DEAR ABBY: I would like to tell "Friend-Challenged in Glendale, Calif." (Aug. 2) that I have been in her shoes. She needs to make her desire for friendship known to others.
For years I had a pleasant life as a wife, mother and teacher with many colleagues and acquaintances through church and other interest groups. But inside I was desperately lonely for female friendship. No one ever truly "connected" beyond the surface level.
One afternoon I was walking with a colleague and she asked, philosophically, "What do you really need in your life?" I burst into tears and answered, "I need a friend!" We hugged and cried together, and from that moment on, our deeper heartfelt relationship began and widened to include several more women who are solid, there-for-each-other friends.
I am grateful for her insightful question and emotional support. She had no idea that I felt so isolated, and I learned to be more open about my needs. -- BEFRIENDED AND BLESSED IN MICHIGAN
DEAR BEFRIENDED: I want to thank you for generously sharing that life lesson. The responses I received from readers offering advice, ideas and encouragement to the young woman who lacked female friendship were touching. A sample:
DEAR ABBY: There is an old adage: You have to BE a friend to HAVE one. It seems to me that "Challenged" never takes the extra step in establishing a relationship. The phone rings two ways, and sometimes you have to call people before they call you. -- ELLEN IN CLEVELAND
DEAR ABBY: "Friend-Challenged" should become involved in community theater. There are always jobs waiting to be filled backstage, during rehearsals, at the box office, ushering or making costumes and props. Theater people will always welcome you and find a place for you to fit in. -- SYLVIA IN MORGAN HILL, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: In addition to women her age, that young woman should open herself up to those of all ages. I'm 37, but my friends include those who are 13 years younger and 54 years older than me. My best friend is 19 years older than me.
If she limits herself by looking in only one place, she will have a one-dimensional, flat life. Look everywhere. See everyone as a possible friend. You never know where it might lead you. -- OPEN-HEARTED IN AMESBURY, MASS.
DEAR ABBY: I found your suggestions to "Friend-Challenged" outdated and sexist. Groups in cooking, sewing, scrapbooking? What about learning to ski, kayak or rock climb with other women? Or a running group, hiking club or tennis league? I've done many of these, and the women I met are fun, outgoing and always ready to welcome a new friend. -- BRETT IN JACKSON, WYO.
DEAR ABBY: When I was 22, just out of college, I moved to a large city to begin my career. I knew no one, but found a church and joined a singles Sunday school class. I formed many friendships in that class. Twenty-four years later, many of those women are still my best friends. -- DIANE IN ROSWELL, GA.
DEAR ABBY: On a whim I joined a belly dancing class. It changed my life! I met women of all shapes, sizes and ages who get together to dance for the sheer pleasure of it. To meet friends and transform her self-image, I suggest "Friend-Challenged" check around for belly dance studios in her area. -- JENNY IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: I joined an organization called Beta Sigma Phi -- it's an international women's friendship network. It's a sorority, but not the kind you see on university campuses. I have made friends, learned new things and become more involved in the community. For information, including dues and fees, visit � HYPERLINK "http://www.betasigmaphi.org" �www.betasigmaphi.org� or call (888) 238-2221 or (816) 444-6800. -- SISTER FOR LIFE, ONTARIO, CANADA