On Female Friendships

My friendships with women have evolved over the years, and are still evolving. I am incredibly grateful for what they are becoming, not least because they have been shaky at times. I had a series of ‘unfortunate’ friends whom I may have mentioned before; the people who I found myself closest to in my new schools, who bullied me in ways both crass and complex.

At college I found myself in the unique position of being ready to finally say, “Fuck you” to one of these friends who was treating me poorly, and got to trot off and choose myself a whole new bunch of friends who excited me and cheerlead(? Past tense…) me, and began a whole new chapter of experience in my life.

Throughout university I struggled to find people I connected with on a fundamental level. I flew the nest in the biggest way I could imagine at the time and left home comforts far behind me. I regret that sometimes. The small northern town and the very small northern campus I ended up at did not yield the open-minded liberal microcosm I had hoped for. I spent these years quite lonely.

Following graduation I formed the most intense friendships I had had for years. Living in each other’s pockets, we literally co-habited, ate almost every meal together and made creative work together, and shared dayjobs. That inevitably burned out.

Since then, I have felt slightly adrift, having invested every energy in this insular dynamic and finding myself now without a permanent home, a best friend I have known all my life whom I talk to every day. This seems to be something everyone has – a default, a backup, a safe bet.

When everyone you know is having children and getting married, you feel this all the more. Guest lists really drive things home.

I don’t always have the tools to honour my friendships properly. I have found myself on the end of a few very one-sided friendships over the past few years that have ultimately fallen apart. It was frustrating thinking I was giving all I could, using my years of focus on communication, and still not finding a compromise that worked. Which really shows how little these friendships were meant to be.

However, I’ve been looking around me recently and noticing that I have a pretty super support network of women who are respectful, loving and accepting, who make the effort to maintain our friendship. I can’t express how much it stands out to find these types of people in your life – people who actively listen, who tell you openly that you are worth their time and that they’re happy to see you, who regularly get up out of the house with no excuse for meeting other than enjoying each other’s company. There’s no need for themed events or activities.

Maybe the others could have been saved with some kind of mutual nurturing practice. I joined feminist newsletter Lenny Letter yesterday and the first email they sent me included this article. It’s about exercising timed conversations as a way of developing your listening skills and making space for both people in a relationship to speak and be heard. It’s used in couples counselling as well as by friends, and it’s a really valuable tool for anyone wanting to better their relationships, or indeed even just to further their own communication skills. I highly recommend it.

It’s ever-more important to value and celebrate our female friendships in this time of violence and oppression, to raise up women’s voices, to ‘build each other up’. Write a postcard to your female friends today. Start a group chat. Share the love. Keep it up.

Sum’n Sum’n

Fresh-faced little sum’n sum’n
Running, and running, exhilarating,
Escape the werewolves, beat the boys,
Scrape first place and furthest
Pass the berries, pass the ferns,
Whack-and-thwacking care not no – time – breath – can’t – run – and – talk –
These daddy-approved shoes will carry
Over rucks and molehills, down crumbling hills, through stumps and rubble
She thinks she must have got the eye when she took Norb’s elbow but it was actually that fly-away berry,
Making its pretty purple mark just for her mother to see
A shining proud beacon of androgynous disgrace

Inspired by Normal Rockwell’s ‘Girl with a black eye’.

#93

We used to have to visit
A friend of my mother’s
huge red afro
And long skirts
And a homeopathic remedy
for everything
Her son screamed and hit
And came round on my birthday
And broke my new monkey pinball toy
I remember that much
And homemade pizza and muesli

#61

I haven’t found it yet
But there is a tunnel in our garden
That leads to your flat in Brighton near the Lanes
Near the special sausage shop
Near the retro-vintage warehouse and the piers,
Old and new, and that restaurant
Designed to look like opera boxes
All these things are within my reach.
The cat could even come with me.

#59

We are the first in line
To meet the famous internet person
A fairy of poems and friendship
Regressing, I recoil while making my request
Motherly, she moves around from her table,
Encouraging us to come to her level
It is over soon
But we remember it

#55

Real friends know
That when you say no it’s not forever
You can tell them about
Your fondness for pyjamas
And your lack of enthusiasm
For leaving the house
They’ll understand
That it’s not forever
And that in the telling
You are showing them
A greater love