Dear Clementine

Our columnist's advice for finding, keeping and loving your friends.

Dear Clementine,

I'm 34 years old and have never had a long-term best friend. I'm a very likeable person and enjoyable to be around, but I seem to lose touch with everyone I truly connect with. A few years ago, I became friends with someone that lives close to my neighborhood, and we were inseparable for two years. I befriended her kids and she befriended mine and our husbands loved each other so much that we embarked on a few family vacations together. On one of our vacations, she said something offensive to my husband, causing a rift between the two of them. It was small at first but eventually we stopped hanging out as a foursome (I still maintained a relationship with my girlfriend and her kids). But then this winter, I had a busy season with work (I'm a filmmaker) and was out of town traveling a lot for work. At first, I tried to keep in close contact on a long distance level, but it grew increasingly hard as my job duties became more demanding.

When I returned home from a long travel stretch this spring, my girlfriend was resentful and passive-aggressive, canceling any plans we'd make at the last minute and posting pictures of her "new friends" on social media outlets. My husband says I should forget about her and move on, but I'm 34 years old without a best friend. It's a horrible feeling, you know? At what point do you throw in the towel, and how do you know when it's time? And is there hope for me - a 34 year old with no best friend? Will I find a girlfriend to sip lemonade with on the back porch when we all retire?

Mid-Life & Friendless

Dear Friend,

The last person who told me she was likable and enjoyable to be around was my sister-in-law. And she is a jerk. So check yourself and make sure you're as wonderful as you think you are, okay? This is always good form.

You're asking me when it's time to throw in the towel? I say when it's wet and clammy and has stains on it that won't come out no matter how hard you try to get over them and when its Facebook updates make you want to punch someone and when it insults your dear, sweet husband. Then it's time.

I know you want a forever friend, if not two or three. I feel for you. But sometimes life fills you up in different ways. It sounds like you've a fantastic career and a lovely family, but all you see is what you're missing. Savor the sweetness instead of choking on the sour.

I want you to be choosier in your future friendships. I want you to recognize who's your friend and who is not. You'll know by the way you feel when you leave them; if you walk away feeling confident and content, that's a friend. Those who will someday turn into your tribe should want you to win, they should get a kick out of your kids even when they act like fools, they should be kind to your mate, and they should never make you feel less than stellar. Anything else…sucks.

And yet, here's my warning: Don't be too choosy. (I know, I know. But I trip when there's no balance.) In my experience, you won't find your people without trying to fall in friendship with all of the people.

The key to unbreakable friendships is not overfeeding them. Skinny, hungry friendships are the best. Holidays are just too much for most friendships; very few can last a week to ten days in close quarters without choking on dinner bills, overflowing with annoyance at each other's kids, and swallowing insults for cranky spouses who are beasts until their first cup of coffee. Or their second martini.

Vacations are for recharging. Getting distance from real life. Refilling your gasp tanks before jumping back into the average ordinary. Give your pals a chance to miss you. Give yourself the opportunity to miss them. You know what they say about absence...

And, whoa. I never try to turn my neighbors into my family. Never. It sounds like a wonderful idea to ombre those lines until the very minute everything gets blurry. When things go south, you don't want to be forced to move north. The accents just aren't as pretty up there.

This all sounds harder than it is. I met one of my lifelong best friends on the Metro after we smiled at each other and swapped magazines; she was a tiny little thing hauling around a September W and I was still committed to August's Vogue. A fair trade from the outset. Another best love and I met at a Pilates class, over sweat and a bit of groaning. We share one, maybe two interests, but that's more than enough. (Remember: skinny, hungry friendships are the best, and low expectations for people are usually always met!) I'm so scary-uncensored with them and they are the same with me, but it's the craziest thing that we never hang out together as couples. I am not interested in disturbing that.

I hope you read my first few lines of advice a few times over. And I hope those words don't hurt you, but make you a better friend. More so than that, a happier person. It all comes down to this: you get what you give.

That's the only way I live my days. (Also, when your best forever friend finally shows up, be sure to have the lemonade ready, okay? It's going to happen, and she's going to be just as thirsty for you as you will be for her. I promise.)


p.s. Are you looking for guidance in a particular area of your life? Email us your questions for Clementine - she's here to help!