Without good girlfriends, what would life be? I can truly answer – dull and unfulfilled. Girlfriends from the time of being a toddler in childcare until you draw your last breath are an important ingredient of growing up. You probably don’t remember the little girl that either you followed around or followed you around as you played with teddy bears or slept on the rug with milk bottles during nap time. But as you grew older, having girlfriends was a major part of your life and if you were rejected, it was absolutely devastating. Your whole world came crashing down. When you were at peace with your girlfriends, the world was at peace, and you were sooo happy!
As a teenager, your girlfriend was the one who knew who your first crush was and you spent hours on the telephone or on the school yard describing, analyzing, and scheming on what you were going to do to attract his attention because you were too scared to reach out to him. And of course, the topic of parents and siblings was part of the main subject of your conversation. Your girlfriend (s) were part of a gang that made you feel special. If you were lucky, you kept the same girlfriends from elementary school through your senior years.
This reminds me of a recent visit from one of my girlfriends whose relationship has spanned 75 years, from first grade to now. We both have had two husbands, were the last of our immediate family left alive, and raised our children to be fine productive citizens. She is the widow of her first husband, and I am the widow of both my first and second husbands. Of course, this description of our marriages does not describe all the drama of divorce and child rearing, but those are stories for another time. What is important, no matter how long it has been since we have seen each other, our relationship allows us to catch up with honesty about incidents and feelings so that when we leave each other, we just feel relieved and much better because it was therapeutic, and we both needed it. We now go on to the next thing carrying less baggage. As important, we did not have to share a background that we both knew and experienced, we could just pick up where we left off. This only goes to show how important girlfriends are and they remain important in your life, your whole life long.
As women, we thrive on strong relationships with our girlfriends. This is maintained through all the stages of our lives even after we marry the “partner of our dreams.” Our girlfriends are often what keeps us from going insane, provide support, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. These bonds are an outlet for all that we experience: our thoughts, feelings, successes, and defeats. Girlfriends are one of the best inventions in the history of mankind. In fact, according to Zara Abrams, “American culture prioritizes romance, but psychological science is exploring the human need for platonic relationships and the specific ways in which they bolster well-being.” (Psychology Today, June 1, 2023)
Let’s get to the science of having girlfriends. Here are some surprises. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, friendship influences cancer recovery rates:
Women with early-stage breast cancer were four times more likely to die from cancer if they didn’t have very many friends. Those with a larger group of friends with early-stage breast cancer had a much better survival rate. (Kristen Fuller, MD, The Importance of Female Friendships Among Women Unbreakable female bonds can solidify your happiness. Psychology Today, Posted August 16, 2018)
Other scientific facts that influence the results of having friendships (https://www.scienceofpeople.com/friends-important/):
- The risk for depression, suicide, obesity, smoking, and substance abuse drastically increases when people spend time around friends who are depressed/suicidal, overweight, smokers, or abuse substances.
- Toxic friendships, including unhealthy or mentally ill friends, can influence your adoption of their habits and negatively impact your health.
- Friendships can determine your physical health, financial success, and even how long you live.
- Physically, social connection is linked to lower blood pressure, lower B.M.I., less inflammation, and a reduced risk of diabetes across all age groups.
- Friendships enrich lives on every level, contributing to self-esteem, happiness, and a sense of worth.
- Loneliness is as closely linked to early death as smoking or alcoholism.
- One of the longest-running human studies on happiness has shown that relationships are the number one key indicator of joy and happiness.
- The people who had the most satisfaction in their friendships at age 50 were the healthiest and happiest at age 80.
Beyonce said,“I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations.”
So true Beyonce – so true.
But sadly, we often lose our friends, and it can be as devastating as losing a close relative. We must grieve because we will dearly miss them. That, however, is not the end of having friends. Be open, seek new relationships. There are women, both young and old, who will dearly appreciate your friendship. Don’t be shy, reach out!
I share with you this poem to feed your soul:
I cherish the friends that I have made over the years. Some were with me during a particular period in my life and they were good solid friends who have departed by death, or we just lost touch and that is how life goes. But some have transitioned from one phase of my life to now. I would not trade any of my friends who have come into my life for all the gold in the world. For each left something dear to me and helped me grow and be strong.
Now, I give as much as they gave me to the young women who now have come into my life. They are my new young friends. They have made me a teacher, philosopher, mother, and grandmother. They have made me proud to be a part of helping to build their character and prepare them for the new world. Just as Maggie Mathews, Dean of Women at Tuskegee Institute, took me under her wing and befriended me, I do the same for them. After all, that is what intergenerational love and Black women’s friendship is all about and “Black Women” do that extraordinarily well. Think about it and do your part to pass your wisdom on in loving friendship.