Female Friendships: Five Helpful Books

Although a day late for Galentine’s Day, below are five books that address the bonds of female friendships, both intact and broken.

I. The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship (2015) by Marilyn Yalom and Theresa Donovan Brown.

A book about the long view. “…(O)nly a few centuries ago, the idea of female friendship was completely unacknowledged, even pooh-poohed. Only men, the reasoning went, had the emotional and intellectual depth to develop and sustain these meaningful relationships,” states the publisher’s blurb.

A few sample quotes:

Social media provides critical tools for women who manage the domestic front and the job front but who still wish to maintain important friendships. As Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg notes, women do the majority of the sharing on Facebook. Whereas men generally use social media for research and status boosting, “the social world is led by women,” according to Sandberg.

Friendship matters, especially in old age, when death reduces the number of one’s friends.

Our history suggests that women will continue to show the world how to be friends.

II. Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship (2018) by Kayleen Schaefer. 

Just out, with a title ripped from current culture. From the book blurb: “‘Text me when you get home.’ After joyful nights out together, female friends say this to one another as a way of cementing their love. It’s about safety; but more than that, it’s about solidarity.”

Kirkus Reviews:Society traditionally views female friendships as competitive and transitory. Schaefer argues that more women than ever are actively working to reclaim their relationships with each other from negative stereotyping.”

III. You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships (2017) by Deborah Tannen.

“Tannen’s book comes at a time when our friendships are challenged daily in new and ghastly ways, thanks in large part to the use of various social media and texting,” Julie Klam (Washington Post) points out. “At a time when the messages we give and get have so many more ways to be misconstrued and potentially damaging, a book that takes apart our language becomes almost vital to our survival as friends.”

IV. My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends (2014) by Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica A. Smock.

From Nicole Knepper‘s Foreword: “…(W)hether the loss is a slow burnout or a blowout that shatters the seemingly unbreakable bond so completely it can never be repaired, it’s a sort of death, and it’s just the worst, because it’s so damn confusing and incomplete.”

A sample quote:

During the first days and weeks following the loss of a friendship, when the fact of it is so raw and sharp, we’ve learned from women that it’s typical to feel most alone, to feel embarrassed, depressed, shocked, and obsessed with why and how it happened. You often feel heartbroken, as if you’ve lost a great love. And you have. Not a romantic partner but a trusted holder of your secrets and truths.

V. Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend (2009) by Irene S. Levine.

Psychologist Diana Zuckerman aptly notes in her review: “We don’t expect to marry our elementary school sweethearts, and it is equally rare for our best friends from childhood to be there for us forever.”

Other sample quotes:

Your best friend is the person who not only knows all the important stories and events in your life, but has lived through them with you. Your best friend isn’t the person you call when you are in jail; mostly likely, she is sitting in the cell beside you.

Feminist psychologists have suggested that a toxic friendship is often one in which a women’s own personal growth and individuation is sacrificed at the expense of the demands of the other person. Sometimes choosing oneself rather than the friendship is important for future personal growth and individuation. But women have a difficult time separating from each other because emotional connection is so highly valued and broken friendships are seen as failures.

Your turn to talk...