Unless you're an alumnus of Kappa Delta Sorority (unlikely) or a friend of mine (less likely), you probably don't know that Sunday, September 20, 2009, the third Sunday in September, is National Women's Friendship Day. Until I began writing a book about female friendship, I didn't realize it either.
I love that it isn't a Hallmark day that has been hijacked by commercialism. There is no pressure: to decorate, to buy gifts, to send cards, or to do anything that I don't really want to do. Now recognized by the Governors of 34 states, the day is intended merely as a reminder of the contributions female friendships play in enhancing our health and emotional well-being at every stage of life. "Our main goal is to encourage women to recognize the value of female friendship, something that is often taken for granted," says Melanie Schild, Executive Director of Kappa Delta Sorority, the creator of the holiday.
Because of the romanticized way that these relationships are typically depicted in popular culture, women often have unrealistic expectations that their friendships have to be perfect. Yet the reality is that even long-standing friendships require two women to overlook little things, forgive, and make accommodations to each other's differences and even eccentricities.
As easy as it is to complain about the friend who disappointed you, betrayed you, neglected you, or dumped you, it's more difficult to honestly assess whether you are the kind of friend that someone else would characterize as a keeper. Here are five simple five ways you can make yourself one:
1) Know your friends
Remember which friend doesn't like olives in her salad and the one who is allergic to cats. Keep track of their birthdays and special days. These may seem like small things but they demonstrate your interest and caring.
2) Give your friends space
When a friend has something important to say, allow her to speak without interruption. If you see she needs time alone or decides to spend more time with other friends or a guy, back off. Don't be too needy, jealous, or possessive.
3) Show up
Be there when your friends need you, without them having to ask. When people feel vulnerable, small slights or disappointments become easily exaggerated.
4) Stay in touch
Everyone is busy but if friends are a priority in your life, you need to put in the time. Schedule get-togethers and create rituals. Technology adds to friendships but doesn't substitute for face-time
5) Practice forgiveness
Apologize when you're wrong and allow your friends some slack if they occasionally say or do the wrong thing. No one is perfect.
A little self-assessment can go a long way in strengthening these vital ties.
Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.
Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and her book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend will be published by Overlook Press on September 20, 2009, coinciding with National Women's Friendship Day. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.