It’s a ‘gal’ thing

The essence of female friendships and all-girl gatherings

03 Jan 2019 / 11:01 H.

How can anyone say they have not noticed the good time girls have when they get together? There’s obviously something special when females flock together; almost magical, that even we ourselves can’t quite put a finger on it. It seems (through the grapevine), that men even get jealous of their wives and girlfriends having a good time when out with the girls.

While friends are many - school friends, college mates, office colleagues, neighbourhood acquaintances, leisure activity circles, etc, friendships among females are something else.

An online article shared views of freelance jounalist Kate Leaver (who writes about women and authored the book The Friendship Cure) and filmstar Sarah Jessica Parker (who played Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City) - who both agree that their girl friends are great loves of their lives. They said what women feel is epic, that friendship love is real, and that the beauty about female friendships is that it can last a lifetime.

From the psychological standpoint, journals claim that female friendships among women are strengthening, meaningful yet complex, and can run deeper than family ties or relationships with husbands and lovers (so, move over guys)! And from the spiritual stance, women are said to be wired for more soulful relationships.

However, this writer still believes that women can develop solid friendships with both men as well as women, but she doesn’t deny that when “girls of a feather flock together”, it’s something else altogether.

Remember your besties and BFFs who shared your many firsts and secrets? College chums who were partners in crime? Or in later years into marriage and after having children, perhaps you would have found your alter ego or confidante in one or two good friends of a larger group.

From the girls we enjoy coffee with, to the ones who hold us back from impulse buying, including those whom we can be our own worst nightmare with - of the variety of characters out there, it’s a wonder why and how some of the oddest and diverse of personalities clique (in some cases). While we put that thought on the backburner, we consider what independent sociologist and author Patricia Leavy (in an online article) recommends, of the five friend types you may want or already have, in your circle:

* The springboard who bounces off ideas (advice included);

* The mirrors who know us better than anyone else, are good listeners and great for a hug;

* The safety nets who cushion all our “falls” and are there for us;

* The tough love kind who are forthright and tell it in our face but only for our benefit; and

* The mutual silence is kindness type who listens and does not ask but you can feel their support and empathy in their hush of quietness.

From individuals with the traits in Leavy’s list to some who seem to have all the types rolled into one, Malaysians - Melanie and Mary, who live abroad, share about their girlfriends.

A mother of three who is in her 50s and residing in the UK, Melanie says: “My girlies and I have known each other for at least 14 years - since our sons started primary school together. But we only developed a closeness after four or five years.”

She feels that women are more capable of close-knitted friendships because they are more open to talking about how they feel and personal things, etc. “Few men are able to talk about emotions; so that draws us (the girls) together,” she says.

Having lived in four different countries, Melanie has developed many solid friendships but found something special in her group of four.

“We make an effort to meet at least one to two hours a week, chatting, laughing, moaning, planning ...We’re now in the midst of organising our annual trip away, together. This year, it was just an overnight getaway but next year, we’re thinking of ‘taking off’ for three nights,” she shares.

Of her three besties, she says that although each are different in character, “we’re all honest and sincere with each other ...supportive... And if we tease each other, it’s with kindness.”

She doesn’t deny though that keeping their friendship going takes work and effort (considering responsibilities as wives and mothers). “Still,we know that we take away far more and feel better for our friendship”.

“I love my husband but knowing I’m going to see my girlies makes me happy and thankful I have my own friends who are wonderful. The conversations we have are totally different! Coffee club once a week and occasionally out for cocktails too,” Melanie reveals.

For Mary who’s in her 30s and part of the Singapore workforce, time with her girlfriends are mostly fun-filled. “We meet at least once a month, over dinner and/or drinks,” says she who’s career-driven and leads a life that’s pretty much “chop-chop”.

Still, Mary enjoys the company of both her male and female friends whom she makes time to meet with regularly. “With the guys, we talk straight, no holds barred, and conversations are mostly about fun stuff and carefree; but with the girls, we talk about emotions, family, boys, struggles in the workplace, our lives, our loves ... and they’re much like having sisters who are caring,” shares Mary.

Friends of Mary’s are spread all over the globe, which sees this pint-sized wonder of a woman often globe-trotting attending birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, even concerts and weekend getaways.

Do we ever get too old and tired of our girlfriends? It’s a big no for Marie who shares a little about a lot of what friendship has been like with her bevy of 70-year-old ex-Convent Bukit Nanas school and college girlfriends.

“We share friendships that have stood the test of time. From school days to college years, some of us have been a good part of each other’s lives and some have seen the best and not-quite-the-best of each other, but we’ve all remained friends and kept in touch to this present time.

Marie says that although each have their own personalities and share different views on all sorts of issues, most times, they can agree to disagree; and perhaps it is this among other reasons, these girls have remained in contact.

A couple of annual gatherings bring these ladies together, like during festive occasions, their yearly CBN get-together, as well as smaller parties celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, or just catching up over a meal or visiting when one is a little under the weather.

When these “golden girls” gather, they sometimes reminisce stories of school crushes and old flames, and tales of pranks and mischief. Experiences are etched in their minds, stories often re-told, yet enjoyed listening to over and again. One would think that in their age, gatherings would be more conservative and straightlaced, instead, they in their 70s talk loud, get silly and roar with laughter, all in the name of friendship.

Recently, the “girls” even hired a bus and went on a road-trip together. And on another occasion, they took a train and ventured up north. Now in the evening of their lives, though many celebrate grandmotherhood, some are busy, running marathons, hiking, sailing across the seas, and jet-setting. But in all their busyness, they still make time to catch up. Theirs is a friendship that lends support, encourages and uplifts, Marie informs.

According to “experts”, female friendships and their leisure get-togethers are important as it develops social networks and improves social wellbeing. They also provide opportunities for building community, constructing identity and help women going through personal and situational change. It is also said to be a biological necessity as the connection between women increases the release of oxytocin, which relieves tension (claimed an online article). Additionally, friendships among females are said to lead to contentment (provided you hang out with emotionally healthy women). Besides, good girlfriends listen and emphatise, and sometimes tell you exactly what you need to hear, but with a good heart.

Looking at society today, it seems like female friendships are valued more than ever and never “went out of fashion”. In fact, who said “women can’t be friends?” when such girlie friendships are now described as the bedrock of many women’s lives and quite the trend.

Fad or not, if you’re having a good time with the girls, why not? We’ll end on this note, with Leaver’s reply to the Standard on what she thought was the most beautiful thing about female friendships: “It’s its strength. Women make each other more resilient because, when female friendship is done right, it is this astounding source of confidence, reassurance, comfort, joy and candour that can truly guide you through life.”

So, raise your glasses girls. This 2019, it’s time to get the “sistahs” together to love, laugh, cry and simply enjoy being girls. There’s belief that when strong women get together, incredible things happen!

DID YOU KNOW?

A Harvard study reported that friendships are an essential part of life, as important to our wellbeing, mainly because it helps us develop and grow through the phases and times throughout life. It also stated that solid friendships promote brain health and help one deal with stress a lot better.