Will you be my Galentine?Jan 29, 2024 09:53AM ● By Libby Kinder
Even if you’ve never watched the TV series “Parks and Rec,” chances are you’ve heard of “Galentine’s Day.” This invented holiday struck a chord with women of various ages and stages. What’s not to love about ladies celebrating ladies?
Whether you celebrate your gal pals with dinner and small gifts or not, they undoubtedly know you appreciate them—or there wouldn’t be a relationship. Why are these connections women nurture and negotiate throughout life so intrinsic to our well-being? The theme song from TV’s “Friends” says it simply and effectively: “I’ll be there for you, ’cause you’re there for me too.”
The poem “A Reason, Season or Lifetime” deftly sums up the joys and challenges of friendship.
“When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are!”
RELATIONSHIPS FOR A REASON
Typically, female friendships are more intimate and personal than male relationships. Even as little girls, we seek acceptance from our female friends. We need to share our thoughts and feelings. Seeking and maintaining trust and reliability are paramount early on and continue throughout our lives.
Thelma and Louise, Laverne and Shirley, Lucy and Ethel, Oprah and Gayle—what solidifies their bonds? Mutual acceptance of zaniness and shortcomings, loyalty, sharing joy and sadness, vulnerability, support and belonging. The same is true in our less famous but equally special friendships.
“I can’t imagine not having women friends in my life,” said Sabra Wells, 79, an only child and widow of an Air Force officer.
Military life meant relocating 21 times. She stressed how vital it’s been to keep a circle of women close.
“The one thing women can count on is a community of women to help and support you,” said Wells. “I never would have gotten through the deaths of my mother, father and husband without my friends.”
Studies show social support following sudden bereavement reduces the severity of depression and PTSD.
My freshman roommate, Jan Lysaght, and I were thick as thieves for one short year as we negotiated leaving home and finding our niche as college students. We told each other everything during this life-changing year of evolving from insecure teenagers into confident young women. I can’t imagine sharing that time with anyone else.
Although we had minimal contact after that year, it didn’t diminish our history and inherent closeness. Sadly, Jan passed away a few years ago. I often wish I had been a better friend and kept in closer contact with her.
BONDING FOR A SEASON
“Then people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn… They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But only for a season.”
Those who change jobs or retire know how difficult it can be to maintain former coworker relationships.
“I just don’t see my teaching friends anymore,” said retired teacher Patty, who preferred not to have her last name printed. “It’s not that our friendship ended, it’s just that I don’t see them on a daily basis.”
She also fell out of touch with the “many wonderful moms” she met when her children were in sports. Kids grow up, and friendships move on.
Some seasonal friendships end because they are not healthy. Patty had a neighbor with whom she was close for 15 years.
“She was always a domineering person,” Patty said. “I had overlooked many things to maintain the friendship but finally called it quits after many disagreements.”
Unfortunately, sometimes one-sided and toxic relationships exist between women. These links often die a quick and natural death. You can see it coming, and then it’s over. One of my friendships ended abruptly after I made a flippant remark that I instantly regretted. My “friend” disregarded my swift apology, and that was that.
FRIENDSHIPS THAT LAST FOREVER
“Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons… Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life…”
I cherish the gift of a few long-term friendships.
Jill Jarvis, 74, and I became besties in grade school. Who knew back then that we would still be close 65+ years later? Though we only see each other once a year or so, we text often.
As teenagers, we regularly fought and made up. We spent endless hours on the phone discussing boys we liked and girls we didn’t. I moved away but always prioritized meeting up with her during visits home.
Even now, we know each other’s stories pretty deeply. We’ve been there for each other in times of sorrow and grief and celebrations, sometimes more or less actively, but definitely as needed.
There are few people in life who have been there for the duration, other than family members. The girlfriends who stick with us accept us as we are, where we are. We can trust them to listen to us, make us laugh and engage in a balanced relationship.
RECIPE FOR FRIENDSHIP
“The only way to have a friend is to be one,” Ralph Waldo Emerson astutely noted. Relationships require effort.
“Friendship must be nurtured and kindled. It doesn’t just pop from across the room like ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’” said Kathleen Hartman, 80. “The blooming necessitates a caring relationship, and that can only come through loving contact and time.”
The reciprocal threads that bind relationships, according to these women, are trust, common interests, humor, similar values, respect, commitment, honesty, open communication and acceptance.
The best friends are those with whom you can “just chat,” said MarySue Wildman, 79. But it goes deeper.
“You can share private information, discuss problems and seek solutions,” she said, wisely adding, “and call on and be called on in emergencies.”
Mutuality is also vital, which Jarvis described as “a similar understanding of and respect for boundaries, no power imbalances, both willing to be present, vulnerable and open on more or less the same level.”
Equal amounts of need, commitment and interest are necessary, said Jarvis.
“And there has to be what I might call a chemistry,” said Jarvis, “something in the personalities that draws them together, so that time spent together is interesting, fun, uplifting and satisfying.”
Relationships are on a par with food and exercise for overall wellbeing, studies show.
“Friendships are particularly important to women like me who are living alone and are older and single because it is evident that social contact is very important to maintain physical and mental health,” said Wildman.
A sense of belonging wards against depression, and a hug mitigates stress. Friendships even aid cognition and can help stave off dementia, as good conversation boosts brain health.
The Mayo Clinic points to social ties as contributing to healthier blood pressure and body mass index. Another study looked at participants’ cell phone use and found that a strong social circle predicted happiness and wellness better than fitness tracker data like heart rate and exercise. You may even live longer.
“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold,” we sang in Girl Scouts. Let’s treasure our existing friendships and remain open to new gal pals in this month of love—and beyond.
WAYS TO CELEBRATE YOUR GAL PALS
1. Like surprises? Open the BEACON calendar, close your eyes, point to an event and then attend together!
2. Play tourist in your own hometown. Colorado Springs has some amazing sights. Bet you haven’t seen them all! The Penrose House, the World Figure Skating Museum or hiking in Red Rocks Canyon are interesting options.
3. Go to high tea together. Glen Eyrie Castle offers one (and the castle is fun to explore) or break out your fancy cups, bake scones and DIY at one of your houses.
6. Find out why everyone’s talking about pickleball. Book an indoor court if you don’t want to face the cold.
7. Go thrifting or antiquing together for some one-of-a-kind treasures.
8. Have a spa day, either with face masks and pedicures at home, or splurge and go to one of the spas around town.
9. Have a game or puzzle night at home or at your favorite coffee shop.
10. For animal lovers, walk your dogs together or go to Happy Cats Haven or the humane society and visit all the cute creatures.