Friday is friend day.
Once a week, I get together with a group of female friends in the late afternoon at a coffee shop on “The Hill” in St. Louis. We chat about our lives. We share our triumphs and challenges. We talk about families, careers, movies and politics. By 5 p.m., we scatter, promising to reconvene in seven days.
It has become a sacred part of my weekly routine.
In my teens, my friends were my world. We vented about parents and siblings. We confessed crushes and sought help with homework. We introduced new music to one another and swapped clothes.
But when I married and had kids, friend time was sacrificed. Basketball practices, science fair projects, and work were the jealous masters of the hours in my day. To be sure, I still had friends; dear friends who I met through my own children. But divorce and an empty nest can fray those ties.
Now, I’ve entered a new phase of friendship that caught me by surprise. But after some research, I discovered my experience isn’t necessarily unique.
Suzanna M. Rose, professor of psychology and women’s studies, summarized research involving middle-aged female friendships:
“[T]he 50s might amount to a ‘golden age’ of women’s friendships, given that women are likely to be at their height of confident power (i.e., Neugarten, 1968), financial stability, and still in relatively good health. It may be the era when women learn to ‘treat a friendship like the gift that it is’ (Paul, 2004, p. 164).”
My friends are in their 40s and 50s. They’ve achieved a lot in their lives. And like me, they’re not done.
They’ve raised kids, or they’re navigating the teen years. Most have experienced the heartache of divorce. They understand what it is like to rebuild a life. And they care deeply about giving back to the community, volunteering their time and talent to organizations with missions consistent with their values.
In short, they are bright, thoughtful and caring women who I admire.
Contrary to stereotypes, Rose noted women in midlife know what they want and know how to go about getting it: “The women’s stories suggested that a wellspring of energy to pursue one’s own life was released during the age 50 transition.”
This Friday falls on International Women’s Day. For me, getting together with women who I cherish as friends is a great way to celebrate.