Between the advent of the social network and the rise of the cell phone, I can keep in contact with pretty much everyone from my past and present as often as I like. My generation is proving that you can go home again—as long as you’ve got a laptop and a wireless network in the vicinity.
So here’s what women in their 20s want — an ever-growing, constantly evolving community. We’re in that odd stage in our lives between being part of the nuclear family with which we grew up, and starting a family of our own. We’re as single and independent as it gets. The second thing we want might be the ability to support ourselves with our first real jobs. But a job, even a great job, is only what we do; the community with which we surround ourselves is an extension of who we are.
Here’s the thing. We may have created a virtual community of friends that follows us wherever we go, but it doesn’t make up for the few precious ones that we see in real life. At this crossroads in our lives, we’re building our own families of sorts. Boyfriends and girlfriends and partners and the odd accidental spouse may come and go, but our friends become more than friends. They become an extension of our biological siblings and parents who may live hundreds, even 3000 miles away, as mine do. They become our emergency contacts. They are the people who pick us up late at night when the subway is closed. The people with whom we celebrate Thanksgiving when we can’t fly back to our childhood homes. The people we read the paper with on Sunday mornings and bitch about our bosses to. The people we collapse on the couch with at the end of a long workday. They are the people who we never pay back, the people with whom we fight and bicker and make up with like sisters. The people to whom we’ve long ago stopped saying “thank you” because we both know we mean it every day.
As we grow and change, our friends grow and change with us, as we all begin to edge toward the next phase of our lives. And trust me—the hum of a warm laptop on your thighs doesn’t hold a candle to the warmth of a friend who laughs and cries with you and makes really good mimosas.
This is what we want.
A recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., Claire Morgenstern enjoys strong coffee, green apples, and writing about things that matter. She blogs at www.clairemorgenstern.com.