The Importance of Female Friendships

The Story

It’s a rainy morning in September, you’re sitting in the senior lounge and college applications have been consuming your life since August 1. You spent most of the previous night cramming for that test you have first period, you forgot to grab your coffee on the way out the door, and 7:45 a.m. is far too early for a teenage girl to be awake.
In your half-awake state, you notice the senior lounge door open and your classmate walks in with Bruegger's Bagels that she sets down on the table. She announces, “hey guys, my mom bought you all bagels. I’m just gonna leave them on the table, so please eat them.” Hidden within the dozens of bagels and tubs of cream cheese, there’s a note from her mom that wishes your class well with college applications and a reminder that this year will fly by. On the outside, this seems like a story of a classmate’s mom buying bagels—but there are far more layers to it.

The Reality

This was actually something that happened to me during my senior year. I remember being so exhausted while sitting in the lounge, and then, like a ray of sunshine, my classmate walked in with bagels and this wonderful note from her mother. Food culture at The Ellis School is one that runs deep in every student’s veins, so the gift of bagels that morning, was probably the best thing that could have happened to us. At the time, I thanked the stars that my friend’s mom had taken the time to stop and buy us all bagels but I didn’t think much more of it.

Looking back, I now realize that there were so many things that went into this simple act of kindness. We were all experiencing the same worries and emotions as a class: Where would we go to college? Would we get into our top choice? We’ve spent our whole lives here, are we ready to move on? When my classmate picked up on these all-consuming group worries, and then talked about them with her mom—who had already gone through this with two older daughters—her mother ultimately decided to support us as a whole and remind us of what was important during our senior year.

At the time, we were worried about grades, tests, and getting into college, but we needed that letter, and those bagels, to force us to take a step back, and realize how important the people around us during this time in our lives truly were. To me, this is the physical manifestation of not only the sisterhood that exists at Ellis—something that is distinct of the all-girls school—but the familial bond students experience when they are in an all-girls environment.

Sure it’s things like feeling comfortable enough to ask your entire class if anyone has a tampon or collectively deciding to take a break and grab a coffee when the stress of high school and simply just being a girl becomes too much. But after thirteen years of all of those things, it's how your life interweaves with your classmates and extends into their families as well. Even now, as we’re in our sophomore year of college, making new friends, and moving on to new places, I still consider my classmates my family and I don’t see that changing very much in the future because I know from the hundreds of classes that came before me, that the Ellis bond stands the test of time.

The Research

Female friendship—and its importance in the lives of women and young girls—has become more researched and celebrated than ever before as developments like Title IX stand the test of time. The bonds that women and girls form with each other are so important to how we interact with the world around us that women are encouraged by researchers and psychologists to seek out those kinds of friendships. By forming close relationships with women, we are more likely to live healthier and successful lives. By surrounding ourselves with other enthusiastic and happy women, we are likely to feel and act that same way in our own lives.

A UCLA study on how men and women react to stress found that a large part of the difference in male and female friendships comes down to hormones. Researchers found that when hormones are released in men their response is “geared toward aggressing or fleeing”. Women on the other hand do something that they call “tend and befriend”––during times of stress, instead of retreating inward, women reach out to their friends for support. As a result of this trait, female friendships become closer, and in times of stress, women and girls reach out to each other.

The Ellis Bond

In her 2008 Harvard commencement speech, author J.K. Rowling said, “the friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for our graduation, we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again”. I feel the same thing to be true at Ellis. I know that we will never be juniors sitting in the lounge again, but we know that we’ll always be there for each other through thick and thin.

I was lucky to be one of nine students in my class that attended Ellis from kindergarten to grade 12. In those thirteen years, we grew to know everything about each other and we saw each other through good times and bad. Along the way we lost classmates, picked up new ones, and became our own little family. When I look back, I can’t even count the number of times we rallied together to cheer someone up, or the number of times my classmates—or their parents—brought in snacks as a token of support, or the number of times that we worked through our stress by sprawling out in the lounge and laughing until we actually made ourselves cry. Little moments like these are the ones that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. This is the community that I chose to be apart of—a place where girls have each other’s backs, stand up for what they believe in, and celebrate each other’s successes rather than compete with them. This is the type of sisterhood all Ellis girls enter into and become integral members of forever.

Oh, and the letter our classmate’s mother wrote for the Class of 2016 that rainy morning in September? It hung in the senior lounge until the day we graduated as a reminder to push through and to cherish those last months we would all be in one place together.