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For girls who just wanna have fun

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 18, 2009 - Brenna Frigillana came to St. Louis three years ago after graduating from college. She was born here but lost touch with her childhood friends because she moved away when she was young.

After being back in St. Louis for two years, Frigillana said she hadn’t developed any significant friends outside of people from work.

“I missed having that female camaraderie that I had in college,” said Frigillana, 25, who was in a sorority. “I missed having drinks with the girls, going shopping, and knowing I was going to have people to hang out with every weekend and do things with during the week.”

She found -- and she heard this from others, as well -- that it was difficult to meet people in St. Louis as a woman in her 20s.

“Let’s face it. If you didn't go to high school or grow up here, it's incredibly difficult to be integrated into a group of people who have already formed years worth of friendships,” Frigillana said. “Many people are too busy to consider making friendships beyond what they already have.”

So Frigillana last year began searching online for people looking for female friendships. She figured she wasn't alone in her pursuit. And although she found some existing women's-only groups, she said the majority were co-ed.

Not wanting to compete with those social groups, Frigillana in January formed a group for women called STL Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. More than 400 women have signed up online as members, though only about 30 or 40 people are active, Frigillana said.

The women get together several times a month for movie nights, dinners, plays and sporting events. There was even a recent pole dancing night. “They aren’t necessarily all girly events," Frigillana explained. "It’s just hanging out with the girls."

STL Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is one of many groups in St. Louis devoted to helping women meet female friends. Many members of these groups are young and single and out to enjoy the St. Louis nightlife. There are groups for moms, divorcees on the group’s page it says male bashing isn’t allowed) and bibliophiles.

Many of these social communities formed on the networking website Meetup.com. They are started by women like Frigillana who are looking to broaden their circle of friends. Many groups are free to join or have a nominal annual fee to pay for bar events or event tickets.

One such group, South City Girls, advertises that it wants to to build a network of women to go to brunch, dinner, happy hour and bar nights. The group Trendy St. Louis Girls is a Meetup group that formed this year primarily for women between 24 and 32. The idea, said founder Amy Koval, is to make many new female friends. “It is challenging to meet new girlfriends, but even more difficult than that, is meeting girlfriends with genuine character,” says a welcome message on the group’s page. “This is for girls looking for their new best friends or a group of girls that will make St. Louis feel like home through time.”

Frigillana started by looking for people in their 20s and 30s. She has since expanded her search and now regularly meets new members who are 50 and above. She said she has heard from a number of STL Girls members that they are glad the group is limited to women. That way, the focus is more on developing friendships than searching for romance. Plenty of websites are focused on the latter.

“I’ve always wanted something like 'Sex in the City,' ” Frigilanna said. She refers, of course, to the show that originally aired on HBO featuring four women best friends. (Though male love interests also factor prominently in the show.)

Peg Dodel-Britt, an assistant organizer of the group, said she's formed friendships through various Meetup groups in the last year that are stronger than ones she's had for decades. "I have friends who never wanted to do anything," she said. "I thought, 'This is crap.' I'm not out looking for a boyfriend; I'm looking for people to do things with."

She's involved in six Meetup groups, and is the organizer of the co-ed group Livin' Life to the Fullest!, which she began last month. Most members are women, and the majority of people are in their 30s and 40s, she said. Livin' Life is a mixture of singles, people who are dating and married couples. The group is heavy on happy hours and dancing. Dodel-Britt, who is single and in her 50s, said she discourages people from joining the group to look for love.

"We are friends and if someone goes onto my site and acts like they want a date, they are probably going to get kicked out," she said. "That's not what it's about."

And what about groups for men looking for other guy friends? Well ... a search of Meetup didn't turn up many results. There's a group for stay-at-home dads, but little else that fits the description.

Frigillana said she's noticed the lack of all-male groups. "I guess it’s a little taboo for guys to want to meet other guys, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing,” she said.