Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm a woman in my late 30s who prefers male friendship to the female kind. It just feels more comfortable and more relaxed. I know what to talk about. I don't fear saying the wrong thing. Poop jokes are OK. So is not being particularly "girly." I've been fortunate to have experienced some great friendships in my lifetime, full of interesting conversation, laughter, openness, and honesty. With one exception, they've all been with men. Unfortunately, as my guy friends have met nice girls and gotten married, they've slowly disappeared. Some are busy with pregnant wives and young children. Others have a jealous spouse. In no instance have I done anything to cause my friends' distance.
I know it's damn well time I started making some female friends. The problem is that I don't really know how. Nearly every time I've tried, it's been a crash-and-burn. Why couldn't I see ahead of time that Woman A was going to spread nasty rumors about me; that Woman B only wanted to hang out so she could get dirt on her ex (my good friend); or that Woman C, when she moved away, would only want to stay in touch with my boyfriend? My male friends are just as "out there" as any of these women, but none of them have ever stabbed me in the back. What am I doing wrong? Is there a book I can read? Or a blog? I'm tired of feeling like an outsider, and I don't want to end up 40 and virtually friendless.
Sorry you've had such shitty experiences with the shorter sex. Gossip and backstabbing are certainly components of female friendship; so are laughter, commiseration, and even detailed descriptions of bathroom achievements. If you're not the kind of woman who goes in for "who said what" conversations, what about joining a club or class where you're likely to meet ladies with similar interests? Check out the offerings at your local YMCA, sports club, yoga studio, or house of worship. If athletics and religion aren't your guiding stars, try the adult education listings at the nearest college.
Here's another idea: What about pursuing friendships with one or two of the "nice" (and non-jealous-type) wives of your male former best friends? Invite one out to coffee or drinks. If your male friends were as great as you say they were, they probably picked stellar gals to marry as well. Also, since these ladies are already paired, it's unlikely they'll want to use you for your male connections. Finally, if you and wifey hit it off, it will be a double bonanza: You'll get your (guy) buddy back in the fold, and you'll have a new lady friend on your rolodex, too. Please note that just because you're currently single doesn't mean you have to stay 10 feet away from married people. Plus, if you're looking to meet a love match of your own, couples are often the ones with the best introductions.
As for reading up on the topic before you try it yourself, check out the Friendship Blog by Irene Levine, Ph.D. And remember: There are as many types of women as there are lettuce leaves. Be yourself, and be friendly and open. In no time, I bet you'll have a gaggle of your own.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Last year, the 16-year-old son of my friend "Ashley" died suddenly from a rare and previously undetected heart defect. The loss hit Ashley, her husband, and their two daughters hard. Her husband took an unpaid leave of absence from work. Their daughters were acting out at home and at school. Luckily, the family is well-insured through Ashley's job, and they all have access to excellent mental health services. Over the past several months, there has been a definite improvement in Ashley's husband and their daughters. But Ashley herself doesn't appear to be getting better—really the opposite.
Ashley has always been a bit of a drinker. She'd have a glass or two of wine pretty much every night, and when we'd go out she'd have a few cocktails. Before last year, however, the boozing never seemed like a problem. But now when we go out, she gets wasted to the point where she's stumbling and slurring her words and coming on to strangers. It seems that even when she stays home, she drinks herself into a stupor. I've tried to get her to go out with me for activities that don't include drinking (movies, coffee, etc.), but there's always a reason why she can't come. We've all tried to gently bring up the subject and she acknowledges the problem but says she'll quit when she's ready.
I'd feel terrible telling Ashley, "Until you can get your drinking under control, I can't be around you," because it would feel like abandoning her while she's still struggling. But her behavior is taking a heavy toll on our friendship. She doesn't even remember the last half of the evening anymore! Is there anything I can do to remain supportive of her but not of her addiction? In fairness, Ashley doesn't drink and drive, and she has never shown up drunk to work or to her children's school.
I Know She's Suffering, But. . . .