Since moving to Los Angeles last year for graduate school at USC, I’ve had to make some hard sacrifices. At the time, one of them was staying focused on doing the work and building up my professional name in this fickle and uncompromising city. With a year and a half under my belt in my new city, I feel more stable and confident, allowing me to focus more of my energy on becoming social and making quality girlfriends. If I’m genuinely going to be in my Girlfriends era and embody a mixture of Joan Carol Clayton and Toni Childs, I need a solid and supportive girl squad around me. However, Los Angeles can be isolating due to its vast landscape and siloed communities and industries; many other Americans find themselves alone.
A 2023 report, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” found that about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also highlighted the three vital components of social connection; the extent to which an individual is socially connected depends on multiple factors, including the following:
Structure: The number and variety of relationships and frequency of interactions. Some examples are household size, friend circle size, and marital/partnership status.
Function: The degree to which relationships serve various needs. Some examples are emotional support, mentorship, and support in a crisis.
Quality: The positive and negative aspects of relationships and interactions. Some examples are relationship satisfaction, strain, social inclusion, or exclusion.
The report also pointed out that social connection or social disconnection indicators shouldn’t be considered dichotomous (e.g., someone is lonely or they’re not) but should be considered on a spectrum, as social relationships are dynamic. The amount and quality of social connection in our lives ebbs and flows due to illness, moves, job transitions, and countless other life events, as well as changes in one’s community and society, can all impact social connectedness in one direction or another. It’s also important to consider how long we may stay on one end of the continuum. There are also transient feelings of loneliness that may be less problematic or even adaptive because the distressing feeling motivates us to reconnect socially. Temporary experiences of solitude may help us manage social demands, but chronic loneliness (even if someone is not isolated) and isolation (even if someone is not lonely) represent a significant health concern. Researchers made sure to warn us that the physical consequences of poor connection can be devastating not only to your mental health but your physical well-being too, as researchers noted a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults, all due to having porous friendships and relationships.
I knew I had to switch up my approach to being social. I decided to accept more event invitations from press reps, go out for causal drinks with acquaintances, and even do the unthinkable: attend Beyonce’s RENAISSANCE Los Angeles concert at SoFi stadium alone. But I’m glad I did because I was able to meet a new girlfriend at the concert. She’s a fashion stylist and a fiery Leo (like me).
We met organically because we were doing a dance and sing-off in the isle at SoFi to Beyonce’s many hits after hitting it off so seamlessly at the concert. We decided to exchange numbers and vow to hang out in a more intimate setting. At first, I had doubts because Los Angeles social culture can be inconsistent, but to my surprise, she took it upon herself to plan our meet-cute date and make reservations ahead of time. For those who don’t know, a meet-cute is an assuming or charming first encounter between two people that leads to a romantic relationship. Although our date was platonic and not romantic, it felt like a first date. Hear me out: I was nervous about the location, anxious about how I would act and be perceived during our time out, and if we’d click without Beyonce’s blaring “Crazy In Love” playing in the background.
However, the meet-cute went great! We went to 1010 Wines in Inglewood, an adorable boutique wine bar, and we stayed there for about three hours, talking, and laughing.
The entire experience reminded me of the power of intentional sisterhood, connection, and vulnerability. Our meet-cute date also showed me the importance of carefully treating your platonic relationships to continue building more profound and intimate connections.