Intimate friendships between single women are often the primary relationships in their lives, and in fact there is a historic precedent for these bonds being as strong as a romantic partnership. But what happens when the single ladies start pairing off? I interviewed novelist Elliot Holt about how her friendships have changed over the years in All The Single Ladies.
Elliott Holt is a novelist who lives in Washington, D.C.; she has two sisters, went to an all-girls school, and describes herself as one of those women whose most intimate relationships have been with other women. When she was in her twenties, she recalled to me, she and her friends often saw each other several times a week; they hung out and talked deep into the night. By the time they were in their thirties, some of her closest compatriots had begun to peel off into couples, saving to buy apartments and have children; they stopped going out as much. Now that she’s forty, and nearly all of her closest girlfriends have partners and children, she said, she is lucky to catch up with them every three or four months. “I feel completely out of sync with my peers,” Elliott said, “And I love them so much!”
As the only single woman in her social circle, Elliott said, “I always joke that I feel like a foreign exchange student: I do speak the language: I have nieces; I’ve been in people’s weddings! But I’m kind of shut out.” Her married friends used to invite her to social events but, eventually, she said, the invitations dwindled. She assumes that this is because her friends realized that all they talked about were kids and husbands and houses, and that they didn’t want to subject her to it. But what they don’t understand, she thinks, “is that I’m trying to figure out where the community is where I do belong. It’s tricky to confess you’re not sure where you fit without sounding like you’re whining about not having a partner.”
Elliott recently spoke to an ex-boyfriend who told her that she needed to make friends who were in their twenties or their seventies. And she’s tried. On a work visit to New York she met a group of young women who invited her out with them. She had a nice time, until, she recalled, “at eleven-thirty, they said they were going to head somewhere else and I had the sense that the night was just starting, and was going to end at two in the morning.” Elliott felt the decade and a half that separated them keenly. “I was born when Nixon was president,” she said. “And they’d go out and take smoke breaks and I thought, ‘Oh my god, you guys smoke! My friends all quit at twenty-nine!’ I had a drink and a half, but I was tired and out of sorts.” Elliott went home.