A night out with girlfriends

This essay appeared in M magazine of The National. Click here for the link.

A night out with girlfriends is simply good therapy
Shoba Narayan
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2011

My three girlfriends and I went out one night recently to The Pink Poppadam, a modern Indian restaurant in Bangalore. Mostly, we talked about our homes and lives, spouses and in-laws, children and careers, fears and hopes. We returned home a little lighter and ready to face the month ahead.

As numerous studies have shown, men and women bond differently. My husband rarely discusses his mental angst or marital issues with his buddies. When they get together, they talk about sports, current events and the markets. When we fight, he goes off to watch a game. I call a friend. These are stereotypes, but they come from a real paradigm. Women gain comfort from talking to each other. We sort each other out.

On this night, for instance, all four of us wives complained about how technology had ruined our ability to connect with our partners. “My husband is on the phone all the time,” said my friend Sheila. “If he is not checking his BlackBerry, he is texting. And this happens even during dinner. I’ve made this rule that he cannot take phone calls while we eat, but it doesn’t seem to be working because each call is an ‘important’ one.”

The rest of us nodded sympathetically. So it wasn’t only in our homes where this was an issue.

Another friend told us how hard it is living in a joint family with her in-laws. “My husband doesn’t want to get in the middle of it, but sometimes that only compounds the problem,” she cried. “My mother-in-law thinks she can say anything to me and get away with it, because he won’t correct his mother. It is left to me to be the bad guy and rudely shut her up, which I don’t want to do.”

We gave her solutions: “Move out. Or get them to go back to their ancestral home in the village.”

“Your husband thinks he is being the good son but what about being a good husband?”

“Stay quiet and put up with it,” said one friend dourly. “Old people never change. Maybe they’ll die soon.”

We all laughed and launched into a discussion about our own in-laws.

And so it went. I confided my fears over my teenage daughter posting photographs of herself on Facebook. My friends advised me not to be so conservative. “This generation lives out their lives on Facebook,” they said. I nodded thoughtfully. Maybe I ought to ease up on my kid.

When we started this ritual of going out together, all four of us were a little cautious. We were part of the same social group and had met each other at parties. But intimacy is different. Where do you start and how much do you confide? I’ve thought about this and have come up with some tips should you decide on a monthly meet-up:

• Pick women who are extroverted. There is nothing worse than sharing your problems with a silent partner.

• Pick women you respect but who think differently to you. This is key because their approach to life will be different from yours and will force you to look at issues from another angle.

• Go to a nice restaurant. Have fun with it. This isn’t only group therapy. It is a chance to laugh as well.

• If your husband grouses about your leaving for the evening, tell him it is good for your marriage. And it is.

• Make a pact that nothing that is said during the evening will get repeated. Choose discreet women, not gossips.

• Enjoy yourselves!

Shoba Narayan is a journalist based in Bangalore, India. She is the author of Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes.