BFFHubs and I recently heard that some close friends of ours were splitting up. Shortly thereafter, the guys met for burgers and beers at a local sports bar. I specifically instructed Hubs to do some sleuthing, and when he arrived home, I was full of questions about what he found out. Five minutes later, I was sorely disappointed.

“What did he say about the marriage?” “Nothing. It didn’t come up.” “What do you mean ‘It didn’t come up’? Didn’t you ask??” “Of course not! Geez, guys don’t just ask about stuff like that.” Seriously, dude?

It’s true. To women, friendship includes sharing. We get involved in each other’s lives. Men often still cling to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to their social circle, which is why, even for women who gush “I married my best friend,” women instinctively know that we need each other.

Girlfriends understand each other. We enthusiastically swap details about marital bumps in the road, new babies, empty nests, weight struggles, family dramas, career changes, parenting wins and fails, and endlessly debate the all-important “to Botox or not to Botox” without reservation. We’re there for each other, and we speak the same language.

Girlfriends are better shopping buddies.  They will cheerfully go back with you to the same store three times to try on that dress, just one more time, to make sure it’s the best choice.

Girlfriends “get it” even when we don’t make any sense. “I was so depressed about my weight, I ate an entire box of Girl Scout Thin Mints,” will make a man crazy, but your girlfriend instantly makes you feel less pathetic by telling you her “God, I’m such a loser” story about the night a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s went mysteriously missing from her freezer at 2 a.m.

Girlfriends will let you vent without interruption.  You’re furious with Hubs for forgetting your anniversary? “I’m listening. Yes, he’s an idiot. Here, have another glass of wine and tell me more.”

Girlfriends will let you brag. Got a promotion? A hot new man? Hubs did something uber-romantic? We’ll provide the applause (and maybe a sigh of friendly jealousy).

Girlfriends help keep the passion alive in our marriage by reserving all discussions about our sudden-onset urge incontinence, current yeast infections, cellulite, or this morning’s discovery of grey chin hairs for girls’ night out, effectively preventing the unfortunate visual from being seared into Hubs’ brain, to be replayed every time he sees you naked.

Girlfriends understand the emotional landmines of aging. Once-perky breasts that now resemble deflated wind socks, previously porcelain skin that now looks more like beef jerky, and tank tops in the winter because it’s SO DAMN HOT IN HERE are all topics better reserved for like species. We’re a kick-ass support group.

Girlfriends can provide honest feedback without causing relationship havoc. If we ask Hubs about a certain dress and he’s obtuse enough to reply, “It makes you look kind of short,” he’d only make that mistake once and live to tell about it. If we asked a girlfriend that same question and got exactly the same response, we’d say “Thanks! I thought so too, but I wasn’t sure.”

Of course, not all BFFs are created equally. By the time we’re 50+, many of us have several “best friends,” all very different and bringing different gifts into our lives. Following are the five BFFs I think every woman needs.

1. Meri Brown (the Sister Wife). She’s your best friend from childhood. She knows your every secret, but would never tell. Over the years, you’ve swapped clothes, traded boyfriends, got your periods (at the same time), and took turns hanging out the car windows during menopause. She cheerfully wore that hideous mint green bridesmaid’s dress at your wedding, and years later got you through your divorce while managing to keep you out of rehab.  She spends hours regaling your children with stories about your misspent youth (a crush on David Cassidy, Mom? Seriously??) No matter how long between visits, conversations can just pick up where they last left off, because she knows all the key players in the stories. You never have to re-introduce the characters with “No, that one was my first husband. That one was my second, remember?”

2. Hilary (the Realist). She’s the one who tells it like it is. She’s loves you, but is not afraid to tell you when it’s time to buck up and get over it. She has no tolerance for “wallowing,” and her advice is usually blunt. Hate your job? “Quit.” Hubs is a jackass? “Leave him.” Feeling fat? “Join a gym.”  Hilary believes in taking responsibility for your life, and she’s often just the person to get you up off your hiney and get you moving towards what you really want.

3. Sybil (the Alter Ego). She’s everything you’re not. She’s who you’d love to be if you could be someone else. Where you’re introverted, she’s the life of the party. Where you avoid confrontation, she’ll charge right up to the rude salesclerk and demand “What’s WRONG with you?” Where your clothing choices tend towards yoga pants and t-shirts, she rocks the black leather jacket and distressed jeans. When you’re with her, you feel more daring, more willing to take risks. If you were ever going to buzz cut your shoulder-length hair or get your first tattoo at 58, she’d be your ride-along.

4. Liz Smith (the Gossip). Simply put, she knows everything about everybody. She’s fun, loves to dish, and makes you laugh like nobody’s business. If you don’t know what’s going on around town, or who’s doing what with whom, she’s your go-to. She can brighten up your day with a quick text message, “OMG. Meet me at 6. NEWS!”

5. Cameron Tucker (the “Other” BFF). He’s your best boyfriend. Every woman needs a man in her life that she’s never going to have sex with. Men have a different perspective on things and can often help us see situations from their point of view, but opinions and advice from our partners often appear to be laden with hidden agendas (getting laid or discouraging our spending). Your best boyfriend doesn’t want to sleep with you and doesn’t care what you spend, so he often seems more trustworthy in the advice department. And somehow you know that when he tells you that you look hot in that dress, you look hot in that dress.

If you have any of these people in your life, treat them like the gold they are. Or maybe you are one of these people to someone else? Then your girlfriends are right. You’re a rock star.

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