The Truth About Girl Talk (Talk, Talk)
Wednesday - May 04, 2005
Don’t think that girls go to the ladies room just to powder our noses. And don’t think we always go in pairs because there’s safety in numbers. The truth is, we go to talk about things that are on our minds.
The bathroom isn’t the only forum for our gab fests either. On the phone, over coffee — it doesn’t matter where — girls will talk and they’ll talk about everything.
Yes, I do mean everything, from how our boyfriends screwed up that day to a coworker who gives us problems and our dreams for the future.
Right down to our shoe size and how many kids we want to have, chances are if you ask a girl’s best girlfriend, she’ll probably know the answer to the most personal questions about her gal pal and her gal pal’s man.
This comes as a shock to many men, who communicate with their own male friends about more practical matters than sharing their inner feelings.
Men might talk about sports teams, video games, car repair or the best place to pick up women. They may exchange jokes or anecdotes and spend a fair amount of time teasing each other.
Men tend to build bonds with each other by shared activities. And many men assume women are the same way when it comes to how much personal information they share with their friends. For many men, there is a line that doesn’t get crossed.
So my friend Jared was shocked to speechlessness when his wife Courtney told him that she and her girlfriends had discussed the most personal matters of their respective relationships — from the arguments each couple had about household chores to the things that bugged them most about their man’s hygiene, to how many times a week each couple had sex.
“Huh?!?!” Jared screeched. “You told them what?!”
Courtney quickly tried to backtrack. “Ummm ... no, they just told me stuff, I didn’t say anything about you, specifically, just about things I’d experienced in the past.”
But it was too late. Jared felt betrayed. More than that, he felt stupid. Now every time he saw his wife’s friends he’d be thinking that they knew he clipped his toenails in bed, and worse, whenever he made love to his wife, he’d be picturing her friends having a good laugh over his every move the next day. It was horrible.
Jared squinched his eyes shut and shook his head while Courtney tried to do some damage control.
“But they don’t care, really, whatever I tell them,” she insisted. “They don’t judge you or anything. It’s just how women are. It’s how we bond.”
“Can’t you bond without telling them all our personal information?” Jared pleaded. “Go shopping or something. Isn’t that just as good?”
Ah, but you see, Jared, it’s not. While you get your kicks out of ribbing your buddies about their skills on the basketball court, women build bonds by talking and sharing with one another.
It was too late for Courtney to take back what she divulged to Jared, so here was the plain, ugly truth:
Women talk a lot. And as much as we shake our heads at men when they so brazenly ogle other women in public with their friends, women are just as bad. We can be just as graphic. We just pretend we aren’t.
And we take it a level further by delving deep into the matters of our friends’ lives. We talk about you, we talk about your mother, we talk about the girl across the room with the cute top we like. There’s no subject that’s taboo when we talk to our best girlfriends.
Experiences are made more durable, more meaningful for having been shared, talked about or dissected with a close friend — for having been lived through, laughed about or shed tears over.
A girlfriend will remember the highs and the dregs of her friend’s life. The birthday of her dog, the long hours of conversation when she got her heart broken and the time she tried to learn to surf in vain. We learn where our friends are tough and where they’re vulnerable. Girlfriends share the outrages and the successes in a way most men don’t.
But here’s the addendum: No matter how inappropriate you feel our open forum of conversation is, women draw their own individual line in the sand of how much we’re willing to divulge.
It’s just a bit more liberal than most men would like.
“This is a really common issue I find when I work with couples,” says Rosemary Adam- Terem, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and member of the Hawaii Psychological Association, who specializes in women’s and couple’s issues. “Girlfriends share. That’s just how we are. We need that interaction with others because our ideas are formulated by reference to other people. We are very relational in our focus.”
Adam-Terem says girlfriends give each other support but don’t necessarily pass judgement on, say, the husband or the boyfriend.
“Men worry that the girlfriend’s or wife’s friends will think less of them, but that’s not how it works. Women just want to be able to explain how they feel to someone else who cares about them.”
Women, says Adam-Terem, have just as much of a right to talk about things with their girlfriends as men do to keep quiet about whatever they want. The part where couples need to work together, however, is when there is a particular matter that is really personal or could be embarrassing to either party.
Then it should be mutually agreed that’s a subject not to be shared outside of the relationship.
Our friends are a testament to our lives. Good girlfriends are the ones who have offered guidance and support when it was needed most and who are always there to listen.
Good girlfriends never let you go to the ladies room alone.
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