I read a lot of women’s fiction, and often a group of women come together in a particular situation and form deep, lasting bonds with each other. Heck, I’ve even written a book that follows this pattern! I didn’t write it to honor my best gal pals, though. The women I feel closest to are scattered all over the country. When we get together, not nearly often enough, it’s as though no time has passed, but I don’t have a group of local women to meet for coffee and commiseration. I think I wrote my novel in part to create characters that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with!
As I worked on the manuscript, I grappled with what I see as changes in friendships that have occurred over the years. I remember as a young girl when neighbor ladies came over to visit my mom. My grandma, a seamstress who worked out of her home, kept a pot of coffee on for people who dropped by for fittings and a chat. She enjoyed the confidential nature of those conversations, saying, “I could blow the lid off this town if I wanted to.” But she didn’t, because she valued her relationships.
Fast forward a few decades. For a time I worked in an office made up entirely of women. Overall, it was a great time. Yes, we had our moments, but we often hung out together socially, and we had a lot of fun. I saw none of the competition among women that I would see later in an environment of both men and women. I was in my 30s then, and I was in a “golden age” of friendships, complete with those long, sharing telephone calls that sometimes extended late into the night.
Where did those friends go? Our company merged, and many of us went our separate ways through resignations and layoffs. We held things together for a time, but other jobs, commutes, and family responsibilities intervened. After that, I enjoyed the company of female co-workers on other jobs, but nothing clicked in terms of friendship.
I also found that in the environment of other corporations, some of the women bonded together in a “mean girls” sort of way. Once I was invited to have lunch with a group of ladies, and their sole topic of conversation was to gossip about another co-worker whom I happened to like. Needless to say, I was never invited to their group again, and had they invited me, I would have turned them down.
As we age, many of us are part of the sandwich generation, where we are caring for children and parents at the same time, often while holding down a job and trying, at some level, to keep the house clean. I was fortunate during this period to have the option to drop my corporate responsibilities, but it also created a level of social isolation. My buddies still have jobs, and they often don’t stop even to have lunch these days. Some, I have stopped asking.
I don’t give up easily, though. I chat with a few of the neighbors from time to time, and I find some promise there. I have bonded with some of my fellow women writers, which feels good, even if that’s all online. I visit my scattered friends when I can. And, of course, when all else fails, I can always make up new characters and revisit old ones!
I’d love to hear from women on this. Are your friendships alive and well? How did you meet? How do you keep your relationships strong over the years?