I’m a 32-year-old woman and I have no female friends. I feel like everyone around me, and in the media, is obsessed with the power of female friendships at the moment. I’m getting married and I won’t have any bridesmaids, even though my partner will have a fleet of groomsmen. I don’t know how to feel about this – I used to feel shame, like there was something wrong with me, and like I was missing out on something. I don’t know why life has led me to a place where I have no female friends. I resent the articles and books about how they’re the most important thing in life – more important than family, romantic partners, pets, hobbies, work – but I don’t know if I’m resenting them because it’s what I want or if I’m actually OK with it and I’m just feeling inferior or self-conscious because of a current trend.
When I think of my time and my life, I can’t see space for female friendships, and I don’t know if I just want them as an insurance policy in case something else goes wrong. How can I resolve these issues? Is there an answer? Am I missing something?
Eleanor says: Sometimes when we feel like the rest of the world is “obsessed” with something, it’s a sign that we are also a little preoccupied with it. You’re right that lots of pop culture is about close female bonds, but lots of pop culture is also about cars, or sport, and those don’t seem to insult or sting in the same way as the girl power stuff. In my experience, we feel most resentful about things like this when they twang some criticism we already have of ourselves.
But the reason to want more female friends doesn’t need to be an “insurance policy” nor an acquiescence to your sense that others think they’re the highest form of connection. It would just be fairly peculiar if the qualities that make for good friendships – good humour, intelligence, spark, reliability – did not accrue to women. That would be very odd.
A gendered pattern in your friendships may or may not be bad unto itself, but at minimum it likely means you’re missing out on connections that you might really enjoy. It’s a very big world, and the chances that the furrows of demographics are a good guide to character are very slim. We miss out on all kinds of compatibilities and conversations when our friends are only of a certain gender, or race, or age; it’s just vanishingly unlikely that the people worth knowing would all happen to look a certain way.
Given that, I wonder whether it might be worth thinking through the reasons you don’t have many female connections. There may not be a uniform explanation; it may just be that friendships of all stripes are declining.
But if you do have friends and close relationships – if you are able to make spontaneous and easy connections but they’ve historically happened to leave out women – that could be something worth asking about. This is especially true if it makes you uncomfortable to think about. A (female) friend of mine once totally matter of factly said: “I don’t get on with women because I’m the biggest misogynist I know.” Another said she just replicates dynamics she didn’t like with her sister. Whatever the answer, you might find thinking about this in an investigative way, rather than a critical one, to be instructive about your own relationship to gender.
Trying to set yourself up for more female friendships won’t mean a pre-commitment to any Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood or Travelling Pants style magic. It doesn’t need to be a mythic good. In fact, the more you see female friendships like that – or fear that everyone else does – the more frustrating it will be when they don’t immediately deliver. Some female friendships are blood covens that go back to childhood. But some are just regular old friendships.
From the way you describe your life, it sounds as though you have a rich array of relationships and ways to spend your time. You don’t need to pursue female friendships just because TV said so. Equally, you might find expanding this area of your life just enriches things. There’s no reason an arbitrary demographic feature should cost you relationships you might really love.
Ask us a question
Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s questions and puzzles, big and small. Questions can be anonymous.
If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here