I read lots of books written by women for other women. Also, tons of female-authored blogs, articles, posts, social media shout-outs and shoe descriptions on Zappos. And I’ve noticed ladies I admire and respect write a lot about girlfriends. Specifically, how phenomenal theirs are. Like, SO PHENOMENAL. And something doesn’t sit right with me.
Each time I read an over-the-top ode to my girlfriends, I feel twitchy. What is it exactly that makes me uncomfortable? Is it envy? Or regret? Desire, or remorse, from feeling less-than, lacking, inept, or inadequate in this realm? I don’t think so because I too have phenomenal friends. But still, maybe a little. Though I’m not hitting the nail quite on the head here. It’s some of that, some of the time, but overwhelmingly it’s unease because I sense I’m not being told the whole story. I’m a read-between-the-lines kind of gal (skeptic fits nicely here too) and I often feel like something got left out in these gushing guffaws about girlfriends.
It seems these women have gaggles of girlfriends, who are each and every one, the BOMB! Their oh-so-very special and exceptionally fortifying friendships are must-haves and they simply can’t live without them. These women live and die by and for their gregariously gifted girlfriends. When something sounds too good to be true, I go with the latter. And this repetitive, unabashed bestie boasting sounds way, way too good.
God, you know I love my girlfriends. Girlfriends, you know I love you. BUT…. ladies, can we please tell it like it really is here? A little more like, “girlfriends, you can’t live with ’em and you can’t kick ’em to the curb?” Because on what planet do women regularly and repeatedly come together in friendship, even when they adore each other, and the results are exclusively rainbows and unicorns, 24/7? Not on this one. So please, tell me the whole story if you’re going to tell me any of it.
I moved around a shit-ton when I was growing up; attending something like seven schools in three or four different cities before I started high school. And making new friends but keeping the old was not a song I put on my mixed tapes back then (but the theme song from St. Elmo’s Fire was). Even just making the new friends was not my forte, let alone the astounding feat of keeping them. In (even more self-effacing) fact, I didn’t get really good at making friends until, wait for it, until I finished high school, graduated from college, got married, and birthed the girlfriend magnets that babies are. Once the babies arrived, it was girlfriends galore.
I finally learned to make, keep, deeply cherish, value and depend on girlfriends during the stay-at-home-to-mom-it years and nothing’s changed since. I still need them like water and air. BUT…in reality, at least in mine, girlfriend relationships can be tricky to navigate. Especially if you’re a tricky person, and that’s a generous adjective in regards to me.
I’m hearting one particular female author hard right now, in part because she writes honestly about her life with utter abandon, claiming she has not one ounce of shame in her body and thus she is able to write about it ALL. I do have some shame, and I can’t shake all of it, though I try. So I write the truth not because I’m shameless, but because I think it’s the only way. To feel normal, sane, less lonely, better understood, more accepted and to get hate mail.
Here’s how I see it really go down with girlfriends. They are essential and also elusive. They are the real deals that sometimes put up facades. They are great companions and also changelings that can resemble siblings you need a nice long break from. They are fun, helpful, supportive and they mean well. And they can be downers and leave you high and dry when you need them the most because they don’t mean well at all sometimes. I know it sounds like I’m describing both friends and enemies here, but no, I’m still just talking about girlfriends. Both the friends we have and the friends we are.
It ALL goes down in friendships, we know it does. So let’s actually say it does and cease risking making other women feel like every last one of the gazillion girlfriends we are supposed to have should all be skipping in delightful rings around us while singing us Justin Timberlake songs and lovingly offering us donuts or kale or wine (whichever one we’re currently into because they should know and respect our choice) to help calm the swirling seas in our lives. Not one of us, whether friend or befriended, can handle this pressure.
I fear it may sound like I’m on the attack here, and so I’m switching the focus to me, me, me, me, me. And now that my voice is tuned let me tell you, I am an amazing girlfriend. And also, I really suck at being a girlfriend. Sometimes I get it all just right; the front and center time, the phone time, the email time, the meet-you-there time, the no problem, I’m on it! time. Sometimes the loving, consoling, balancing, laughing, forgiving, not judging, supporting, trusting, giving, empathizing, agreeing, helping, waiting, hair-holding, listening, and the oh-no-he-di’int!-but-if-he-did-I-will-cut-him-ing, are all my jam. And sometimes, I’m not even in the vicinity of the corner of just right and jam. Sometimes I’m really quite lost and just trying to find my way back to these women I love to love but sometimes can’t even.
I acknowledge I might have a slightly skewed view towards girlfriends, given that I’m a colossal introvert. And as such, sometimes I can people, but much of the times I need to be alone, to be able to get to a space in which I can people again. And yes, ‘people’ includes the women I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. Those lucky ducks, huh?! It’s a vicious cycle and one I did not get in line to sign up for, it’s how I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. Though the wonderful part of being an introvert escapes me so I’m just trusting I’ll see it someday.
Introverted tendencies and obstacles aside, I know I am not the only one to have had girlfriend trouble. I’ve had lots of girlfriends confide in me over the years about other girlfriends who have bothered them, ignored them, scorned them, hurt them, left them, forgot them, or took them for granted, for fools, or for less than important. And I’ve sung this song right back to them, in perfect harmony.
Women are complex, multi-faceted creatures. We feel all the feels all the time and we don’t come with manuals. Good luck to anyone trying to figure out how to expertly operate us, and woe to the one trying to learn to control us. Just because we are girlfriends and we have girlfriends does not mean we are any less unpredictable, unmoored, or uncertain at times. Tell me you know of a woman who does not resemble these remarks, and I’ll tell you she’s likely a man.
There are times when girlfriends let each other down only to eventually pick each other back up again, and occasions when our friendships end abruptly or fade away over time. Our grievances can be trivial or monumental, short-lived or long-lasting, mutual or one-sided. Female friendships are not flat lines, they are vital, ever-changing and potentially erratic. This is the real that I, and many of my girlfriends, have come up against and muddled through. This is the real that I benefit from when I hear about it from other women. Not the sugarcoated, prettied up for the page and edited version of girlfriendome. Gag. Please, no.
I know some gals have copious wonderful and noteworthy friendships with some tip-top, first-rate, cream-of-the-crop ladies. And I know some women sorely lack these relationships or struggle amidst their juggle to maintain them and they regret this immensely. At one time or another, I’ve had each of these scenarios play out in my life.
In any case, no woman should be made to feel left behind, and so about girlfriends, can we begin to include a sentence or two about how, this one time, at Band Camp, this one friend was really selfish and soooo very hard to take? Or this other time, at Band Camp, it was really hard to make any friends at all. Or this one other time, also at Band Camp, I was a bee-yotch of the most epic proportions to my girlfriend for no good reason. And then, after some time passed, I came sniffing around my friend for forgiveness, or I didn’t, and she learned to love me again (after she beat my ass) or she didn’t. Or, she left me and I haven’t heard from her since. However the sentences go, can we make them real? Can we tell the whole truth?
Life is hard AND life is good. Girl, you know it’s true, ooh-ooh-ooh…. And likewise, girlfriends are hard AND girlfriends are good. That’s all I’m asking to read in print. That since both things are true, we tell about both of the things.
Originally published by P.S. I Love You.