by Sarah Allan and Jessica Linnay
Whether you call them your girlfriends, your sisters from other misters, or yo’ bitches, your female friends are your supporters, your back up, your partners in adventure, your inspiration and your soft place to fall (all while looking fabulous, mmhmm). They tell you the truth and they want the best for you. So why is it so hard to make new girlfriends?
It seems that every magazine targeting young women contains advice, strategies and insight into how to meet guys and catch yourself a boyfriend, when many young women struggle with a very different problem, how to meet and keep quality female friends.
You know they say that to raise a child it takes a village. It is statistically proven that girls with multiple positive female role models around them during their development have higher self-esteem, ambition, and are less likely to fall prey to the outrageous standards that society and the media thrust upon the “fairer sex.”
Having strong female ties also protects you from stress. (to an extent!)
“Women are much more social in the way they cope with stress,” says Shelley E. Taylor, author of “The Tending Instinct” (Owl Books) and a social neuroscientist at UCLA. “Men are more likely to deal with stress with a ‘fight or flight’ reaction–with aggression or withdrawal.” But aggression and withdrawal take a physiological toll, and friendship brings comfort that mitigates the ill effects of stress, Taylor says. That difference alone, she adds, “contributes to the gender difference in longevity.”
In fact, for women, there is some evidence that a male partner, in times of stress, can make things worse. In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 1995, German researchers found that when subjects were given a stressful task–in this case, preparing a speech for delivery in front of an audience–men who were joined by their female partner for the preparation period showed much lower stress levels than those who had no support. When women preparing their speeches were joined by their male partners, their stress hormones surged.
While I’m not saying that meeting guys is a piece of cake, I think most of us are pretty clear on the ‘how to’s’ and ‘where to’s’ of dating. You can approach a guy in a bar and strike up a conversation, even give out your number, without causing so much as a raised eyebrow, but try and ‘pick up’ a potential female friend at a bar? Give your number to a girl you don’t know who you thought had nice boots and was good at pool? Unheard of! First, they may get the wrong idea and think you are trying to pick them up in a romantic fashion. Second, they may think you are a weirdo with no friends of your own, desperately seeking some companionship (which you probably are, minus the weirdo part.)
The truth is in this day and age, young women move, travel and relocate like never before. Many of us move to other cities, or even countries, for a job, with a partner, to go to school, or just to get the *&#@ out of wherever we lived before. Many adventurous young women have no trouble meeting guys in these new locales, but struggle to meet quality women-friends. It might be slightly easier to meet some party girls to go for a drink with, or the girlfriends of friends of your guy, but solid, awesome, smart, intelligent, down to adventure, females that want to bro-down, debate the issues, share a meal, bitch about work, shop for shoes, go to yoga, or lay at the beach with? Nearly impossible!
Think about the last time you saw an intriguing female on the bus or at a coffee shop. The thought of approaching someone for friendship is somehow more intimidating for most than striking up a romantic (or sexual) conversation. We’re never going to make much progress with such a fragmented female society, prioritizing male companionship instead of support networks and inspiring relationships.