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The Girl Game

I’ve been learning about this thing I have labeled "The Girl Game" for the past 20 years or so.  I don’t know the rules, and there is no rule book.  I don’t know how to win, and I find myself losing often.  The Girl Game is scary, fun, but awfully hard to maneuver.   Figuring out how relationships between grown women is hard work!  I grew up in a house with 3 brothers.  I had girls who were friends, of course, but when you’re surrounded by boys your whole life, maybe you just find it easier to identify with them.   

One of my favorite authors is Anita Diamant.  She wrote The Red Tent, The Last Days of Dogtown, and now I am reading a book by her called, Pitching my Tent.  I enjoy her style, and her Jewishness.  She is just as committed a Jew as I am a Christian.  Anyway, I read a passage in her book that defines how I feel about the Girl Game.  It’s a bit long, but definitely worth checking out if you are a girl, a woman, or someone who knows one.

Within a decade of graduation,(from college) everyone I knew was sighing about how hard it was to make a new friend, even if you worked side by side, even if you lived next door.  Coworkers and neighbors almost never get the full story.  We piece together bits of family lore, scraps from old love affairs, hints of sibling animosities-tidbits shaken loose during conversations about something else entirely. 

When your children are young, it’s especially hard to start the process.  The frustration of conversation interrupters can unravel the thread of the most intimate exchange.  Even if you’re meeting in the relative peace of kid-free workday lunch, the clock is always ticking.

It’s an interesting locution-making friends.  It reminds me of a greeting card with a lady in an apron whose bubble says, "For your birthday, I’m going to make you a cake…Poof!  You’re a cake. " As if you could just run up to a likely candidate and shout, "Abracadabra!  You’re a friend!"

To make friends, you need to mosey, to digress.  In fact, you need a minimum of twenty-four uninterrupted, non-working hours.  That’s how long it takes to tell someone where you come from, wheat TV shows make you a point of watching, and how you’d spend a million dollars.  It’s also important to share three meals and see each other’s face by the light of morning, noon, and night.

Once you get past second grade, making friends requires a lot of effort.  It’s worth it.  The process bears some comparison with falling in love:  There has to be  a kind of mutual attraction.  A signal passed-some shared hilarity or a sentence finished with precisely the same words-and suddenly the room seems brighter.  Hey!  We cold change our lives forever.  We could make ourselves into friends.

The time we share with friends is, almost almost by definition, time carved out of family obligations, work, housekeeping, reading, gardening, and even sleep.  We’re grateful to each other for making this choice-this gift-of our time.

Friends meet each other’s expectations on a need-to-speak basis.  Friends will show up when it matters, and when it doesn’t, we trust the foundation Will remain firm.

Of course, not all friendships last forever.  Friends move and the commitment fades.  Friends marry badly, or change too much, though I am still friends with a high school pal who votes Republican….

The Girl Game is hard.  I’m learning how to play, but also learning it is a lot of work.  I love my inner-circle of friends with everything in me.  I adore them, cherish them, and hold them so close to my heart.  We’re learning and growing together.  I am so thankful to God for them and the things they have taught me along the way.  I am also thanful for the times when I don’t have the Game figured out, and they offer me large amounts of grace.


4 Responses to “The Girl Game”

  • Amber Cox Says:

    Michelle,
    Yes. The Girl Game…I don’t get it. All I know is that I’m glad we’re friends.

  • Mandy Says:

    With 3 daughters of my own, I feel the need to learn this game as well. I’ve enjoyed GROWN UP GIRLFRIENDS by Erin Smalley.

  • Theresa Says:

    I think we connected well because we both had given up on the “girl game”. I still feel like giving up on it once in a while. Some of it is hard work…sometimes worth it, sometimes not. Consider yourself worth it! Glad you offered to exchange gift certificates with me 6 years ago!

  • Seven Says:

    you know, it’s funny. i never realized it before, but the “girl game” is a great name for what i’ve never articulated, but very much avoided. i love what she says about friends showing up when it matters, and when it doesn’t, there’s a trust in the foundation. thanks for being a cool girl, michelle.

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