“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” — Jane Austen
In today’s edition of “Holidays You’ve Probably Never Heard Of” we celebrate National Women’s Friendship Day.
The holiday was created by the Kappa Delta sorority in 1999 to promote friendships between and among women, and to celebrate the value of women in society, and it’s gradually grown in popularity since then. On the third Sunday of September, women are encouraged to contact or spend time with their women friends. One of the recommended activities is to get together to share a meal.
Coincidentally, that’s exactly what I did this morning. I have a group of friends that I started hanging out with when we all went to the same gym and trained for half marathons together. When the gym closed, five of us got in the habit of getting together a few times a year for breakfast, and we’ve been doing this for years. Although some of us hang out together more frequently in groups of twos, these periodic breakfasts are the only time we are all together at once. We meet up, catch up on each other’s lives, and have a nice breakfast. The conversation flows easily, we enjoy each other’s company and then we go a few months without getting together again. I love these women.
When I saw that it was Women’s Friendship Day I did a little research on what science tells us about women’s friendships. I wasn’t surprised to read that research supports the benefits of women’s friendships, including:
- Women who have strong friendships with other women live longer than those who don’t, regardless of marital status
- Hanging out with good girlfriends releases oxytocin, which relieves stress
- 70% of women feel prettier and more confident as a result of strong female friendships
- Women who have strong female friendships are more likely to be healthy, have less incidents of depression and be more optimistic
- In aging, positive female friendships are more likely to lead to better health and well-being than a spouse or other family members
Kate Leaver, author of a book called “The Friendship Cure”, writes: “The most beautiful thing about female friendship, to me, is 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…Friendship among women is so important because it gives us the solidarity to get through the inconvenience, fear, confusion and even danger of being female.”
I couldn’t agree more. When I was in my 30s and early 40s, I had a ton of friends. But gradually I realized that with some of these friends there was too much drama, too many rules and expectations. It felt like we’d never left middle school and those friendships felt like a lot of work. I started to ask myself whether the friendships made me happy and enriched my life, and if they didn’t, I moved on. Instead I focused on the friendships that gave me strength and brought me joy.
These days I have several friends that are similar to the group from this morning. Some women I talk to or get together with regularly, either individually or in small groups, and some I talk to only every few months. Like my breakfast group, whenever I talk or get together with any of these friends it’s simple. We are happy to see each other and fall back into conversation like we were just together yesterday. I love the ease of these kinds of friendships. These friendships are genuine and supportive and free of conditions.
Then there are my closest women friends, the select few that are my chosen family. They truly are kindred spirits. To quote Dorothy Parker, constant use has not worn ragged the fabric of our friendship.
These are the women who know my deepest secrets, have seen me at my worst, and still love me. They support me, but are also willing to tell me something I don’t want to hear. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, supporting me through bad break-ups, financial crisis, health scares and grief. These women would help me bury a body or bail me out of jail (although hopefully they’ll never have to do either), and I’d do the same for them.
We are all growing old together. We’re friends for life, and they can’t get rid of me now. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
“I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.” — Anne of Green Gables (by L.M. Montgomery)
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