Voices: On Female Relationships
Welcome back to Voices, a monthly series/discussion of topics, ranging from periods to professional advice, featuring my best girlfriends. This fourth installment was a bit delayed as April was a busy month for us all, but it was worth the wait!
Rather than ask questions interview-style (read: Advice for New Professionals, Fitness, Health, and Wellness, and Beauty), I had my girlfriends interpret the topic of female relationships and respond to it freeform. Here's what they had to say.
I could go on and on about this, Jen...My female friendships are just as important as a romantic relationship: they take work to maintain, we fight and make up, and with certain female friends, we even need to make the decision to break up. We've all had to make this difficult decision with some female friends because we simply grew apart and grew up to be different people. This has happened with some of my childhood friends. We tried so hard to make it work, but as time went on, it became clear that we could no longer force the friendship and made peace with letting the friendship fizzle out on its own.
I have some female friends who are more adventurous and outgoing than I am. Those are friends who I reach out to when I'm looking to have a good time. Some of my female friends are more reliable than others, but I don't get too butt hurt when the others don't pull through. With my best girlfriends and my sister, I find myself being super silly and staying up late talking about life until we fall asleep. I find these late night chats to be therapeutic because we always come out of it feeling so much better, as if we are coming out stronger than when we entered the conversation, and feeling more appreciative of having the other person in our lives. I find that I don't ever need to explain myself because they just get me and know that I don't have a hidden agenda. They know me better than I know myself.
I could say the same about my fiance, who I've been with for over 6 years, but it is truly different with my female friends. Men and women are wired differently. I always seemed to connect better with my female friends than with my male friends because I could talk to them about literally anything and everything, and I could be my quirky self, free of judgment. I look to my female friends for guidance on how to think of and handle certain situations. I look to them to validate my feelings and emotions, but also to challenge my thoughts and provide alternative views to help me move forward. These are the types of meaningful female relationships I hold onto dearly and am thankful for every day.
Switching gears here...My mom divorced my dad when I was 10 years old, picked me up from the midwest and relocated me to the east coast. The divorce wasn't easy for her, but she got by with her best female friends who supported her through every decision she made during the separation. In fact, she made the decision to move to the east coast to be closer to her best friends. To this day, she leans on them. She talks to them every day, goes on dinner dates with them, gossips, shops, and just has a great time with them doing anything and everything. She has been friends with one of them since they were 5 years old! It's comforting to know that my mom has such a great support system and that she won't be growing old on her own.
I don't know what I would do without some of my best girlfriends. I think about them a lot. Not to be a creep, but I go about my day-to-day life and sometimes I'll see or hear or smell something that reminds me of them. I always make it a point to text them randomly so they know I am thinking of them, and also, selfishly, in the hopes of reminding them that I still exist and not to forget about me.
Favorite female joke: Why do girls go to the bathroom in odd numbers? Because they can't even.
My girlfriends were and are my safe space. One of my best friends commuted in college. Since I lived right off campus, I gave her a key to my place in case she ever wanted to crash. One night, she and another of our close friends decided to spend the night. As best friends do, they showed up to my house without notice. I guess I must have fallen asleep before I planned to because they found me in bed sleeping awkwardly on top of my sheets. I have massive boobs, and apparently each boob was sticking out of my bra. They told me they laughed at me for about 10 minutes before each of them tucked a boob back into my bra and then tucked me in bed. The reason I love this story is because my senior year of college was a very tough time for me. I was suffering through severe depression while juggling the responsibilities of college and extracurriculars. Long story short, I was a hot mess. I didn't talk about my depression openly, but small gestures such as being tucked in added a touch of normalcy that I wasn't able to provide myself at that time.
I have a great relationship with my mother. This wasn't always the case. She would bring out the devil in me and I in her. We had some very difficult years, but somehow, adulthood made that all change. I became more mature and patient and my mother more open-minded. We have a great understanding today and I can't imagine life without her. And because of this great relationship I have with her, I find myself getting really excited about having daughters of my own. I can't wait to cuddle with them, dress them up for Halloween, have a conversation about the birds and bees in the most awkward way my imagination can conjure up. I can't wait for them to meet my mother and be spoiled by her love and amazing cooking. Knowing what kind of a child I was, they'll probably be a bunch of angry little brats, but I'm going to have so much fun with them. I already have a parenting game plan started in my head.
At first glance, I have to say, I didn't feel very excited about this topic. While it's important to discuss, I felt that for me personally, it was going to be draining (because ugh, so much to say—where does one ever start?) and I'd have a lot of trouble articulating what I actually think about the female relationships in my life. But here goes, without grammar, punctuation, chronological order, flow, or sense...
From Kindergarten to about 4th grade, I went to an all-girl, Catholic school. I got along with mostly everybody as our only competition was accomplishments in school. Sometimes, I'm glad that I was born in an Asian country, which placed higher emphasis on studies. Tiger parents or no, I look back happy to have only been worried about tests or AP classes, instead of clothes, popularity, or whether I had a boyfriend or not. I made some "best friends" at 8 years old who I was going to keep in contact with when I moved abroad to the United States. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
My pool of female friends was always much smaller than its male counterpart. I had my fair share of female friends, but for some reason, it took a longer time to find and establish those friendships. I thought it was because of my tomboy-ish tendencies and affinity towards more "traditionally masculine" interests. Having an older brother at home as my only consistent friend, it wouldn't be farfetched to say some of his interests/personality/way of being rubbed off on me. While these were definitely factors, I can also easily recall middle/high school where a lot of girls were very judgmental about how others looked or dressed, or how popular or well liked they were. If those criteria were met, then that was a green for the friendship test. Not much has changed. I've seen this practice seep into our adult lives as well because we have only been doing it this way.
Six years into the adult world, while I've lost friends who played some significant parts in my female friendships, I've managed to gain a couple as well. My post-college relationships with my older friends have also grown tremendously with more understanding of each other's thought processes, wants, priorities, and lives. I've learned so much from them through countless nights just chatting and adventures in unknown cities/countries. Both the balance and significance of female friendships have changed, where I rely on my girls 95% of the time. This is a major shift from school, when I primarily spoke to my male friends.
On any given day, I'd be the first to talk about an egalitarian world, but I've seen quite a few ups and downs in the female relationships in my own life that it makes me think—is it ever really going to happen? Women getting along with other women? We are all aware that on a general basis, men are much quicker to befriend each other than women are with other women. There are still times when I go into work, see some really accomplished women in my building, on my floor, in the elevator, and wish that telling them, "Hey, I think you're really cool. I would love to be friends" was enough to seal the deal. I know many believe in love at first sight, but does anybody believe in friendship at first sight? If only this was an acceptable practice, it wouldn't be so difficult to expand one's circle of female friends. I've also been on the receiving end of being treated as just a coworker no matter how much effort I put into differentiating the relationship from work. But it's just harder to make friends in general. People have limited time and they want to spend/invest it wisely. They can either give it to others already in their life or get to know someone completely new without the guarantee that it will proceed in the intended direction.
I look forward to seeing how my current female relationships develop over time, as we head into a time when people couple off, approach marriage/other life events, and grow older with their own families. Throughout these phases, my mom has remained my best friend and I am discovering the mother-daughter friendship more and more every day. At some point, your parents really do become your friends—this is one that I cherish the most. I am very aware that I am lucky to have this as I've seen many mother-daughter relationships that aren't as fortunate. I really hope this stream of thought is on topic...
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