Monday, May 07, 2007

Female friendships...

Note: Some of you have captchas (verification words) that are grey.. on a grey marbled background. They take me six or seven tries.. and then I frequently have to give up. I can't read them. Just know please that I am reading and enjoying you... but will no longer be able to comment. Sorry.


Many, many years ago I read a book about female friendships. It was essentially a history of women's friendships over the years, how they were valued and nurtured.

In all honesty, my female friendships mean far more to me than romantic relationships. Now that I'm older (and perhaps always without my recognizing it necessarily ~ more on this another time), I have little to no interest in romantic relationships. There's something in the dynamic that just doesn't appeal to me.

These days, I completely value my female friendships. I could easily spend the rest of my life quite happily living with my closest female friends, offering each other support as we get older and creating a quiet, safe and stable life.

My female friendships have always had a depth and quality to them that I've never found in any romantic relationship, including my marriage. When I was married, there was always a tension there. We are different by nature, men and women ~ as it should be ~ but it seemed more energy than should be necessary was devoted to navigating those differences. Those differences were ultimately accepted as natural and the tension remained. In some ways, he saw me as a foreign creature and I saw him the same way. I had to give up large chunks of who I am to be with him and I'm sure he gave up large chunks of himself to be with me.

With my female friends, there is an understanding without words, without explanation, without tension. While our lifestyles and even some values might differ, there is a bond.

I find it interesting that two of my closest female friends are gay. I am not but on some level, I completely understand their preferences. I just don't have the hunger for an exclusive relationship with anyone so I can't imagine a gay relationship any more than I can imagine a straight relationship, even though one of my gay friends said I should "try" it.

Since my last attempt at having a romantic relationship, I spent a few months thinking about it and realized it is just not going to happen for me. In fact, truthfully, I don't even want it any more. In thinking about it, I came to that realization that I don't want to navigate those differences.

I'm quite comfortable in my world populated by females. While I do have a few male friends, the relationship is entirely different. How wonderful it is to be free to be who I am and so completely enjoy my female friends without strange dynamics running in the background like some unix script; unseen, unnoticed and hidden.

We females come with the internal "software" and know inherently how to support and nurture each other. We inherently know how to form community and community bonding.

Over the past 40 years or so, this has been devalued for a more aggressive, competitive woman who is encouraged to be just like a man. We've lost so much of what it means to be and have female friends as corporate and market values have replaced family and community values, using a perversion of feminism to reinforce it. When I look back and remember the early days of feminism, it was all about celebrating women. It was all about knowing that we did have value as human beings and that our roles meant something in the larger community as well as our own homes.

Now women are pressured to "get out there", even if they are content to stay home and keep the hearth.

Market values have ruined many things but perhaps the worst casualty is that connection we have to each other and the value we once placed on our role as the hearthkeepers, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.




slouching mom said...

My friends and I often joke that we wish we were gay, because we'd live together so well, so effortlessly, so seamlessly.

We're not really joking, though no one acknowledges that.

I hear you loud and clear here.

Julie Pippert said...

Lovely reflections on the beauty of female-female friendships.

I am growing to learn their value, but it's only been recent.

Traditionally, my best friends have tended to be men.

I wonder what's so different for me.

kaliroz said...

I know where you're coming from.

A very good friend and I realized we are soulmates and our lives would be so much easier if we could just fall in love with each other and run away. Unfortunately, that's not how we're wired.

I've always found a depth in my female relationships I've never had in others. Including romantic. There's just something, you know?

Anonymous said...

Female friendship is what keeps the world going for most women I think. Our friends support us, understand us, listen to us, love us, care for us. I have a friend, we've been friends since we were fourteen and have been through more together than my husband and I have been. I would sooner give up my husband than I would her.

Anonymous said...

I watched some of the Mormons special on PBS, and thought, I could deal with being a polygamist.

I don't know, but I wonder if I would be happier now as a homemaker if I had been taught to place as much value on it as I did my success in the workplace. Or just plain been taught: it's tough to be middle-aged and have to learn the basics of how to take care of a household and children.

hel said...

Female friendships are awesome but so is being with Flo.

Being with him I never feel that there are unknown tensions because he is male and I am female. Sometimes he drives me nuts because he thinks like a guy but sometimes he helps me see things from another perspective.

This said there is nothing like crying and laughing with a female friend.

QT said...

I value my female friends, but they are few and far between. I have always related better with men. I think this is because I can be a fairly abrasive person and men seem to brush that off a bit more easily than women.

I have also found that being in a large group of women in the workplace calls for more political manuevering than I am capable of.

Co-workers aside, the female friends I do have "get me" by now, and I definitely need some time away from the boy on a regular basis!

KC said...

I agree with the need to be more web-like (spider, not internet) with our relationships with women.

I also agree with hel-jp and I have a friendship which is tension-less and effortless.

MsLittlePea said...

There was so much truth in this post for me. I still feel as close to my girlhood best friend today as I did when we were growing up even though she lives on another continent. She knows things about me, my husband would never know/understand and I, likewise. We do often say that we could just as easily be in love with each other if we could just get over the fact that both of us love men so much!! But at the same time I feel very close to my husband who understands the part of me that only a man could.
I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that you no longer crave a romantic relationship. I know some people-men and women who are happy and have full lives that way.
There's just no better friendship than the ones we share with our girl friends.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I grew up in a time and place in which women were fiercely competitive with each other. I was not like that, and never understood the reasons for it. It was like Snow White's stepmother and her looking glass: most of the girls and women I knew needed to be the loveliest one of all.

In college, I had a wonderful friend who was genuinely thrilled when a table of boys in a restaurant had the waiter deliver a complimentary note to me. I couldn't believe my good fortune to have a friend like her. I loved that girl for her complete lack of competitiveness, jealousy and meanness as much as for her many delightful qualities.

I have never had a better friend.

Most of my relationships with women, including my mother and sister-in-law, have been disappointing. I would love to experience the mutual comfort and support you describe. My one experience with that long ago friend convinced me that women can truly support each other, and now that I'm older, it seems more likely to happen.

I certainly hope so. Flip is wonderful, my best friend in so many ways. But he will never be a woman.

Suzy said...

A lovely post, Chani. A lovely testament to sisterhood, which is, what I think female friendships are really about.

I love my sisters, I love my daughters, I love my female friends (some of whom date back more than 40 years.)

I also seem to connect easily with men, although it's a different kind of feeling.

I agree, weaving the webs of community is what life is all about. It's what I'm all about.

crazymumma said...

I love the peace and ease I have with my girlfriends. I have never felt that way with any man, be he love or friend.

I am so happy for you that you have found a place in your life where you do not feel the need to seek out a romantic relationship.

It must provide a certain liberation.

CS said...

I'm here through Heart in San Francisco's blog, where you had commented on her post, but also mine about friendship. Then I came here, and you were writing about friendship, too. I liked this post about female friendships - I value mine and grieve if one falls apart. I have had many close male friends, but those are different relationships. There is something very free about a friendship with another woman. (But I could only be a polygamist if it were me and several husbands - or at least an equal number of husbands and wives. Group marriage?)

jen said...

what a beautiful post. i often long for closer female friends, the ones i hold most dear live far away...but when we are together it's indescribable..the ease and joy we bring each other.

we make for a nice village.

Lucia said...

I'm completely here too. Although I have a partner, in some ways I'm less engaged in that relationship than those with my female friends. Many of them live far away, but when I'm with them, it feels like no time has passed.

Mary said...

Interesting post, Chani. it made me evaluate friends. I am married to the same man for 32 years. If anything should happen to either of us and we became separated, there's no way I'd seek a romantic relationship. It's too much trouble.

I have many female acquaintances and a few very good female friends - the type that can read my face and words aren't necessary.

I tend to enjoy men friends more than most women. Gay guys are the best!

Pam said...

I have always taken great joy and comfort in my female friendships. One is 40+ years, another is going on 30.

Mad Hatter said...

Ya, you're right. I find I come back, time and again, on my blog to celebrating the strong hold that my women friends have on my life. They don't replace what I have with my husband but they offer so much more/else than what a monogamous het marriage can.

Stephen Newton said...

Alas and alack, we men have a ways to travel yet to have that kind of intimacy.

Bob said...

how can any relationship between two people be truly effortless and still have the strength to survive the trials and tribulations of the world we live in? Saying that friendship between two women is inherently easier and deeper, I think, is disingenuous. Certainly there isn't the sexual tension between two hetero women, so that barrier is eliminated, and there is the common experience of being the same gender in a society that makes such a big deal in keeping the sexes separate (but equal? - the supreme court has had something to say about that). But Chani - how much of the difficulty you have with making friends of men is of your own making? Real friendship is not something that just happens, it is like any other relationship that has any meaning - it takes work from both people in order for it to become a treasured relationship. Certainly without the problems I mention above it would easier to make friends with someone of the opposite gender, but who says you cannot overcome them? I get the impression from reading the many comments above that that effort hasn't been made. You are excluding half of the population of this earth when you exclude men from your circle of friends. Sure, it is easier to accept the status quo - our socialization within our gender stereotypes - and why bother to work at friendship when it is easier to stick to same-gender relations? But we will never grow as people if we always accept the status quo.

Men and women are physically different. We have different capacities within this difference. I get the impression from most of the comments here that men are automatically unable to form the close friendships described here between women. I flatly reject that inference. Men are not nurturers, so we don't nurture each other. Male frienships are all about unspoken feelings, all about competition, all about strength or superiority. Bullshit. I happen to think that I am a hell of a friend. I don't compete with my friends, I help them when they're down, I share their triumphs and their pains, I listen when they need to share, I loan cars and money and tools and my labor, I babysit, I run errands - and I don't decide what I do for whom based on their gender. My two best friends are a male and a female.

Think of how many people, how many potential friends, you loose by deciding that you don't need men in your life - in any capacity.