junk bond? A short-term investment folded for the long family game? How do you gracefully accept that no one will follow you gallantly into the dark when you were happy to serve as everyone’s usher?

I thought I was wise. I spent a decade building a tribe to find that tribe never existed. What happens then? What happens when you’re 40 and alone and all of your friends are toasting their own lives, shouldering their own sorrows? What becomes of you then? How do you move on?

What happens when you wake one morning and find the market shifting below your feet? How do you rebuild after the market you spent your life investing in collapses?

Photo Credit: Helen Sotiriadis

111 thoughts on “what the market will bear: the long game of female friendships

  1. Instead of calling yourself a “woman” you should call yourself a ” human” .
    When you are a child you don’t clearly find any difference between males and females .This inferiority complex builds up once you start gathering some knowledge about your gender and you get confused about who should be your friends and whom should you give permission to peep into your personal life or whom should you help or whom can you expect to be there when you feel the need to fill in that void created in your life. You came alone in this world so you have to deal it all by yourself. Relationships and friendships are bull shit emotions that we humans have created out of fear and physical needs but we try to hide these two things and get trapped in sorrows, loneliness and depression

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have written so beautifully, I went through an illness with memory issues and lost friends over days and years, some of which passed away and I didnt even know. But now that I am healing I have made friends who existed before but all new to me still, they have helped me overcome obstacles and improve myself! I also have two great friends who have made me become what I am today. Invest your time with people who care about you 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. My darling as I sit sipping my afternoon tea, I am in tears for you! I too felt a part of the Junk Bonds in life. This is the most beautiful, connected writing I have laid eyes on today. It is refreshing to know someone else is living a parallel life to mine. I feel every ounce of your pain, know this “We are better than what which, we receive!” friends, lovers they come and go, but we can make our mark on humanity and keep giving, that my dear is what will remain when we are gone… “Legacy” Forever, departed this cruelty of life, planted in the ground where we will return from which we came.

    Never stop being “You” you have a beautiful soul. Again thank you for the beautiful connective writing !! May God Bless u and your continued talent in verse and sharing with others 🙂 Chin up!!!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. It is definitely difficult to build those deep friendships in this hectic, frantic world where everyone is running around doing something. For me, finding new goals that I am passionate about that bring new people and inspiration into my life helps..life is definitely not perfect, though! The main thing is to know that you are going to get through this and then proceed to do what it takes to do so..

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, Over the years I was challenged with connecting and keeping true friendship. My husband says i’m gullible. I like to believe I have faith in a relationship until the other reveals a personality that isn’t conducive to a healthy relationship. I agree with the above post that I have found happiness in a small tribe of friends putting my focus on their friendships. My devotion and trust has lead to a deep relationship where I am comfortable sharing that I love them. I wish you time and healing as you move forth with wisdom.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I have always nurtured a few special friendships rather than have many less meaningful ones. It has served me well…as those few have stuck by me through the years, through good and bad. Many friends come and go but the true core friendships are for life. I have never enjoyed big social events nor having too many friends. As you move forward, as you will of course, consider investing and nurturing a few select relationships. Thank you for an interesting well written piece.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Sorry you’ve had such loss. That’s rough and made worse by feeling abandoned by friends. I urge you to hang in there. There ARE worthy friends & tribe’s out there.

    My totally unsolicited advice aside, this is one of the most insightful and spot-on blogs I’ve read in a long, long time. You nailed something that I’ve never put into words. Well written & smart.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This is what I love to see that there are still people like you in the world that appreciate friendships and know how precious they are & one day you can wake up and they could be gone, that’s why you should always appreciate the true friends you have , people usually want to have more friends than true friends and it’s so sad but I guess you learn that way. It’s important to appreciate the ones truly there for you I’ve had the worst year of my life and if it wasn’t for my bestfriend/ other half I wouldn’t have gotten through it !

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Being in my 40’s and spending a lifetime of investing in everyone, family and friends…and wondering where they all have gone….I just choose to be grateful to have known..grateful for all the connections…even the ones that abruptly left….the heartbreaks…impermanence….
    Your post was beautifully written….life is beautiful when u choose to gratitude….here I am alone….still grateful…

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Wonderfully written. I am nearing sixty and am what “they” refer to as an “empty nester.” With that, comes a shift in friends as well. Conversations about dogs and grandkids (which I don’t have) bore me to tears. I am continuing to meet new people with more similar interests to my own and drop those friends that are no longer relevant in my life. The tribe continually changes……

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What a beautifully written post, especially the last few paragraphs. So relatable, especially in today’s day and age of couples. I’m sorry about your decades old friend, and how things ended. There are good tribes out there and I hope you find yours.


  11. I just discovered your blog and this post is excellent. I love your financial comparisons. Reading about your twenties and the going out, social friendships to the thirties and watching ALL of your friends partner reminds me of myself. The word “disheartening” is not big enough to capture the feelings of hurt or disappointment when invested friendships dissolve. I’ve occasionally been more despondent about ending friendships than romantic pursuits. Thank you for this excellent post. I’m excited to follow your blog. I hope things have improved since this was originally posted.


  12. Wow! I found your blog post at the EXACT moment I needed it! We may not know each other, but your heartfelt writing helped me get over a rough friendship spot that I truly do not understand!


  13. Great writing, thanks. Would very much like to hear you develop the idea of loss as a part of friendship; not as a good thing, but as a human reality. Is pain as real and as meaningful for us as pleasure?


  14. I too feel and question the types of relationships I once held dear. It pains me to shed the friends I have invested in for so long, but I’m starting to learn, I too am an investment and if no one is investing in me, then that relationship is put on hold, or worse, terminated. Great piece.


  15. Finance and meaningful relationships are 2 topics close to my heart. Very well said. I am in my thirties and my life too, has panned out similarly. That is more of the reason why I spend more time on Worpress than fb now because I’m tired of passive convenient communication. One thing that helps me through is to give people the same priority they give me. I know how important I am to them from how they keep their commitments with me and how much focused attention they give me. I am Ok with meeting a friend once a year with minimum planning than making fake plans that fall through because they’re ‘too tired’ for a plan they made. I pay close attention to this. Another thing is to not ‘need’ anyone. I can utilize help from friends very well but with a little more work, I can do without it. I bought several single show tickets for myself this year and enjoyed these shows. I travel solo too. I have friends in Japan and Brazil I never thought I’d have. It may sound harsh and rude, but I ghost friends, reply late on purpose, not give them my prime time or stop initiating plans with friends who don’t deliver in terms of making me feel good or making an effort to have my back. I have blocked childhood and college friends too. Best decision ever. I let go of people who put me in their B-list. I claimed so much time back, I can blog, make new friends and give more to my career 😉


  16. I know too well what it feels like being the one investing in a friendship without any response. I’m considered their wall as well. They text me when they have problems in relationship or need somebody to tell them they did the right thing. I used to invest every little bit of my energy for other people and it was bad. I’m sorry you went through that. If you ever need somebody to talk to – I’m here and I’m great at listening. x Ny


  17. Sometimes it feels like people these days do not value friendships as much. They just rely on themselves and their immediate family. Maybe the “ROI” is just too unpredictable for people to care. I don’t know but I’m always looking good, close friends.


  18. I’ll try to see a bright side in this. One of the good things is that you still left something in lives of those friends who you could not count on later. Yes, you had been left behind, but you gave something wonderful to them. You gave them your understanding of the friendship. They probably didn’t get it in that moment, but they will definitely get it later. You changed their lives in the way that they don’t see, but you do. It is not just about us – what we have got from friendships. It is also about what you gave and what impact you left in person’s heart. I loved your post. Such a beautiful writing!


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