The depth of a friendship – how much it means to us . . .. depends, at least in part, upon how many parts of ourselves a friend sees, shares and validates. Such wisdom noted by Lillian Rubin and quoted in the book, Girlfriends: Invisible Bonds, Enduring Ties. A couple of weeks ago I began to read this book, a chapter or two at a time,
and have found it to be very encouraging and inspiring. Written by Carmen Renee Berry and Tamara Traeder, the authors seek to share stories of women’s friendships with other women throughout their lives, and the strength those friends give to each other.
The book seems to be inspired by the work of Jean Baker Miller, a pioneer women’s development researcher at Wellesley College. Miller has studied the development of women and has identified them as persons who grow through connections with others. Miller contrasts this with the development of men, where there is a lot of value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. An easy way to summarize this: women develop in relationship with others. Men develop outside of relationship with others.
Berry and Traeder talk about how our girlfriends tell us a lot about who we are and the aspects of ourselves we value or are trying to develop. How, when women look to men as “reference points,” they lose a sense of who they are. In the not-so-distant past, women were defined by their relationships with men, (who they married, who their father was), and even today many women let the men in their life dominate their life, and in so doing, limit their own growth and potential as women.
The stories the authors share in the book are inviting and encouraging. For example, in a reading where Lillian Rubin was quoted, Mirrors of the Soul, it talks about how and why we choose the friends we do. How our mothers told us that we should wait for the right man to come along, and we should use the same logic for women friends as well, choosing carefully. The book goes on to discuss the characteristics that seem to distinguish our acquaintances from our closest friends, which is, that they mirror who we are.
Nancy, a real estate broker, and her story is told as she described her girlfriends as honest, loyal, nonjudgmental, smart, having a sense of humor, and functioning from the heart, instead of being calculating. Also included is the the story of Michiko, an artist who describes how she knows when an acquaintance might become a close friend. She describes this process as a bit “mysterious” and discerns whether she feels the person is trustworthy.
A great book for an uplifting quick read, or a longer chapter-by-chapter or even daily mini-chapter read. Gobble it up or savor it slowly. Hope you enjoy it.