This is a subject I have flirted with for decades. Growing up, I was considered a tomboy who enjoyed the company of my male friends more than my female friends. Somehow, this has translated into me having more genuine male friends as an adult than females. The thought therefore tickles my mind often as to whether I am simply more of a ‘man’s woman than a woman’s woman’ as they say, or is there something rather interesting going on around me.
The goose came home to roost when one of my male friends made an offer to me. ‘Juliet, I’d like to have a party for you and 15 of your female friends.’ My mind raced and I gave a big laugh to cover up my unease. Sure, I had many acquaintances and casual ‘friends’, but when it comes to ‘FRIENDS’ I realized I couldn’t count more than 10 female friends at the most! At my age, that is pretty scary.
In contrast, I have tons of male friends I call great friends. Another thing, I have a far greater time with my male friends. A few things stick out to me; men make it a point to meet and hang out pretty regularly. They meet to simply have fun and walk away with no obligations or commitments. They don’t feel that they have to be emotionally available to each other. This simple element can make the friendship more attractive. They check up on each other regularly. They tease each other, and most importantly, they help and mentor each other. Not too long ago, I was back at school at Harvard Kennedy and I noticed quite a bit of the same phenomenon.
Casting my mind around, I tried to fish into the lives of the older women I know, starting with my mother, as perchance, this was something peculiar to me. A conversation ensued with many of these women that centered on the negative barriers that female friendships invariably encounter. Women it seems, form friendships way faster than men, but drop off just as quickly.
This is contradictory to the general thinking in the space. A couple of years ago, I was at ‘Omega’ Up-State New York. Interestingly, the theme of the conference centered on the great female bond, as opposed to the desert of male friendships.
Why was I experiencing this contradiction? I am involved with many female empowerments and mentoring opportunities and the point has come up very strongly that ‘women’ are our own enemies. When it comes down to mentoring for instance, women are entering the game very late. Men have always helped men move up the corporate ladder, looking for mentees or someone to take over from them. Women on the other hand, protect their turf very fiercely.
Friendships need to be nurtured. Family obligations become the first limitation to good friendships unfortunately, instead of it remaining an opportunity for connection. MEN USE FAMILY OBLIGATIONS, FRUSTRATIONS AND ACHIEVEMENT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT AND WOMEN USE IT AS A PATH TO ISOLATION. Married women cut off from their unmarried female friends, and then, she is too busy with the husband and kids to invest in nurturing friendships with her married friends. It very quickly from there disintegrates into a game of ‘keeping up appearances!’
There is off course, many would argue, the question of safety in keeping male friendships as a woman; many men do find the concept of a platonic relationship with a woman challenging. Invariable he may attempt to compromise the friendship. His life partner may also not be particularly open to the idea. This applies to women equally. Insecurities can create havoc for true friendships across the divide.
There are many aspects to this discussion that I could delve into, but I’d love to hear your delving. I am afraid I will grow old without many female friends! I am still looking for 10 female friends I want to have this party with…