Guest: The case for female friendship in college

MARINA OLNEY / AGGIE

Looking past the narrative that “boys are way less drama”

There’s an all-too-common narrative among young women claiming that boys are just so much easier to hang out with — way less drama. Even I fell victim to this narrative when I was a teen. I was raised in a household with three older brothers, so I was and still am comfortable around boys and sincerely appreciate my male friends. However, not only was I lying to myself when I claimed I liked hanging out with boys more, but I was also feeding into what I now realize is one of the most absurd fallacies that plagues our generation of young women. I’ve grown to appreciate the unique power of female friendship and the crucial role it plays in my life.

I had the good fortune of spending my childhood and adolescent summers at a sleepaway camp, living in cabins with upwards of 10 other girls my age and two to three college-aged counselors. The friends I made at camp gave me a confidence I’d never felt before. At camp I was constantly surrounded by an eclectic group of girls, and although we were all on disturbingly different stages of puberty, we understood each other.

This was my introduction to the power of strong female friends. My cabinmates made me feel confident and comfortable with my changing body. They taught me that it was okay to have body hair, that it wasn’t a taboo topic for us to discuss, that I didn’t need to hide my razor under my shampoo bottle in my shower caddy. We made up secret code phrases to inform each other that we were on our periods, bonding over our scary hormonal changes and supporting each other throughout them all. Of course we discussed our crushes all day long, but it was just another catalyst to our bonding as young women. We celebrated our womanhood, sometimes even literally. It’s a tradition at camp that, if a girl gets her period for the first time, her counselors and cabinmates throw her a party to celebrate. These experiences provided me a foundation to continue seeking strong and rewarding friendships with other girls.

Fast forward to college, a time of identity crises for many of us, myself included. I’ve begun to redefine myself and refocus my attention on what brings me true joy. I’ve discovered that my most fulfilling and empowering moments have been during wholeheartedly good times with my friends. My friends are the ones who pick me up on the dark weeks of the quarter system, delivering me coffee cake in the library, joining me on a long gossip-filled run or being my shoulder for a much-needed cry. I found my friendships so fulfilling lately that my previously more urgent desire to find a romantic partner has decreased significantly. My friends constantly inspire me and make me feel supported, loved and confident. Although we’re told that college may be the time you fall in love, it also may not be. It is, however, definitely the time to foster and embrace your strong female friendships.

A study at UCLA suggests that female friendship has an evolutionary role in helping women cope better with stress. The study suggests “that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women.” It’s also proven the hormone oxytocin is released in response to stress for women, the hormone responsible for our tend and befriend behavior. And researchers suspect that this befriending, or spending time with close female friends, causes more oxytocin to be released, which actually calms and counteracts stress. Hence, female friendship is actually “an ancient survival mechanism.”

I’ve found this to be true in my own life. In times of deepest distress, my close friends always know what to say or do. Whether I was facing three midterms in one week or the loss of a loved one, my friends have been there with a new pair of funky socks, a pizza in hand or a hug to help me battle my stress.

It’s important to recognize how joyful your friendships are — to soak them up and live unequivocally in the goofy times with your best friends and worry less about finding a significant other. We must recognize how fun it is to pile into a dirty fraternity bathroom stall to pee and quickly debrief the night’s events; how fun it is to sit at the pool for hours reading and tanning; how fun it is to have a spontaneous catch-up session on the quad; how fun it is to watch early 2000s films and reminisce on our first celebrity crushes; how fun it is to complain about our menses with heating pads on our stomachs; how fun it is to run home together from a party and watch a movie instead; how fun it is crawl into bed and solve our relationship problems or watch the latest “This Is Us” episode; how fun it is to try every Trader Joe’s snack on the shelf; how fun it is to swap clothes; how fun it is drive around belting out throwbacks; how fun it is to revel in each other’s accomplishments; how fun it is to be the ridiculous friends you are.

So I encourage young college-aged women to appreciate friendships that are fulfilling,

rejuvenating and empowering a little extra. Don’t get me wrong — boys give an undeniable dimension to our lives. But it’s important to not overlook the beauty that is female friendship.

 

Anna Kurzrock is a third-year psychology major at UC Davis.

 

Written by: Anna Kurzrock

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