A few months ago, David looked at our cell phone bill and asked (in a rather suspicious fashion) who I was calling 3-4 times a week at 8am and talking to for a half hour on my drive in to work. I admitted that my friend (I'll call her Judith rather than put her real name and associated admissions out in the street) and I used that time to chat, talk about how are lives are going complain or boast about our kids, jobs, politics, you name it. We cry, we laugh, we compare and contrast our childhoods and family dysfunctions. We admit things to each other that we probably don't admit to many other folks. It is our own personal rantfest. Another friend, who I'll call WH, and I have similar exchanges but not as often, mostly because she works from home and doesn't have the leisure (or burden) of a drive in rush hour traffic to let off steam. But oddly, our exchanges seem mostly to revolve around health and sex and relationships - probably because she teaches that to teens - but also because she's very frank in a way that other women tend not to be. She'll call and tell me about her health or ask me about something very personal in a way that is disarming and freeing, allowing you to open up in a way that you might not even feel comfortable doing with your own doctor without blushing. Some people have a gift, or a curse depending on how you look at it. I have other friends who are my food buddies or my home repair pals, women I can chat with about those subjects and bemoan the house fixing up that never gets completed or the challenges of finding gluten free pizza in the valley.
But the point is, we have these discussions, often, because they are not only enjoyable (and helpful) but because they make us happy. I knew this already from experience, but then was surprised and pleased to find an article in the New York Times called, “Why Sisterly chats Make People Happier,” and felt that what I had suspected all along had finally been validated. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/health/26essay.html) And the great thing is, the sisters don’t have to be biological sisters, just women with whom you connect with on a certain topic or no particular topic at all – someone you just know you can chat with and even the most frivolous or benign conversation will bring you as much comfort as that call which helps you through a bad diagnosis or a marital crisis.
Now whenever David looks at the cell phone bill and sees Judith’s number showing up repeatedly, he knows better than to comment. He realizes my sisterly chats with my friends are vastly cheaper than therapy (and far more enjoyable).