I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The relationships women foster with eachother and the variety of social rules and accepted behaviors that surround “sisterhood.”
Girls nights, grooming sessions, travelling pants. The strange desire some woman have to coo or compliment every time they see a female friend on something …HOW ARE YOU. YOU LOOK GREAT IN THAT. The unspoken rules. Your friend never looks fat. Or Old. Or is pathetic because she can’t stop calling him. She should DTMF, but if she doesn’t you are there for her. And so on, and so forth.
And I’ve been thinking about the other end. The cattiness. The competition. The inevitable sense of keeping up with the joneses that can permeate even a close group of friends when they “progress” at different paces, or even make different life choices.
I am prone to think of Peggy, from Mad Men, in the ladies rest room. And she has done the practically impossible. Become a female copywriter in a world dominated by men. And she makes a decent wage and has her own apartment and all that jazz. And she is proud. And the first person comes into the rest room and compliments her on her own office and isn’t she doing well for herself. And the second person, pregnant, looks at her, and makes a comment akin to “don’t worry, you are still young enough to find a man and have a baby”
And both are being friendly. No one has said “Oh, you pathetic homely girl. Atleast you have your job” And No one has says “bitch, how did you get that job, I bet you slept with the boss”
And no one has also says “you are brilliant” they have said “nice lipstick!” or “ I love that top!”
Like they said to the last 3 girls they saw.
Dolling out compliments to let their friends know they are in the position to do so.
Withholding them with similar incline.
I think about this. And then I think about my boyfriends friends. Who are actually really close friends. And when he shows up it’s like “hey! Good to see you! I saw your show! It was awesome”
Or maybe just a warm hello! Not, ya know. Nice shoes or WTG! About the most irrelevant pieces of their wardrobe.
I think of how little their friendships are reflections of their insecurities, and how commonly women bring their insecurities into the very fiber of the way they bond, for better or for worse.
I don’t know. I don’t know where I am going with this except:
Friendships are important and extended families make us feel loved, warm and secure.
Or they should.
And I suppose you can’t change the fundamentals of how different genders build closeness. I don’t know that I would WANT to. I am fine receiving a compliment from time to time or even well intended critical feedback. But it strikes me, as often as not, than in an effort to deny a particular intrinsic quality of “female bonding”-the reflexive need to curb the competitive streak- we have developed some very inauthentic means of expressing ourselves. Methods that bely our purpose.
SO I guess the main question is: what to do, and how to do it in a culturally appropriate way that still breeds healthier, kinder and more accepting relationships.