Ten years ago, most of my friends were male. That's not to say that I didn't see the value in having girlfriends, I just preferred the simplicity and lighthearted approach of men. There was very little drama and very low expectations associated with these kinds of friendships. It was all about having a laugh.
Once I reached my mid-20s, girlfriends became more prevalent and important. I started to appreciate the addition of emotionally-acute beings to my tribe. My network of girlfriends began to grow. Today, I'm surrounded by a group of women who are all divinely unique from one another, each with their own qualities I cherish and admire.
It donned on me one night while watching an old episode of Lena Dunham's hit HBO series Girls that the reason the show resonates so well is because it explores the relationships you have with your girlfriends. Sure, there are awkward sex scenes and she taps into the struggles of a 20-something finding their place in the world, but it really highlights how complicated female friendships can be. Much like Sex and the City before it.
Candace Bushnell cleverly helped uncover all those common dating mishaps and stigmas single women in their thirties are faced with, which helped the series rise to fame. But the heart of the story really surrounded the friendship shared by four exquisitely unique women.
I began to explore the subject a bit further, and discovered there isn't much written about female friendships at all. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, echoed this sentiment on her blog recently, but did site one book by Susanna Sonnenberg called She Matters: A Life in Friendships. The New York Times gave the book a solid review: "She Matters lingers with you, inviting you to construct a patchwork quilt of your own life and salute the many women who helped you along the way." It's next on my summer read list.
Relationships, both romantic and platonic, will always come with complexities. But perhaps the trickiest relationships a woman will navigate in her life are the ones she shares with her girlfriends.
Looking back at my dating life, I'd have to say the hardest breakups were not the ones with men, but the ones that occurred between myself and female friends. One in particular still haunts me, when a close friend completely shut me out of her life over a blog post I had published. I admit, it was something she had done that inspired the post - hooking up with a married man, which I so adamantly opposed - but if I were a truly supportive friend, I would never have published the blog in the first place. I would have remained neutral. Switzerland would had to have been my middle name.
Competition is something that can come into play where female friendships are concerned. Especially in our 20s, when the inevitable career climb - corporate, entrepreneurial or otherwise - seems to take place. This can be a trying time among girlfriends, as it can lead to my least favorite emotion - envy. Now in my thirties, I've found my own niche in the world and much of those feelings have faded. But there's no denying each girl who reads this has felt some level of envy, where their girlfriends are concerned. I know I have.
I'm reminded of a quote - or truth bomb as she calls them - from Danielle LaPorte, author of The Fire Starter Sessions, that really rings true. "Envy is often a call to action." Amen.
Another challenge we face while fostering female friendships is the loss of common interests. Sometimes you outgrow someone, and vice versa, or you simply grow apart. Yet, where in life's little rule book does it state that we can't remain friends, should our interests shift? I remember an old friend of mine poking fun at me for wearing lipstick and heels to dinner one night. While I appreciate I live in an uber outdoorsy city, I'm still a girl who enjoys her femininity. Needless to say, I've since gravitated towards women who appreciate me for who I am, not what I choose to wear to dinner.
The key, in my experience, is to acknowledge that everyone is on their own timeline. Not everyone is going to move to the suburbs, get married and have kids all in that order. Some of us are on non-traditional journeys. And that's okay, because it would be a remarkably boring world if all us women operated under identical ideals.
As I get older, I am enriched by the diversity among my friends even more. Some are mothers while others are single. Some have corporate jobs and others are entrepreneurs. Some are gifted creatively while others demonstrate superb athleticism. I couldn't imagine befriending women who were just like me, exclusively. And although we all share our commonalities, we are confronted by our varying values and opinions. Which is challenging but also wonderful, as I learn so much from each of them. Female friendships have taught me about humility, support, loyalty and love. And above all else, isn't that what friendship is really about?
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