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What Steel Magnolias Taught Me

Emily Dean

Their lives are not mirror reflections of one another and yet they thrive in the camaraderie they form

One of my all-time favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. This movie has all you could ever want: an 80’s wedding, an armadillo cake and, of course, Dolly Parton. I first watched Steel Magnolias as a middle-schooler and ever since then it’s been my go to. Whether I’m wanting to laugh or cry, Steel Magnolias never fails to have me doing both by the end of it.

I am so grateful for this film because it celebrates the beauty of female friendships. There is a bond between the women in this film that is distinct from any of their other relationships. Their is a fierce loyalty, an unshakeable unity, and an ability to laugh with (and at) one another that reminds me why I love my gal pals so much.

Steel Magnolias shows not only the importance of female friendships, but also gives a glimpse of what cross generational friendships can look like. Often we see films and TV shows portraying friendships with people of the same age and life season. In this film, however, we find a cross generational group of women who laugh, grieve, and counsel one another. Some are married, some single, some widowed. Some work, some are retired. Their lives are not mirror reflections of one another and yet they thrive in the camaraderie they form.

Recently, I heard a mentor of mine give a talk to some recent grads. His advice to this upcoming generation of young professionals was to embrace the people around them who are not in their age group.

It can be a shock to the system after spending most of your life in the classroom. Apart from adult learners in college, you don’t typically spend your time with people who aren’t your same age, in your same grade, and in similar life circumstances.

After moving your tassel things change. You enter the workforce and find yourself working beside a middle aged dad who is trying to help his daughter find a good college. You are in the break room with an older woman who is on the brink of retirement. You join community sports teams or interest groups of people in all ranges of age and walks of life. You commit to a place of worship that brings together parents, grandparents, young professionals, students, and children.

My first year out of college I entered a job and living situation that did not place me around people of my age. My conversations ranged from talks of marriage, child-rearing, business deals, first periods, empty-nesting, and so much more—all things I was not experiencing at the time.

There were moments when I wanted a return to friendships where everyone was on the same page, but I began to see the beauty of having friends who were a bit behind me or a bit ahead of me. I saw that when we came together we became a wealth of wisdom and insight from our varying experiences.

Making friends with people in different life phases may not necessarily be easy. It may take more communication and questions to understand where the other person is coming from. These cross generational friendships must be forged with curiosity and sympathy, but I believe this extra effort is worth it.

The next time you find yourself sitting beside a woman younger or older than you, embrace this gift. Ask a good question. Find a common interest or experience. Let a friendship grow that you may have overlooked originally.

Article by Savannah Morgans | Photography by Purple Fern Photography