I just had the pleasure (and I truly mean pleasure) of reading a pre-publication copy of  Suzanne Braun Levine’s newest e-book, You Gotta Have Girlfriends. For those of you who have been living under a feminist rock for the past few decades (and if you have, it’s okay to come out now) in addition to authoring several books on women in their “second adulthood”, Suzanne was also the first editor of Ms. Magazine. She has been an icon in the feminist movement and has covered the issue of women and aging so beautifully over the years. In her new e-book, she addresses one of the fullest expressions of our feminine power- friendship.

I had a busy schedule the other day but had set aside an hour to begin reading Suzanne’s book. Before I knew it hours had passed without my looking up once.  I was gripped by the stories, and saw myself and my experiences reflected in every chapter. 

This much I know: I would not have made it this far without my girlfriends. They witness me, encourage me, make me laugh when life is painful, and at times, they have literally saved my life. And now as I transition into midlife, that awful, awkward reverse-puberty phase, I can’t imagine surviving it without them. I was happy to learn from Suzanne’s book that not only do our friendships save us on a metaphoric level, but also on a physical.

“One of the best things a woman can do for her health is to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends, especially after the age of fifty.”Hanging out with a small but trusted group of other females reduces damaging spikes in stress hormones, reports New York Times science writer Natalie Angier. A circle of trust can, as she puts it, “mop up the cortisol spills that can weaken the immune system,” which in turn can support additional years of good health.

So there you have it, ladies. Sharing a bottle of wine (or four) and spending the day at Burke Williams Spa is actually a preventative health measure. Cheers!

But as much as we can improve each others’ health, some relationships are just plain toxic. Suzanne’s book also addresses this. Our friendships with other women can be complicated. Sometimes they are fraught with competition, jealousy, and oversensitivity. And sometimes, they just don’t work out. I have recently experienced the loss of a close friendship. This has resulted in many sleepless nights and has been excruciating, to say the least. Reading Suzanne’s book helped me to feel less alone.  It was comforting to read the experiences of other women who had been “dumped” by a friend, such as novelist Jacqueline Mitchard, who shared her story with Suzanne. In fact, reading You Gotta Have Girlfriends felt like a heart to heart with a close friend, someone who understood everything I was feeling.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is a celebration of friendship, and a look into our deeply layered relationships. It is both encouraging and uplifting and clear-eyed about healthy boundaries. After reading it, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the close circle of women who surround me, and more at peace about the ones who left the circle.

As Suzanne says so elequently:

“In your gut, you know who your friends are. They are the ones people you choose over all others to spend your fiftieth birthday with. They root for you and they put up with you. They stand up for you and they stand by you. They patiently teach you how to use your smart phone (and can be trusted not to tell your kids you couldn’t figure it out yourself). They listen sympathetically when you need to vent. They know when you are hurt or angry and how to patch things up. And they make you laugh.”

Do yourself a favor and buy this book today (at only $1.99, how can you NOT buy it?), and then, share it with ALL your girlfriends.

A few words from some of Suzanne’s girlfriends…..

“Suzanne Braun Levine made me understand why I always envied older women . . . life just gets better—more outrageous, more radical, more passionate, less fraught, wiser, deeper, and kinder.” 
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
“Levine takes us beyond the frontier of our own expectations and into a new and hope-filled stage of life.” 
Gloria Steinem

** I was honored to meet Suzanne at the Women At Woodstock conference last October where she sat in on a workshop Amy Ferris and I were leading, and then to have her on our Women Write their Lives panel at the San Miguel Writers Conference. We are thrilled that Suzanne referenced  Dancing at the Shame Prom in her chapter about overcoming shame. 

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