“With little cultural celebration or even recognition, friendships have emerged as the essential twenty-first-century relationship. They are, as Liz Spencer and Ray Pahl said in the subtitle of their book, Rethinking Friendship, our Hidden Solidarities Today.”
That’s what I said, not that long ago, when I published How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. (See the longer excerpt at the end of this post for an explanation of why friendship is the key relationship of our time.) Now, just a few years later, things are changing in heartening ways. Friendship is starting to get the recognition and celebration it deserves.
You can see it in popular culture, in the themes of the latest movies and TV shows. In memoirs and personal essays, grown-ups are pouring out their hearts in tribute to their friends. Or they are sharing the scorching pain of losing a friend. Social scientists haven’t quite caught up; if you skim the titles of scholarly papers about friendship, you might think that friends are just for kids, and scholars of adult relationships still focus overwhelmingly on romantic relationships. But even some of them are starting to see the light.