Women are some of the most caring, compassionate, nurturing creatures on the planet. They can also be the most cunning, conniving, backstabbing beings in the world. All are capable of great drama, often unnecessarily.

In a long career in which opportunities for professional women were limited, I have known more than a fair share of the conniving type of women, sad to say. To my everlasting gratitude though, I now find myself enveloped by a cocoon of smart, funny, talented, generous and supportive females whom I hope know and understand how much their friendship means to me. It means the world.

I spent this past weekend in a conclave of about 60 women – some I’ve known well for years, some were new acquaintances. The alchemy that occurs in these settings is fascinating to watch and experience. Those of us who’d been to this event for several years stepped up to welcome and include the new participants in conversations and activities. I listened with pleasure to women admiring each other’s attire, hairstyles, photos, and occupations. Over coffee, cocktails and meals, life stories were shared. There wasn’t enough time to tell or listen to all that begged to be said. By the end of the weekend, everyone glowed with the warm feeling that only comes from spending time with your oldest, dearest friends. Many tearful goodbyes were shared amid promises to stay in touch.

That description contains the essence of how women relate to one another. Whether the acquaintance is new or one that’s lasted a lifetime, women immediately want to know and share the most intimate details of their lives with one another. They notice, whether they voice their observation or not, each other’s appearance, bearing and aspect. If another seems weary, ill or unhappy, they sympathize and offer assistance. Often they will look for ways to buoy one another or distract their companion from their problems. They seek commonalities to create connections. They bond and they demonstrate their affection openly.

This is not a weakness, it is a strength.

Everyone, male or female, deals with challenges, disappointments, difficulties and sometimes tragedies throughout their lifetimes. Women don’t hesitate to reach out to their friends at such times for a sounding board, reassurance and help. Because of the way women establish connections with other women, those friends are there to provide what’s needed.

All of this is a generalization and we all know the underlying fact of generalizations is that they are not always true. Women often feel competitive with each other and play a zero sum game – whether it’s in the workplace, the sexual marketplace or the BFF races – “I only win, if you lose, baby”. Sometimes the score of these games is merely annoying, but sometimes the damage is long term or permanent. Sometimes the consequences boomerang.

At times like that, quite honestly, I’ve wished I were a guy. The feeling passes.

While my husband is not only the love of my life but also my very best friend, I would not be the woman I am without the women in my life. I love them all.