For as long as I can remember I love movies about friendship from The Wizard of Oz to ET, to my all time favorite, Beaches with Bette Midler. In 2002, the hot movie of the summer was The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood based on the book authored by Rebecca Wells. My women friends were abuzz with talk of the sisterhood and their story of friendship.
We agreed that viewing the movie, featuring Sandra Bullock, was enriched by first reading the original novel. Wells’ story has two main themes. First, it is about long-term friendship, like being tight girlfriends. Second, it is about generational pain and misunderstanding between a mother and her daughter.
We loved this emotionally-laden chick flick while male critics did not. One critic described the script as excessively sentimental and the characters as self-indulging women.
So are our years-long girlfriends’ gatherings focused on vanity topics? Not in the least; we never splurged on Friends Forever pins. Our friendship goals were support, care, and acknowledgment.
Friendships provide support, connection and a certain kind of emotional rising or stirring. Daniel Goleman also writes in Emotional Intelligence,
Our humanity is most evident in our feelings.”
Evidence of the power of friendship came out of the Center for Aging at Flinders University in Australia. They discovered that those seniors with an extensive network live approximately 22% longer than those with fewer connections. Having friends helps us stay happy and healthy.
My women friendships have given context to and deepened the emotions felt of some of my most significant Ahas and memorable moments. Indeed, since the cave era to quilting bees, women have gathered in friendship circles.
Men, of course, have friends – their interactions are just different. One traditional aspect of male friendships is that they focus more on activities such meeting at a golf course, a hockey game or a service club. Yet, I have known my hubby to call a friend now and then to discuss a troubling situation.
I see my son’s generation of men more often gather with friends for emotional support. Men’s groups such as The Remarkable Men Project are becoming more common.
In the meantime, women continue to gather in many informal, formal, and business groups including Women Extraordinaire, Mompreneurs, E-Women, and Women Embracing Brilliance. But don’t get hung up on the dynamics of friendships. One well known friendship poem describes friendships for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Let friendships naturally deepen or not. They can’t be forced. Here I describe my experience from one of my deeper women friendship experiences:
An Afternoon with Women Friends
I sat with my women’s group, the six of us, consuming our shared lunch by the bank of the Bow River. We are a lucky bunch of bodacious and babbling broads to have a member who has river property.
There is a certain etiquette followed by girlfriend relationships. Yet, there is space cleared for vulnerability, honesty, secrets, full-on despair, enthusiastic disagreements, a celebration of our differences, and sometimes wine…and sometimes whine!
It seems to me that women use catching up sessions to discover and share their real and lived experience. Perhaps the world will become healthier as we embrace the truth of our lives. I have a sense that I am steadier and wiser because of the listening ears and cheerleading comments of our collective.
Our Ten Girlfriend Topics
Here are the topics we tossed about in our banter that summer afternoon:
- A safe environment with girlfriends allows the soul to show itself.
- There is a love that can transcend race, age, sex, our family of origin beliefs of separation.
- Women’s apparel, often designed to make us look a certain way, can be uncomfortable. We give each other permission to toss a certain said item. We watched with glee as one of our members threw her bra into the river rapids.
- We wear clothes disguised as uniforms. They are worn for corporate work, for trades-type work, for sports, for lounging, for special occasions, and to send sexual messages. Why do some women shy away from wearing revealing clothing, while others use it to flaunt their bodies? Is there an appropriate way to dress or is it totally a personal matter?
- Women need to define for themselves who they are and how they want to be treated. A partner or the in-laws may find it useful to label you a sweet little thing, but does the phrase support your best?
- Partnerships need investments of time and care. So do friendships.
- You are never too old to learn a new skill or go back to school.
- Women are sometimes accused of gossiping. Often they were merely sharing a concern for a mutual friend or strategizing how to help. Malicious gossip where women revel in the misfortune of others is rare.
- Personal stories of pain, mistakes, misunderstandings, and concerns make for meaningful sharing. Pain that is carefully witnessed can be healed.
- Sometimes we do not know what is emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually best for ourselves or our loved ones. We may need to settle for acceptance of ourselves and our connections.
Ten Friendship Sayings
So often I feel wiser after time in deep friendship. It is as if my thoughts soar to elevated thinking. Maybe you will agree with me or not, so here goes—ten of my very own (I think so, anyway) friendship sayings:
- Rather than make efforts to make friends, be one.
- To make friends with others, you might first need to make friends with yourself.
- Friendship is good therapy when you find safe ears to hear your fears, errors, and dreams.
- Friendships deepen as we bear witness to one another’s joys and sorrows.
- Laughter is the sweet cherry in the fruit compote when with friends.
- True friends focus on your strengths and love you regardless your weaknesses.
- Friends fill our longing for connection. They let you know they care.
- Friends will lovingly conspire to challenge your dysfunctional behavior.
- Include your friends in your gratitude journal – one by one!
- Introduce your friends with enthusiastic pride and sing their praises where’er you go!
All of the above sayings explain why friendships are therapeutic. They provide support, sounding boards and connection. Even better than the well-known Beatles’ lyric, I get by with a little help from my friends, I do well with a lot of help from my friends! All the best with your new, short, and long-time friendships!