My friend Noreen told me a funny story this weekend. Noreen had offered to take her teenage daughter and a friend out for pizza Friday night. Her daughter responded positively and the pair jauntily hopped in the car. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Noreen’s daughter spotted a group of friends and quickly migrated away from her mother, at a sufficiently far distance, leaving Noreen to have beer and pizza alone.
Observing Noreen’s situation, a seemingly thoughtful stranger approached the table and inquired if Noreen was dining solo. When Noreen responded yes, hoping she might get some company, the restaurant patron promptly removed the unoccupied seat– adding an exclamation point to the not-entirely-surprising evening.
Take heart, Noreen. As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. ”
Noreen spent the rest of dinner observing the interactions of the teens, smiling in appreciation of the fun being shared by the gaggle of girls.
We all know from our own experience and those of our children that our friendships take center stage in adolescence. According to Susan Paxton, PhD., University of Melbourne, Australia, “These friendship networks, or cliques, are a vital part of the social world of most teenage girls.”
As we age we most certainly place a higher value on family than we did as teenagers, yet our girlfriends remain very important to us even as grown women.
The evening prior to the pizza predicament, Noreen had thrown a fun St.Patrick’s Day party at her house. After the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, the men attending the party left the table and huddled by the TV to watch “March Madness” basketball. The women, however, lingered around the dinner table, creating a tight circle at one end that facilitated more intimate conversation about child-rearing issues, school sports-team politics, jobs and vacations.
The women directly faced each other laughing and talking over a variety of topics in rapid succession. The men sat side by side, all eyes looking toward the TV even when directly addressing each other in conversation.
All had fun, but each gender experienced the company of peers in a completely different way. Women throughout their lives continually seek and enjoy the benefits of female friendship–a topic more fully explored in our forth coming book, The Frazzled Mom’s Guide to Friendship and Renewal.
Carol Lewis Gullstad, March 21, 2011