Five Things I’ve Learned About Friendship

By Janey Womeldorf

1. Husbands versus girlfriends

My husband and I had been married less than three months. We were in our car, engine off, waiting to board a car ferry when I embarked on a conversation, in intricate detail, about the odd behavior I had recently experienced with a new friend. For over 45 minutes, I poured my heart out: How she acted, what she said, and how I responded. Once I felt he grasped the entire story, I sat back and with baited breath, waiting for his insight and input.

He looked at me blankly, and then said, “What?”

I felt gutted. I had expected us both to get lost in conversation as we explored, hypothesized and analyzed potential reasons for my friend’s behavior. Instead, I got a “deer in headlights” who assumed that when I was done, so was the conversation. As I fought back hurt, confusion and tears, he looked me, equally saddened, and confessed, “Janey, I can be your husband; I can’t be your girlfriend.”

It was a light-bulb moment: My husband is no more capable of thinking in shades of grey like my girlfriends, as I am of becoming a black-and-white thinker. If I try, I have a ten-minute window before his eyes glaze over. Women, on the other hand, share, explore and embrace it all, be it a friend’s odd behavior, our dysfunctional families, the size of our butts or which color to paint the accent wall. As a newlywed, I thought the fact we couldn’t share all conversations meant we had a bad marriage; on the contrary, I applaud my husband’s honesty. It has made the last 25 years so much easier.

2. Follow that urge – my best-timed phone call – ever

I was just about to write an e-mail to an old college friend when something prompted me to call her instead. In the thirty years since college, we have stayed in touch through cards, e-mails and a few magical get-togethers, but seldom by phone. I followed my urge and dialed her number.

When my girlfriend heard my voice, she shrieked with disbelief. Unbeknownst to me, she had recently suffered a horse-riding accident and was temporarily bedridden. Several days in, monotony and boredom consumed her and she had been lying there, fingering her phone, when all of a sudden, as if by magic, it rang.

An electric hour of news, memories, old stories and laughter followed, after which we hung up with smiles on our faces and lifted spirits. Was it a bizarre coincidence or one of those unexplainable bonds of friendship?

3. It’s never too late.

I have two sisters. Growing up, we were three strangers, united by one bedroom, who talked most when we were accusing each other of something.

I have lived the last 23 years in the United States; my two sisters live in England. Of the three of us, only my younger sister and her husband have children which equates to busy lives, schools and schedules, not to mention expensive travel. Add to that us living in different countries and consequently, my younger sister and I have not spent as much time together as we would have liked. We were close, but our lives were separate.

Four years ago, she, her husband and children all flew to the States to visit. One night, after everybody else went to bed, the two of us decided to pour some wine and go sit on the balcony. One hour passed, then two, then three as we shared, chatted, laughed and opened up to each other like we had never done (nor had the opportunity to do) before. We were unstoppable. As we hugged each other before finally going to bed, we both felt it: Something magical had happened.

Four years on, we can’t get enough of each other. We grab every opportunity to get together; often, it’s just us for a girlie getaway, and if we’re lucky, all three sisters. And to think, as teenagers, we barely gave each other the time of day. Even with family, it’s never too late.

4. Think before you get offended

I was on the phone with my older sister when all of a sudden, mid-stream, she blurted, “I have to go; my neighbor is walking this way and she has cookies.” Click.

As I contemplated possible offense at her abrupt and unapologetic hang up, I pictured my sister glowing over her unexpected plate of cookies. (She rarely cooks, let alone has home-baked cookies in the house, so, her urgency had merit.) Suddenly it dawned on me: Only someone you truly love, and truly loves you, can blow you off and get away with it. The fact she did it for a plate of cookies made it even funnier and suddenly, I loved her even more.

5. A quick girlfriend call is an oxymoron.

My girlfriend and I can go two months without talking, and then pick up the phone as if it were yesterday. After 45 years of devoted friendship, our lives are so entrenched that short conversations are a physical impossibility.

A fifteen-minute phone call is painful; thirty minutes barely scratches the surface; and hour-long conversations are do-able but leave us hanging. Many times afterwards, my husband will ask about her husband’s job. “We never got to that,” I reply. “We only had an hour.”

Phones with ear pieces work best; that way, I can clean and cook without missing a beat – apart from when I am rooted in the middle of kitchen, blankly lost in deep conversation. Our longest-call record was two and a half hours. Fortunately, we don’t have neighbors that bring us cookies so neither of us had to hang up suddenly. Not that we’d have minded – true friends can get away with that – besides, it was a conversation that could wait.

It was about some odd behavior I’d experienced with a new friend.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “Five Things I’ve Learned About Friendship”

  1. You have brought to light realities about friendships. Number one made me chuckle. Husbands listen, but not the same way our girlfriends hear us. Enjoyed this article.

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