It wasn't just my grandmothers, though. Looking back, I couldn't possibly have remained sane through the travails of dating, schooling, marriage, child rearing, hard-core lawyering, pulling up stakes at forty-three for a nomadic life abroad, or hormonal madness without my mother, sisters, long-suffering pal Teri, and, eventually, other girlfriends to turn to. It's that simple. What a relief to have finally found a few gals with whom I can be my unfettered self, to feel safe again, and to swap banter on everything from work and politics to food and hair to books, kids, and stain remover. How lucky to have stumbled upon my Diane Keaton–esque friend, Mary Kay, so consistently good and wise and accessible to me despite everything she balances in her own life. I still have my issues, as the women close to me know. But having lacked a baseline trust with female peers for so long, I am acutely aware of how much lighter life can feel with a posse of supportive women at my back.
Most of you know all this for yourselves. And, indeed, when all is said and done, the most heartening thing about this project has been this: Even as it's focused chiefly on the fallout from our shadowy tendencies, women haven't been at all bashful about sharing a bounty of heartfelt reverence for the women in their lives. As Julie, an actress from Los Angeles who wrote to me two years ago, emphasized, "There's nothing on this planet like a bright, warm, open, loving woman. Believe it."
The fundamental findings of my survey, in fact, echo that very sentiment. Of the 90 percent who say they're enjoying at least one satisfying and fulfilling girlfriendship, nearly three-quarters call those relationships authentic, intimate, and reliable; 77 percent of them call those bonds very to extremely important, with the words sacred, essential, and life-sustaining popping up over and over. Hundreds gush that they can't imagine life without their girlfriends, and don't want to. These women appreciate that their healthy female connections keep them grounded and nourish their minds, bodies, and spirits. They know they're garnering strength and support from one another and living richer lives as a result. They recognize that, often enough, their friends are the very safety nets and security blankets critical to their well-being. As Anna Quindlen so elegantly put it:
In our constantly shifting lives, our female friends may be the greatest constant and the touchstone not only of who we are but who we once were, the people who, taken together, know us whole, from girlfriend to wife and mother and even to widow. Children grow and go; even beloved men sometimes seem to be beaming their perceptions and responses in from a different planet. But our female friends are forever.
Or, as Jennifer Aniston said succinctly: "Girlfriends—Nothin' like 'em, man."
Sometimes It's the Small Things