Hey, grrrlfriend

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I’m lucky enough to have a close group of amazing female friends, all of whom have supported me since I was a wee chubster of twelve. I love them all more than anything – we’ve been through family bereavements, break ups, coming outs and some seriously bad dye-jobs over the years and every time I see any of them my heart is immediately lifted. We encourage each other to be ambitious and courageous, and celebrate each other’s achievements with gusto (and alcohol). I’ve laughed with them over the stupidest shit in the whole world until I’ve been literally worried that I would die, like a victim of Joker gas.

I know that some women aren’t as lucky as I am. Some of them don’t have any female friends and some of them don’t enjoy the company of the female friends they have. Sometimes, these situations occur because of circumstances – they might be shy and work in a mostly-male environment, or they might’ve recently moved – but sometimes, this is because of weird ideas about female friendship. You know what I’m talking about. That whole, “I prefer hanging out with guys,” thing. I don’t buy it. There’s no one female personality any more than one male personality and so that just doesn’t make any fucking sense.  There are boring as hell guys, where you’ll spend your evening watching them play video games and discuss Jurassic 5, and there are hilarious women, where you’ll end up drinking cider up a tree with them and pretending to give birth to your own coats. Of course, it goes both ways. I’ve personally found that if a lady invites me to an event that revolves around cupcakes (i.e. cupcakes are not just a casual snack that happens to be at the event but are the event itself) then heavy entertainment is not on the menu.

If you’re the kind of woman who says, “I prefer hanging out with guys” and you sound proud, nay, smug about it – then you need to have a little think about whether you’ve internalised some misogyny. If you think it makes you a better person to surround yourself with men, consider whether you think men are superior to women.  If you’ve attempted friendships with women before and it never works, consider if maybe it’s you that’s the problem.

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Hopefully, you’ll realise that you don’t dislike female friendship but have just accidentally bought into the widely spread, toxic mythology surrounding it. The media really rams this story home, with its endless headlines regaling celebrity “catfights” (how fucking patronising is this, anyway? When two guys argue it’s not a catfight) and jealous rivalry. Who in the real world lives like this? I have an arch-nemesis (I’M COMING FOR YOU, LIZ JONES) but that’s no petty catfight and besides, she’s not even aware of me (yet). If your female friendships are bitchy or competitive, then you need to work out why.  It’s fine to have the odd moan behind someone’s back if it’s not worth the upset that a confrontation would cause but if it’s getting to be a regular thing then you may have some issues that need resolving with that friend. Similarly, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll notice a lot of male friendships are bitchy, too. It’s not a gendered quality, despite what society tells us – it’s just an element of friendship that sometimes needs work. You may get stuck wishing your friends misery because you think it’ll somehow make your life look better by comparison, but it a) won’t and b) will make spending time with them less fun. You will have a better time together if you’re both happy, so raise each other up. Similarly, if you can help a friend with her career, then do it. Men have their own established networks, women need to build these too. If your friend is going to get a terrible haircut or buy a really bad outfit then, again, don’t tell them to go for it because you think it’ll make you look better. Firstly, you are the one who’s going to have to look at that all day long and secondly, your friend will be sad when she sees the photos and what is the golden rule? Happy friends = fun times.

The healing aspect of hanging out with people who share your experience of the world is also sometimes overlooked. Recently, there was a Jar Belles meeting where a few of the ladies hung back to finish their drinks after the meeting was officially over. We ended up going over our first experiences of realising our own sexualities and afterwards, I realised how incredibly healing it had been (not to mention funny. Teenagers are weird).  Other women often understand things that men are less likely to – I love my guy friends but I can practically hear the eyes rolling when I complain about certain gender-specific issues.  If you have female friends but find that you don’t feel healed after spending time with them but rather feel drained or – dare I say – damaged, then maybe they’re not the right female friends for you. You could try throwing an all-female house party, where you ask all the guests to bring a female friend. Then you could steal your unsuitable female friends’ more suitable female friends.

It’s never too late to make amazing new female companions. I met my soul mate when I was 16 (seriously, if an article on besties went by without a mention of Ally then not only my heart but the whole world might explode), a whole mess of lovely ladies throughout uni and beyond, and at least two incredible women (including the co-founder of the Jar Belles) this year. Once you’ve found the perfect BWBs (besties-with-boobs), treasure them. Because there’s nothing better in the world.

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–  Jade Slaughter is editor of The Jar Belles and has written for The F Word, Parallel and Litro magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @msjadeslaughter.