Why Female Friendship Is So Difficult: A Womanhood Guide

Morena Cardoso's DanzaMedicina Class at Spiritweavers Gathering 2017, captured by Leslie Satterfield

I’ve often dreamed of a utopia where all women, bonded in solidarity, love and defend each other, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or class. Are you living in that world?

For most of my life, female friendships took a back seat to everything else, especially relationships with men which were my top priority. Friendships with women were at best complicated and full of obligations and at worst rife with mistrust, jealousy, and betrayal. I remember my best friend in college alluding to the fact that she needed me to be there for her more often and me very clearly saying “maybe you should find someone else to do that for you.” It just wasn’t worth the struggle.

I didn’t know then what I know now: women coming together in support and love heals us more than anything else on earth. It is our sacred magic, our secret to success, and our unlimited resource for the love and intimacy we crave.

So why isn’t female intimacy an innate skill we all have? My short answer is: the whole world tries to prevent us from these bonds, probably because nothing threatens the systems-that-be more than women empowered and empowering each other.

“Tree of Life” by Keith Mallett

Now in my thirties, I feel full. I have women around the world who I love, admire, and laugh with. I cry with my friends, share my darkest secrets, and both depend and am depended on when times get tough.

I know how to create a circle of women where magic begins to flow just from being in each other’s presence.

However there is still something missing.

These small circles and friendships are beautiful but at the end of the day I travel so often that I, like many, can’t always commit to the consistency a women’s circle needs. Instead I want to find meaning wherever I am and with whoever I am with.

My close friends are like my sisters. We have mutually agreed to love one another, stay in contact ‘forever,’ and be positive forces in one another’s lives. But what about the rest of the people-who-self-identify-as-women walking around planet earth. How will I connect with them? Let’ see if this global sisterhood code can connect us regardless of age, race, culture, or privilege:


WOMANHOOD GUIDELINES:

If she is jealous of me, if she is younger than me, if she is just learning something I am good at, if she mistreats me or hurts me on accident or on purpose, or if she looks up to me and wants to be my friend when I am not sure I want to be hers:

  • SHE IS MY YOUNGER SISTER,

If I am jealous of her, if I admire her, if I am trying to be more like her, if I look up to her, if she is good at something I wish I was good at, or if I want to be her friend but she’s not so sure about me,

  • SHE IS MY OLDER SISTER.

If she is significantly older than I am, and in a different phase of life, if she has a whole different perspective on my life and I on hers, if she criticizes me without me asking her to or tells me what to do, if I remind her of missed opportunities, of something she had but lost, or if she sees her former self in me,

  • SHE IS MY AUNT.

If she is much older than me, has lived in a different time than I have, moves more slowly than I do, if she needs my physical or mental support and help because the world has changed more quickly than she was able keep up with, or if she has a perspective on my life that is much beyond what I can fathom, if she has many stories to tell,

  • SHE IS MY GRANDMOTHER.

And rarely, but occasionally…

If she loves me unconditionally, if she cares for me without expecting anything in return, if she teaches me gently, holds me accountable for my missteps, if she sees my highest potential no matter where I am or how I am doing,

  • SHE IS MY MOTHER.

Try looking at the relationships in your life and deciding which category each woman fits into. People may move between a few different categories, especially big sister and little sister. (Ideally we’d all be able to play every role, as needed.)

Big Sisters checking out their little sister
Photo by thegoodwifesacookin on Flickr

Questions for Introspection: How can I best play my role without struggling or resisting? How can I ask for what I need from a big sister, without pressuring her for more than she can give? How can I respect all the grandmother’s I meet, giving them just a little bit of my precious time, which might mean a lot to them? How can I live vicariously through my little sisters, giving them love and laughter as they struggling with something I once did? How can I ask the many women further along with their lives, all my aunt(ie)s, for advice and encouragement and their stories?

TheBabushkasofChernobylFacebook
Photo by The Babushkas of Chernobyl Facebook Group

This knowledge used to be innate. Women fortunate enough to be raised in cultures still connected to indigenous roots often still carry this innate sense of womanhood. But for the rest of us, a healing process is in order to remember.

In trying to see the love and interconnectedness of the feminine spirit in all women I meet, I am beginning to see how powerful our connections can be. When we unite in love, peace, and justice, we will truly heal this earth.

P.S.

Here’s a new favorite song, “Diane,” written and performed by my friend, Cam. Here she answers to Dolly Parton’s (or Miley Cyrus’ version) “Jolene.” In Jolene a woman begs another woman not to betray her by “stealing” her man.

In “Diane,” Cam writes from the perspective of the other woman, the one who fell in love with a man she didn’t realize was married. Lyrics:

“Diane, I promise I didn’t know he was your man

I would have noticed a gold wedding band, Diane.

I’d rather you hate me than not understand, Oh Diane.

And all those nights that he’s given to me,

I wish that I could give them back to you…”

I love this imagining of a world where connections with women supersede the men in our lives and we connect with one another in order to heal and reconcile, dream and create, build and bring justice.