This is a post about female friendship, and the value of true friends both old and new.
There are times in life when we need new friends to help us evolve and progress. A change in job or circumstance, a shift into marriage or motherhood – it’s amazing how at times of real change, it can often be newer friends who identify with our emotions, and support without judging.
And there are times when the endurance of decades-old friendships reminds you of who you really are and allows you to look back in laughter, and to make sense of what’s ahead.
Last Sunday one of us had lunch with old schoolfriends (pictured above, lunch and pic courtesy of @talktoteens Charlotte Berry, centre) and one of us dined with someone new who extended the hand of friendship and invited her over for lunch.
Both were exciting, entertaining and enriching experiences, and it meant we spent a lot of our non-work time together this week debating the significance of female friends.
So much tripe is written about female friendship that it’s almost difficult to put the negative connotations to one side – and focus unashamedly on the fact that, to our minds, female friendship is one of the great and enduring joys in life. Reading and watching certain forms of media may almost lead you to believe that female friendship is either i) a hotbed of backstabbing, bad-mouthing and betrayal or ii) an endless cocktail-infused light dialogue about shoes, sex and suntans – but we all know that these comprise the outer, rare, peripheral moments. True female friendship is more than this – although we’re as happy as the rest to indulge in the light, that’s not the stuff that binds us. And, as we move further through our 40s, and life’s less fluffy side is increasingly prone to jump up and bite us on the bum (near-death experiences, legal battles and other such high points), it’s the unwavering support of old friends, and the kindness of new ones, that we are eternally grateful for.
So with one of us spending more time than ever with oldest and dearest friends and rediscovering what we love about each other, and the other having moved to a completely new area and busy forging ahead with a new female friendship group, we’re experiencing the best of both the old and the new.
It’s made us think about how and why we’re friends with our friends, what we give and what we offer in return. And this reflection was brought even further into focus last week when I went to see the BRILLIANT new play Di and Viv and Rose at the Hampstead Theatre.
More than any trite chick lit novel or overblown movie plot, this was a deeply moving and poignant exploration of female friendship through the decades – the initial flirtations and hesitant approaches, the giddiness of getting to know each other, the euphoric first experiences that cement your relationships – and the many, many subsequent years of high points and low ones that inextricably bind you with certain people and ensure that you measure out your life in their company.
It’s the sort of play that makes you think deeply about friendship, and whose themes remain with you long after you’ve left the theatre, because they ring so true. It made one of my friends leave the theatre in a sombre mood “I’m just a shit friend, I never pick up the phone and call”) It made me send an ‘I love you’ message to a friend as soon as I got home (although on reflection I really should have called her instead.)
But the point here is not guilt, but celebration. Female friends touch your life in a way that’s totally different to partners, families, children and any of life’s other most enjoyable things. And yet some days, thinking about the amazing women in my life, and how complex ‘real life’ can be, it seems as if the comfort and company of female friends is almost the most enjoyable thing there is…
Posted by Kath