Midlife woman

Cleaning Out Friends in Midlife

I turned 62 this week, marking a midlife milestone and one year since I became a blogger and took The Hot (as in hot flash) Goddess public.

An early search for an outfit I wanted to wear for an evening of birthday and blog celebrating turned into an unplanned stretch of closet cleaning. I didn’t find the clothing I was looking for (turns out I gave it away during an earlier cleaning-out session before I sold my house), but it was a useful chore as I prepare to move to Portugal later this year. I added more things to my giveaway pile, and took silly selfies posing in various old garments and a wig I unboxed.

At the same time this closet editing was going on, I was proofing and finalizing my scheduled blog posts, including this week’s made-up word post featuring my word for the loss of interest in a friendship. I started thinking about how friends and friendships change in midlife, and how people — like outfits — can lose their appeal…their usefulness…their fit in our lives as we age. Sometimes, we reach a point in midlife where we need to clean out friends the way we clean out clothes that no longer suit us.

That sounds cold, I know, but I think it’s part of living an authentic life.

What is a Friend, Really?

I have never been one to use the word “friend” lightly IRL. I have friendly acquaintances I like and socialize with, but a friend is someone I not only do things with but also know and trust and confide in. I don’t have many of those.

Four close friends, including my two best friends, have died. Two other women friends have also died since the beginning of the pandemic. The loss of all these women, some closer to me than my own family, is immeasurable. I talked to my best friends every day. Talked…not texted or emailed. There is no one — no one — I talk to every day now. My life without these women in it changed profoundly, and will never be the same again. Those pieces of clothing I’m holding on to each have these women woven into their stories. I cherish that. I won’t make friends like that again now, in midlife. It’s too hard. I’m too old. I don’t know how. I wrote here about being a bad friend in midlife.

Sometimes, we reach a point in midlife where we need to clean out friends the way we clean out clothes that no longer suit us.

The Hot Goddess

True Friends

I am fortunate to have good friends living here and in other states. Two close childhood friends are among the only six still-living friends I have locally. We don’t talk daily or even weekly. We text. We might get together two or three times a month at most.

Friendships change and can be neglected in midlife.

Source: Fuckologyofficial

Two more dear and longtime friends, one of whom I consider to be another best friend, live a couple of hours away in my state. Two additional longtime friends live in other states. That’s only 10 total remaining friends. I’m not counting friendly acquaintances, virtual friends I’ve never met in person from blogging/social media communities, friendly former coworkers, friendly former classmates, or spouses/SOs of friends. Ten living friends. Six dead friends. More than a third of my “real” friends are no longer living. They were removed from my Friend Closet — my collection of cherished friends — involuntarily.

Former Friends

There are also a few friends I lost touch with after they moved out of state. I’m getting older and friends are dying while others are drying up. No falling out or disagreements. Just a gradual waning of contact and interest. I’m just as much to blame as they are. Frindifference is real and can clean out a Friend Closet before you know it.

Former romantic partners who slide into the friend zone can then slide into frindifference territory. You still like and care about each other as people, and have good intentions when you declare yourselves “friends” after ending your romantic relationship. But really, it’s often more about what you think the label says about you (“good person”) than it is about a true commitment to forging an authentic friendship with an ex. After a while, these artificial friendships just naturally fade away and any remnants may finally need to be swept out of the Friend Closet. Not always, though. Sometimes they are authentic friendships that become long-lasting treasures.

Platonic love

Fake Friends

A close friend, for me, is rare. Trust is rare. Loyalty is rare.

Like many women, I’ve had my share of “frenemies.” In language learning, False Amigos — false friends — is what false cognates are called. Cognates are words in one language that look and mean the same as words in another language. “Special” in English and “especial” in Portuguese, for example. “Preservativos” is a false cognate or false friend. It looks like the English word “preservatives” but it is Portuguese for “condoms.” False friends can get you into trouble by tricking you. I have no space for them in midlife and cleaned them out of my Friend Closet years ago.

Friends with benefits” is another fake friendship category in my book. Trickery may not be involved, but neither is true friendship as far as I’m concerned. The benefit of these “friendships” is unpaid sex. Free booty without having to pay a male or female “escort,” and often without having to pay for a hotel room. These arrangements can be very enjoyable and effective fillers during dry spells or bouts of boredom. FWB connections often are made online, and typically do not include any romance. There are no flowers or cards. There are no shared activities, or doing anything together other than free sex. That’s not a friend. It may be fun, easy, and satisfying, but it’s not a friendship and doesn’t go in my Friend Closet.

Making New Friends in Midlife

My Friend Closet, like my clothes closet, is small and looks different in midlife than it did in earlier years. It’s been harder to add new friends. Perhaps because I’m more selective as I’ve grown more self-aware and confident. But mostly because I just don’t put myself out there.

Like most February Aquarians, I’m outwardly friendly, engaging, and extroverted while my inner true self is something else. I’m outgoing and make friendly acquaintances easily, but it can take me years to be truly open and vulnerable with someone. And even when I reach that point there will still be periods when I retreat and need to distance myself. I’ve always been this way.

100 percent

Source: Amethystogether

But now, as a 62-year-old woman, being this way adds another layer of difficulty at a point in life that’s already made meeting people and forming and nurturing friendships more difficult. For me, a not-shy introvert, this will be especially challenging when I move to a foreign country in the fall.

I realize this is an awkward and superficial metaphor. Friends and clothing in a closet. Collections of people and garments. They are not both material things, of course. But both can be timeless and lasting with proper care and attention. Both can be fleeting fads that don’t stand the test of time, or simply cease to fit as we change. Both are a trove of stories and memories. And both are cleaned out, sometimes involuntarily, as we age.

What about you? How have your friendships changed in midlife? Other than the virtual connections made here in the blogging community, how do you find making new friends in midlife?


Happy Friday! Today is National Drink Wine Day in the US. As if we needed a special day. May your weekend find you toasting a special friendship or sharing a favorite bottle with friends.

This is also how I do bourbon tours.

Source: The New Yorker

All images are my own.

The Hot Goddess

Instagram: retired_rewired_inspired


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47 comments

  1. You might be surprised, but I find this to be a beautiful post. As I read it, I could feel the impact of the loss you have experienced. You clearly care deeply for those that are your true friends. I appreciate your comparison of friends and closets …. and I agree … sometimes they both need cleaning out. I get it. I call myself a social introvert (like you – introverted but not shy) and completely understand how hard it can be to truly connect and be vulnerable in mid life – well anytime for me! I’ve found that I connect better in organized groups like the two “small groups” I am currently involved in. The connections may not be talk every week deep, but I am becoming more open and vulnerable with them. Anyway, you are awesome and I know that the people in Portugal will be drawn to you! BTW, love the wig and the outfits – you were totally “rockin” them! Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Leigh💜! The idea of organized small groups sounds appealing as a place to start meeting and connecting with new friends, and will be one of the first things I do when I move overseas. I appreciate your support!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. When it comes to friends, it has always been quality over quantity. Partly because I am a huge introvert who likes my own company. I can probably count my true friends on one hand, and most of them chose me as I have never been good at making friends my entire life. Some of us don’t get together often but these friends have been constant and that’s what’s important to me. I also agree with your meme about having to make appointments to see friends. There is no spontaneity anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great thoughts! I was writing in my journal about friendships the other day. I’m feeling a shift in this season of life away from a lot of things—organized religion is one—which carries with it some friendships.

    I’ve made some good friendly acquaintances through meetup and I have a few girlfriends that I consider sisters. What I was ruminating on is that I am an introvert (Leo—told all the time I’m not a typical Leo. INFJ is my MBTI), and kind of mostly ok on my own. I tend not to reach out to people, but I recognize that it is an area where I need to make improvements.

    I want to be choosy about who I reach out to. Much to think about here. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all… I love you dearly. Unconditionally. For forever. As I read this blog, you bought up many valid points about friendship. True friendship, noted as someone you trust and confide in. For me, I believe its more. True friendship for me is defined as someone who just “gives a shit”. You can call me just to ask how Im doing one time in 3 months, and just the sentiment of thinking about me enough to call, I naively, label as someone who is an awesome friend. A best friend, is someone like you Hot Goddess. Perhaps my best friend bar is damn near to the ground, yet I dont care. Life for me has been void of acknowledgement due to so many traumatic experiences over a span of 50 years. Some of that inflicted by my own thoughts and actions. A best friend for me is someone who offers a room in their home so I can be closer to my doctors appointment, drops me off and picks me up. Its someone who encourages me to go for walks and makes me laugh when I forget that life can be fun. Its someone who seems to never give up on me no matter how much I recoil into my safespace, that space that keeps me alone and by myself, when I shouldn’t be. That person is the person thats encourages me to live a full life, take crazy photos, talk about absolutely anything we want, without limits. A best friend for me is someone who “sees” me without judgement. Someone I tell exactly what I’m thinking with ease. I look to have those qualities, that I see in you, to reciprocate them daily. I too have never been too good at making friends, let alone keeping them. Interestingly enough our first “best friends” are our siblings. How those relationships cultivate and thrive, I believe has a lot to do with the foundation of how we see ourselves as a friend. Perhaps that explains a little bit about me and the friendships I have had a hard time cultivating over the years. Yet you know what…….its a new day. Each day is a new start of reshaping and rethinking how to be great! Because of you and this blog… I vow to be a better friend. To give others flowers before they’re gone, to communicate my love and admiration for those in my life now…TODAY! So here’s to you Hot Goddess…you are one of my best friends. You fulfill all that I could ask for from a “bosom buddy”. I love you more that I could ever express and you have taught me how to get out and live my life, by your example. How could I ever repay you for that!?!? Sharing your life with me and others is what amazing people do, and YOU are AMAZING. I’m fortunate to read your blog and be a part of your life. Thank you for your vulnerability and baring it all. You touch the lives of many. You have surely touched mine in the best possible way, and I thank you. I love you my BB…always.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such a good post, and pulled at my heartstrings the entire time. It’s just so true, and I feel so sad that you’ve lost so many dear friends. It’s like you work hard to be healthy your whole life so you can then outlive everyone and be alone?! That’s my reward?! I agree that friendships built over years are irreplaceable. Although I would also like to think, for both you and me, that there are still new friendships to be forged. They may not ever replace those lost. But might be just what we need. Also, you’re so lucky to have had such amazing friendships like that, I need more of that! I have a few and really rely on them, so yes, it’s scary to think about losing them. I think Portugal is going to bring so many new adventures and relationships, and there’s a reason why your heart is being pulled there! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You can’t. Making new friends in mid-life is fraught with all the detour signs we inherited from life.

    Eyes wide open… no friends. Fully blinded… plenty of “friends”.

    I don’t know. I ask myself at this time of my life, am I really looking for friends?

    I am still trying to figure out if friends is a substitute for something else that I need. The answer may be right of front of my eyeballs. I admit I’m “half” looking.

    Do I need new friends? It is hard to find them and keep them. I think in the scheme of things, they truly are not meant to last forever in our lives. Even if we want them to, the universe sees that they depart from our lives at the appointed time.

    Sadly, the pool of friends our own age is shrinking.

    Unfortunately, the clothes have no such benefactor. Some of them must go. Having that choice, we must put them out of their misery!

    By the way, you look goodt!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so sorry to read about the loss of such good friends. Friends are hard to make – good friends, friends that are keepers even as we all grow and evolve as human beings. Luckily you only really need one or two of these, to get through this life. I have more than one, and my oldest one is a friend I made in Grade 2!!!
    I think I am weird in that I have made a fair number of good friends through blogging…virtual friendships that have become real life friendships. My daughter was complaining about how hard it is to find real, true friends as an adult. I think she might have better luck if she starts a blog, seriously!
    Great post, Goddess! I hope you have not thrown out those clothes. They are gorgeous and you look amazing in them.

    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for this, WB💜. I am fortunate to have a dear and cherished friend from kindergarten! I’m very grateful. You are right about the blogging community too, though I haven’t met anyone in person yet. Glad to have “met” you here.😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I…LOVED…THIS and have shared it all over IG (and already gotten affirmations). The friend closet is an appropriate metaphor, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one clearing out my closets as of late.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow – this is a rich post! Happy birthday, blog anniversary! Your outfits look so great and I love that those pieces have your dear friends woven into them.

    You do such a good job of illuminating the different categories of friendship, a word that describes too many things. I once met a guy who repeatedly said, “I have a friend who does x” and “Another friend that is x” and I thought he had a lot of friends – turns out they were just people he met.

    May we all be blessed with those deep friends with whom we can empty out our pockets and still believe we are worth something. I’m sorry for the loss of your dear friends and thank you for sharing this journey with your virtual friends. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. There are always true and fake friends in one’s life. Sorry for your loss of your friends, Natalie, but it happens, particularly during this pandemic period. Your post is quite relatable, but I feel that childhood friends prove to be real friends, if they remain in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. First off the black jacket photo…🤤Smokin’🔥
    as for friends…my 12 years younger wife is my closest friend, second would be a female pastor friend who I primarily email communicate with, 3rd My Brother and lastly a good friend currently serving time for stalking of all things. As for making friends…i have a lot of close acquaintances here at WordPress and a handful of offline friends up in age mid 60’s-early 70’s (whom I rarely see).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You’re an air sign, along with Libra and Gemini. 😃

    This was a wonderful post in many ways and I’m similar as you except less extroverted.

    Btw you look fabulous in all of those outfits. 🥰

    I’ve been meaning to revisit the friend thing myself as I’m noticing how friendship is never static and constantly evolving. Thinking… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Natalie, not only does your Cleaning Out post have adorable photos of you – you have motivated me to do a clothes purge. I am so sorry to read about your losses. 💔 Hugs to you. Have a wonderful weekend. 🌞🌇

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Those closet finds pictures are fantastic!
    I’m not 62 and I felt like I could identify with this. This is poignantly, beautifully written. It is hard to find real friends as one gets older, and very easy to lose friends, whether because it’s time to clean out due to friend-indifference/frenemies, etc. or sadly due to natural causes (I lost a dear friend to suicide a few years ago). This is a very relatable and thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This spoke volumes to me and I bet we could chat forever and just find an understanding with a nod and no words needed. Like you I have never taken the term friend lightly and I’m always all in. I don’t know how to be fake or just remember you when I need something. I have gotten hurt many times by so-called friends and I often wished I had someone to steal horses with. Someone to talk to, to confide, to share, to laugh and to cry while leaning on each other. It’s not happening and you are right, while I do want it, it’s not so easy in midlife and I am turning 59 in July. Happy belated birthday btw. You look gorgeous, inside and out and you have gained a new follower with me on Instagram. Wildchoicez 😘💙

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this!💜 I share your wish too. I’m grateful for the people in my life who care about me, yet miss the sister-friends who are no longer here. It is a struggle at this age. All we can do is try to stay open, and I’m working on the vulnerability piece.
      I love your About page on your website😍. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for the IG follow. So glad to connect here and there!

      Like

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