Tara McTiernan delves into why female friendship is so important.

2013-04-18-13.05.01-300x439Life or death? Seriously?

Seriously.

The women who have the most girlfriends live, cutting the risk of death by as much as sixty percent as shown in clinical studies.

This may be due to what a landmark UCLA study discovered that turned the belief that all humans react to stress with a “fight or flight” response upside down. You see, those earlier studies on stress were done on men. The new study focused on women and found that women, unlike men, respond to stress with a “tend and befriend” response due to a unique cascade of brain chemicals that combat stress, healing the women from within when they spent time bonding with girlfriends.

Even before reading up on the science, my gut instinct always told me how important friendships with other women were. Whenever the going got rough, nothing was a better cure for what ailed me than a good cry or laugh with a friend, sometimes both!

Of course I love men, too, but it’s different. Women are willing to spend hours examining relationships and hypothesizing about reasons behind certain people’s behavior. Most men don’t have the patience or the interest in such discussions. Women can see right away when you need a hug, at least my friends do. The women I know are talented nurturers as well as fonts of wisdom, always shared.

My appreciation for women’s friendships extends into my reading preferences. I love a good book about girlfriends! My favorites: The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher, Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

As a result of my love of these types of books, my writing has ended up focusing on women’s relationships, yielding my novels Barefoot Girls and Cocktail Hour. In my debut novel, I adored the process of creating a gang of girlfriends, the “Barefooters”, and writing about how their friendship evolved and survived childhood traumas, adolescent angst, senseless tragedy, failed marriages, and misunderstandings. What made them survive all that? The love they had for each other. It’s something I’ve learned from my own lifelong friendships, that life’s challenges only bind us closer together.

Of course, not all female friendships are good for you. There are plenty of toxic ones. My latest novel, Cocktail Hour, details the fallout of having a toxic friend. Bianca Rossi, the character in question, is the worst sort: a bona fide sociopath. The trouble is that none of her friends know it. The story details how Bianca secretly pursues her friend’s husband, obsessed and willing to do anything – and I mean anything – to catch him. Bianca’s manipulations and abuses of her friends escalate as the story continues, leading to a deadly confrontation. In the end, it is the friendship that has grown between the other four girls – Sharon, Lucie, Chelsea, and Kate – that is the greatest weapon they wield against their frenemy.

Luckily, most of us never meet the Biancas of the world, instead having typical friendships that run the gamut from casual to deep.

Some of us have childhood friends we still hang out with, others socialize with more recently acquired friends, but no matter what, we women benefit when we take the time for these relationships.

You know…there’s something I’ve noticed when it comes to reading chick lit/women’s fiction. Every time I read or write a book about women’s friendships, I appreciate my own more, making me pick up the phone or send a message on Facebook to make plans to see one of the special women I’m lucky enough to call a friend. That’s pretty cool. Bonus: it’s also good for my health!

What about you? Any good friendship stories? Have you ever had a toxic friend like Bianca? Tell!

images Spring in glamorous uber-rich Fairfield County, Connecticut is a time of beginnings: a new diet for the approaching summer spent out on the yacht, fresh-faced interns being offered up at the office as the seasonal sacrifice to the gods of money, and corporate takeovers galore. Five women in their thirties have a brand-new friendship, too, one that’s fed and watered regularly at local hotspots over cocktails. With all of their personal struggles – Lucie’s new catering business is foundering due to vicious gossip, Kate’s marriage is troubled due to an inability to conceive, Chelsea’s series of misses in the romance department have led to frantic desperation, and Sharon’s career problems are spinning out of control – the women look forward to a break and a drink and a chance to let their guards down with their friends. And letting their guards down is the last thing they should do in the kind of company they unknowingly keep with the fifth member of their cocktail-clique: Bianca Rossi, a woman who will stop at nothing to have it all. As each woman’s life is affected by this she-wolf in sheep’s clothing, the truth starts to come out, but will they see it before it’s too late? Or will their doubts about their own perceptions and gut feelings stop them from protecting themselves in time?

taramctiernan.com

1 comment on “Women’s Friendships: A Matter of Life or Death”

  1. I love women’s fiction and Cocktail Hour sounds like a great book! I’ll be picking this one up next. You should check out “Mofongo” by Cecilia Samartin, http://www.ceciliasamartin.com/. It’s a women’s fiction book with a strong family dynamic, and it’s a wonderful read. I just finished it per the suggestion of a friend of mine. Thanks for the post and the review of Cocktail Hour!

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