Leber: Girls, girls, girls: Can't we get along?

I never had much use for most girls.

Growing up, I always had more male friends than female friends. Sure, I had a few close girl friends, dabbled in some chick cliques, but mostly I got along better with the boys. And they always seemed to appreciate me more than my female contemporaries did.

Fact (and by "fact" I mean "in my opinion"): Girls can be kind of irritating. We tend to take stuff really personally. I find it much easier to say "no" or "that's a stupid idea" or "you're wrong" to a man than to a woman. We're competitive. I'll admit it, I feel a little better about myself when one of the beautiful young ladies at the paper comes to work with no makeup on. Trust me, if my sexy, earthy, artistic, adventurous college roommate Zoe or my beautiful, brilliant, brave friend Emily weren't sweet, funny, humble girls, I would despise both of them from the very core of my being. And as long as we're being honest, we tend to take ourselves a little too seriously. You know the whole thing about ambitious women being called that bad "B" word? Here's a secret: A lot actually are.

As a rule, I found, guys were just easier to be around.

But as time went on, and especially as more of us became involved in serious romances, I noticed some male friends starting to slip away. And other, new ones, keeping a careful distance. Funny, I never thought of myself as someone whose availability would determine her worth as a friend.

Fortunately, around the same time I started encountering more women whose company I could enjoy. Smart, creative, funny ladies who are sympathetic but not oversensitive, who value honesty and kindness in equal measure and who don't get bent out of shape if I disagree with them.

Like Liz, who has seen me do some less than intelligent things and who has never judged me but also hasn't hesitated to tell me I'm wrong.

Or Elizabeth, who takes a genuine interest in the people around her and who uses every encounter she has to learn and grow. I appreciate having someone like that in my life so much.

There's Alicia, who is a survivor if I ever knew one and who can accept criticism without defensiveness.

And Chloe, who is warm and bold and loves to laugh. She was my first friend in Chattanooga, approached me before I even officially started the job and invited me to a little party at her house on my second night in town.

There are others too, women I've come to love and value. It's only in the last several years of my life that I've spent more time socially with women friends than with men ones. And while I haven't really become a part of any inner intimate circles -- no one has asked me to be a bridesmaid, a fact for which I'm told I should be grateful, but it'd be nice to be asked -- I've come to place a greater worth on my friendships with other women than I once did and to appreciate their presence in my life.

But girls, I'd really appreciate if you'd all gain about 20 pounds, or not get married before me, maybe have some sort of career failure or lose a talent or two. I might like you better.

No offense.

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