Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thoughts About Female Friendships in France

Since coming back to France from my summer in the US my friend D, with whom I was such good friends last year, has been almost completely absent from my life except for the odd café meet up on a Wednesday afternoon or occasionally being available on a Friday night to see me. What happened, you may wonder?

She got closer with her boyfriend so I am no longer necessary, because she has someone else to fill her weekends and Wednesdays.

By contrast, when I thought I was going to have a boyfriend when I got back to France, I planned ways to divide my time between D and him, because she is my friend and important to me and you make time for the people you care about.

I think the main difference between French and American women is French women consider their female friends disposable. The most important relationship in their lives is always their significant male other; girl friends are there just to fill the gap between boyfriends. "Chicks before dicks" does not exist here. Once you have a boyfriend, you can stop seeing your girl friends because you no longer need them to help you find a man. D will occasionally remark that she doesn't see me, or other girl friends, as often as she used to, but is clearly unwilling to sacrifice time with her boyfriend in order to see us. Her priorities, and the priorities that French society has laid out for her, are clear: get a man. That's the only relationship that counts.

I went to see the Sex and the City movie with D last year. She loves SATC, she said, because the women are always there for each other, through thick and thin, no matter what. That kind of female relationship just isn't programmed into French women. Sure, you still see your girl friends every once in a while when you're in a couple (because you might break up someday and need the girls to help you find another man) but it's nothing like the American idea of girl friends who continue to see and phone and email each other all the time, in or out of a couple.

This is my interpretation of the elusive French woman, would be interested to hear the thoughts of others. Interestingly, I've also noticed that men seem to have friendships more like the typical American female friendship. Comments also welcome on this topic.

I've been watching a lot of Sex and the City this weekend. I really miss my girl friends at home.

Also, still looking for ideas re: my last post.


L said...

This is a little sad to admit, but the only French (young) woman I know well enough to know about her friendships is my sister-in-law. She's often talking about her friends and this one that's pregnant, and that one who's single, and the other who came over to eat the other day. I think the reason she has so many girlfriends is because she and my brother-in-law have been together for 2 years now and she'll be 28 this summer, so they haven't been together since they were 18 but rather had very independent lives with groups of friends when they became a couple.
I haven't noticed so much that French people drop friends as soon as they're in a couple, but that they're slow to become good friends with new people. Almost all of my husband's friends are people he's known for a long time. Some are from school, other's are internet friends he later met in person, but I can only think of one person he's good friends with now that he's met since we've been together (4 1/2 years).
I think ditching friends as soon as you're in a couple is more of a "bad habit" that anyone can have. One of my husband's best friends recently started dating a new girlfriend and everyone's complaining about how he never returns any calls or emails anymore. He canceled restaurant plans last minute and has generally become a homebody since he has a girlfriend. I'm trying to think of French women I know that were single and then in a couple, and sadly I can only think of two. One is in med school though, so she's generally unavailable to go to movies or out to dinner, but that was mostly the case before she moved in with her boyfriend.
So, my two cents.

Andromeda said...

This is one of the reasons I am happy I took the year in Mulhouse, so I had a chance to make friends outside the couple. Last year I feel like I never did stuff with the other assistants (being away at Ben's mom's every weekend didn't help either), so this year I am really forcing myself to get out there. Of course now I am moving away again so I have to start all over, lol. I do have a bit of the homebody attitude, so it's not a French thing specifically.

Kim said...

I have lots of french girlfriends but I do always come second to their boyfriends, and they will rarely go out without their boyfriend. Sometimes we have a girls shopping afternoon but we always meet the guys in the afternoon for a beer and they'd never come out drinking with me for a girls night. I think it is very different to NZ relationships where both parties are very independent and have strong friendships with both members of sex, and you don't have to know them since childhood to be good friends. I do miss having friends that despite being in a relationship have time for their "single" friends. I'm missing two of my french friends at the moment as they've started a relationship with each other. Take a look at one of my recent posts "friends, couples and solo drunkeness".

Au Soleil Levant said...

L - I think it's definitely true that anyone can pick up the habit of ditching friends once you're in a couple, one of my friends from home was just complaining to me about it the other night. I think with my friend D the general French people not making friends thing doesn't really apply because last year at this time we were getting together at least twice a week to go out to a bar ont he weekends, have a café on Wednesday, etc. Thanks for sharing.

Andromeda - I am glad you do not become a pod person when you're in a couple!

Kim - first of all, sorry I didn't add your blog to my blog roll until just now, somehow I kept forgetting! But now it's done, and you're even on top, see? I read your post, and I totally get what you were writing about. The whole attitude of couples in France is that anyone outside of the couple (ie, not the boy/girlfriend) is just not as important to spend time with, like we can't contribute as much to their lives as the "other half" can. We aren't as important as the other person. And they don't feel the need to continually renew the friendship with face time. How can you still be close friends with someone who you see for a few minutes and exchange pleasantries with and never anything more than that?

Anonymous said...

I second that plenty of people ditch their friends as soon as they find an intimate partner, I had a few friends like that in Australia. In France though, like L I'm having trouble thinking of any single women I know which is weird.

Have you read Almost French? She talks a little bit about French women and friendships and why they don't hang out the same way..

One thing that was funny in the Carrie in Paris episodes of Sex and the City was when she passes a window and sees a group of four girls together laughing having lunch and drinking. I thought to myself, 'French women? NO WAY'. I don't recall ever seeing a group of French women out together alone. It's always mixed couples.

Au Soleil Levant said...

Hi Rochelle - I have read Almost French and really liked it, such an interesting and crazy story. I have noticed the same thing in the last SATC episode, although I can say that I have personally witnessed, one time, a group of five French women out at a bar together. :)