There’s been a recent spate of studies and stories about the harmful aspects of female friendships. Psychologists, sociologists, and laypeople alike have been sharing statistics about and tales of competition, backstabbing, bullying, sexual shaming, and other hateful, damaging, and downright terrifying things that we women do to each other. Things we don’t generally consider doing to men. And it’s quite true that women can be cruel and manipulative, jealous and petty. We’re incredibly effective at devising ways to hurt one another because we know exactly how difficult it will be to bear our attacks.
But, in my experience, female friendship can be one of the strongest human bonds. It is a deep-seated, enduring loyalty that can rival marriage and blood ties in importance and value. My girlfriends support and understand me in so many subtle, vital ways that I am quite sure my life would feel brittle and empty without them.
Here are some reasons why my female friendships are amazing:
My girlfriends have forgiven me so many unforgivable things, I can barely comprehend their mercy. Stolen boyfriends, angry words, false accusations, long and unexplained absences … all dissolve into hugs and laughter in the face of simple apologies.
My girlfriends are often DEEPLY bored by the things that fascinate me – shoes, animal behavior, blogging, Battlestar Galactica – but they listen and support, empathize and probe as if my favorite topics were the most compelling on earth. And my interest is often enough to pique their interest.
My girlfriends will talk to me about bowel movements, sexual hang-ups, politics, religion, allergies, in-laws, pet peeves, menstruation and just about every other taboo topic you can imagine. Often in a single sitting, and always without judgment.
My girlfriends know my husband and my family well enough to love them and understand their vital importance, but have just enough distance to give sound, relatively objective advice.
My girlfriends tell me how proud they are of me, how beautiful I am, how overjoyed they are to see me. And as much as I love my guy friends, they’ve never done any of those things.
My girlfriends share my fears about aging, wrestle with the same body image woes, worry about the same insidious societal pressures. They are confronted with the same forces, so they know first-hand how I feel and why.
My circle of girlfriends – geographically scattered though they may be – comprise a truly amazing network of women, and I am blessed to know them all. But I’m lucky. I know I am. Some women struggle to relate to other women, some women have always felt more comfortable around men, some women have had such scarring experiences in their female relationships that they are unsure they’ll ever be able to trust other women again. And I would never say that women who have few or no female friends are lacking in life, or that they should try harder, or that women generally make better friends than men. But I would say that the toxic dark side of friendship among women is getting far more airplay than the astonishingly beneficial bright side, and that cultivating lasting, close relationships with your fellow females can be renewing, refreshing, and rewarding.
I can’t imagine life without my girlfriends, and their sisterhood supports me in a million brilliant ways.
Image courtesy CarynNL.