DETROIT – Kayleen Schaefer says what we've been told about our friendships isn't true and never has been true. The journalist and author wants us to reject the stereotype that women are terrible at being friends and celebrate the strong bonds instead.
"I looked around at myself and I looked around at other women and I thought this is what we're doing, we're relying on friends. They're our support system, but I don't see anything that's validating that in a serious way and I wanted to give women that," Schaefer said.
Schaefer wrote the book "Text Me When You Get Home." She said the title means that "I will be there for you whether you are standing in front of me or whether you've gone home, whenever you need me, I am there for you."
The book is about the evolution and triumph of modern female friendship. She interviewed more than 100 women about their female friendships. Schaefer also writes for many publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Vogue.
Schaefer was in Metro Detroit for Inforum's 56th Annual Meeting. She was the featured speaker and also participated in a panel about female friendships along with CEO at Girl Scouts of the USA Sylvia Acevedo and Janice Cosby, chief communications & marketing officer at Ascension Michigan. Local 4's Rhonda Walker was the event's emcee.
Inforum is a nonprofit working on building gender equity in business leadership.
"We're talking about friendships between women, which I think is timely because of everything that's going on in the world today. Women are becoming tighter and closer and we have mutual respect for each other and I truly value my friendships that I've had over the years," Cosby said.
"We're really talking about how girls and women can support one another and that is so fantastic," Acevedo said.
"Relationships can be transformative, whether personal or professional, but female friendships are proving to be more empowering than ever before," said Terry A. Barclay, CEO of Inforum in a news release. "Kayleen's research and conversations with women of all backgrounds has given her insight into the importance of these connections."
Schaefer told Local 4 there are a couple reasons why female friendships are becoming stronger.
"Women are marrying later so they have maybe a decade or more where they're depending on their female friends when initially, they might have gone to a romantic partner and depended on him or her. So I think that's a huge part of it,. And now, when women do marry, it doesn't make sense to drop these friends that you've been depending on for a decade or more," Schaefer said. "The second thing is just that women are starting to tell these stories. Women are in charge of their own stories now, you know, whether that's in movies, on TV, or just talking about what's important to them. Women's voices have been heard through men and through male creators for a long time and that's starting to change in a great way which I think is really helping."
Sometimes it can be difficult to make new friends as an adult, but these women say you have to take a chance and reach out.
"You've got to put yourself out there in a way that's sort of scary. So you know, say you see someone, a woman that you think, 'Oh she's cool,' at yoga or at your coffee shop or wherever you repeatedly see someone, you kind of have to ask them, ‘Hey, you want to get lunch after class? or maybe we can sit and have coffee together one morning?’ You really have to say, 'Let’s do this,'" Schaefer said. "It may take a couple of times and it's scary. Making a new friend it's like a courtship in a way. You want to show the best side of yourself. It may take a couple of times because everyone is busy but if it's important and the other person is open to it, you could have a great new friendship out of it.
And the great new friendship is worth the risk of taking a chance on someone.
"I have some dear friends who have helped me get through some very difficult times in my life and so I love them,” Cosby said. “They have been my sisters and they have helped me through just all kinds of unsurmountable things that I just never thought I could go through without them.”
Cosby said she wants women to embrace their friends and not take them for granted. “They are my lifeline. They have been so meaningful in my life,” she said.
To learn more about Schaefer's book, click here.