Having Girlfriends

It really easy to focus on how awful and terrible and judgey women are with each other.

You know what though? Let’s not.

In all the hoopla of all the woman-centered angst going around in the media and on the Interwebz these days — do we really need to talk about another critique of American parenting from a French feminist? REALLY? — every now and again a little comment will crop up.

It usually goes something along the lines of, “This is why I’m not friends with other women. Because they are grown up mean girls/catty/competitive. They act all friendly to your face, but will cut you down behind your back.”

To which I say, “You need better women friends.”

Since my youngest days, I have had a core of good girl- and women friends. If we have any one thing in common, I think it’s that we value people and we value being nice to people just because it’s nice to be nice. Not to get a leg up, not to be a popular girl, not to brand ourselves on social media.

Do I always have great relationships with all women all the time? No. My best friend in the world and I had a falling out in 8th grade. We got past it, and continued to be incredibly close friends, and we still see each other when we can (she lives in California now), but I remember the pain of the feeling I had been replaced by another girl.

I had a very close friend who in the past five years stopped talking to me. That, too, was a painful time, but I know why she severed our friendship — not because I was a bitch or because I flaunted my “lifestyle” or went out of my way to make her feel bad about herself. It was kind of by default that being around me made her feel badly. She wanted things I had, and being around me reminded her of that, which hurt. Why should she do that to herself? I miss her very much, and I sincerely hope she is doing well, but I don’t want to be a source of pain for her.

And I still encounter women who don’t like me and I’m okay with that, too. We don’t all have to be BFFs.

Good women friends don’t hate you because you are beautiful or thin or have nicer clothes or a better paying job, or conversely because you get to stay home with your kids, or have nicer hair or are in a successful marriage — or, or, or.

Good women friends — good friends in general, really — are in your corner, have your back, are rooting for you. We are there to cheer you on, as well as to give hugs and hand out wine or chocolate when necessary.

I hope I am a good friend. I try to be. In the past few years, I have made other good women friends because of social media. And it makes me happy to know that along with N, M, and H, and along with the women from college that I still see at Cook Forest and/or Girlie Weekend, that now I have fun women to hang out with: drink wine, learn to make pie (they are willing to teach me, anyway; I haven’t quite managed to get my butt to #PieFest yet), and go see The Hunger Games with. They make me happy to be around.

I know when it comes to girl and women friendships, my children, like me, will have rocky times. Not because girls and women as a group are awful — but because people are different, and value different things, and have different goals or needs. And that’s okay — I will continue to say it: You don’t have to like everyone, and not everyone has to like you.

But I do hope that when it comes down to it, that when the rubber meets the road, that they have solid friends who are girls and women around them. For all the reasons I love my friends. For voices to cheer and for shoulders to cry on. For wine and movies and laughter.

What do girlfriends mean to you?