An article in the New York Times this week looked at female friendship through the lens of the new HBO’s show “Girls.” The camaraderie among lead character Hannah and her sisters-under-the-skin, says author Natalie Angier, reflects the bonds of female friendship found throughout the animal world. A woman’s best friends – whether humans in the Big Apple or elephants on the plains of Africa – help her keep stress at bay.
In my experience, most men find women’s relationships baffling – or pointless. To a comment that I was having a difficult time with a close friend, a male acquaintance once replied, “That’s why I don’t have friends.” He was only half kidding. This guy knows about a half-million people – mostly through work – but at the end of the day he wants to go home, play with the kids, turn on the tube, and rule his roost. He’s done.
I’ve found that it’s tougher after the age of 40 to build – and maintain – strong relationships with people of either sex. The women I meet almost all have a spouse (and sometimes an ex-spouse), kids/stepkids, work, meetings, unplanned trips to the doctor, hockey games and birthday parties to plan. They’ve already accumulated a whole slew of friends that they don’t have time to see. It’s tough out there for a single middle-aged woman.
How many friends does a girl need? According to Angier’s article, a “top three” seems to lead to strong, lasting relationships. But when they’ve got lots of other commitments – or, as in my case, live in multiple time zones – you may need some backups. As old friends have fallen away, I’ve found myself slowly and carefully adding new faces to my social mix. Many women have a tight circle of friends who know each other well and socialize regularly; mine are more of a lively, unmatched set.
And whether it’s chance or my inability to believe that I’m no longer 35, most of my newest friends are in their 40s or even 30s. These women are vibrant, smart, funny, assertive and fiercely supportive. I draw energy from them the way a plant draws light from the sun, and admire them immensely.
I enjoy my own company and can live without a man. But the girlfriends in my posse not only have my back, they make my life far richer and more fun. I shudder to think how empty it would be without them.