Guest Post: Phyllis Scheiber & Girlfriends
We are so lucky to have a guest post today from Phyllis Schieber. Phyllis visits Sharing with Writers. She has a blog outreach campaign where she will visit a wide variety of blogs and discuss many topics, relevant to all women, but especially to the older, mature woman. (That's me now!) Today she is sharing about her relationships with her girlfriends. I am so happy to have her here. I know my girlfriends are my strength and soul. For more information about Phyllis and her books Willing Spirits and The Sinners Guide to Confession: visit her site. Now on to Phyllis.............
Next week, I will celebrate my thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. I was married at twenty-one, and while I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that my husband is a fine and decent person, a good father, a good husband, and an all-around nice person, he is simply not a woman. I do not know any other way to explain the difference between my relationship with my husband (whom I have known for forty years) and any of my girlfriends. It is not a question of love; it is merely the reality of the differences between the sexes. I am a wife, the mother of a son, a sister to a brother, the daughter of a father I adored, and quite fond of men. Nevertheless, I cannot think of one man I would choose to have lunch with over one of my girlfriends. I know some will balk at this confession, but it is true. Mind you, I would happily have lunch with any or all of the men aforementioned, but it simply would not be the same as lunch with one of my girlfriends. The details matter so much with women, and we savor them shamelessly. Everything matters. The best men (in my view) are the ones who recognize their deficiencies and genuinely work to compensate. It just does not seem to come as naturally to them. They have to work at it. I say all this with a nod to a male friend who offered this to me today: “Talk to me.” It nearly took my breath away, but they are words I would have expected from a woman friend. And that is the difference. I have a circle of women friends who sustain me, keep me sane, remind me of my worth, and reassure me that I am treasured. We say, “I love you,” at the end of every conversation; we unashamedly sign off our emails with a series of xoxoxox for kisses and hugs, and we embrace and affirm our love for each other each time we meet. I think it is because women spend so much of their lives nurturing—their children, their husbands, their partners, their ailing parents, their students, co-workers, the list is endless—that they understand the need to let each other know how much they matter. My girlfriends are my support, my secret keepers, my cheering section—they mean everything to me. I cannot imagine how any woman survives without close woman friends. I know that I would not be able to get through my day without some contact with my girlfriends. In her essay, “Women Are Just Better,” Anna Quindlen quotes the observation of a friend who says, “Have you ever noticed that what passes as a terrific man would only be an average woman?” And that’s when, as Quindlen describes it, “A Roman candle went off in my head… What I expect from my male friends is that they are polite and clean. What I expect from my female friends is unconditional love, the ability to finish my sentences for me when I am sobbing, a complete and total willingness to pour out their hearts to me, and the ability to tell me why the meat thermometer isn’t supposed to touch the bone.” It’s so true. I know for certain that it is exactly what I expect and invariably receive from the women friends in my life. And they rarely, if ever, disappoint me.
Willing Spirits was written to honor and to celebrate the friendships women share. I describe what it is like when the novel’s protagonists, Gwen and Jane, find themselves “falling in love” shortly after they meet: Yes, women do fall in love with each other. Differently, of course than they fall in love with men. Falling in love with a man is a feverish experience. There is little control. But falling in love with a woman is much more serious. It guarantees so much more for the investment. For it is from other women that women are nurtured. It is from other women that they hear what they hope to hear from men. I understand. I know how you feel. I’m sorry for your pain. I care about what you think: Words that need no prompting. In that circle, women tell each other things that men and women tell each other first with their hands and lips and tongues before they can tell each other with words. Women comfort each other with touch that is meant to heal, rather than to excite. The mysteries of love are less complex between women. The hidden passages are easier to negotiate. And the dangers do not seem as great as when the same journey is taken with a man. Around each dank and frightening corner, women hold out their hands to each other and form a human chain that is, quite simply, spiritually different. The lucky ones find men who (and it is a deep and well-kept secret between women) are more like women. My friends are my mainstay. I have women friends from various stages of my life. One friend in particular has been my friend since she was twelve and I was ten (I continue to point out our age difference at every opportunity!) We met at sleep away camp and in the almost fifty years that we have been friends, we have been through everything together. Several years ago, she found out she had lung cancer. It has been a long and challenging battle that she blessedly seems to have won, but we take nothing for granted. We speak every morning, exchange news, reassure each other we are still here, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be friends, to have each other yet one more day. We always, always have something to talk about, secrets to share. We are always still girls together. And I love that about us. In The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, the protagonists, Kaye, Ellen, and Barbara, are very different from each other, yet their bond is unshakable. They are girlfriends. They may disagree. They may disapprove. But they are there for each other. It is the one certainty they can depend on in their otherwise unpredictable lives. Their bond is solid, and it strengthens each of them, making possible for them to navigate the unforeseen complexities that come their way. They are girlfriends together. I close the acknowledgments in Willing Spirits with the following statement: “Mostly, however, I am indebted to my friends, the women who embrace me with their open hearts. They nourish me with their love and goodwill. I have been blessed to be surrounded by women who indulge my moods, allow my eccentricities, listen to my complaints, and applaud my triumphs. I cannot imagine how I would thrive without any one of them. They never disappoint me.” Girlfriends. My girlfriends. My husband will often ask, incredulously, “What do you have to talk about every single day?” My answer is always the same, “Everything. We talk about everything.”