These aren't just friends--they're superfriends. Whether it's a leaky faucet, a broken-down car, a cross-country move, or just lunch, Trautman's group is there, blurring the line between friendship and kinship with gestures large and small. The core group--seven men and women all in their early 30s, including a doctor, a few teachers, and a scientist--volunteer together for political candidates, share gourmet meals, and even vacation as a gang every August. "We've become sort of an urban family," says Trautman.It's an interesting phenomenon, but nowhere is it mentioned that churches have historically played a similar role in people's lives, and these "urban tribes" are not an entirely new development. I recommend reading the entire article, because you'll probably realize that you yourself are a part of such a tribe.
Groups like Trautman's--less social circles than quasi-familial clans, with their own customs and rituals--are increasingly common, says San Francisco journalist Ethan Watters. They've grown out of well-documented societal change: Where once people got married after high school or college and began building families in their early 20s, men and women today are as likely to stay single for years. According to the 2002 census, the median age at first marriage has risen to 25.3 for women, the highest ever, and 26.9 for men.
In his new book, Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment, Watters writes that men and women are now structuring the long stretch of single years by gathering in tight-knit clusters--the "urban tribes" of his title. More than casual groups of friends, these are entities that form over time, eventually taking on a life of their own. Often there are rituals, like weekly dinners, yearly group trips, and elaborate theme parties. Many members say there are enough events on the group calendar to fill seven nights a week.
Rather than a new social construct, I think that the formalization of the term really just serves to recognize something that's been happening since urbanization really took off after the undustrial revolution. Real extended families are no longer as likely to live together (or even near each other); humans crave society and company, and so these quasi-families have cropped up to fill that traditional role.