An Open Letter to My Daughter: Having Girlfriends

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“There is just no comparison between having a dinner date with a man and staying home playing canasta with the girls.”
― Marilyn Monroe

Hi Celia. It’s me, Mom. I just thought I’d write a letter here to let you know how you already amaze me. Your spirit precedes you. You are sweet, you are brave, you are strong— and you are not at all what I expected you would be.

I have written about this all before, but now, more than ever I am seeing how having a daughter is changing me as a woman.

You see, I was a little girl once. And I was pretty good at it. I mean I had a Barbie townhouse, a Smurf Walkman and twin cabbage patch kids. I mean, as far as being a little girl goes, I nailed it.

But, compared to you, I was totally lame. You are so much cooler already- and you have moxie to beat the band.

But today I am not here to talk about all that. Today I want to talk to you about one of the most important relationships you will have. While your relationship with me, Dad and your brother are important, I think there is another one that will need your attention– your whole life.

I’m talking about girlfriends.

This past weekend I spent a luxurious three nights with a friend of 13 years. Michelle and I met one summer waiting tables. When I think of becoming friends with her now, it was effortless, organic. This past weekend, we had a wonderful time telling old stories, having laughs, soaking up the sun and just enjoying each other. The most important thing this weekend reminded me of was what it was like to be a girlfriend–and only a girlfriend. Before I had to juggle the titles of wife, mother, job, etc., I was just someone’s best girlfriend. And I was struck by the notion that being a girlfriend– at all stages of life— should remain a priority for all women.

My first best friend (circa 1985), Kerri Clancy, lived just around the corner from me. She was the one I had my first sleepovers with, my first pool parties, my first dance performances in my driveway. It was with her that I shared my first crushes, my first fears. I have such wonderful memories of my early girlhood with her.

And then my heart broke.

In fifth grade, Kerri moved.This is a very difficult change for a fifth grader to get over. Not having her in arm’s reach was catastrophic.

But I do think it was the evolution of that first friendship that taught me how vital genuine friendships are for girls. When Kerri left, I knew I had to make new friends. And in that experience I saw that making friends is an ongoing experience in your life.

I have had many friendships over the years and they all have provided me with such unique things– some are silly, some are very emotional, some are: “are we the same person?” Each woman I bond with as a friend brings something special to my life. So, today I bring you some good rules to follow in being–and in having—girlfriends.

1. Give her your time. Friendships evolve from the time you spend together. When that time gets sparse (i.e. babies are sucking up all your energy and you can’t remember the last time you wore heels), the friendship does not always have room to grow. Give your friendships the attention and time you give your bills, your big meeting at work or even your husband! Cultivating friendships helps you remember why you are friends to begin with. It’s important to stay in touch with that- no matter how busy you are.

2. Have friends of all ages. This won’t work really until you are into your twenties but it’s important to have women you love who are younger and older. You will have many friends who are the same age as you, but friends who don’t share the same life experiences at the same time offer both wisdom and perspective. Just like having a younger or older sister is good for any girl— the same goes for girlfriends.

3. Be silly. Laughter remains the best medicine for all of life’s ups and downs. If you remember the part of Sex in the City where Charlotte has an inconvenient shart in Mexico, you know this: Girlfriends need to be there #1 for support and #2 to laugh our asses off at each other.

4. Tell her what she means to you. It can be truly fortifying for a friendship to put into words what she means to you. Any friend who has sent you the “Thinking of you XO” text or I happen to be a card person but it could really be anything- a card, a text, a phone call. I’m infamous for the rambling voice mail message. It’s tried and true.

So Celia, be ready. You, with that spunk and flair are sure to have some friends who will support, strengthen, challenge and change you. And those relationships will carry you through your entire life.

Enjoy them.

Love,
Mom

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Girlfriend-ing in Your Thirties

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My best friend since fifth grade!

“The thing about old friends is not that they love you, but that they know you. They remember that disastrous New Years Eve when you mixed White Russians and champagne and how you wore that red maternity dress until everyone was sick of seeing the blaze of it in the office, and the uncomfortable couch in your first apartment and the smoky stove at your beach rental. They look at you and don’t really think you look older because they’ve grown along with you, and, like the faded paint in a beloved room, they’re used to the look.”-Anna Quindlen Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

In two weeks, I have a weekend with all of my college girlfriends. Something we do about 3-4 times a year and is always such a great time. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a bachelorette party for one of my high school buddies and got to road trip with some of my best friends from my elementary and teenage years. It was heavenly. Time to rehash really, really old stories and laugh with the people who knew you first, before you became a wife, Mom, short order cook and sippy cup bartender. Before you thought that 10 pm was “staying up late,” before you started talking about saving for college and retirement and health insurance and all that jazz. Before you were the you that you are now.

Girlfriend-ing in your thirties can be a challenge. Which is why, I think we set aside pre-planned weekends to have this time together. We’ve seen that the time won’t just happen, the “extra” time won’t ever just fall into your lap and, biggest realization of all since becoming a mother— nothing is really done successfully at the last minute. Pre-planning is not only convenient but absolutely necessary.

I’ve written a bit before about girlfriend-ing and it’s importance. And I continue to think that it holds a deep value and purpose in the life of a woman. In reading Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, she writes a whole chapter on girlfriends and how important they are not only as your confidant but as your reflection on you. A woman can’t reflect you like a man can. Women need each other— to be honest, candid, sympathetic and most of all just to help you to laugh at yourself—over and over again.

Finding time to be a friend was never really an issue in my younger years. Instead, it was basically the primary focus of my younger years. I used to have exercise (walking around town), coffee, wine and even dinner dates with friends on what seemed like a weekly basis. There was time to share the difficulties, the debates over major life decisions, the victories and the heartache. There was time to verbalize pretty much every feeling you had on any given day. And, as self-absorbed as it may sound, it was what kept you going in those early to mid twenty years.

Now, as people spread out, kids start getting into activities and everyone has their own schedules, things get tough. Tough to plan a time where everyone can hit the babysitter jackpot and get out without the kids. Tough to find a time when all kids are healthy and virus-free. It’s just more of a challenge than years passed.

So, the friends you tend to socialize with more regularly are your work friends. People who you share close relationships with but people you can also talk to about all things girlfriend—while you are at work. And even those conversations, now and again, need a good happy hour or dinner date to really be complete.

No matter what category the friend may fall into, if I am able to get a complete phone call in with any one of my friends–from high school, college or work, it’s a miracle. A lot of our lifestuff now is communicated via text, email (there’s one friend I email every day!) or just keeping an eye on each other on Facebook. There’s not as much time, not as much energy and sometimes not even enough brain power to have the ever so long winded chats you once did.

All you really want now is to have a complete conversation (without yelling “Do you need a time out?” Mid conversation), some good food or drink and laugh a little bit– or a lot. Thats why these girls weekends now are like gold. When you spend a whole weekend together, however, you are able to see a lot more of the whole person who is your friend. Their latest obstacles, funny stories, in-law complaints or even the sharing of great news. And you all get unlimited, unabridged and uninterrupted time to share this information and to remember yourself as a woman–detached from the children, the relationship or the job that (we think) defines us.

And that’s the gift of friendship at this age, I think. Making and getting— the time. Time for real girlfriend-ing that has not only a relaxing effect but a rejuvenating and refreshing effect on you—the you that your friends remember.

So share this post with all your girlfriends and plan the next girls weekend– you deserve it.