Girl Talk
Catherine Platt, co-director of Montclair Literary Festival, asks if Mroz looked at female friendships in other cultures.
KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By GRACE WILLIAMS
For Montclair Local

The art and science of women having BFFs has certainly come of age on screen and in real life, so it’s not surprising that the time has come to make on the study of it.

That’s exactly what was on author Jacqueline Mroz’s mind when she explored the subject in her latest book, “Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us About Female Friendship.” In a standing room only, packed house at Watchung Booksellers on Tuesday, Nov. 20, an audience of women (and a few men) came to learn more about what inspired the book and to see what Mroz discovered along the way. The event had originally been scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 15, but had been postponed due to the snow.

The author is also Montclair Literary Festival executive director, and Succeed2gether program director. Her book “Scattered Seeds: In Search of Family and Identity in the Sperm Donor Generation” came out last year.

Author Deborah Davis moderated the event. Mroz also read from “Girl Talk.”

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In “Girl Talk,” Mroz chronicles the origins of female friendship, which is a relatively new concept by most accounts, she explains. It traces its early roots back to convents, where women began to share with one another on a more intimate level than was previously possible. From there, female friendship became an upper class rite of passage. It became more intimate and allowed for more self-disclosure.

Mroz said that her own great friendships served as part of the inspiration for “Girl Talk.” She called on her friends to share their thoughts and experiences, navigating through the sometimes murky waters of female friendship.

She said that female friendships can be volatile.

“Women’s relationships are much more intimate than men’s,” she says. “And they are much more intense and fragile.”

Girl Talk
Jacqueline Mroz talks about female friendship.
KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

And as it turns out, those relationships often go sideways, she said. Mroz said half of the women she spoke with had experienced a “break up” with a friend. When asked if they had ever experienced the same, members of the audience nodded in agreement that the struggle is real.

One key culprit behind break ups is that women are less likely to want to bring up difficult subjects with their friends.

“You can talk to your friends about anything but your friendship with them,” she said. But if you can’t speak up, she added, you might be giving up too soon on a good person you will most likely end up missing.

Recalling a recent trip with her girlfriends, Mroz said that one of the friends stayed on her phone the entire time and annoyed everyone. Rather than keeping quiet, Mroz reached out to the friend and expressed her disapproval for her behavior on the trip.

“It turns out she had a health scare and she had no idea she was on her phone the entire time,” Mroz said. “She didn’t want to bring it up with us at that time.” If she hadn’t shared her feelings, that relationship might have fizzled out.

Meanwhile, the digital age has put friendship into a bit of a pickle, she added. Social media can create a more depressed and anxious tone within our society, and young people often favor social media over in-person contact. “There’s nothing more superficial than a friend you have on Facebook [that you don’t know in real life],” she said.

Despite the potential pitfalls and modern day confusion, women’s relationships are beneficial, and have the potential to add years to your life. “There are health benefits, such as improved immune systems, lower blood pressure and living longer.”