I’m excited! Tonight I have dinner with the girls. When I say “the girls”, I actually mean a little gang of five grown up women (a couple with potential husbands, one with a baby, all with full time jobs and hectic lives, much like the rest of London as I wrote here), yet somehow I still think of us as carefree young girls who are just playing at being adults in this awesome city. These ladies are my fun people.
I speak with a couple of them on a daily basis, we message often in our group Whatsapp chat, and we get together on a fairly regular basis to have dinner, drinks and usually end the night with a bit of dancing before falling through our respective front doors. Literally no subject is off limits, we tell each other everything and giggle ourselves into a stupor as we give debriefs on our lives since the last time we met up. Hours upon hours of my time have been spent in their company, figuring out what we are doing and where we are going in life. We feel the need to see each other and feed off the energy we each bring to the group.
I have another great friend however who I barely ever see! I don’t know her address. I don’t really know much about her new boyfriend. I don’t remember where she works. She doesn’t know about my promotion. She doesn’t know what made me cry last weekend. She doesn’t know the name of the boy I am currently dating. This should make us the world’s worst friends – but we’re not – we’re actually quite the opposite.
She moved back home to Sweden two years ago and the love I have for her is as strong as ever. We barely email, we never pick up the phone and we can go months without even sending a text (and usually when we do it’s because we’ve missed a birthday). I know that she thinks of me whenever she thinks of London and we have an unspoken understanding that life is busy and that’s ok, we’ll pick up our friendship right where we left it when we do eventually meet up. When I think of her, I think of a one-woman army, who would prop me up with conviction and support no matter what if ever needed. This girl is my life blood.
It’s funny that when I think of my closet friends these are the girls that immediately spring to mind, as my friendships with them are all relatively new, having met each of them in only the last 3 years. Yes, I have many other friends I’ve known longer and still see often, along with friends from back home who I’ve known since the year dot, but our lives are so different now the only thing we really have in common is history. Perhaps one of the reasons I’m so close to these new girlfriends in particular is because we are all at such significant stages of our lives and seeing each other through some important milestones. I somehow know that these girls will be in my life forevermore.
I think the last few years have been quite developmental for me and as I’ve aged I’ve realised that the quality of my friendships is far more important to me than the quantity of associates. I’ve come to realise that friends are like orgasms and nobody wants a fake one. You don’t need a heap of people to make you happy, just a few real ones who appreciate you for exactly who you are. Sure, I may have never fallen out with anyone (yes I know that’s odd but I hate the idea of anything ever being left badly so like to leave things on good terms no matter what), but as my age has increased, my tolerance has plummeted and certain people I once thought quite fabulous have become a little draining and more trouble than they’re worth. I’ve allowed myself in the last few years to drift away from certain types and although I could still bump into them and have a chat in the street, I no longer put in the effort to maintain their bonds.
The first to fall away were the “frenemies” – we all know the sort, the ones who insincerely claim to support our decisions but make thinly veiled digs. They pretend to encourage us to reach our full potential, be it in our careers, romantic relationships, fitness levels or financial goals but really they are hoping we don’t get the great job and that we remain single, fat and poor because it makes them feel marginally better about never being motivated enough to reach their own targets. As we get ahead in life, the dynamics of our friendships change with these “frenemies” and sometimes the ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality kicks in (whether it’s intentional or not who knows) but we realise these people don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart after all. I have learnt that I can’t really be near this type of person and, actually, I don’t have to be.
Then of course there’s the “one-way-streeter”. Again we all know the sort, they never make contact when things are going well for them or badly for us, but pop up once every 18 months to shamelessly ask if you could do them some sort of self-serving favour. This text message or email always comes with a weak apology about how useless they are at keeping in touch almost as though they pride themselves on their habitual rudeness being some kind of character-enhancing selling point. Again, I’ve realised I don’t have to give up my time for this type of person. Life is simply too short for social role play and although in the last few years, I’ve decreased my circle in numbers I’ve increased it in worth immeasurably.
With good friends you can be just you. With my best girls, I spill my heart out and say how I really feel about things, I sing badly and dance like an idiot. They remind me that I’m good at telling jokes, listening to problems and not bad at dispensing advice. I’m loved, accepted and under no pressure to impress them whatsoever, making me feel free, equal and optimistic about myself.
I’ve come to see that although I love male company (be it a boyfriend, friend or colleague) it is my female friendships which are the most valuable to me; I need their scaffolding of experiences, insights, empathy and counsel to make sense of this mad world at times, just like they need mine. I feel lucky that I have these close friendships with totally different intricacies. The girls in my daily life who know all the details; my weekend plans, my Netflix log in, the time of my yoga class and how to make me laugh uncontrollably, along with the friend who sends silent radio waves of support across oceans and knows the depths of me so fundamentally.
There’s a unique and almost magical bond between women who love and respect one another that I’m not sure exists for men on quite the same level. I wonder sometimes how boys navigate life without that same emotional crash mat and can’t help but wonder if this is why men tend to struggle more with depression and mental health issues later in life as they never really have anyone to confide in. Us girls help each other to reset the dials on life.
With my girlfriends, when one of our own is enduring job trauma, we rally to remind her how completely awesome she is. If another is having boy trouble, we have around 120 years of combined relationship experiences on which to draw and offer advice. Another function of female friendship groups is to step in when someone is in the process of making a really bad decision. It’s almost like a sisterly talk down from the ledge or doom; a protective intervention to stop one of us making a hash of things, or an absolute fool of herself. You know the sort of thing – “do not send that text”, “talk to your boss”, “go to the doctor” etc.
Time is so precious, it is important to weed out the bad apples from our group of associates at times and to reevaluate who really matters in this life. Friends should build you up, not hold you down. The tight knit circle of true friends left behind are so sturdy and of such extraordinarily high quality that, even in pared-down form, I feel unfeasibly fortunate to have any one of them, never mind a handful in my life
Cheers girls and thank you!