When asked if he had a best friend, a fellow volunteer responded that he had several small groups of friends that he did things with. One group liked to play golf, another group hunted together. He did not have a specific personal friend.
Rebecca Adams, Ph. D. Professor of Sociology and an expert on relationships among older men and women offered three reasons why men have a different orientation to relationships than women. “Men define friendships in terms of activities. You do something with your men friends.”
“Women define relationships as an emotional activity. Women do not need to do anything more than talk.” This point is brought forward clearly in a new book just released, The Girls from Ames by Jeffery Zaslow. It is a story of women and a forty-year friendship.
Zaslow says it this way, “Women talk. Men do things together. Women’s friendships are face to face, while men’s friendships are side by side.”
The book chronicles the lives of the ten surviving friends over decades which include the loss of one member, divorce, abortion, and even cancer. The group get together periodically for a long weekend just to catch up.
Diana Sarussi, one of the ten, who lives and works in Scottsdale, said “Post high school and even into our early career days we wrote lots of letters to each other. Staying in touch became more challenging as we became busier with careers and started having babies. We always found out who was coming back to Ames for holidays and events and would be sure to arrange evenings together to reconnect.”
Throughout the book, the point is made that these women can rely on each other whenever they need support. Sarussi says, “All of my Ames girlfriends are great listeners and have so much wisdom and great advice. It’s great to know I have 9 friends who would do anything for me.
I asked Sarussi if their patterns of communication changed over the years. She responded, “Although some of us were slow to join in the e-mail craze, once we all got on, it has made it so easy for us to “Reply All” and stay connected to what is happening with each others lives.
Six of the ten women are currently using the social media of Twitter and Facebook, and the others are learning about it.
Adams offered a second reason for gender differences in friendship patterns. “Women tend to have a larger circle of potential friends available as they age so they have more to choose from. Women outlive men so they have more possible friends.”
Finally, “women’s friendships are mainly based on self-disclosure and confiding and men’s are mainly based on shared activities. For this reason, as women become less physically active, their friendships can continue but as men become less physically active, their circles may get smaller.”
This means that older women tend to have more friends than older men.
None of these observations preclude men from having best friends.
Next Week: Added value of friends
Zaslow, Jeffery, The Girls from Ames: A story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship Available at Amazon.com or at your local bookstore
http://www.girlsfromames.com See pictures of the women and read examples from other groups of friends.
Social Networking seminar
“Can the new social networking media click for you?” Free seminar at 5:45pm, Monday May 18, 2009 at the New Vision Education Center. Go to www.boomerzaz.com or call  990-1450 to reserve a seat.