If you don’t have a group of close-knit girlfriends — à la Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad — you’re not alone. (Illustration: Erik Mace for Yahoo Health)
When I was a little girl, I was kind of a loner.
It’s not that I didn’t have any friends, because I did. I just always felt somewhat disconnected from the other girls.
And even now, as an adult, I’m not one for large groups of estrogen. I much prefer one-on-one friendships to spending time in a huge group of other women. My best girlfriend is my mom. And through the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s easier for me to relate to and have good conversations with guys, versus people of my own gender.
That’s why this “Girl Squad” phenomenon breezing through Hollywood and social media is completely foreign to me. The most elite incarnation is Taylor Swift’s squad, featuring a slew of bright, young up-and-comers like Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne, and Martha Hunt.
And they’re not the only ones — there is an increasing number of high-powered young women getting together and making nice right now, and not just in the entertainment industry, according to Art Markman, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
“As women are achieving more power in the workplace, they are bumping up against a variety of issues including work-family balance, the glass ceiling, and harassment,” Markman says. “So when a group of powerful women hang out together, they are creating strength in numbers. They are also providing each other with mutual support.”
Exclusivity is also a factor in the Girl Squad’s appeal, Markman adds. “In some ways, the Girl Squad has the potential to rival the old-boy network in the workplace.”
So, Taylor Swift’s crew of fearless, young, high-achieving women — collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars — is emblematic of the new direction of our culture. I so want to be empowered by this epic, tight-knit group of feminists, exuding the words girl power. But I just can’t relate. I have never melded into a group of girls like that — and may never, according to psychologist Karla Ivankovich, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Where the Heck Is My Girl Squad?
While there are certainly exceptions, many women tend to gravitate toward other women friendship-wise because “gender shapes a lot of people’s experiences in both social and work life,” Markman says. “It’s nice to be among people who understand where you are coming from without having to have it explained to them — so, same-sex friends can often empathize more easily.”
Communication styles also tend to be more similar within the sexes. Women generally are more prone to in-depth analysis and emotional transparency, while men may approach conversations with a more “address an issue, move on, file it away” mind-set, according to Ivankovich. But ultimately, every single person is different. You can’t put people into boxes. I know that I, for one, don’t have this communication style that’s supposedly typical among females. “There are always exceptions to the rule,” Ivankovich says.
But it’s not like I don’t have any friends who are females. In fact, most of my close friends are women — I just don’t have that large group of friends who consistently spend time together. My female friendships never seem to expand beyond small groups of two or three.
Markman has a possible reason: My conversation style may not mesh with the “norm” for my gender. And the “larger the group, the more likely that group will fall back on stereotypical patterns of communication and behavior,” he says. And it’s true — even among my close friends who are girls, some of the things we bond over include shared interests and our blunter-than-average communication styles.
How Do I Get Myself a Good Friend Squad?
According to Markman, true friendships are actually a lot harder to come by in this day and age than people may realize. “The hardest part for most people in this era is having friends at all,” he says. “In the United States, we work long hours and don’t often make time for our friends. It’s easier to exchange a few Facebook messages, a couple of texts, and then fire up the TV for a night of binge-watching the latest Netflix series.”
Friends take effort — but “it is effort worth making,” Markman insists. “Studies of happiness consistently demonstrate that strong connections to other people make us more satisfied with life.”
Ultimately, most people just want true friends in their lives — regardless of if they are male or female. There are a couple of big things that tend to draw people together. The first one: proximity. “We tend to choose our friends from among the people nearby,” says Markman. “That’s why we are friends with people from school while we’re still in school, and work when we work. Making friends outside of work requires picking up some other activities so that you increase the range of people you spend time with.”
Related: 5 Types of Friends You Need to Ditch
Another big connector: shared interests. “We tend to look for people who have some common interests and people we communicate well with,” Markman continues.
Simple enough, right? Yes. Just don’t overthink what a friendship or friend group should be. Sometimes we get the idea in our heads that a true friend has to be a lifelong friend. In actuality, your squad is probably changing with each passing year. “The friends we spend our time with definitely change with age, because our life circumstances change,” Markman says. “Things like getting into a long-term relationship, or having kids, often change our circle of friends because our concerns, interests, and free time change.”
And, hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some friendships last forever, while others drift off. It’s natural. At the end of the day, you’re looking for a supportive, enjoyable circle of pals. “Quality over quantity, any day of the week,” Ivankovich says. “People who enjoy each other’s company are less likely to part ways.”
So while the concept of a Girl Squad isn’t exactly a fit for me, I still like it, because it works for a lot of other women. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, working on my Friend Squad.
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