So I have been rereading my blog lately (is that like a movie star watching themselves onscreen?) and noticed several posts which make it seem like I hate all my friends. This just isn’t true. There are several that I adore – Wuzi, SWCNBN and Suzanne among them - but sadly, our crazy schedules leave little time for face to face encounters. I am not a huge fan of long phone conversations at night and email only takes you so far, thus, I feel isolated from those I love most.
In an attempt to fix this problem Wuzi and I made plans for last night to gorge ourselves on $14 Lobster fest and hang out for a bit. We met up at 6:30, looked around in a few stores (where, I should note, I bought two sweaters which I love and are the first new clothing items I have purchased in more than 6 months year) and went for lobster. The entire night can be summed as this: Spent money I don't have, ate food not on diet, drank martinis until tipsy and came home happier than I’d been in a while! See, while Husband is my constant dinner date and companion, there are some days you just want to hang out and gossip with your girlfriends.
According to a very cool 2002 UCLA Study:
…women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research---most of it on men---upside down. Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.
Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.
I had an incredibly stressful week this week. Between Husband’s surgery, Tiki’s pending surgery (it was postponed until this Friday), work-related projects and Sister’s apartment search, I was up all night and my mind was racing. The more stressed I became; the more I looked forward to Lobster Fest with Wuzi. Just seeing her on the street corner caused a tension release. And, when the night was over and I had to run home to get the dog from daycare, I offered to take a taxi a few extra blocks just to prolong the night. And, when Wuzi got out of the cab, my mind raced, until I started planning what we would do next week.
That’s the thing about good girlfriends. They just somehow know when you need to order that second pomegranate martini (heck, they were half price) and when nothing specific is ailing you but you need cheering up nonetheless.
So, I realized that I need to not let work and other obligations take up too much of my time, and that when I am exhausted or stressed about work, the best thing to do is call up Wuzi, SWCNBN or Suzanne to grab a bite and a drink and just be together. In fact I am going to stop writing this, finish work as soon as possible and call them both to make plans, preferably for this weekend.