Mister D: Funny, I always thought it was due to heavy drinking a la Sex and the City. Who knew it was a gift??? 🙂 BTW, they should add “Friends” to the playlist at the end….it’s a no brainer!
San Jose Mercury News
Women have a gift for making deep, complex friendships
By Bruce Newman
Published: Sunday, September 19, 2010
SAN JOSE, Calif. | The qualities that make womenâ€™s friendships special remain cloaked in the mists of cultural myth and gender stereotypes â€” the ermine and pearls of the war between the sexes. A recent example surfaced during a camping trip that forms a cultural counterpoint to the fictional gal-pal gatherings of HBOâ€™s â€œSex and the City,â€ with flannel taking the place of Fendi, Birkenstocks instead of Blahniks.
On an annual outing with their families, the group of eight women â€” who gathered daily at the Parents Nursery School playground in Palo Alto, Calif., a dozen years ago â€” resumed the easy exchange of mixed feelings, shared insecurities and hot flashes from the warâ€™s front lines that began at the cooperative preschool when they were young mothers.
â€œWe felt like we could talk about anything,â€ recalls Lucinda Abbott, 52, whose two daughters now attend Palo Alto High. â€œAll our problems with child rearing, how fat you felt you were, whether or not you were going to get Lasik. That was one of the best periods in my life for friendship.â€
What Abbott refers to as â€œthe talk, talk, talkâ€ of those friendships gave them a lively, limber quality that allowed them to endure, even as life intruded. This is the great gift, or gene, that women have for strong attachments, a prize that is theirs alone.
Compared to men, womenâ€™s friendships are quicker to light and launch; cover an emotional landscape more varied than a Neverland of sports and strippers; and find in the expression of their own vulnerability an intimacy and strength.
But that willingness to explore everything, to extract meaning from most things and to let go of absolutely nothing inevitably creates drama. Strong feelings often make small transgressions seem like terrible betrayals. Sometimes, when womenâ€™s friendships crash, it can be devastatingly final. But it is also within their capacity to love each other so much that they are better able to forgive one another than men.
The determination many women have to get quickly to the heart of things, to talk problems through in a way that would exhaust most men, has led to a fundamental misunderstanding: that women are gossips. But one of the great strengths of their gender is the ability women have to keep each otherâ€™s secrets.
It starts with the sort of deep, layered conversations that men rarely have. â€œIt doesnâ€™t actually solve any problems, but it feels so affirming,â€ Abbott says. â€œI think thatâ€™s what women do when we talk. Weâ€™re affirming our love for each other. To me, it almost feels like going back to the village square, when the women were all doing their laundry together.â€
On â€œSex and the City,â€ Carrie Bradshaw suggests at one point that she and her helpmate harem become each otherâ€™s soulmates. They would only require men for fun.
â€œAnd I was like, â€˜Thatâ€™s it! She nailed it,â€™â€ says Chrystal Bougon, who organized a recent Ladies Night Out party that started with Diva-tinis and ended at a showing of â€œEat, Pray, Love.â€ â€œI donâ€™t want to say itâ€™s impossible to have a male soulmate, but Iâ€™ve been with the same guy for 23 years â€” love him! â€” but itâ€™s just not the same, you know? We speak a different language.â€
Apart from the occasional â€œIron Johnâ€ chest pounding sessions, itâ€™s unlikely there are male gatherings where as much bonding takes places as the â€œpleasure partiesâ€ Bougon organizes for groups of girlfriends through her San Jose sex toy business, Bliss Connection. Her recent presentation of lingerie and lubricants for the wives of a local pro sports team went characteristically well. Everybody talked and laughed for three hours.
And yet the fabric that holds such evenings together isnâ€™t lace; it is sterner stuff derived from difficult phone calls late at night, when someone has lost a child, or found a lump, that bind women together.
Bougon says her husband often gets frustrated that she has many more friends than he does. One of her pals is going through the same thing. â€œHer husband has no friends, and heâ€™s mad about it,â€ she says. â€œHeâ€™s a 50-year-old man. Where does he go to make new friends? For that reason alone, I would not want to be a guy. It seems so sad and lonely.â€
Women seem to understand that to have great friends you must be a great friend.
â€œThatâ€™s what I try to explain to men,â€ Bougon says. â€œIf you want to have really deep, meaningful friendships, then maybe youâ€™re the one who needs to take a risk and (befriend) somebody male.â€
Women have fewer barriers to friendship, according to sociologist Scott Swain, because they more easily show their feelings. Women relate to each other face-to-face, he says, while menâ€™s friendships are typically conducted side-by-side â€” watching sports, fishing, drinking beer.
â€œWomen can say, â€˜Youâ€™re my best friend,â€™ â€ explains Swain, author of a chapter in the book â€œGender in Intimate Relationshipsâ€ and now head counselor at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, Calif. â€œWith men, things are much more implicitâ€ â€” a quick fist pump, a back slap, a nod.
When sociologist Karen Walker interviewed women in the workplace for a study about gender and friendship, she found many expressed guilt for not always being caring at the office. â€œBecause these women werenâ€™t able to share their intimate thoughts and feelings in a business setting, some responded that they werenâ€™t very good friends,â€ Walker says.
Helene Lavelle has concentric circles of friends, the widest of which she categorizes as â€œclose,â€ narrowing to a more select group of mostly female â€œbestâ€ friends, and an inner circle of her â€œdearestâ€ pals â€” all women. But after 26 years in sales for Silicon Valley tech companies, Lavelle rarely mixes those groups.
She knows the difference between making friends and networking. â€œSome friendships can be based on not a lot,â€ she says. â€œThere was a lot of that going on in Silicon Valley years ago.â€
One of the distinguishing characteristics of womenâ€™s friendships is their complexity, which is why, as she navigates middle age, Lavelle cherishes the relationships she already has with her female friends, but isnâ€™t looking for any others.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of drama with women, and I hate drama,â€ she says. â€œI donâ€™t have time for it. Get a grip. Thatâ€™s why menâ€™s relationships tend to be cleaner. Thereâ€™s no funny business.â€
In Gail Caldwellâ€™s new memoir, â€œLetâ€™s Take the Long Way Home,â€ the author tells a female friend, â€œMen donâ€™t really understand womenâ€™s friendships, do they?â€
â€œOh, God, no,â€ her friend replies. â€œAnd we must never tell them.â€
MaryLynne Rodriguez tells them.
Rodriguez, a 32-year-old guidance counselor at Presentation High School, and her husband consider each other their best friends. They tell each other everything, and in MaryLynneâ€™s case, that includes unraveling the mysteries of her friendships with the women she grew up with. She recently took an introductory hip-hop class with one of her few unmarried girlfriends, determined not to allow that difference come between them.
Rodriguez says her friendships help define her. â€œAt work Iâ€™m the college counselor; at home Iâ€™m mommy and the housekeeper; but with my friends Iâ€™m just MaryLynne â€” a silly person whoâ€™s fun to be around,â€ she says. â€œIt makes me remember who I am, and who I was, when Iâ€™m with my friends.â€
1. â€œYouâ€™ve Got a Friend,â€ James Taylor
2. â€œLean On Me,â€ Bill Withers
3. â€œYouâ€™ve Got a Friend in Me,â€ Randy Newman
4. â€œWaiting on a Friend,â€ The Rolling Stones
5. â€œWith a Little Help From My Friends,â€ the Beatles
6. â€œThatâ€™s What Friends Are For,â€ Dionne Warwick and others
7. â€œCisco Kid,â€ War
8. â€œMoon River,â€ Audrey Hepburn
9. â€œFor Good,â€ from â€œWickedâ€
10. â€œFriends,â€ Whodini
11. â€œThank You for Being a Friend,â€ Andrew Gold
12. â€œBen,â€ Michael Jackson
13. â€œYouâ€™re My Best Friend,â€ Queen
14. â€œIâ€™ll Be There for You,â€ the Rembrandts
15. â€œUmbrella,â€ Rihanna
16. â€œYou Want to Be My Friend?â€ from â€œCloser Than Everâ€
17. â€œThe Painter,â€ Neil Young
18. â€œArtesia,â€ Dave Alvin
19. â€œWind Beneath My Wings,â€ Bette Midler
20. â€œHe Ainâ€™t Heavy, Heâ€™s My Brother,â€ the Hollies