A Tale of sisterhood
Think of a time when you sat across from a friend and felt truly understood. Deeply known. Maybe you sensed how she was bringing out your ‘best self’, your cleverest observations and wittiest jokes. She encouraged you. She listened, articulated one of your patterns, and then gently suggested how you might shift it for the better. The two of you gossiped about your mutual friends, skipped between shared memories, and delved into cherished subjects in a seamlessly scripted exchange full of shorthand and punctuated with knowing expressions. Perhaps you felt a warm swell of admiration for her, and a simultaneous sense of pride in your similarity to her.
You felt deep satisfaction to be valued by someone you held in such high regard: happy, nourished and energised through it all.
These are the friendships that fill our souls, and bolster and shape our identities and life paths. They have also been squeezed into social science labs enough times for us to know that they keep us mentally and physically healthy: good friends improve immunity, spark creativity, drop our blood pressure, ward off dementia among the elderly, and even decrease our chances of dying at any given time.
If you feel you can’t live without your friends, you’re not being melodramatic.
But even our easiest and richest friendships can be laced with tensions and conflicts, as are most human relationships. They can lose a bit of their magic and fail to regain it, or even fade out altogether for tragic reasons, or no reason at all. Then there are the not-so-easy friendships; increasingly difficult friendships; and bad, gut- wrenching, toxic friendships.
The pleasures and benefits of good friends are abundant, but they come with a price.
Since as early as I could remember, I'd been subconsciously trained to hate women. I was to compete with them, compare myself to them, do what I could to tear them down. We love to watch women fail. We like to see them be embarrassed. A break up, a weight gain, a sex tape, a nip slip. Girl on girl crime is probably why Indian television shows like Splitsvilla and other Ekta Kapoor dramas get approximately 10 million viewers per episode, and have been airing for more than a decade. We get satisfaction from women looking beautiful but acting crazy. It feeds the stereotypes: “see, I told you they were like that”. Not to mention that they are competing for the attention of a man, or someone in an authoritative position which is not surprising.
According to Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay we as human beings should “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses – pretty but designed to slow women down.”
This is not to say women aren't bitches or toxic or competitive sometimes, but rather that these are not and should not be the defining characteristics of female friendship, especially as you get older. If you find that you are feeling bitchy, toxic or competitive towards the women who are supposed to be your closest friends, look at why and figure out how to fix it and/or find someone who can help you fix it.
A lot of importance is given over to mythologising female friendships as curious, fragile and always intensely fraught.
Stop reading writing that encourages this mythology. If you are the kind of woman who says, "I'm mostly friends with guys" and acts like you're proud of that, like that makes you closer to being a man or something, and less of a woman, as if being a woman is a bad thing. It's OK if most of your friends are guys, but if you champion this as a commentary on the nature of female friendships, well then, some soul-searching must be considered.
If you feel it's hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren't the problem. Maybe it's just you.
Sometimes, your friends will date people you cannot stand. You can either be honest about your feelings or you can lie. There are good reasons for both. Sometimes you will be the person dating someone your friends cannot stand. If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things.
Want nothing but the best for your friends, because when your friends are happy and successful, it's probably going to be easier for you to be happy.
If you're having a rough go of it, and a friend is having the best year ever, and you need to think some dark thoughts about that, do it alone, with your therapist, or in your diary, so that when you actually see your friend, you can avoid the myth. If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. It's not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It's alright for women to do it, too.
Don't tear other women down, because even if they're not your friends, they are women and this is just as important.
This is not to say you cannot criticise other women, but understand the difference between criticising constructively and tearing down cruelly. Everybody gossips, so if you are going to gossip about your friends, atleast make it fun and interesting. Never say, "I never lie" or, "I never gossip", because you are lying.
Tell your friends the hard truths they need to hear. They might get pissed about it, but it's probably for their own good. Once, my best friend told me to get my love life together and demanded an action plan, and it was irritating but also useful. Don't be totally rude about truth-telling, and consider how much truth is needed to get the job done. Finesse goes a long way.
Surround yourself with women you can get sloppy drunk with, who won't draw stupid things on your face if you pass out, and who will help you puke if you over celebrate, and who will also tell you if you get sloppy drunk too much or behave badly when you are sloppy drunk.
Don't let your friends buy ugly outfits or accessories you don't want to look at when you hang out. This is just common sense. When something is wrong and you need to talk to your friends and they ask how you are, don't say, "Fine." They know you're lying and it irritates them. Tell your lady friends the truth so you can talk it out and either sulk companionably or move on to other topics. If four people are dining, split the bill evenly four ways. We are adults now. We don't need to add up what each person had any more. If you're high rolling, treat everyone and rotate who treats. If you're still in the broke stage, do what you have to do. If a friend sends a crazy email needing reassurance about love, life, family or work, respond accordingly and in a timely manner, even if it is just to say, "Girl, I hear you."
If a friend sends you 30 crazy emails needing reassurance about the same damned shit, be patient, because one day that's going to be you tearing up Gmail with your drama,