Monday, February 28, 2011

Rediscovering the Importance of Girlfriends

There was a time in my life when almost all my good friends were male. Many years, in fact. Part of it was the novelty, because I had always been intimidated by boys in school. I grew up a little isolated and I barely understood other girls, let alone boys with their loud ways. As I grew older, I didn't feel comfortable with most women I met. I wasn't thin and I wasn't that concerned about dieting. I rarely wore makeup and never learned to do fancy things with my hair. I wasn't having children or hoping to have children. Most women I met I didn't feel like I fit in with. And after high school, I wasn't meeting a lot of other women anyway. I missed my high school girlfriends, many of whom had dispersed off into different parts of the country.

Over the years I met a lot of amazing, strong women. I had role models and old friends I had kept in touch with but from whom I was separated by distance. I am close to my mom. But I didn't have any women friends who I could call up and meet for lunch. I still don't have very many of them. But I have rediscovered why friendships between women are so precious. I've cultivated them where I can. Some online, some old friends I don't see very often, some old friends I've started to see more frequently, some family, some co-workers. Some the same age and some years older or younger.

I still have a lot of male friends. And they're great, I love them. They appreciate my cooking, remind me not to take things too seriously, feed my cats when I go out of town, carry things to my basement, help me with yard work and car repairs. Some of them commiserate with me over relationships and some make me feel funny or get angry at injustices they feel have been perpetrated against me. They take me to dinner, buy me silly little gifts when I'm feeling down and give me a male perspective on problems. My male friends are wonderful to me in many ways and I love them but they are still vastly different relationships than the ones I have with my female friends.

I've gone through some tough times in the last few years and in riding them out I've noticed a few differences in the way my male versus female friends react to problems. The men tend to disappear. They can't fix my problem and they don't know what to say so they kind of vanish into the ether until things even out. Some of them give me a lot of advice and then if I don't follow it, they get angry. Which really isn't that helpful when dealing with stressful situations. You want your friends around you, not purposefully staying away or being angry with you. I know not all men are like this but it's been my experience that its pretty common. They mean well, they just don't react in ways that I understand. Which by now I am starting to expect, even though it still hurts sometimes.

My female friends, however, will sit with me for hours. Sometimes we talk about our problems, sometimes we distract each other with other topics. Sometimes we don't talk much at all. The best thing is, they are always here (or there!) for me. Sometimes we can only talk on the phone, via text or over the Internet but even when they aren't "here" they are available, concerned, understanding and always ready with a sense of humor and a dose of perspective. Most of us have gotten to an age where we've had a few disappointing relationships with men, perhaps a divorce. Even if we're married we know that a romantic relationship, no matter how wonderful the spouse, can't and shouldn't be expected to meet our every need.

And so, if we're lucky, we have our girlfriends. These relationships are precious and we need to treat them as such. Though our lives are all busy, we need to keep in touch, reach out, get together, or simply send a note or an email. For all the smart, funny, caring, beautiful women I know... thank you. You are appreciated and you are important!

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