Here's what she has to say about the joys of female friendship:
I am quite fond of men in spite of the fact that my work often seems to belie this revelation. After all, I am a wife, the mother of a son, a sister to a brother, and the daughter of a father I adored. Nevertheless, when I need to talk, I always turn to my girlfriends. I know I can depend on them in ways that men invariably seem unable to offer without some prodding or direction.
It is just so much easier to be myself with the women in my life. They rarely disappoint me and, if they do, I can tell them and expect a reasonable reaction and a willingness to either change or to compromise. Perhaps, this explains why I celebrate the bonds between women in my work. I am blessed to have a circle of women friends who sustain me, keep me sane, remind me of my worth, and reassure me that I am treasured. We reaffirm our love for each other each time we speak. I think nothing of blowing kisses into the phone before hanging up or closing an email with a number of Xs that most men would be likely to find excessive or threatening. Most women are nurturers. They spend their lives caring for their children, their husbands, their partners, their ailing parents, their students, their neighbors and co-workers, the list is endless—and this may be exactly the reason we understand the need to let each other know how much we matter, how much we are appreciated. Friends are my support, my secret keepers, my cheering section—they mean everything to me. I cannot imagine how any woman survives without close woman friends. I know that I would not be able to get through my day without some contact with my girlfriends.
In her essay, “Women Are Just Better,” Anna Quindlen quotes the observation of a friend who says, “Have you ever noticed that what passes as a terrific man would only be an average woman?” And that’s when, as Quindlen describes it, “A Roman candle went off in my head… What I expect from my male friends is that they are polite and clean. What I expect from my female friends is unconditional love, the ability to finish my sentences for me when I am sobbing, a complete and total willingness to pour out their hearts to me, and the ability to tell me why the meat thermometer isn’t supposed to touch the bone.” And this is exactly what I expect and invariably receive from the women friends in my life.
Yes, women do fall in love with each other. Differently, of course than they fall in love with men. Falling in love with a man is a feverish experience. There is little control. But falling in love with a woman is much more serious. It guarantees so much more for the investment. For it is from other women that women are nurtured. It is from other women that they hear what they hope to hear from men. I understand. I know how you feel. I’m sorry for your pain. I care about what you think: Words that need no prompting. In that circle, women tell each other things that men and women tell each other first with their hands and lips and tongues before they can tell each other with words. Women comfort each other with touch that is meant to heal, rather than to excite. The mysteries of love are less complex between women. The hidden passages are easier to negotiate. And the dangers do not seem as great as when the same journey is taken with a man. Around each dank and frightening corner, women hold out their hands to each other and form a human chain that is, quite simply, spiritually different. The lucky ones find men who (and it is a deep and well-kept secret between women) are more like women.I have women friends from various stages of my life. One friend in particular has been my friend since she was twelve and I was ten (I continue to point out our age difference at every opportunity!) We met at sleep away camp and in the almost fifty years that we have been friends, we have been through everything together. Several years ago, she found out she had lung cancer. It has been a long and challenging battle that she blessedly seems to have won, but we take nothing for granted. We speak every morning, exchange news, reassure each other we are still here, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be friends, to have each other yet one more day. We always, always have something to talk about, secrets to share. We are always still girls together. And I love that about us.
I write about women and celebrate the bonds we share because I know for certain that the women who read my work will invariably come across a line or a passage that causes them to pause and recognize themselves. This is the goal of every writer. I know this because I am both a writer and a reader.
I judge the value of a book by how many “aha” moments I have—one is often enough to sustain me. And these moments are what I aspire to in my own work. I can visualize the reader, see her close the book for a moment and feel that she is understood. We are all girlfriends. I close the acknowledgments in Willing Spirits with the following statement: “Mostly, however, I am indebted to my friends, the women who embrace me with their open hearts. They nourish me with their love and goodwill. I have been blessed to be surrounded by women who indulge my moods, allow my eccentricities, listen to my complaints, and applaud my triumphs. I cannot imagine how I would thrive without any one of them. They never disappoint me.” Girlfriends. My girlfriends. These are the women I celebrate in my work. My girlfriends. My mainstays, each and every one of them.
Join us on the Sinners Guide to Confession and Willing Spirits virtual tour. To learn more about the tour, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/05/04/phyllis-schieber-blog-outreach/. You can also learn more about Phyllis Schieber and her books at http://www.phyllisschieber.wordpress.com.