on female friendships

Monday, January 2, 2012

One of the great joys of having our son home (and there are many joys, believe me) is what happens over meals.  We talk, and we talk deeply.  We raise questions.  We try to answer them.

This evening the talk turned to the nature of friendships—about why friendships between men seem better equipped to overcome small hitches, to get on with things, to move past disagreements.  "I don't mean to stereotype women," my son said, "but wouldn't you say they are often less willing to confront issues head on?  I mean, don't women often tend to say nothing when they should say something, until the smallest little thing makes the whole friendship explode?"

I had to agree, as the one woman at the table.  I looked back, thought about relationships broken, relationships that carry forward.  I thought about the times that I've tried to be direct—to speak honestly, to express concerns, to ask questions, to understand—and about how, at times, directness was both not wanted, nor productive.  I thought about the ways that silence creeps in, then distance, then nothing.  I thought about a lot of things while my son kept on talking.

Men, he was saying, can have fights, physical fights even, and wake up the next day and be friends.  For women, however, continuity post betrayal or perceived betrayal, post selfish turn, post unkindness, seems harder.

Why do you think that is? he asked me. 

I could not say for sure.

12 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I think your son is definitely on to something. Men can move on but women sometimes struggle with letting go. I wish I knew why.

Literary Feline said...

I have been wondering that a lot lately.

Wendy said...

Well, this is a very interesting post and one I think that is, unfortunately, accurate for the most part. I tend to be a pretty direct person. I don't like silence when things are clearly not okay, and yet, sometimes it is hard to crack through those misunderstandings. I think many women hold grudges when their feelings are hurt or they feel betrayed or misunderstood. Most men, it seems, do not waste their time worrying about the past. Their friendships seem more honest that way. That said, I do have some very dear friends who, like me, believe in clearing the air and putting things in the past which should remain in the past. I think it is healthier that way. I wish more women agreed!

Beth Kephart said...

Right there with you, Wendy!!

Melissa Sarno said...

This is fascinating. But I just tried to imagine a girlfriend clocking me in the head. I'm not sure I could wake up fine with that the next day! :)

Wendy said...

LOL Melissa!!! I see your point - I don't think I could have a physical fight with another woman and wake up saying "Oh, that? That was no big deal." Men are definitely in their own category on that one!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

We're mysterious. I can't figure us out. With no disrespect to the fine, fine girls and women I know and love, it is wonderful to be the mother of two boys. I'm sure if I'd have girls, I would have learned how to parent, but at this point in my life, even after teaching for seven years, girls are still complex in my mind.

Part of it, I think, is we as women are just as concerned with what is unsaid/implied as what is said. What we think is being said isn't always the same as what is truly being spoken...

Fodder for a future story, maybe?

CarolWeis said...

I think it depends on who I'm dealing with, friend-wise. Some can't deal with directness. I lost a good friend who couldn't handle my being honest. And I also think women may value their relationships more, and are sometimes overly sensitive about hurting feelings.

Beth Kephart said...

I thank you all for your interesting and thoughtful responses (and Melissa, for making me laugh). This is, of course, a generalization. But there are so many things to think about.

kelly said...

He's awfully smart for one so young. And by the way, if we ever get into a fisticuffs, remember that I seriously outweigh you. (Just wanted to use the word fisticuffs.)

Beth Kephart said...

I hate to disappoint you, Kelly, but I'm a Body Combat girl. You're a mere dancer. :)

Lilian Nattel said...

Maybe it has to do with the basis of friendship. Boys and later men tend to be active together, to play sports or video games or something else that is the focus, not each other. Girls talk, they share. It's a much fuzzier way to be friends, and so more fraught. You can punch each other out if you're boys and then go back to the video game or watching (or playing) hockey. Girls usually are deterred from punching each other out, leaving words, direct (also discouraged as not nice) or indirect to vent. That's why sometimes I just tell one kid to punch the other kid back even though they are both girls and both my daughters. It seems to clear the air more simply.

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