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READERS OFFER ADVICE ON FORMING CLOSE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS

Q:I would like to tell "Friend-Challenged in Glendale, Calif." 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

A: 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:

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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

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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