I find it hard to maintain friendships with women
May 3, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I find it hard to maintain friendships with women. What's up with me?

I'm a 23 year old woman and throughout college and high school, I've had only one or two female friends, but have had lots of male friends. For some reason, I just don't get along with women. I get uncomfortable around the women in my life who could potentially be my friends and all our interactions become very formal and I become lost for words because I can't seem to relax. I don't like a lot of the things that most of the women I've encountered enjoy--I do know a small handful of women my age who like the same geeky, traditionally "boys-club" sorts of activities as I, but for some reason, we just never connect. It's like there is a communication mismatch and I just can't understand the social signals sent by women, versus those sent by men. I have no problem maintaining long-lasting, fun and fulfilling friendships with men.

I consider myself a feminist, so this inability to connect with women is disconcerting for me. I don't think I'm accidentally sabotaging potential friendships with women based on gender stereotypes or other sexist ideas, because after all, we are all people in the end, not a sum of our genitals. I have a few casual female friends and I'd love to eventually have that BFF friendship with them like I did back when I was on the playground. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot by not having many women in my life. Can anyone share an experience with this or help to pinpoint why I might be having this problem?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
Men make more effort to stay your friend.
posted by markovich at 10:50 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


What are you getting out of your friendships with men that you don't get out of your friendships with women? I don't mean anything sexual or romantic. Maybe, I don't know, you feel special because you're the only woman, and that sense of being the special one in the group makes you more comfortable. Maybe your guy friends act protective of you in a way your women friends don't. I'm not saying either of those are what it is, but looking closely at how you relate to your guy friends and seeing which elements are not there in your relationships with women might be a productive way of asking the question.
posted by salvia at 10:52 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can only speak from my observations, so if you don't think this applies to you, please disregard it.

The women I have known personally who have had mostly male friendships thrive on a level of attention, special status, and deference that men provide them, and women don't.

By special status, I don't mean having your dinners paid for, etc. I mean that the guys are most interested in you and what you're doing or saying that in what each other are doing/saying, generally.

Similarly, the deference. A group of guys is more likely to take your preferences especially into account compared to any of the guys themselves, than a group of women would.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2008 [15 favorites]


I don't have any specific advice, but I have noted that there is a lot of literature out there about the challenges women have in making and maintaining friendships with each other. Take a look at Amazon for a whole host of semi-devotional self help books for women seeking to make same-sex friends.

Of course, Socrates said something along the lines that the purest form of friendship can only exist between men... so perhaps your problem is universal.
posted by wfrgms at 11:04 AM on May 3, 2008


You know, I have this same problem and I think what Ashley801 said makes a lot of sense. I give a lot to my relationships and friendships and I find that I rarely get back the same amount of effort from women that I do from men. When I'm with other women, I feel like there's a constant battle of "look at me!" raging from both sides of the fence that simply gets tiresome. I feel like my male friends just pay attention to others better, just as I try to do for them.
posted by youcancallmeal at 11:16 AM on May 3, 2008


I'm with you--I've only had a few close girl friends over the years and have often pondered why that is. I had a few close guy friends and generally felt more comfortable around guys in my twenties (I'm now in my 30s...) Although I suppose there may be some truth to the fact that I enjoyed the attention of being the lone girl, I can't say that I ever felt any sort of special status because of it. I think I just always enjoyed the fact that with the guys I hung out with, what you saw was what you got--no hidden agendas, no drama. I realize this unfortunately continues the stereotype of women being conniving and catty, which I wish wasn't the case. I also know that not all women are this way. My guy friends just never seemed to do the gossipy mean things that some of my girl friends did. Girls seemed to be interested in talking about other people, whereas my guy friends seemed to be mostly interested in talking about stuff.

A lot of girls/women I know are also interested in things that I just am not--such as Sex and the City, talking about Perez Hilton or shopping for hours on end. (Again, I mention "a lot", not all women) However, I have also been fortunate to find some girl friends that do things that I am interested in, such as going to see live music, exercising, talking about books, etc.

I think the trick (which is sometimes hard to do) is to keep an open mind and not over-think why you relate more to guys than to girls. If you maybe had some icky experiences with chicks in the past, learn to watch out for similar behavior in other women, and avoid it if you can. Hang out with who you want to and who share similar interests with you. You may find as you grow older that you will find more women to befriend.
posted by Ham_On_Rye at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2008


I can sympathise with your predicament because I'm almost exactly the same. At the moment I have more female friends than I have for years, but that's mostly because of joining a social group that's about half women and it's taken me a while to feel as comfortable here as I do. I'm also 23, and the rest of the time I spent in university I had predominantly male friends.

I think in my case it was a combination of factors. I did make friends mostly within the sciences, engineering and computer scientists, but although those groups were mostly male they certainly weren't all-male. I do think that men might have made more effort to be my friend (as someone said upthread). At it's worst you get into a situation where every time you think you're just being friendly, your prospective Platonic male friend thinks you're flirting with him, and even where both of you are very happy simply being friends, there's sometimes an element of that somewhere under the surface.

The biggest problem, I think - and one that bothered me since I'm a feminist too - is that my schooldays as a geeky and socially-incompetent child made me feel terribly inferior around all the girls who could "do girl" better than me (which was all of them). This is something I seemed to have carried over into adulthood - and I don't think that's uncommon - but I'm working against it.

I'm not sure what solid advice I can offer you (besides "Inveigle yourself into a big quasi-collective filled with geeky women," which worked for me) but you're definitely not alone in wondering where all your female friends are. Don't be afraid to be in a situation, with women you'd like to get closer to, where your personal defences are naturally a bit lower - maybe go out dancing, or running, or even just having a few drinks. (Sorry if that's totally obvious advice.) Good luck!
posted by daisyk at 11:29 AM on May 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


When it comes to friendships, I swing both ways. Friendships with women are different, so if you've been expecting the same kind of relationship from your girlfriends as you have with the guys who are friends you're bound to be disillusioned. I like having both as female friendships can help you in ways the boys can't (for example, they'll rarely have a tampon in their purse if you discover your period has come early).

And yeah, when you're beginning a friendship with other women you probably will find you need to work a little harder, but the payoff can be huge. It also can turn out to be useless, you won't know at the start.

Another thing to consider is you might want to give in a little bit to just enjoying the more traditional forms of female fun. I can relate to not going shopping with the girls - even when I have gone on shopping trips we all split up - but there's nothing wrong with giving in to being 'girly' now and again. It's during those activities that my female friends and I bond with discussions over problems with careers and relationships.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:45 AM on May 3, 2008


What tends to happen with female friends that you make? Do you have trouble maintaining those friendships, or making them in the first place? Are you around a lot of women in the sorts of situations where friendships tend to develop?

I went through this when I was in my early to mid 20s. I felt more comfortable "being myself" around men. I worked in a male dominated industry (still do). I was a self-identified feminist and spent a lot of time reading feminist non-fiction (still am, still do). When I was about 25, I started getting involved in feminist organization, figuring that would be a good way for me to make like-minded female friends and maybe do some good at the same time.

I started hanging out with groups of women I found incredibly cool, and I just wanted them to get to know me and make me part of their group. I never really felt like I could open up, maybe because I wanted it so badly.

If we're generalizing, first of all, I'd like to say all this prattle that men have deeper friendships, and will try harder to be your friend is Grade A bullshit. Women make friends differently, use their friendships differently, and solve social problems differently. I actually think that in general, women are socially conditioned to be extremely friendly and to try and make friends with everyone, and this is exhausting. In reality, the sorts of deep friendships and connections you can make with other people are precious for a reason -- you can't have that sort of connection with everybody. Because of this, I think it takes a little bit more time. I've made acquaintances with women quickly and easily, but growing that into a deep friendship is rare, either because I've found I can't relate to this person on a deeper level or vice versa.

That said, in my late twenties, I made deep, life-long friendships with women that are more powerful and fulfilling than those that I have in my own family, in some cases. I find it much easier to make friends with women because I am more comfortable with myself, know better what I have to offer, need less attention from men in general, and can relate to a wider variety of women.

I also was intensely focused on my career and "making my mark" when I was in my early 20s. Girls are not really conditioned for this growing up, but boys are, although I think this is changing. It's entirely feasible that where you are in your life is more similar to the place most guys are, therefore, you relate better to them.

Not to get all "the personal is the political" on ya, but here it comes anyway: I think a lot of this is a little par for the course for women at this stage in your life. Women today were raised in an environment where they are encouraged to be what they want, but the ideal of having a nuclear family has not gone away, so there is still subtle and not-so-subtle societal pressure that tells young women that they should be cultivating relationships, doing what they want, but still taking care to land a man. This same societal pressure tells men they should be figuring out their career and learning how to be successful so they can provide for the lady that lands them. If you're not really worrying about that (and lots of other women and men aren't, nor should they be, really) it might be hard to relate.

In order to stop waxing philosophical, here is some practical advice:

- Try getting involved in activity that other women like you might be interested in. Is there a stitch n' bitch group around you? A belly dancing class? A volunteer organization?

- Most of my friendships with women center around a lot of talking and sharing feelings, and being supportive of eachother. Talk about your life. Talk about your problems. Ask them about their problems. Be supportive and warm.

- If you felt like an outcast from the "popular" crowd in school, this could be hanging you up as well. I read Odd Girl Out and it really helped me a lot.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:53 AM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I do know a small handful of women my age who like the same geeky, traditionally "boys-club" sorts of activities as I, but for some reason, we just never connect.

Probably because they're used to having mostly male friends too.
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yo, fellow geek-and-also-girly-woman here. I had my HAM license, worked with salesmen and engineers, had 3 brothers and a talkative intellectual dad. I can get along with women too, but I have mostly male friends. I also moderate a list of women-only but it is called "Uppitywomen" so they are more out of the norm than your standard stereotype.

There is room for all kinds of people in the world, don't be disconcerted by who you are because you think it doesn't fall within the norm. One of my best girlfriends in high school was a math geek - I sucked at math but we were both in the band. We got along.

Probably because my dad was so open about talking to me, I am not afraid to talk to men. He has a PhD, but he would stroll into the kitchen and interrupt me and my brothers at playing cards and start telling stories, interjecting Tennyson or some bit of knowledge or a Maine-er-ism like "I'm so hungry I could eat the arse out of a skunk!". I also learned a lot by hanging out with my brothers, men are fun people, not the enemy! Plus they are human beings too.

If you want to get Freudian, look at your relationship with your mother. My ma was sick a lot when I was a teenager (she got through it okay, thank goodness) so I ended up spending a lot of time with my dad and 2 of my 3 brothers. My sister was a major factor in guiding me in my 20's, do you have an older sister? She was there for me a lot, and I was there for her, but we are not especially close today (she is very strong and successful, however, and we do get along when we talk). I get along great with my mom, but I recognize that what shaped me during my teen years was my relationship with my dad (I know a lot about sports too, LOL, he is a fount of knowledge, how do guys know all those stats?). My brothers always included me in their ventures, for good or for bad, and my closest brother, Brian, died 20 years ago of a sudden brain aneurysm (April 17, 1988). I am not sad or morbid, he was a gentle and laughing soul, but it tells me that life is too short to worry about what others think of you.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:56 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. I'm surprised at a few of the things that women are saying here. Do you think maybe you find what you look for? My women friends are jewels: smart, hilariously funny, generous, not gossipy, not fans of Sex in the City. We don't do a lot of shopping, though we might do some cooking and sipping. We talk about books, film, politics, art, as well as personal issues. Granted, they don't come a dime a dozen, but not many excellent things do. But when I meet someone I'm not thinking "oh, she's a woman; we probably won't get along... she'll probably be shallow/catty/competitive".

I'm pretty relaxed and laid back... and with almost all my women friends, we just clicked right away, and it was sort of instantly obvious that we'd be friends. It almost always involved a good deal of laughing and appreciation of each other's wit/powers of observation/openness, and an immdiate glimpse certain shared understanding that doesn't often come with men who aren't your mate/S.O. Again, you don't find people like this every day of the week, but if you have tuned out the possibility, you really are missing a lot. I've had fantastic friends of both genders, so it seems weird to me to imagine just cutting out half of them. There are differences, but I cherish them. I wouldn't want to eat the same food day after day, or listen to only one genre of music, etc. Life is big. People are many and various. All women are not alike.
posted by taz at 11:59 AM on May 3, 2008 [13 favorites]


It's like there is a communication mismatch and I just can't understand the social signals sent by women, versus those sent by men. I have no problem maintaining long-lasting, fun and fulfilling friendships with men.

I had much the same experience: large circles of male friends, cordial but slightly formal relationships with all but one or two very close female friends. In my case, it was not that I preferred men because it made me "special" or because they deferred to me, as suggested by a poster above, but just the opposite: my male friends communicated in a way that was clear to me, not muddied by social cues I couldn't easily decode.

(I am not saying that women use secret social cues, just that the social cues I read most easily were the ones generally understood in my cultural context to be male patterns.)

When circumstances plunked me down in a job and social situation that surrounded me with women, I felt like an anthropologist dropped into an unfamiliar culture.

That framework actually helped a lot, because it really was a different culture, where the population operated by a whole internalized framework of tacit social conventions that were unknown to me. I was not communicating effectively with the many many women I dealt with both professionally and socially every day, so I started consciously learning.

Every time a faux pas revealed that I had misread a social cue, I noted it in my head. Eventually, I could consciously read the cues properly, and discern what was said from what was intended. (Again, it's not that women don't mean what they say, but that with men, I was already discerning the difference unconsciously.)

Pretty soon, I had internalized that network of social cues through sheer immersion.

There's a lot of literature, some popular and some academic, on the differing speech and social patterns of men and women in, for example, North America. Perhaps the best-known popular press author is Deborah Tannen. Some of the literature is terribly simplistic or reductive, but it can be a useful starting place if you think speech patterns might be an issue. I suggest that thoughtful study of personal interaction is better, but your style may not accommodate that.
posted by Elsa at 12:01 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


I am in a similar situation, though I can't say it bothers me in the slightest. I have had male friends almost exclusively my entire life. If there hadn't been another girl on my high school robotics team, I would have exactly zero close female friends (excluding family).

I didn't really think about it much until last September when I came to college and embarked upon that great anthropological experiment known as Living With Women. One of the first things I noticed was that while I was struggling to remember people's names, everyone else seemed to have suddenly become Best Friends 4EVA! Part of this is just that I am a rather reticent person. However, a lot of it is also that the other girls all had a sort of shared culture to fall back on. They watched a lot of the same TV, had similar pastimes, similar habits, similar values and concerns and ways of interacting, etc. Having grown up with guys, I just don't relate to a lot of this stuff: when they get dressed up to go out drinking, I go play board games; while they're watching The Hills (barf), I'm at band class making dirty jokes with the other trumpet players. Consequently, most of my interests and conversational methods are pretty different from other people's on my hall. It's got nothing to do with me being defective or something, it's just a result of the culture I'm a part of.

So, don't sweat it. Your solution seems pretty straight forward: if you want to relate to women better, start hanging out with them more. Join a women-only gym or something. If you're in or near a university, you could take a women's studies course (double barf). It's exactly like getting assimilated into any other culture; just get in and eventually you'll get used to it.
posted by Commander Rachek at 12:07 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


i just want to point out that more than a few smart, nerdy girls are also fans of "sex and the city." :)

that said, you might want to open up a little and not focus on finding women friends exactlylikeyou. i have some things in common with my best female friends, but many differences. one of my best friends loves thrift stores and country music. another loves couture and reads a lot of chick lit. another is a housewife with two kids. i am none of these things, not even close. and yet, we get along because we are open to each other's experiences and share them. for example, i couldn't care less if i get a manicure, but every now and then i get one with my girly friend because she enjoys them, and it gives us an hour to sit around and chat. so it's not my experience of choice, but so what. it expands my world, and i get to bond a little. in return, she dutifully goes to nerdy sci fi movies with me (which i think she enjoys more than she admits) and we get a few drinks afterward.

so, i think maybe the key is to relax and simply let the other girls be themselves around you, and you likewise.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:24 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've never experienced gossipy/backstabbing/compete for male attention/only want to go shopping friendships with any of my women friends. Many of us are dykes, or bi (I'm a lesbian), but even in the heyday of drama-filled relationships (aka one's 20s), I never experienced those kinds of thing. Most of my exes are still friends - one of them officiated at my wedding/commitment ceremony.

I also have male friends. The dynamics of those friendships are different, sure, but over the years I've come to realize that they're much more alike than they are similar: you get out of them what you put into them, at least you do if you've been good enough or lucky enough to pick smart, considerate, thoughtful people as friends.

If I were you, I'd start thinking some about why you "can't seem to relax" when you're with women who could potentially be close friends. Do you think they're judging you? Competing with you? Looking to manipulate you? Why might you be thinking those things? Are you projecting? Have you absorbed cultural messages about how gossipy and backstabbing female friendships supposedly are, and you just don't have enough direct experience to counteract them?

So, I just suggested that you think about this stuff, but I'm also going to suggest that the next time you're hanging out with the casual women friends that you'd like to become better friends with, you stop overthinking that plate of beans. Try not to analyze every interaction as it's happening. Try not to pick every statement someone makes apart looking for hidden agendas.

There are things some of my friends like to do that I don't like, and vice versa. Do you like to do every single thing your guy friends like? Maybe you've got a female friend who loves to go clothes shopping (and you hate it), but also digs live music, or spending a couple of hours at the record store, or whatever thing you also like. Do that thing with her, and not the other. I have a couple of friends who like getting dressed up in Victorian era dresses and going to formal dances. I don't like that, so I don't do that stuff with them. Instead, we hang out, make dinner together or go out for cocktails, or talk about the latest good thing we've read, seen, or listened to.

Long story short (too late!): stop overthinking the differences and start concentrating on the similarities.
posted by rtha at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think this has a lot to due with age.

I am a man who has mostly female friends, but all my female friends are late 20s at least, mostly over 30. I am certainly around a lot of women in their early 20s, and I have tried friendships with them.

Frankly, I found them to be so self-absorbed that friendship was impossible. i don't mean this as a blanket condemnation of every young woman in the world, but it has been my repeated experience. Things like repeatedly inviting someone to places/events, and not even getting the courtesy of a yes, no, or maybe- they just flat-out don't respond to the invitation. (no, i dont want to date them, no they dont think i want to date them, no i'm not making them uncomfortable)

I have had this experience over and over with young women who are otherwise great people in almost every way, and it kills the friendship, because eventually I, even having a girlfriend already and being interested purely in friendship, start to feel like a stalker and just stop asking.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2008


On lack of preview, what thinkingwoman said. She's smart. Listen to her.
posted by rtha at 12:26 PM on May 3, 2008


I didn't make many female friends until my late 20s. Before that, girls just made me feel like crap most of the time.

I never had any success in making and keeping female friends until I was in a situation where we had much more in common than just our gender. Although I consider myself a feminist as well, I found myself frustrated by what I saw as stereotypical female behavior (long simmering resentments over imagined slights, backstabbing, cliquish exclusion) that was well described in books like Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and this anthology of personal experiences. Female friendships exhausted me. Men were just easier to deal with - not because I wanted their attention, but they just didn't play all these stupid emotional games.

I started making more female friends when I got to grad school and my friends were based on shared interest and experience. I also made good female friends when I became a mother. I'm still not a girly-girl -- group playdates give me hives, and I recently found out that I was excluded from a neighborhood consciousness-raising, clay vulva modeling party (probably because I still can't describe the event without giggling). If you toss me into a group of women, I'll get very uncomfortable, in part because it reminds me of my earlier experiences with female cliques and I assume that I'm being judged and found lacking, in part because I just don't care about common topics of conversation. But I've made good female friends with people with whom I have similar experiences and who just don't have time for any unnecessary melodrama.

I wouldn't call them BFFs because that involves a sort of emotional connection and dependence that I don't feel comfortable ascribing to friendship. But they're people who I want to talk to/drink with, and they're people I trust and depend upon.
posted by bibliowench at 12:28 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking a a she geek with lots of male friends and few female friends, I've made a few observations:

1) In the long run the romantic potential others may have makes all male friends impractical.

2) Female culture and male culture has subltle differences. Even female geekdom tends to be more about the fan fiction and less about 'Level 223! Awesome!' If you want female friends it helps to broaden your interests. Hell, if you want non-geeky male friends, broaden those interests.

3) It's not that the special attention from male friends makes one thrive, it's the removal of competition because you'll be 'seperate but equal'. On the other hand being a female means that if they guys aren't gender adjusted you have to walk on egg shells. Beating a guy at armwrestling can have worse consequences because of the mental box other may have put girls in.

4) Remove the sense of competition when trying to make female friends. Accept that they may be better at their status achievements than you. I've been afraid to make female friends as I was bullied in school and having to lapse into that lower role makes me feel teeny-tiny. Part of the healing process is knowing that nobody can make me feel inferior without my consent.

It's not perfect, but since I hit university I actually started having more female than male friends.
posted by Phalene at 12:29 PM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have some good female friends (one of them very close), but like you, it's always been easier for me to make and maintain friendships with men. The super-close friendships I have had with women have tended to burn themselves out after a certain number of years, while the male friendships kind of just keep ticking along.

As a teenager, I think this stemmed in part from being a music geek. I mean, other girls liked bands too, sure, but almost none of them were into music and record collecting like I was. So the people I bonded with at that time over music were nearly all guys, and the person I bonded with most closely over things beyond music (specifically art, film, and literature) was also a guy. I think this set a certain pattern in motion for me, both socially and emotionally, that continued to play out in college and beyond, especially as I'm someone who just generally likes a fair amount of "guy" things (music, sports, whiskey, cars, Hong Kong action movies, etc.).

I also have found that guys are easier to be around in certain ways -- they're not competitive the way women can be. (Caveat: I find that now that I'm older, the women I socialize with are much less this way than I found in my teens and 20s.) There's also just less drama with guys, in general -- you can hang out, have fun, go about your life when you're not around each other, and yet still rely on each other to be there for you in a pinch... but that the equation was almost invariably more complicated with female friends. Basically, I found with women that conflicts tended to escalate, while with men they tended to dissipate. Being someone who doesn't like conflict much, it's not hard to see which dynamic I'd gravitate towards.

In my 30s, my friendships have become more balanced, gender-wise. I find that the women I meet and am drawn to now are, like me, ones who prefer to enjoy each other's company and be supportive without too much maintenance/drama/conflict factored in. So my best advice would probably be to be patient, and to keep your eyes open for other women who are more like you in certain ways... because they're (we're) out there.
posted by scody at 12:42 PM on May 3, 2008


I've had trouble forming close friendships with women, too, and like some other posters above I suspect part of the cause was the absence of my mom when I was growing up. So if your mom was out of the picture for a good chunk of your childhood, you might just view yourself as lacking some of the usual socialization, which at least could keep you from judging yourself harshly.

I had trouble making close female friends in my 20s. I felt like there were signals I was completely missing, and I was also uncomfortable with social drama, while the women I was trying to befriend seemed to enjoy or even create it. They would also get upset for reasons I couldn't understand, and I would suck at trying to empathize.

Now, at 47, it seems much easier to find women to be friends with, largely because they don't seem to enjoy social drama anymore. The only high-drama friend I had recently was significantly younger than me.

So I'm tempted to step into a big, sucking stereotype and say that maybe younger women have been socialized to care more about relationships and so get all dramatic about it. Once they're older, they don't care as much about their position in some social hierarchy.

This isn't very useful to you now, though. I guess my advice would be to find the I-couldn't-care-less-what-anyone-thinks geek girls and do fun projects with them, just like you'd do with the guys. And maybe even joke that you're clueless about girl stuff, because I'll bet some of them feel the same way, and you'll all relax a lot more.

And another thing: Many people assume I'm a lesbian. This means I can hang out with guys without their girlfriends or wives getting nervous. But if I approach a single woman for friendship, she may wonder if I'm looking for romance, so there may be more tension there than necessary. So if you're often mistaken for lesbian, maybe there's some of that going on as well.
posted by PatoPata at 12:47 PM on May 3, 2008


I'm the same way too. My first friend when I was a kid was a boy, and growing up I found that boys were just nicer to me than girls. Some girls in my school were pretty mean, and the one or two female friends I did have growing up ended up turning on me pretty harshly, usually at the urging of the mean girls. So I didn't really trust girls, never learned how to be girly, and only ever related to girls who were, like me, more like boys (liked to play with boys toys, ride bikes, enjoyed drawing and reading and sci fi, didn't giggle or shriek or whisper and point, etc.) At university I had mostly male friends, as I just related to them better (similar sense of humor, laid back personality, direct manner of speaking, similar interests). As I grew older (into my 30s), I did find women I could relate to; all ungirly women who hate shopping, enjoy quiet, nerdly activities, and have mostly male friends. They are few and far-between, however. I can get along with women, in small doses, but I still can't relate to most women and I still harbor a certain amount of mistrust on a viseral level. I don't have that mistrust with men in general, and share their easygoing manner of maintaining friendships. The drawback, though, is I find as I get older (late 30s) that all my buddies are disappearing into marriages. On the plus side, older women tend to be a bit mellower; finding ones I can talk to is getting easier.

You will find women who are more like you as you get older; joining clubs is a good way to meet them. Two of my girlfriends I met through writer's groups. We are out there :)
posted by Koko at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2008


Well, if you get anything from this thread it should be that you're not alone.

I too tend to have male friends. But the women friends I have, though fewer, are truer. They are the lifelong friends I could call in the middle of the night to cry even if I hadn't spoken to them in months.

I can call up my male friends to go to a show together or meet for beer but they don't really want to hear about my feelings. In that way, it is easier and safer for me to make male friends. We are all investing less and risk losing less.

For me, good, real women friends are hard to find -- I don't often click with the women I meet. They are usually younger-enough that I can't quite relate, or their priorities are quite different. Sometimes, women intimidate me because they seem too awesome, like they got it figured out and I didn't. But once in a while, there is a gem. It can feel one-in-a-million for me, but statistically speaking, the more people I meet the more likely it is I'll meet someone I'm drawn to, so I try to meet people whenever I can.

There's nothing wrong with women as a whole. It's just that even though we're a "sisterhood" and often feel like a minority in the world who needs to stick together, we're incredibly diverse. That's why when I do sense some potential, I try to nurture it. It can take a long time to build up an acquaintance into a true friend. Be patient.

You will probably find as you get older that you've collected a handful of true women friends here and there over the years. But it's not like in life things ever stand still -- open your mind to the reality that friends can come along any time (as opposed to closed-off people who just don't seem to want to make new friends.)
posted by loiseau at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder, are there women out there that you want to be friends with, but you're just not sure how to go about it? Or is it that you haven't found any women who seem to be worth pursuing a friendship with?

I dealt with both questions in my 20s, at different times. I had a lot of social anxiety thrown into the mix, which I conquered for the most part in my later 20s. During that time, the activities I was most interested in were pretty male-dominated. I worked in the music industry at a heavy metal record label, and was also a DJ. You just don't encounter a lot of women in that world. So I just rode with it, while that lasted. Later, when my interests in that began to wane, and I started developing other ones, I realized that my female friendships were sorely lacking. I ended up reaching out to a fellow DJ at the college radio station where I was volunteering, a woman in her 40s. She was totally drama-free, and looking for female friends too. (I think PatoPata is right, the older you get, the less drama there is.) We found out we also both loved art and ended up going to galleries together and painting together. She's one of my dearest friends today.

After that, I got a little more confidence and was able to make female friends a little easier. Not every attempt was successful of course. I have many great ladies in my life today. Friendships do take work to maintain, especially as you get older and involved with career and possible family, but it should never be a huge burden. I check in with various friends via email every so often just to see how they are, and throw out making plans for brunch, checking out a film fest, going hiking, or whatever. And my friends reciprocate.
posted by medeine at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2008


Having read some of the replies from the women who also feel more comfortable with the friendship of men, I really want to address one sentiment that keeps popping up, in comments like these (for example):

"A lot of girls/women I know are also interested in things that I just am not--such as Sex and the City, talking about Perez Hilton or shopping for hours on end."

"I go play board games; while they're watching The Hills (barf),"

"my schooldays as a geeky and socially-incompetent child made me feel terribly inferior around all the girls who could "do girl" better than me"

*This* is not a male vs. female problem. This is a geek vs. non-geek problem. As someone with roughly the same amount of male/female friendships, I'm put off by this too. I'd be equally put off by the type of guy who wanted to spend all his nights at some club with a head full of hairgel and smelling of Drakkar Noir.

Also, Bibliowench, when you say:

"it reminds me of my earlier experiences with female cliques and I assume that I'm being judged and found lacking, in part because I just don't care about common topics of conversation."

Is it unreasonable to be put off by someone who clearly doesn't care about/disdains your topics of conversation? Again, that's not a male vs. female problem.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:17 PM on May 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


It sounds like you have a hard time being yourself around women. Work on that? Take risks, reveal yourself, try things out, etc. Exploring root causes could be useful too.

I find a lot of the posts here pretty judgmental, and on the verge of participating in the knee jerk degradation of, well, anything conventionally associated with women.

It doesn't sound like you have that problem, it sounds like what you need is confidence and practice.

I'm trying to think of concrete useful tips... these are obviously generalizations as well, and Deborah Tannen I'm sure says it all better, as well.

- women tend to pay more attention to social cues but we're not telepathic. if you go all formal, they'll likely pick up that you're distancing yourself, but won't know whether it's on purpose or out of shyness. They probably think they're respecting you by backing off. On the other hand, admitting to weakness or insecurity creates closeness and solidarity, so there' s no problem with mentioning that your nervous. There were a LOT more geeks, nerds, outcasts, etc, in high school than there were popular kids, so there's a pretty good chance that the women you feel excluded from have similar baggage to you and wouldn't necessarily assume you want to hang out with them.

- are you good at listening to women? I think women expect more sort of back and forth checking in from other women than from men, partly because we think that if a man didn't want to be there listening, he wouldn't be there, but a woman might feel more socially bound to stay, so we have to be sensitive for cues that she's not actually interested.

- it seems to me that men's activities tend to be more casual, where who's there is less important than what they're doing, which makes it easier to include a new person. when the main focus of the activity is talking and socializing (even if the secondary focus is shopping, or cooking, or eating, etc), meeting up tends to be more carefully planned and also a bit less open to newcomers, because your presence will effect the group dynamic a lot more. You can compensate for this by being the one doing the planning and inviting. I think female friendships are more likely to start out on a one-on-one or very small group basis, which might seem more intimidating than joining a group for a game, but it's just a different social norm that makes the 'getting to know you' part important early in the relationship. An important aspect of that is often, in my experience, a shift in the location of the relationship. So for example, if you run into someone and chat at one of your boys-club activities, to turn it into a friendship, one person has to suggest meeting up outside of that, or it will just remain at the incidental acquaintance level.

- I'd say that women are going to be better and more generous in responding to your awkwardness if they're in a comfort zone themselves. It doesn't help if everybody is nervous in her own way. That's just in terms of your expectations.

- keep in mind that the point is not to 'win (female) friends', but to be yourself around women. If you're being yourself, you'll feel better whether or not interactions lead to friendships. They're more likely to, though, if a potentially compatible female friend has the chance to actually see what you're like.

Finally I want to say that I'm in my late 20s, and have had good female friends at all ages and of all ages, including women in their early twenties.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:27 PM on May 3, 2008 [8 favorites]


Also, Bibliowench, when you say:

"it reminds me of my earlier experiences with female cliques and I assume that I'm being judged and found lacking, in part because I just don't care about common topics of conversation."


You're not reading my sentence the way I meant it. I don't enjoy hanging out with typical women's cliques (PTAs and the like) in part because of my own insecurity, which I can attribute to my past experiences with the "mean girls" of my youth, and in part because I'm not interested in the same things many other women my age seem to be interested in. I'm not sitting there thinking "god, these stupid females with their Sex in the City." I'm thinking that while these are nice people, I really don't identify with this group. I'm more comfortable around men than women, and apparently I'm not alone. I don't think it's because I've internalized sexist stereotypes and loathe my gender. Instead, I think the cruelty I experienced (and participated in myself) from girls in my past still makes me uncomfortable and wary.
posted by bibliowench at 3:06 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


A lot of people have said good stuff here, so I'll be short and sweet. I wouldn't get too hung up on which gender your friends are. As long as they're close, you can confide in them, and they don't try to sleep with you, I'm sure you're fine. To make some gross generalizations, I think that women are just pickier than men about who they hang out with - they want someone who can listen and provide constructive feedback on their lives. Men get along just fine with anyone they can play Halo with.

As far as connecting more with other women: can you just ask your casual friends out to lunch? Then ask them about their lives, without any "Really? Well, let me one up that story with this one time this happened to ME...." and just plain listen. A few times back and forth and you should be on your way to BFF status.
posted by universal_qlc at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Shoot, I take it back - I can't be short and sweet.

Desjardins picked up on this line, too, but for a different reason: "I don't like a lot of the things that most of the women I've encountered enjoy--I do know a small handful of women my age who like the same geeky, traditionally 'boys-club' sorts of activities as I" and taz touched on this a bit but...this made the hair stand up on my neck.

For me, when it comes to relationships, I'm not one to shrug off personal judgments easily - and this statement feels like a judgment. It's like you've already presumed that I can't enjoy shopping AND 'boys-club' activies. It's a binary sort, and it makes me uncomfortable because then it feels lke you won't ever appreciate me as a diverse and complex person ("I AM AN ENGINEER WITH A GIANT SHOE COLLECTION") which is what BFFs should be alla bout. Echoing what other people have said (thx Ashley801), maybe you ARE framing it too closely in terms of [non]-traditional gender roles, and it's really just a matter of personal preference.

But hey. I'm sorry, but I'm harsh because I care.
posted by universal_qlc at 3:28 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems like whenever I read these sorts of askme questions, I'm left scratching my head. I grew up a science dork who has never really self identified as feminine and treats things like makeup and shaving as optional. I'm not what you'd call girly, but developing and maintaining friendships with other women has never been a problem for me and even if I may find things like watching Oprah (to name a stereotypically femme activity) uninteresting, I don't choose to focus on the differences I may have with others and I try to respect those differences. I will, however, be much less inclined to cultivate a friendship with someone who does things like disparage traditionally female stuff, because really, I just don't get that attitude.

A lot of what is coming off in comments here is that stereotypically girly stuff is some how less than, or inconsequential and silly. It's that whole female=other line of thought that drives me nuts. And I think as women we can be validated for vocally rejecting those "girly" things, which ends up pitting ourselves against each other. When we're younger and probably less secure and trying to figure our shit out, this is probably a bigger factor.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:46 PM on May 3, 2008 [21 favorites]


In High School I had a pretty good mix of female and male friends. When I got to college, I discovered that it was easier to make friends with guys because we were more likely to be interested in the same things. Jeff was more likely to let me borrow his copy of Heroes of Might and Magic than Karen was. Now, Karen and I could still be friends, but it was not quite as easy to make that initial connection. Also, keep in mind that like universal_qlc points out, it's not a binary system. I'm pretty likely to give myself a pedicure while watching Monty Python or playing Age of Empires. It's nice to let go of gender expectations (either embracing or denying them) and just do what you like.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:54 PM on May 3, 2008


It's a great question. Personally, like a lot of you, I would love to have more female friends, but I realize my own inhibitions have often prevented this. I swear, we need to make a GIRLS ONLY club of girls who want more girlfriends, but are socially awkward when it comes to girls. Seriously, because making male friends is TOO easy. Not to belittle men, but just being female garners a default level of attention from guys only too willing to laugh at one's mediocre jokes.

I think a couple of us girls MIGHT be like this because we had a less than ideal relationship with our moms when growing up. The effect is that we are less comfortable around other women as a result, due to a level of expectation and judgement that we end up projecting on female/female relationships.

I don't think I'm accidentally sabotaging potential friendships with women based on gender stereotypes or other sexist ideas, because after all, we are all people in the end, not a sum of our genitals.

And yet, like universal_qlc and others have said above, you are, because you are, as you admit, making about what a woman is like before she even opens her mouth. Does it occur to you _I_ might be listening in or commenting on a discussion about "Sex in the City" out of politeness, and am hoping _you_ might come in and save me? ;-)

As to a straightforward solution: You might try joining a women's only club centered around an interest or a hobby. Or even join a gender-neutral club and make an effort to only befriend the women in that club.
posted by uxo at 4:07 PM on May 3, 2008


I used to have the same problem. The past couple of years now (I'm 28) I've begun to really appreciate having women friendships, and been able to put aside the (forgive the term) "competetion" that used to occur. I used to (honestly) believe that most women were just catty, bitchy, not really worth being friends with. After thinking long and hard about why I would think that (being a feminist, and all) I discovered that there was a shameful layer of jealousy, and that I really liked getting the attention and being the only woman "hanging with the boys". The past few years, I have discovered that all of my old "meaningful" relationships with men, were sort of lies. There was always sexual attraction on one side or another, and when they got serious girlfriends/wives/etc. or when I got into a serious relationship, our "friendship" wasn't the same anymore. I believe (and there are cases of the opposite being true, so this isn't a blanket stereotype) that most (straight) men and women can only be friends when they are both unattached and when one of them is attracted to the other. Otherwise, most people are content to have same-sex friendships (or friendships with people of opposite sex who are not straight). I especially noticed after I got into a serious relationship, that a lot of my guy-friends would try to put my boyfriend down (subtly, but it was still happening) and that sometimes later it would come out that they had a crush on me. I value my friendships with women now much more than ever, and am glad that I stopped being a dope about (most of) my fellow ladies
posted by nikksioux at 4:17 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have had more male friends than female friends over the years. I am a little bit geek, little bit jock (though a late-blooming one; I was decidedly not into sports in college). I am most comfortable with women who also participate in my sport of choice (bike racing). We come from a wide range of backgrounds, but all have in common this desire to ride our bikes hard. It's a subculture that is small and a bit cliquish, to be sure, but we try to be supportive, in spite of the fact that we are competing against each other. It's definitely helped me broaden my social circle.

Outside of this, I don't really hang out with women, except for two gals whom I would consider my good friends, people I would confide in. I am comfortable in male-oriented settings, and am not really good at politicking or "working the room." I tend to say what's on my mind, for better and worse. I have a handful of male friends that I like to hang out with solo (whether we go for a bike ride, or have dinner or a beer--no video games, no football), and I would hope that their wife/GF is okay with my spending time with their SO, that I'm not trying to steal him away.

As to the OP's point, give it time. Young women (and men, too) are getting themselves sorted out, and aren't always the most appreciative of friendship. Perhaps you are not asserting yourself in the social setting, so they aren't taking you seriously.

Also, I am not sure why it would matter whether one classifies herself as a feminist when it comes to making female friends.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:25 PM on May 3, 2008


*This* is not a male vs. female problem. This is a geek vs. non-geek problem.

That's true, but only partly true. Most of my various interests/obsessions (e.g. building stuff, science fiction, board games, brass instruments) are much more common and acceptable in male-dominated atmospheres, for whatever reason. Therefore, that's where I tended to gravitate growing up. Therefore, I picked up most mostly the social habits and mannerisms of said male-dominated atmospheres, and am subsequently put off to a certain degree by many of the social habits I see in these female dominated atmospheres. It's not that I look at women and think "EW COOTIES!" I don't avoid them, not by any stretch. It's more that my interests and especially my social habits and pastimes tend to misalign with those of most women, erudite and interesting though they may be.

I make friends with people who I can identify with and enjoy myself with. So far, most of those people have been male, for the reason I just stated. That might change in the future--I don't know and frankly I don't particularly care. I don't pine for specifically female (or male) friendships. The OP does, and that's fine, too. Hopefully my and others' advice will help her achieve that goal.

For what it's worth, I've got no problems with my very excellent mother or sisters, and my friends don't treat me differently out of some strange sense of chivalry/faint hope they can sleep with me. I like to think we're better friends than that.
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:43 PM on May 3, 2008


I don't like a lot of the things that most of the women I've encountered enjoy--I do know a small handful of women my age who like the same geeky, traditionally "boys-club" sorts of activities as I, but for some reason, we just never connect.

This is the line a lot of us have picked up and responded to because it reflects a great tension that affects a lot of women, geek or not. It also doesn't help that "geek" covers a multitude of behaviors and interests.

No one can give a definitive answer to such a diffuse question so I hope you think about this from a lot of angles. Personally, I think Ashley801 had a point when she said "The women I have known personally who have had mostly male friendships thrive on a level of attention, special status, and deference that men provide them, and women don't." When you are a girl geek, your positive reinforcement tends to hinge on your exceptionalism. You excel at something, whether general scholastics, art, science, tech, or a hobby or pursuit traditionally the provenance of geeky men (comics collecting, gaming, what have you). You are celebrated by them for your difference; eg, "You are so much cooler than girly girl X; I could never talk with her for hours about geeky thing Y!" When mandymanwasregistered says "I think as women we can be validated for vocally rejecting those "girly" things, which ends up pitting ourselves against each other" this is the sort of thing I think about.

Praise for being exceptional feels good especially if in other ways you are not the belle of the social ball, but also puts you in danger of developing a superiority complex just as off-putting as the ones some women develop for excelling at the girly girl arts. You're also relying on a false binary, because as a lot of women here are pointing out, people have layers. Some very femme women could outgeek you and not break a sweat, guaranteed. Those who couldn't still might have something completely novel and great to offer you. Life is too rich and complicated to spend it surrounding yourself with carbon copies of yourself. Some of the more interesting things I've learned are from both women and men who are not one damn bit like me.

Ultimately, it's fine to dislike traditionally girly stuff as a personal preference. It's not fine to judge other women who do like it for that instead of for their broader character. Take a sincere interest in the women around you, be open and friendly, and don't be too quick to write someone off based on superficial judgments. Keep at it long enough and someday some woman will return the favor.
posted by melissa may at 5:30 PM on May 3, 2008 [15 favorites]


I can definitely relate to what scody and computech_apolloniajames have said. I work in a physical, male dominated field, and though I've met cool women through that field, the friendships don't seem to stick. Somehow, friendships with girls seem to require a lot more maintenance- phone calls every week, or everyday, or whatever. I don't get this feeling from my guy friends; I could call one of them up after years had gone by, and everything would be cool. I'm geeky, I work outside, but I love to dress up and gaze at clothes and buy makeup. The fashion and makeup obsessions are more of what set me apart from the women I know now- they're smart and fun and do cool things, but we don't connect on fashion or makeup *at all*. I tend to think I'm more comfortable around men because they're different than me, so there's no expectation that I fit in, or have something in common with them. Whereas with women, I'm supposed to be able to relate to them, because we're women, but somehow that just magnifies the differences.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:34 PM on May 3, 2008


From the perspective of a married man, I would just like to say I have the exact same problem with men. My friendships with women kind of maintain themselves, but I have to make a conscious effort with men. Like go through the hassle of e-mailing to round up a bicycling posse, when frankly I'd maybe just rather go take a ride by myself. My wife is the same with women. We kvetch to each other about how sometimes it's burdensome to have to actively work at keeping these relationships going.

That said, I generally think it's more related to individual personalities than gender. I know lots of men with close male friendships, and likewise, women.

Great thread.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:44 PM on May 3, 2008


I have brothers...?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 9:35 PM on May 3, 2008


I'm a geek, feminist, in my early twenties and I have many female friends. They fall into two categories, firstly, those that I've kept in contact with since High School. I don't have much in common with them, we ended up together because we were lumped together in class, but our friendships have developed deeper over time and sharing life events together. They're great girls, and while I wouldn't go to them to discuss meeting Neil Gaiman (which I did today!) I know they'd still listen to me squee, anyway. Some of them like shopping, some of them even, *gasp*, like Sex and the City, but just because we like different things doesn't mean we can't get along. You have to let go of these pre-conceived notions that just because on the surface you don't seem to be compatible doesn't mean it can't work.

My second group of girls are all out geeks, like me. We found each other a few years ago and are very close and they range from the ages of 20 to 45. While our friendships were founded on all things geeky, it has expanded and developed into much more than that. All that being said, I'm socially inept. I find it much easier to communicate online and a lot of my newer friends I only met because my own "original set" brought them in. You really have to be open to new things and new people in order for a friendship to flourish, anyway. I think you're sabotaging yourself by thinking there's no other woman out there like you. There are, and they're probably afraid to reach out to you as you are to them.

A lot of female friendships are characterized in film and books as being based on insecurity and filled with bitchiness and backstabbing. I've never found this to be true. While acquaintances can turn out to be real assholes, they were never your real friends in the first place. I say all this as a woman who has never felt comfortable in the "socially acceptable" role of Female, and feels completely inadequate when it comes to the Ideal Beauty Standard out there. Girls rock (and so do guys).
posted by liquorice at 10:29 PM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to say - I am a huge huge huge ubergeek with good social skills only by the standards of other geeks. And yet, some of my very best female friends have been high-heels and make-up, pink-wearing chick-flick lovers like you wouldn't believe ... and some of the people who've been cruelest to me over the years have been fellow girl geeks.

Mutual interests are always nice, and really do help for making initial contact (for me and one of the pink-wearers, it was Harry Potter - she's a YA librarian and has a great deal to do with the career path I'm on today, although we've been out of touch for a while). But ultimately I think what keeps a friendship is mutual respect. You can have close friends with almost no interests in common if you care about each other's happiness in those interests. "Oh, how's your gardening project going? You know, I was reading this article in the New York Times about this new variety of tomato, and it made me think of you, so I thought I'd look it up on Wikipedia so I could tell you about it and I ended up spending two hours reading about the Potato Famine instead..."

I'm glad, OP, that you're thinking about the issue of holding other women up to sexist standards. I think many of us girl geeks tend to have this two-way superiority complex about stereotypically feminine activities, where we (consciously or otherwise) look down on other women who do such things because stereotypically feminine means both "feminine" as in, in our still-sexist world, bad, and as in "stereotypical," as in predictable and mainstream to our geeky and so-unhip-we're-hip eyes. So if you're self-aware in this respect you're already ahead of many geeky girls - including some of the commenters here, I suspect. Sorry, folks, but watching America's Next Top Model does not automatically make a woman worthy of contempt, you know? I mean, I wouldn't watch it, but I'm willingly reading Marvel Comics' Secret Invasion, which is probably on the same intellectual level. Only for geeks. And I'm not even touching that "women's studies = barf" thing with a ten foot pole.
posted by bettafish at 11:22 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah, gee... this conversation is getting under my skin in a lot of ways, and I need to hold back a bit, but one thing I'd like to clarify is the thing about not being able to read women's social signals, etc. This is not necessarily the badge of honor many of you seem to think it is, and I'd further advise you to take a hard look at the social cues and signals you yourself are sending out.

I can read this sort of language very well, from both men and women - rather too well, really... which means that social situations and relationships can be a lot of information overload to me, so I tend toward a more introverted lifestyle... The friends that I accept into my inner life are smart, interesting people who do not have hidden agendas and the need to prove something socially... because having to deal with those subcurrents exhausts and bores me.

Generally, the people who meet me want to be my friend, and that's fine on a very casual level, but the people who get the secret handshake, who become more than social acquaintances are the people who can just "be" and talk and share and enjoy life and friendship without trying to constantly build up and rampart and bulwark some projection of "who they are". So a lot of you who are talking about how you just don't fit in 'cause ur too ossem for teh girlz... Well, yeah... you do not fit in to my idea of friendship. I can read this in you in an instant, and I'm not at all interested in getting to know you better. If we worked together, or for some reason I had to see you every day, I'd probably take the effort to smart you up a bit, and maybe we could hang out a little and have some fun.

But otherwise, well, No. I'm reading that attitude every bit as well as I read the attitude of the women who think it's all about competing for men, or the women who gossip about other people because it makes them feel better about themselves... and I'm not interested in pursuing a friendship with any of you. Why would I be? It's awkward and uncomfortable to me to be reading all those signs and signals that are about you trying to project some image of yourself... If I want to see projections, I'll watch TV, or go to the movies. If I want a friend, I'll go for someone who doesn't feel so badly about themselves that they seem compelled to constantly attempt to impress with how they are different and better - whatever form that happens to take, high heels and makeup or anime and baseball.

So, sure - if your connections with other women are fraught in this way, you are basically going to end up stuck with other ones like you: you try to impress them with your differentness, and they try to impress you with their whatever, and it's a big bore to both of you, and you both think why, oh why can't a woman be more like a man? Sorry, kids - the truth is that the nice, smart, fun, warm women are making friends with each other, having real conversations instead of social semaphore flag waving, and probably just don't want to deal with your bullshit. Wise up or grow up a bit, and you'll find that dropping your silly pretensions goes a long way toward cracking the window toward those kinds of wonderful friendships.

So, that was a bit of a heated voice from me, and I'm not targeting any of you (and certainly not the original poster who is interesting in breaking out of that kind of loop)... but, damn. The ignorance of thinking that because someone has a vagina she is some sort of shallower, lesser creature... just, just... ack. I'm angry. This is stupid.
posted by taz at 12:50 AM on May 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks Ashley801 is wrong wrong wrong wrong? I too am mostly friends with men. It is for the opposite reason that she suggests (and never have I taken a free dinner from any of my male friends ever unless they were repaying me for spotting them or for helping them with a project or something).

This is all anecdotal, but I have talked to others who have observed this phenomenon.

Most of the girls I met in college are constantly needing confirmation from each other that "OMG you are so awesome," "we are best friends," "I love you," "you are the coolest," "you are so pretty," etc. It's really annoying since I'm not in 3rd grade anymore and I can take the fact that we hang out a lot to mean that my friends enjoy me as a person and vice versa. When I hang out with girls I don't feel the need to be constantly effusive about how great my buds are, so I didn't form any strong friendships with the girls I met. Some of these girls are also constantly needing attention from men and flirt with every one they see, turning into a childlike idiot whenever a man is around.
However, in high school, most of my friends were girls and we didn't need to constanly kiss each others asses in order stay friends. Unfortunately distance has separated most of us.
When I got out of college it was better. The women I work with are far less needy, but we aren't really trying to become bffs since most have friends outside of work, a lot of us are only here temporarily, etc.

Lately I have kind of chalked this up to the fact that myself and most of the girls I went to high school with are middle class or below and most of the women I went to college with were wealthier. Maybe wealthier girls are more likely to be raised to be flirty and needy? I really don't know.

To the OP. I am literally in almost the exact same situation as you (age, uncomfortable around many women, for me because I suck at kowtowing, etc.) and I recently realized that it's not worth trying to force friendships with people you don't mesh with if you have rewarding friendships with men. I'm hoping that as I get older I will meet more women like myself and forge friendships with them, but if not, I'm happy that I have a strong social life as it is.
posted by fructose at 7:48 AM on May 4, 2008


I'm with those that say give it time. The first few years post-college are crazy times for everyone, and I think it makes forming any lasting friendships hard. Almost everyone I know was either partying a ton, suffering through their first real job, desperately searching for a significant other, or just trying to figure out what the hell they were actually going to do with their life. The important thing is that you realize that female friendship is important and you keep trying. I promise you, when you get into your late 20s early 30s, it will get easier. People that are hooked on interpersonal drama now will grow up a little (or at least, many of them will), the women that might have once dismissed you as a dork will appreciate you as an independent smart woman and you will probably have grown into some shared tastes. My advice right now is to get women you want to be friends with alone or in small groups. Go to things together (art exhibits, movies, talks, shows, whatever) that will give you some common thing to talk about, and see if you can grow it from there.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aw, jeez, taz, you don't want to be my friend? That's harsh.

But, to be serious for a moment: I strongly disagree with your perception that people on this thread have been ragging on women for being women. What I've seen is people saying "well, gosh, I don't have a lot of female friends either. I find I don't fit in women's social circles as well. I'm not really down with their culture." That's not at all the same as saying "oh, those silly women! Always being so catty! And they can't drive either! [Belches, spits in dirt]"

The reason I'm not bestest buddies with my roommate isn't because I wish, I wish she could be more like a man. Nor do I think I'm somehow better than her, or that she can't have meaningful friendships of her own, or that I am incapable of any kind friendship with her. The notion that I do think these things is rather insulting. Perhaps you should be more careful about accusing people of bigotry.
posted by Commander Rachek at 12:29 PM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Taz - Really, everything you wrote there screams "I'm too cool for teh geek girls," not the other way around. You believe that you instantly can "read this sort of language very well" and decide who is and who isn't worthy of your "secret handshake" and then induct those who pass the test into the club of "nice, smart, fun, warm women [who] are making friends with each other." As for the others, you might "take the effort to smart [them] up a bit." These are all precisely the attitudes that make girls like me prefer to go drink beer with a male friend instead rather than worrying about all the "semaphores" we might be unintentionally waving. In fact, your post is pretty much Exhibit A in why some women end up with men friends instead of women frinds. And I actually love Sex and the City, for the record.
posted by footnote at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


why, oh why can't a woman be more like a man? ... The ignorance of thinking that because someone has a vagina she is some sort of shallower, lesser creature

You're overgeneralizing. I don't get that from any of the commenters here, and I certainly don't project that attitude myself. No one's hating on women here. Please relax.
posted by Koko at 3:16 PM on May 4, 2008


The ignorance of thinking that because someone has a vagina she is some sort of shallower, lesser creature

I have to admit I'm a little floored by this accusation, too. There's nothing here that I see that suggests anyone is implying any such thing. Some women have simply observed that we've tended to have more in common with men than with other women, for a whole host of social and personal reasons. Extrapolating that such women dismiss other women on account of them being women seems over the top. I mean, I have a couple of really close female friends who I wouldn't trade for the world, and at the same time the fact remains that I've always had more guys in my address book than women. That's just how it's shaken out for me, socially and personally. It's got nothing to do with dismissing anyone as a shallow, lesser creature by virtue of their genitalia.

And I, too, love Sex and the City, but interestingly enough, I don't actually know many other women who like it.
posted by scody at 3:37 PM on May 4, 2008


Good lord, Taz, way to swing so far in the other direction you're doing the same thing as the people you criticize! Oy.

Commander Rachek - if you really want people not to think that you're ragging on women for being women, perhaps you shouldn't refer to single-sex living as an anthropological experiment, which comes off as very distancing, nor refer to your stereotypical women's hobbies of choice (reality TV and feminist studies) as barfworthy? Food for thought.

FYI, I too had nothing in common with the women in my single-sex freshman hall, but found many female friends in my sophomore (co-ed), junior (co-ed), and senior (same-sex, 8 person) halls. I know you're not interested in having more female friends now, but for the record. A cultural mismatch one year doesn't mean that all women except for your family are like that.
posted by bettafish at 4:12 PM on May 4, 2008


Wait, so the seventy other women on my floor don't constitute a representative sample? Shocking!

Cripes, you could give me a little credit, at least.

But really, I don't feel I've said anything disparaging of women here. I used the term "anthropological experiment" mostly in jest, but it has been an interesting and illuminating experience living here, and sometimes I've felt a bit like an anthropologist. It's an unpleasant, distancing feeling, so I guess I'm glad my wording got that across.

As for the barfing: I think The Hills is a lousy show, but a lot of otherwise intelligent people I know watch it. I think "women's studies" is kind of a goofy thing to devote a three credit class to, though it would be a good place to go to get used to being around women. My comments at that time were primarily directed towards the OP, and I gambled that she'd appreciate the humor.
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:56 PM on May 4, 2008


I dunno. I'm a feminist who thinks the feminist lightbulb* joke is actually pretty hilarious, but I couldn't actually tell you were being funny about the women's studies thing, Rachek. Maybe the OP feels differently, but I doubt I was the only one confused. I mean ... calling something pukeworthy is a signifier of the funny now? Say what? And I don't see what's so goofy about women's studies, but I doubt we'll agree on that anytime soon.




- How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?
- That's not funny!

Note: Should only be told by self-avowed feminists, otherwise is just obnoxious.

posted by bettafish at 4:31 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


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