My grandmother, who has already outlived her four score and ten by 25 years, has always been opinionated and willing to set everyone right. She has always been particularly generous with her opinions with me. My skirts were too short and my nail polish too red (worse than Hezekiah's wife); I did not sew and refused to make my bed (however would I find a husband); I fraternized with the weed-smoking locals and I stayed out way too late (decent girls aren't out on the street after dark). She had her hands full with me.
In addition to dress hems and domestic skills, my grandmother often castigated me on the female friends who were always at my house or on the phone. As far as she is concerned it is inevitable that 'woman friends' will double cross you, share your secrets with the masses and steal your husband - if you ever learned to keep a good house and got one. Having gone to an all girls' high school and having been on the receiving end of some first class bitchiness, I am well aware of the meanness quotient of the fairer sex. I don't, however, share my grandmother's skepticism.
For every time my trust has been betrayed, there have been ten times when both my trust and my spirit have been held by a sister-friend. I have been fortunate to have in my life a small group of remarkable women friends. They held my hands through scary times, counseled me when I was stupid, had my back when I was in trouble, and sat up late with me as I cried. They were at or in my wedding. They are godmothers and aunties to my boys. They call my mother Mom and ask how my brothers are doing.
Whether I talk to them every day or catch up every few months with a two-hour phone call, they are inextricable parts of my life and I know I can call on them any time. I cannot imagine not having them in my life. That was confirmed for me recently when someone I know went through an emotionally traumatic period - made worse because she didn't have anyone she could turn to. I was extremely saddened at the dire, irrevocable consequences of her not having someone to hold her hand and offer her some sage advice. There is nothing like being able to fall apart with the knowledge that someone will be there to put the pieces back together. It is one of life's most wonderful blessings to hold a friend's hand through challenges and having her thank you when she comes out on the other side.
I understand that getting close to someone - male or female - makes me vulnerable to hurt. I think it's worth it. I know there is a great casual easiness about having male friends. I think the deep connection between women carries a value that cannot be replicated with guy friends. Friendships with women are strengthening, affirming and sustaining and make my life richer.
No denying, girlfriends come with emotional drama, some silliness, and the likely fall-out every now and again, but I would not trade anything in the world for my girls.
My grandmother may have lived to 95 without having close girlfriends, but that might explain why she's so crotchety.