Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | May 27, 2010

on friendship

I am reading a book called “The Girls from Ames,” and I got to a very interesting part last night. The book is about 11 women who started their friendship in childhood and have remained friends for 40 years.  So far, most of the book talks about the individual girls and their experiences while growing up and how that has morphed into their current situations. Chapter 6, however, starts to talk about what all of this means – the importance of friendship, the differences between men and women, the different friendships that people have over the years and how they fit into a woman’s life. One paragraph really stood out to me…

This talking, hashing out and confiding between women actually leads to physical reactions, according to Penn State University researchers. They found that there’s a chemical called oxytocin released in women’s bodies when they are doing what researchers call “tending or befriending.” Oxytocin helps ease women’s stress. It calms them down. When men are stressed, they produce testosterone, which tends to reduce the effects of oxytocin. (Meanwhile, a Harvard Medical School study found that for women without close friends to talk to, the sense of isolation can be as damaging as smoking, overeating or drinking too much alcohol.)

We’ve always known that friendship is important. I find it interesting to see it written that there is quantifiable proof of just how important it is for women. It has been difficult to cultivate lasting friendships with the amount of moving that I’ve done over the years. The internet helps, but there is something about just hanging out with the girls. That’s what I miss the most about working in an office (well, lunch with the girls helps). The isolation of working from home is a difficult thing. Add to that fact that there are not a lot of opportunities for just going out and hanging with the girls when you have a little one, and you can see the problem.

Calling out the damaging properties of isolation rings very true to me. We need our friends and our times of silliness to make the drudgery of life more enjoyable. We need people around us who are like minded and understand the way that we think. Back in Kansas my initial problems with the area was not finding people who met that – I was definitely a fish out of water for a while. Once I finally met people who were a little more liberal, a little more artsy and well read, my perspective on the area changed. And even though I didn’t get to go out on the town all that often – I found those friends right as I was about to have the munchkin – it helped to know that they were there and it made my life a little easier.

One of the other interesting things that the book mentioned was about how in previous generations, women had trouble maintaining friendships between the ages of 25 and 40 but that at that point, after “a couple of decades spent finding a mate, building a marriage and raising kids, women finally had time for themselves because their kids were more self-sufficient.” Now, women are hitting 40 with little ones still claiming all of their time. We spend our 20s building careers and finding mates and our 30s and 40s raising kids. Now the period of trouble maintaining relationships seems to extend longer into our lives. For women like myself, we also wind up giving up or altering our careers and sometimes it is hard not to a) look back at that as time lost and b) have a harder time defining your own sense of self. I had always been someone who defined myself by what I did – work was a big part of my identity.

Friendship is one of the most important things in the world. Friends are truly special. They help us through the rough times and celebrate the good times. Friends help us not be so stressed out. To all my friends far flung around the country….I love and miss you.



  1. I miss you too.. we all do! I am truly thankful for you girls.. all of you have helped shape me to be the woman I am now.. even if we have known each other only a few years. I was very alone before you, T, Jen & Shauny came around.. and I am eternally grateful!

  2. This post really spoke to me, especially the part about having friends all over from the constant moving. I definitely have some good girlfriends at work, but getting friends locally has been a struggle. I feel like an outsider in this community where many people have lived their entire lives. And the kicker is that I *know* how good having friends would be for me… it’s just so damn hard to meet other women with similar interests near me! It’s like there should be a for women friends. 🙂

    hug from your friend!

  3. i miss you too friend, but am always thankful to have you, no matter what part of the country you are in.
    i am going to pass this post onto dionne…i think she needs to read about this study.

    and, i want to read this book!

    love you! hope all is well.

  4. Amazing post! Speaks more to me than you can ever know. I miss you so much here! Ok, I can’t sit here at my desk crying…

    xoxo, Anna

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