Jan (dietician), Yolanda (retail marketing), Deb (dental hygienist), Lisa (high-tech sales and engineering), Theresa (special education teacher and coach), Trisha (office administrator in medical field), Tracy (grants administration) and Kathy(child nutrition specialist) – class of 1979, Holton High, Kansas
I just returned from a week-end with my gal pals from high school. We are all now past the half-century mark in age and have been out of high school for nearly 35 years. We have seen one another since graduation at class reunions, significant events such as weddings and sadly a few funerals, as well as individual trips to each other’s homes over these many years. Some of us went to school together all through elementary to high school. Others of us moved to this rural northeastern Kansas community later but we all spent our middle school and high school years together. Some of us remain living in the area. Some of us have moved out-of-state. Often, years have passed between visits or chance encounters. We love Facebook because it helps us stay connected. We planned the entire week-end event using social media as the tool to communicate our plans on where we would stay, what we would do, where we would eat and shop, and most importantly where we would document the experience so we could share it with others that were unable to attend.
Intellectually, we are at our peak but physically we are beginning to feel and show the passage of time. We are all very strong women with the common values of family, hard work, and personal responsibility. We care about our community and the world we live in. We also love to laugh and poke fun at ourselves and there is an ease to the companionship. One of these dear friends made the observation that “it just seems like we pick up right where we left off the last time we were together.” Studies show that women are better than men at all forms of communication including both verbal and non-verbal skills. We are socially more skilled at reading the nuances in people’s reactions and behavior. I think women are generally more interested in people and relationships. Baby girls at a very young age are more attracted to faces and maintain eye contact two or three times longer than boys.
Girl friendships are often based on shared interests or values, rather than kinship or local ties. Our female relationships are based on cooperation, reciprocal helping and sharing of day-to-day tasks. We discuss child rearing, providing care and support for adult children and our aging parents, loss, divorces, troubles at work, illnesses and other defenseless times in our lives. Girlfriends have a unique type of trust in that pledge that We. Will. Be. There. For. One. Another. Women just bond. We don’t seem to need all of the formal and organized men-only associations. We need a place to gather and a pot of tea or a carafe of wine – maybe not even that.
Women have a secret language. We raise an eyebrow, a knowing look, an affectionate hug or touch on the arm. These non-verbal cues serve to include others in a group of mutual understanding. While Girl Talk may not be exactly a secret language, it is something that most men understand very poorly. Girl Talk also includes lots of chatting or gossiping. I admit we spent a fair amount of this activity this week-end on gossip. While this may have a negative connotation to some, I think gossip is essential to establishing the important element of sharing of confidences between friends. Women are more often willing to gossip about our families, private lives and feelings. The emphasis is on the emotional, rather than facts or issues. Research tells us that women gossip, on average, more than men each day (69 minutes compared to 63 minutes for men). This sense of conspiracy reinforces our sense of inclusion in a group. It is important that you can be trusted to keep your secret “in the vault” as our family refers to it but it is also important when to know to share a secret and to whom you can share it with confidence. There is a difference between secrets and SECRETS. There are some secrets that must be kept. We know when there are secrets that are quite serious, and must be protected. When these confidences are breached, there is hell to pay.
Women’s friendship is special in a world that is unique to women, with subtle nuances and signals, to which men have minimal access and which they barely understand. As women begin to realize these gifts more fully, perhaps we are about to witness a dramatic shift in the leadership of organizations, businesses and corporations…these thoughts I will save for another blog.
Here is to all of my female friends from childhood, college, from my early work days, my friends from raising children, my female business partner, to my neighborhood friends, my daughters, my family, and my current workmates. I can either give you a hug or I could slap you on the arm –women hug and our men mentors/friends slap us on the arm. It means the same thing but the differences are oh so subtle. Wink, Wink, Nod, and Pat! Love you all as you mean the world to me.
Credit to: The New Rules of Female Friendship and Communication, Social Issues Research Centre, Oxford, UK