Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Make New Friends But Keep The Old

Let's talk about friendships (and begin cleaning this place up).

One of the Chaws recently posted a UCLA study on friendships among women. Ironically, she posted it on the day of a board blow up, but it did still get some discussion then and has really left me thinking.

In a nutshell, the women scientists noticed that when things got stressful, they would sit down together, brew a pot of coffee, clean the lab up and talk. The men would go home early, stay secluded and not want to talk. They got to thinking that maybe there was something to that pattern and they did a study on how friendship affects the sexes biologically.

Interestingly enough, in times of stress, women gathering other women and talking/venting/enjoying each other's company actually makes their brain release Oxytocin (the same stuff I was hooked on while breastfeeding). This does not happen for men.

If you think about it, it makes sense. For who knows how long, I'm sure when the town was threatened or the men went off to battle, the women gathered together to get through it while the men went off to fight it. It's almost like a survival instinct.

So basically, we NEED friends and we need to be able to gather those friends in times of stress. Sadly, in times of stress we also tend to isolate ourselves and put our needs last, which only worsens our problems. I believe the study even found that there were actual long term health benefits to the bonds formed between women.

This got me thinking to how when I'm freaking out about shit hitting life's proverbial fan, I feel so much better after shopping with my mom or dinner out with LK or even just typing it all out for the Chaws. Even if nothing gets settled during that interaction, I just feel like things are a little more do-able. It explains why I go home from Mom's Night's Out with that warm happy glow and why my girl crushes make my heart beat a little faster (and here you all thought I was a lesbo).

It also explains the surge of popularity of internet communities and the whole phenomenon of online best friends. Where else could you quickly gather support? Where else could you immediately go to vent? People are there, all the time, no matter what, and a lot of them know exactly what you're going through in any given situation.

I guess this goes back to the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus deal, but it also says a lot about our relationships with our men. We NEED to talk. We can feel lonely even if they're in the same room some days. Most of us want to discuss, discuss, discuss and most of them want to drink beer and watch Deadliest Catch and pretend nothing is going on at all. They really biologically don't get us. Making us need other women even more.

I also know how hard it can be to make friends, especially when you are already in a stressful spot in life and need them desperately. I was so lonely after I had Big Kid. The My Gym moms just didn't get me, or my kid who was unable to follow directions and insisted on dancing inside of the big red circle instead of around it like the other kids (shocker, I know).

Then I joined a playgroup...BITCHES. Man, I felt like the last kid picked for dodge ball that day. I really put myself out there too, sweet, friendly, helpful, funny...they were just mean girls.

It was hard to get back on the horse after that one, but one of the Chaws (isn't it always the Chaws solving my life problems?) told me about www.meetup.com. I looked for a playgroup in my town and I found one that sounded pretty cool. I signed up and participated in their online message board and finally gathered up the courage to go to a playdate. They were nice. They were normal. They were down to earth, funny and welcoming. There were lots of them to choose from.

I started meeting them at parks and had the kids as an excuse to get through those awkward moments while we were getting to know each other. I went to a Pleasure Party one of them hosted and had a blast. In no time I was hamming it up at the Mom's Nights Outs and exchanging emails with a few favorites.

I don't hang with them much anymore, but I've got the 4 that I clicked with the most and that's all I really need. At this stage in my life, I feel blessed with as many other women as I know. I feel bad because I can't even keep up with some of the real life friendships as much as I'd like(the online friendships add to that problem) but I think I'm at a stage in life where my friends understand me enough to be okay with that.

I really want that same kind of happiness and those kind of friendships for all of the women out there that are feeling isolated, ready to pull their hair out, thinking no one gets them and feeling mad at the world because it really IS necessary in order to maintain our sanity.

So go find some friends! It won't be easy. You'll have to get out of your pjs. Your kids can and will embarrass you. There will be awkward moments. But you NEED them. Biologically, chemically, emotionally, you NEED other women that get you and who you can gather when times get tough. Every friendship doesn't have to be a BFF and it may take you a while to find "The One" (or hopefully OneS), but they are out there.

And when you meet them, know that they have their demons too. They have that wall up that us women build, the "I'm a perfect wife and mother" wall. Their house is a mess, their finances scare them, their marriage is crumbling, they're addicted to something...everyone has their issues. Even if it is something that doesn't look like much of an issue to you, they have things about themselves they wish they could improve on. So don't be intimidated.

Also, you have to put it out there. Even once you get yourself physically there, people probably won't be getting in line to be your buddy. Smile, talk, ask questions, tell people their kids are cute, ask where they got their bag. WHATEVER. Show them what you have to offer, even if you think it isn't much. Eventually something will stick.

Those of you who have friends, remember how important they are and seek them out when you need them, even if that means putting yourself first for once. In the long run, it is the best thing for everyone. You're worth it and you deserve it. That and a spa day.

Preferably with friends.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! Perfect timing given all the drama.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

Ok, so I just found you amid all the drama, and this post completely touched me.

It is freakin' hard for adult women to form new friendships. And let's face it, there can be some MEAN girls out there. But you're right, we need to put ourselves out there and find the right ones for us.

~Sing it with me now~ "Cuz you've gotta have friends..."

Heather said...

Very well said Ashley.

Donella said...

So true. I wish I had more girl friends. I love my man and he's my best friend, but no one can GET you like another woman (especially when it's your man you're having problems with in the first place). Thanks for a great post.

CF said...

Ok...you brought a tear to my eye. I love you...I get you...you get me.

Teri said...

Wonderfully stated. It's so hard to have the guts to be "real" and keep good friends. Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Nice post - it makes me want to call my girls and go out for a drink! And ok, I'll go vote again...

Katie :)

Tara said...

Awww Ash! You can really pull on the heart strings when you want to.

Very true and well said.

Thanks!

Maggie said...

Amen, sister.

lyndakay916 said...

Girl, you're platinum...

Anonymous said...

I agree, thanks for the reminder.

Anne said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ashley said...

Yeah, because Manisha really reached out to me in friendship when she followed me around the internet harrassing me for a week and insulting my parenting??

Anne...MOVE ON. If you really care about your friend you will drop it. Stop emailing me. Be the better person, as you claim you'd be in my situation, and get over it already.

I'm trying to be nice to you Gymbo people, but the people that choose to represent you make it difficult.

Let Manisha tell you your blog sucks if you love her so much. This is officially my last statement regarding the troll OR her friends or the last comment that will be published from the troll or her friends.

The End.

Fishsticks said...

Ashley, two things should never be put in the same sentence...MANISHA and FRIENDS. I like to refer to her “friends” as the Fooled ones. They have yet to see the capabilities of her manipulative, psychotic behavior. It will come in due time, as it always does. Manisha doesn't just have problems with people on the internet. In fact, it was the lack of friends in her real life that drove her to stalking, jealous ways online.

Cindy said...

Gosh--that Manisha stuff is just plain freaky!! They sound like a toxic bunch that you should grab as much distance as you can from. I don't get it: if someone doesn't like your blog, why do they read it??

Anywoo, I'm with you on the friends business. It is hard, but kids give you a great way to connect, and if you pick up a friend or two in each group your kids draw you into, you're in good shape.

I'll be back to visit again--with only nice things to say. :)

Thomas the Train said...

3 words for anne--

MOVE COW MOVE!

Anonymous said...

So trolls do travel in packs? Are they all as stupid as the ones we've seen around here lately? I'm new to the world of trolls, I find them fascinating but also scary. I don't get it.

At least they have each other, I guess?

Kathy said...

Actually Anne, Manisha is infamous for being jealous of people's blogs and leaving nasty comments anonoymously. If she hasn't told you that your blog sucks ass yet...then your blog probably really does suck ass, thereby giving her nothing to be jealous of.

Jodi said...

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Now THIS is more my style.
I love you, Ashley, and I consider myself honoUred (and damn lucky) to be amongst those you call your friends.
xo
Jodi

Anonymous said...

OMG! Anne, your comment makes no sense. Do you think Ashley is hypocritical because she doesn't consider Manisha a friend?? Are you f-ing kidding? So tell us, Anne, are you crazy or just stupid?

Anne sucks too said...

Anne, how could anyone defend this person? You really would be okay with someone telling the world that you don't love your children?? Allrighty then, I'm so freaking sure. By the way, your blog really does suck. I'm pretty sure you posting here an attempt to get some of Ashleys bloggie traffic.

So Ash, will you mention The Man in your acceptance speech?

Maggie said...

Who are the Chaws?

Jamie said...

Who knew you could be so sweet and sappy? lol. Great post!

Justine said...

Are you inside my head? How did you know I needed this! lol After moving countries, and leaving all my friends behind.... this is exactly what I needed! Thanks :o)

Rebecca said...

Okay, so you know the last time we talked about this? I really decided to get off my butt and do something to meet people. I've come to the conclusion that I'm just socially inept.

I even tried that whole meetup.com thing. There are plenty of moms in my area who want to meet up, but no meet ups scheduled. So I thought I'd schedule one. Do you know that they want $30 to schedule a playgroup on their site?!?! So I got mad and didn't do that.

Instead I sent an email out to every mom I know (about 100) about a playgroup.

Only one other very lonely mama came. I was bummed, and you could tell she was too. We didn't click, and it totally sucked.

Jena said...

That was a really very touching post. Don't shoot me (I'm new here), but can someone clue me in about Chaws? I would love to find out where that nickname came from. It makes me giggle.