I just returned home from a publicity trip in New York City last week where I zig-zagged across Manhattan pitching friendship stories to any magazine editor who would listen to me. Sex Still Sells. Even to Women.
Regardless of the fact that our circle of friends continues to rank as a bigger factor to our happiness and health than if we're married, or have kids-- you'd never know it by the headlines we seem drawn toward at the magazine rack. Put romance or parenting on the cover of a magazine and we seem compelled to buy it. We must know more! Mention our weight and you'd think there's a secret out there we haven't yet heard.
Compare how many sex headlines there are every month (I mean, seriously, how many more techniques or positions do we possibly need?) versus the number of titles inviting you into deeper friendships. You laugh. But, why? Why are we not drawn to headlines that would promote our sense of belonging?
Look at any women's news blog and there will be always be a tab for sex & love, usually one for family, and rarely one for friendships.
Friendship just isn't seen as urgent. Or as important.
In pitching my book proposal to publishing houses this fall, most of the rejections came in the form of "We already did a book on friendship a couple of years ago." As though, one every couple of years is all that is needed. Compare that to the seemingly hundreds of titles that come out every year to help you find and foster your perfect love. Availability is one thing, the other is that the titles that do make it into print don't seem to impress anyone with the sales numbers. (A depressing fact to sit with as I start writing my book!)
And what about diet books? I mean, we could fill half a bookstore with books on how to lose weight! Books that arguably are just different ways of saying the same thing: Eat healthy and exercise. How many more forests do we have to tear down before we realize that the weight of our country isn't decreasing with the purchasing of these titles?
Yet never a magazine goes to print without the word fat somewhere on the cover. That very word promises money.
Why Doesn't Friendship Sell?
On the one hand, I totally get it. My husband impacts my day-to-day life way more than any of my girlfriends. He is an incredibly important relationship for me to continue to invest in.
On the other hand, there's enough research out there that actually shows what sociologists have termed the "Marriage Benefit Imbalance." The concept that "We have to start with the cold, ugly fact that marriage does not benefit women as much as it benefits men," was made famous by Liz Gilbert in her book Committed. Yes, compared to single female counterparts, married women are more likely to suffer from depression, die younger, accumulate less wealth, earn reduced pay, experience more health problems and thrive less in their careers than those who are unmarried.
For the sake of argument, let's just assume that we decide those costs are still worth it to us to feel chosen, to go through life with someone, to be married. But wouldn't we then want to do everything we could to bring balance to that? Wouldn't we look around and say, "Okay, what is known to decrease stress, lower depression, increase joy, improve longevity, reduce disease and recovery time, and invite the most amount of joy and support into my life?"
Who doesn't want more of those things? And the research unequivocally continues to come out showcasing friendship as one of, if not the most significant factor to those things. There is no argument on this. It's not like coffee where some research says it's good for you and others say it's not. Across the board-- your sense of community, belonging, support, and participation in friendships is making a difference.
So someone tell me why this subject doesn't sell? I won't even ask that it sell more than romance. But why can't it be second to romance?
Why don't we pick up magazines that can teach us how to hold healthy expectations of friendships? That will explain the stages of friendship to us? Inspire us with the research that showcases the centrality of our support circle to our lives? That would encourage us, like they do with exercise, that the results take time and persistence, but are worth it in the long run?
What is your sense on this? Why don't friendship books sell the way romance, parenting, and health books sell?
- Is it because we intuitively think we know everything there is to know about friendship, not feeling the need for knowledge like we do in the other areas of our lives?
- Or is it that it doesn't matter what we know, perhaps we feel that friendship is something we can't control or change? As though friendship either happens to us or it doesn't, but either way, we don't need to be intentional?
- Or is it that we simply have all the friendships we need and want? Perhaps the research coming out that shows our depression increasing and our support circles shrinking really isn't capturing the fact that we're all surrounded by all the community we want? Perhaps you don't crave more than what you are experiencing?
- Or is it that we're so busy feeling bad about ourselves in all those other areas (romance, weight, parenting) that we simply don't have time to add guilt to one more life area? (If this were true it would infer that we don't see how friendships might actually improve all those other areas, making us feel more supported and healthy.)
- Or does friendship not sell because of the stigma we have around falsely linking "I need more friends" with "No one likes me, I'm loser." Do we think by admitting that we need friends that we're somehow worse than we thought? Are we not admitting the truth to ourselves that we actually can be amazing, and still be lonely?
- Or is it because fear sells and we haven't yet adequately convinced everyone of the real consequences of not developing meaningful friendships? Maybe it's like sleep deprivation... something we're so used to doing without that it doesn't really feel all that important?
I'd be so curious to know from a few of you what your read on this is? Why are these books not selling? What are the magazine editors not feeling the urgency to provide teaching and inspiration on this subject? Why is this not a major sense of need in your life or the women around you? Or, conversely, because my readers are those who have decided it's important in their lives (how lucky I am to have found you!) -- what was it that finally made the difference for you?
Give me your wisdom. Or at least your best guess! :)