I wanted to post this on International Women’s Day, but I am both a comedy writer and a perfectionist, and those two are constantly at odds when I’m trying to publish something. It didn’t end up happening. So, last week was International Women’s Day! I started the holiday by tweeting the president some wit about his general distaste for women, so it was a good day.
My blog is mostly my comedic observations on life, but I have taken so long with the content in this post. I looked back on my blog today, and I noticed that I’ve been trying to write this since last November. The reason this has taken so long is really two-fold. Reason one: I decided to look into a bit of research for this post to see what others are saying about being female friendships. So, figuring out what kind of research I wanted to use has taken some time. Reason two: this topic is really fucking close to my heart, and I just want it to be super effective.
But, you guys have read my blog. You know it’s always a work in progress. I’m moving forward knowing it won’t be anywhere near perfect.
Anyway, as I alluded to, I’m here to chat with you about female friendships: both mine and the concept in general. I want to point out an important side note before I start: I’m going to be writing about how much I appreciate my female friends and how the concept is important. However, this is not a straight-forward, completely black & white issue. These are my opinions, coming from my particular place in the world. I’m writing this with privilege, first of all, as I am a white woman in a hetero relationship. Technically, my orientation is bisexual, but, this post will be coming from the perspective of a white woman in a relationship with a man.
Additionally, as another important side note: this post is not meant to indicate that you are doing life wrong if you do not cherish your friendships in the same way that I do; in the way my girl squad does. What I truly hope you get out of this ode to a female friendship post is that the concept of women supporting other women is extremely important to talk about and promote. I wanted to do it in this silly way, talking about my weird friends.
Well, what does Beyonce have to say about friendship?
Let’s start this ode to a female friendship with some insight from the one & only Beyonce:
“In her 2013 self-directed documentary, Life Is But A Dream, American singer, performer, and international bae Beyoncé Knowles broke imperative feminist ground in the making of this statement:
“I love my husband, but there’s nothing like a conversation with a woman who understands you.”
This was before Bey had really found her feet as part of the great feminist movement; before she started making crucial statements about the social, political, and economical imbalance that polarises women from men within society; and before she was ever seen standing strong and proud in front of a 100 foot tall, bright pink sign that reads FEMINIST. But still, I feel, this is quite possibly one of the most feminist things she has ever said, or will ever say.
Obviously, I’m politicising a little bit. Putting a bit of a sociological twist on it. But theoretically, as much as it may be feminist in type, it doesn’t necessarily have to have a lot to do with feminist theory. Do you remember the last time one of your girls held your hair back so you could puke up Sourz in a grubby nightclub toilet cubicle? Do you remember the last time a complete stranger offered you a tampon when you were flat out, and in a desperate situation? Do you remember the last time a fellow sister offered to let you know that the hem of your skirt was tucked into the bottom of your pants, before you left the bathroom and walked, embarrassingly, into a room full of people who wouldn’t dare utter a word to you?
That, girls, is sisterhood,” (Robin Harris, The Importance of Female Friendships)
I was a Women’s & Gender Studies major in college, and post-graduation, it has been an interesting experience, watching the internet explode with memes that sum up what I used to theorize and research. Even just a few years ago, when I was in school, the term ‘feminist’ was such a dirty word. Among conservative circles, it still leaves a bad taste in their caviar-filled mouths. However, the term has really taken off as a societal norm. I tried to explain this to my hair stylist once – that, although I appreciate the work of so many feminist pioneers and researchers in my academic life, oddly – the normalizing of the feminist movement has a lot to do with Beyoncé, memes, and the internet. She wasn’t so sure that it was Beyonce. She was like, “But Gloria Steinem and shit”, and yeah, I get that. I studied this in school. But, there has been a revolution within pop culture and the media that has been so interesting to observe. Taylor Swift & her girl squad were important for a hot minute, too, and since then, it has been very explosive to chat about the importance of women having their squads and not relying on their partners for all of their support.
Side note: I don’t want to put too much emphasis on Beyoncé and Taylor Swift because they aren’t actually pioneers of the feminist movement; however, they’re doing a small part to make it trendy and appear in memes, which make normal humans think it’s normal. So, that’s good.
This post and my ideology behind the post is coming from a place of having made a lot of mistakes in my friendships with other women. More mistakes than I like to think about and admit. I have more ex-friends than ex-boyfriends. It feels so heartbreaking to say out loud because it is irrevocable. And, what is more — the majority of these friendships – I ruined them over men. This act was not purposeful, obviously. But, in my late teens and early 20s, I was so desperate to repair a sense of lost family & create a chosen family, I clung heavily to my boyfriends, rather than my close friends. Because I rarely turned to my friends, and always my boyfriends, my then-friends eventually drifted. Sometimes they loudly drifted and told me how horrible I was for being so flaky with them. Sometimes it was a subtler drifting.
One of my former friends actually said to me, “you keep choosing bros before hoes,” and she was correct. I chose horrible bros, also. I am not very good at choosing bros. By the way, none of these men were actual bros. You know – guys with no faces who drink Miller lite and think all women are psychotic. None of those. Just guys with no faces who wear flannels and have more mood swings than I do. Those ones. Not much better, I guess.
So, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I currently have an incredible squad of ladies; we take care of each other; we see each other for who we are; we meet each other where we are; we love each other unconditionally. Also, we’re all fucking hilarious, but that is neither here nor there. We get together as much as humanly possible, and we share our woes and our joys; we help each other plan for the future and to let go of the past; we get each other through challenging times, and we laugh hysterically during the many, many beautiful times.
This post really came together based on something really small my husband said to me. (By the way, my husband wears flannels and has more mood swings than I do.)
So, the other night (and by the other night, I mean in November, because it’s been that long since I started this article), before going out with one of my friends, my husband quickly revealed, “whenever you go out with Alyssa, I always think of you two as Tina Fey & Amy Poehler,”.
I WAS INSPIRED.
He definitely just meant that we are funny humans, and our hangout sessions are usually pretty weird (in an amazing way). But, it made me think about Tina Fey & Amy Poehler and how amazing it is that their bond is so famous. And, too –that their bond is pure love & no competition is involved whatsoever.
Since I was 6 or 7, the media has been trying to convince me that if you get more than one woman in the same room, GIRL FIGHTS ARE INEVITABLE. I did watch Saturday Night Live, but the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler sisterhood came around much later.
The message that small girls tend to get from the media is: girls cause too much drama and are in constant competition for the male gaze, so they simply cannot get along. Instead of spending time cultivating strong friendships, then, girls should put all of their energy into finding a boyfriend because hello boyfriends are all that you need, AND men are so calm and cause no drama. Also, smile always, but especially if a man tells you to smile. Then, definitely smile. In reality — by the way, as we know from the 2016 American Tragedy, all presidents have been men; therefore, literally zero women have started wars. Who are the fucking drama queens now?
The ladies who make me sane.
So, first, I want to tell you about a few of my friends. My close friends have been patiently waiting for this post, partially because they are interested in my take on the importance of female friendships, and partially because they heard my topic of choice and thought maybe they would see their name. They want to be famous. So, they will get their five minutes of fame; you’ll get a few cute stories. I am only mentioning a couple for the sake of the length of this post, so if you are not mentioned, it does not mean I do not love you!
As my husband pointed out, when Alyssa and I hang out, it is a pretty funny experience. For whatever reason, however many times we see each other in a week, we still get extremely excited to see each other, and we can barely keep a linear conversation going. Either way, the important part is that we talk about our week – in a lot of detail. A lot. She is genuinely excited for me when wonderful things happen, and she is genuinely distraught when the worst things happen. And vice versa. She helps me plan my future; she buys me wine; she cries with me during This is Us. She gives me all the gossip on the latest Bachelor-Nation-related drama.
One time, Alyssa and I were drinking wine — our favorite pastime – and, I needed to have a hard conversation with someone else in my life. Honestly, I do not remember what it was about. The only thing about this day I remember is that Alyssa immediately whipped out a pen and paper from inside her purse and started drafting the conversation I would have with that person. I didn’t ask her to do this. She just started writing.
Another time, I was with another friend, and I was pulling my wallet out from my purse, and a piece of paper fell out. I picked it up, and it said, “Kelly, you are a warrior princess. You’ve got this. Love, Alyssa Rose”. I cried in public.
The day after Trump was elected, Alyssa invited me over for wine and sushi. For some reason – probably because we were feeling slightly politically traumatized – but, neither of us could eat our sushi gracefully. They kept falling apart, falling out of our mouths, just falling everywhere. Mostly, what I remember about that night, though, is that we snuggled, we cried (though I sobbed, actually), we listened to each other, we comforted each other, and we talked about the uncertainties to come under this new “administration” (he’s not a real president). We drank a whole lot of wine, too. I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky with her.
J. Ross (or, I guess some people call her Jen) is another close friend of mine. We make lists when we are together. We make lists because we are generally indecisive people and lists make us feel empowered. The last list we created together was a pro/con list about J Ross going back to school. She decided to go back to school because the “pro” side of the list was a lot longer than the “con”.
We make silly lists, too, since we are so indecisive. One of my favorites was a list to help us decide what we should do the next time we hung out. We could not decide if we should go out or order Thai food and stay in. The pro/con list looked like this:
From this point on, we decided that our personal life’s philosophy is contained within Cozy Nothing. We enjoy a lot of the cozy nothings in this life, and we enjoy them together. Cozy Nothing essentially amounts to hygge – but this one IS OURS, OKAY?!
Some components of our Cozy Nothings include:
• tea, Thai food, chocolate, finding the quiet nooks in restaurants, meditation, yoga, reading, blankets, pretending to slip on ice in front of strangers, turning napkins into origami and leaving them on tables at coffee shops, and generally hug and be there for each other when life is beautiful and when life gets hard
Beckie – my longest best friend – and I have a long-distance friendship for most of the year. She lives in Massachusetts—where I am originally from, and I live 800 miles from Massachusetts. But, we have our TV shows we watch “together”. We watch New Girl, This is Us and Walking Dead. We talk all day, most days – either via text or actual calls. She is the one I call when I am about ready to jump off a cliff, or ready to push someone off a cliff, and I am that for her, too. She is the one who has seen me ugly cry; who has seen me being a massive bitch or been on the receiving end of it. She just knows everything. Every flaw; every mistake; every ridiculous thought. And, for some reason, she is always there. We love each other unconditionally.
We’ve known each other for 20 years, so we have a lot of stories. I asked Beckie about our stories, thinking she’d give me a couple, and she gave me about 37. The funniest ones are from when we were little because we were little weirdos. We are big weirdos now. But, we had fewer inhibitions back then. I’m just going to quote Beckie on our memories because the way she worded them was both hilarious and very cute. Two of my favorites that she mentioned were the following:
• “Taking baths in our bathing suits so that we weren’t ever apart.”
• “That time we ripped the tape out of that movie at the rental house at Cape Cod. That’s the only time I’ve seen your dad mad. I don’t know why we even did that. He left for a minute, and we dropped the tape film from the loft down to the kitchen table, and we forgot to get rid of it before he came home. Whoops.”
I gain something different, but equally important from all of my friendships. Each of them plays a significant role in forming and adapting into the human that I am and how I see the world. Their love continues to help me become a successful, functioning human in the world. If you have a tribe of empowered, supportive, compassionate ladies behind you, the world is your fucking oyster.
When ladies support ladies.
What does it mean when women support women? This line floats around the internet – “empowered women empower women”. But, what does that even mean? Listen, we are a marginalized group, and women feeling like they need to compete for the male gaze is a real thing. The wage gap is a real thing. Men’s violence against women is a real thing. Male fucking privilege is a real thing. If ladies are focused on competing for the male gaze, or focused on making your male counterparts happy, and not on supporting each other, then women stay separate and not an organized group of baddasses. The Women’s March, on the other hand – an organized fucking group of baddasses. The Woman’s Movement – an organized fucking group of badasses. Helping another woman does not take away from your own victories and successes.
And listen, as much as it seems like women have made a lot of progress in this country, if we were a culture that promoted women supporting each other, we wouldn’t have a sexual predator holding our highest office. Look what happens when 53% of white women decided they trusted a sexual predator over a woman. To me, that was a wake-up call, and apparently it was for several other ladies, too. Re: The Women’s March. And although the circumstances were unfortunate, like I said, the Women’s March is an excellent example of what we can do when we support each other, embrace each other’s differences and especially our flaws, and root for another woman’s successes.
Guys –women used to need their husband’s fucking signature in order to obtain a credit card. Women working together for the common good is the only thing that has ever moved us closer to an egalitarian society.
Girl Squads FOR YOUR HEALTH
On top of the personal, political, and sociological benefits, sharing close relationships with women and supporting other women has psychological benefits, as well. Having close female friendships can provide women with a sense of understanding, compassion, and appreciation, according to Susan Shapiro Barash, an author and a professor of gender studies. Such friendships give women an outlet to share their problems, thoughts, feelings, and triumphs with those they feel a close bond with.
Although the reasons why the psychological benefits of female friendships are profound are not crystal clear, friendships seem to lower stress levels and assist women in navigating the ups and downs of life with better ease than those without strong social ties. For example, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, women with breast cancer were four times more likely to die from the cancer if they didn’t have very many friends. Those with a larger group of friends had a much better survival rate. This beneficial effect of friendship was felt whether the friends lived near or far.
Spending time with close friends can help to encourage healthy habits, boost self-compassion and decrease depression, according to the WebMD article, “Good Friends are Good for You.” When faced with illness, women with close female ties seem to have less pain and less stress. Women with strong female friendships may also have less of a tendency to get sick in the first place. They may also feel more in control of their lives and if they do fall ill, they have an increased chance of recovery than those without strong bonds do, such as occurred in the study on breast cancer survival rates headed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.
Here’s the thing.
Again, I’m not trying to say that you’re living your life incorrectly if you struggle with friendships, or you don’t live your life the same way that I do. However, Science says to give it a shot. Supporting other women and holding your friends close doesn’t have to feel as dirty as the term ‘feminist’ used to be.
Whether or not you struggle with keeping friendships, hold your ladies up. Hold up your ladies who serve you coffee at Starbucks. Hold up your ladies who answer questions about your credit card on those annoying customer service lines. Hold up your ladies who are taking part in fucking important marches and protests. Hold up the ladies accusing men of sexual harassment. Hold up your ladies running for office. Hold up your ladies working on breaking that glass ceiling. And the ceiling above the glass ceiling. And all the fucking ceilings. We can be in this together.
You do not need a girl squad to get on board with these ideas. My girl squad is pretty great, though. At the very least, when you are in possession of a girl squad, you’ll never be stuck in public without a tampon again, and in the best-case scenarios, you have someone to take baths with with your bathing suit on.