I‘ve always been a relatively demonstrative person.
I give physical affection freely and it is not unusual for me to say “I love you” to my friends and mean it.
I enjoy nothing more than those hushed, late-night conversations where the darkest secrets are shared and the tension of intimacy is almost palpable. It gives me a rush, being that close to someone. I can feel my heart pumping and the adrenaline coursing and the oxytocin releasing. And if that sounds like something you’d normally associate with a lover, then you’d be right.
There are times when I feel something bordering on romantic love for some of my closest female friends. These are the women I feel safe enough with to share the ugliest parts of myself and not be afraid of rejection. These are the women who know me better than I know myself. These are the women who believe in me when I’m at my lowest ebb and who won’t think twice about holding me while I ugly-cry in a bathroom stall because wine let the feelings out. Again.
And these are the women whose triumphs make my heart swell with pride. These are the women I will champion until my voice gives out. These are the women who I will drop everything for, should they need me. These are the women whose mere presence revitalises me.
And we don’t talk about this enough.
We are taught from a very young age that the meaning of life will come from finding a partner and having children. This characterisation of ‘meaning’ is incredibly heteronormative and monogamy-centric, and as such it is extremely limiting and puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the traditionally romantic relationships in our lives.
As a result, we - as a society - undervalue our friendships.
Think about your closest friend. The one who has always been there for you. Chances are your relationship with that friend has outlasted many or all of your romantic/sexual ones. This person is probably the one you turn to when your romantic relationships end. This friend will offer you love and support (and probably wine) and they will help you come to terms with your anger, your grief, and your emptiness. This is how it ‘should be’. There is a cultural acknowledgement of how painful the romantic break-up can be, and we are expected to be supportive of one another. Fair enough.
But what happens when the roles are reversed? How do we place the break-up of a friendship? We experience all the same emotions – the loss, the heartbreak, the grief – even if we think we shouldn’t, but does society take this pain seriously? Does it fuck.
Friendships are routinely neglected because virtually *everything* else is seen as more important. Lovers, children, work, family – even fucking Netfilx can take priority over making time for a friend. We are constantly spun the toxic narrative that all women are secretly out to get each other – that we are catty, duplicitous, and undeserving of trust. This is nothing new (although it is currently rubbed in our faces for the sake of entertainment in shows like The Bachelor and Real Housewives) – as nineteenth-century criminal anthropologist Cesare Lombroso argued:
“Due to women’s latent antipathy for one another, trivial events give rise to fierce hatreds; and due to women’s irascibility, these occasions lead quickly to insolence and assaults. […] Women of high social station do the same thing, but their more refined forms of insult do not lead to law courts.”
We believe this patriarchal propaganda to our detriment.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that friendships are pivotal to our mental and physical health, and that valuing friendships is a positive predictor of wellbeing, particularly in old age.
And quite aside from this, friendships are fucking awesome! There is so much pleasure to be had from spending time with women who just get you. Whether it’s your shared history with a life-long friend or a newly-found connection, there is an unadulterated joy in being seen and validated by other bad-ass bitches!
So let’s stop underestimating and undervaluing our friendships. If you are fortunate enough to have a friend you love – TELL THEM! Let’s celebrate our friendships and give them the time and respect they deserve. Let’s acknowledge the pain caused by the loss of a close friendship and recognise that the true love of a friend can be equal to the love of a spouse. Call your girlfriend! Do it now! Make time for them and show them that you value them. I promise you it’ll be worth it.
Article by VERVE "She Said" Contributor Sarah Bradnum