Image Source : This is your conscience
In my last post about the way female bonding is represented in Bollywood, one of the fellow bloggers Preeti, made an interesting comment about the whole issue of female bonding.
In my post I had alluded to the fact that in society many think that women are incapable of long standing, deep relationships. I have mixed feelings on this point. On one hand I do believe that women are totally capable of long, deep friendships, and can be honest and supportive to one another, but I also agree that this is more the case of one on one friendships or with a small and close group of few girls.
In the last post, I also talked about Sex and the City (SATC), and how I related to the story of the women and the story of their bond. Preeti made an observation about SATC, that it was wonderful and admirable to see the honest bond that these four women shared, and how upfront they were with each other about how they felt, even though they were so different from one another, personality wise, but whether this was indeed possible so smoothly and seamlessly in real life? Especially in a case where all the women may not be very close friends to every member of the group.
Her comment made me think whether she does infact have a point, and is it that, while women can be great friends to each other personally, or even to a few close friends as in SATC, however, when you put a group of women together, they can possibly do things which may even be uncharacteristic of them individually. They can indeed be petty, mean, and gossip about each other, behind the other's backs.
These are all issues which are bound to come up sooner or later when it involves a group of women and not just two or three close female friends. I have seen such problems creeping up very often in almost all of the group of girlfriends I've had. In the US especially, in the desi circles, I noticed, many such problems about two or more women not getting along spoiling the dynamic of the entire group. Since in the desi circles here, the women mostly relied exclusively on their friends for social contact (being away from family) the interaction was much more frequent and close, resulting in increased friction in some cases. Very often one could see cases of sub-groupism, gossiping, back-biting, etc, resulting in the group becoming fragmented into smaller sections, and one being compelled to pick sides among the quarelling women. This wasn't an observation in an isolated case, it was rather a pattern which unfortunately repeated itself periodically.
The SATC gals were quite a bit different from one another as far as their personalities and beliefs go. A Samantha was pretty much a polar opposite of a Charlotte in the way they thought, what they believed, etc. Yet, they seemed to make it work. Yes, they did have some differences of opinion, but most just got sorted out without ever turning into anything ugly. But is it really that simple in real life ? Can we truly be a supportive person to someone who has a different way of life than our own, and especially if we have some sort of a moral objection to their way of life ? What if it is not a dear and long time friend, but a friend who is part of a group of friends we hang out with ?? I don't think the answer can be a very simple and emphatic no for everyone. Yes, some of us may find it easier to adopt a live and let live policy, but many may not, and in a group of people, there are bound to be people of all kinds of personalities, so what happens when there is a clash among opposing views ?? Can it be truly overcome as simply as shown in SATC ? Isn't there a possibility of some of the women gossiping about someone like a Samantha behind her back in real life ?
Another interesting point made in the comment was that of feeling guilty by association. Would we infact feel guilty by association , if we hung out with someone, whose choices in life, did not reflect our moral guidelines, or boundaries ? And is it possible to feel guilty, yet find the friendship worthwhile enough to hang on to ?
I think there is an inherent difference in the way men approach frienships, especially in a group and the way women do. I know many guys who can be friends with someone for years, without ever knowing much of anything about their personal lives, men can just compartmentalize their lives easily, and not have the different compartments overlapping. Their activities together will revolve around playing or watching a sport mainly, so there isn't much room for personal chit-chat, and whenever there is time for such chit-chat like when playing golf, their topics would involve, politics, their job, the economy, etc, and rarely would the topic revolve around anything personal, like their marital troubles for example. So, their friendship is more at a surface level than a deeper emotional level, and that's what works for them. Men will get over a grudge fairly quickly and not keep rehashing the past and the unpleasant memories of the past, and just move on with a blank slate, something many women find very difficult to do. For guys, if ever a particular friendship became a drag to hold on to for some reason, or some differences crept up in the friendship, then they would rather cut losses and break off ties than try and 'fix' the problem.
Women on the other hand are very emotionally involved in their friends lives, knowing pretty much every detail of their friends' lives. Women tend to look at their friends as their personal agony aunts. They love to consult their friends on every problem they face, and will share even the littlest details of their lives with each other while doing so. This while helping to create a deep bond between the women involved, does run a risk of over-exposure of one's life to someone else, and also has other drawbacks like too much of familiarity breeding contempt. Women usually like to indulge in activities with their friends, that allow for personal time, like shopping or eating out, or a visit to the salon together, etc, all of which will allow for a lot of time to indulge in personal discussions. Their topics will include anything from, marital woes, to MIL troubles, to work related problems, to mothering issues. They look towards each other for comfort and provide a shoulder to cry on. It is because of these deep emotional attachments that women find it difficult to just break off ties with someone without trying to 'fix' it .
I had once read somewhere that when in a group, men are like dogs and women are like cats, simplistic maybe, but somehow it does ring somewhat true.
Although I do definitely think that women are capable of long friendships without the drama, I have several long and close bonds with my friends, and I know others like my sister, mother, aunts, etc too who do, so I have seen it and experienced it, but this I believe is more successful in case of a one-on-one friendship , or even in case of a close-knit and small group of friends, who have had a history together. However, when it comes to the group dynamics in a somewhat larger group of women, not all of who would be close to each other or had a history, the situation is much different and much more complicated. While women can be the best of friends to each other, they can also be the worst of enemies, if things go bad.