Me and my gang. Photo by Patti Wenzel

When did having girlfriends become a marketing campaign?  Everywhere you look its girlfriend night at the local club, weekends at the spa or getaways on the cruise. Carrie and the girls from Sex and the City have hit the road once again to drink cosmos, ride camels and find fabulous shoes at a Middle Eastern market.

My girlfriends and I have been doing this for years – catching up, drinking up and running up the Visa bill!

We first hooked up over 30 years ago in high school (minus the husbands and kids we have now). We shared classes, went out for dinner when we didn’t have dates, saw too many concerts at the Arena to count, spent too many hours at Southridge shopping and shared the teenage traumas of boyfriends, teachers and parents.

After graduation we went our separate ways. We went to college, got married, moved away, pursued careers and had children. Some of us stayed close, standing up in weddings and becoming godmothers to each other’s children. Others naturally became consumed by their daily lives far away.

We saw each other at class reunions and promised to stay in touch. After the last reunion, the “big 2-5,” we made the promise stick.

First it was a trip to the Dells, then Christmas/New Year’s cocktails and dinner. Last week, a trip to Door County for drinks, food, bowling, karaoke and shopping. The dress code was casual; no Minolo Blahniks in this group, and the adventures were strictly upper Midwest. People looked at us strangely when we rode the kiddie cars at the cherry orchard and the waiter in Fish Creek has never been hit on by six hotter cougars than he was last weekend.

So we’re not Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha. We don’t lead designer lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We hail from Milwaukee, ‘Stallis, Waukesha, Appleton and Minneapolis. We work in journalism, marketing, accounting, sales and social work. Our husbands are not Mr. Big, but we do have a cute Aussie among us.

So whether its four chicks hitting Dubai in Alexander McQueen or five Midwestern girls in Levi’s and Crocs, we all gather and get away for the same reason – bonding.

I didn’t know we were following a trend. There have been numerous bookswritten about female bonding and girlfriend travels. Girlfriend buddy movies, ranging from Thelma and Louise, Heathers and Sex and The City have broken box office records. Not to mention that you can simply Google “girlfriend weekends” to find thousands of travel ideas and destinations. I just thought we were getting together for some fun.

These are the people who know me at my worst and best. I’m comfortable sitting in my swimsuit with them and crying with them. We discuss our husbands, kids, medical issues, politics, jobs, and religion. We cried with Sue when she described her miscarriages and attempts to have a child (she now has two adorable little girls). We listen with awe as Liz described fostering and adopting traumatized boys. We share our career highlights and lows; the successes of our husbands and children and what is happening on American Idol.

Experts say that “girlfriend weekends” are more than just fun, they are essential to a woman’s psychological andphysical health. Strong emotional bonds with girlfriends and chatting about everything increases progesterone, similar to that of an orgasm. Who needs a man now? That increased progesterone improves self-esteem, validation and happiness — all keys to psychological health.

Physically, women with close bonds typically have lower heart rates and blood pressure and have more efficient immune and digestive systems. They also have better body images and are proactive seeking help with medical issues.

If the experts say so, it must be true. All I know is after a weekend with my closest friends I am relaxed and rested, reveling in memories of treasures found, stories shared and adventures conquered. I see the world with a new perspective gained from sharing their lives and I know they do the same.

Sounds like its time to schedule another girlfriend weekend. Where should we go next?

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