I’m sorry that so many of your “friends” have turned out to be not very good friends. I can relate…but in a different way. I now have several best friends, women I know I can count on, who are always in my corner, who I know love me as much as I love them. But it took me many years to get here.

How did I do it? The same way you screen any relationship: practicing radical honesty and taking no shit. Seriously. If I hit it off with someone, I’ll try to be as honest (but still compassionate and respectful) as I can be. I strive to be my authentic self. If they don’t like it, they’ll leave. No time wasted.

I also take no shit. So, for example, if a new friend says or does something that hurts me or feels fake, I’ll point it out. Kindly, but clearly. Their response is important. Did she apologize and stop doing/saying that? Or did she get all defensive and try to put the blame on me? Only one of those is going to get you the ticket into my friend zone. The other gets you relegated to Facebook acquaintance, at most.

And I pay attention to red flags. Does this person actually seem to care about me? Or do they only talk about themselves and their problems/passions/drama? Do they make an effort to reach out to me, spend time with me, pay attention to me? I’ll give people a few chances at this — I know sometimes people can be in a hard spot temporarily, and life can sometimes throw you for a loop. But if I start to see a pattern where I’m the one expected to do all the work, listening, etc., well, bye. I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to be someone else’s emotional vomit bag.

But that said, you (both) have to put in the work. That means taking time to spend together. Sometimes we literally have to get out our calendars and schedule “dates.” Sometimes, as we can, we reach out spontaneously, with the knowledge that the other person might not be able to make it (especially the moms). But simply the thought, the offer, knowing that your friend is thinking of you and wants to spend time with you, can show that you care. It’s a LOT like dating.

I’m not saying all this to preach at you. I’m just saying, I’m 46 — this ain’t my first rodeo, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.

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