My friend Ashley has started the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival, and this is my submission for the first round: Female Friendships.
That just might be me above at 14, surrounded by a bunch of sweaty, 14 year old dudes. I was there for some dance. I didn’t have a date, in fact, I’m not sure if many of my fellow 9th graders had actual dates. We all went as friends, awkwardly danced a whole bunch, got pretty sweaty, and drank sugary punch. But what’s so significant about that picture, is that it pretty much sums up my high school friendships.
I always seemed to hang with the guys. I’m not 100% exactly sure why. I wasn’t a “tom boy” per se. Well, okay, I never really wore make-up, wasn’t into shopping, and my standard outfit consisted of ripped jeans, ribbed tank tops, flannel button down shirts, and work boots. But then again, it was the ’90s.
For whatever reason, I just seemed to click with guys when it came to friendships. I had a handful of girl friends, but never to the point of “bff”ness. (In fact, my “bff” in high school was the guy in the neon yellow tux above). Friendships with guys was easy for me, pretty laid back, and mostly drama free. I’m not insinuating that all female friendships are the opposite, but beyond my smallish circle of lady friends, it felt like more work, and well… I was lazy.
The pattern continued into college. I made a few girl friends, but mostly hung out with guys. Once I entered the workforce, as a high school social studies teacher, I fell back into the same routine, quickly scooping up a dude teacher as my work bestie.
And then…I got pregnant.
None of my male friends really got it, and even my husband, for as comforting and supportive as he was, didn’t quite understand what I was going through.
And then…we moved.
To add to my isolating situation, we moved when I was 6 months pregnant. I didn’t really know anybody in our new location and my husband was away a bunch, working. I knew that if I was going to survive the end of my pregnancy, I needed to branch out and make some friends, and for the first time in my life, I found myself wanting to give it a whirl with the ladies.
Pregnancy, for all its ups and downs, certainly gave me an in when it came to attempting to make friends. I began taking a prenatal yoga class, which basically offered up the opportunity of multiple female friendships.
It was freaking intimidating.
Many of the women already knew each other and would sit together, conversing quietly before class. I’d sit there, unassuming, smiling awkwardly at nobody until class started. Nobody was rude or mean, and in fact I got many warm smiles and tentative waves. But I still wasn’t able to get over myself and start making friends. It didn’t help that Mean Girls had come out a couple years prior, reminding me of the awfully stereotypical notion of just what female friendship could be like.
I probably went to two or three more classes before I screwed up enough courage to talk to somebody beyond a brief “hello.” I finally managed to talk to the striking redhead that had rolled out her mat next to mine. By the end of class we had exchanged numbers, and I left feeling elated that I had possibly made a new friend. But then, all of a sudden, I felt like I was in some warped dating game.
Should I call her? Text her? When?
Again, that notion of pressure, that I had never felt – for whatever reason – with my guy friends, creeped in. But I finally called and we chatted. It was nice, but I was still a little uncertain of it all. Then she got a little busy… having her baby. And then a couple months later, I gave birth. And then…? I felt a little lonely. After the parade of family and friends had stopped coming by, I found myself craving contact with somebody that wasn’t my husband or a drooling (albeit absolutely delicious) newborn. My doula – who happened to be a mutual friend – encouraged me to call the redhead…she knew we lived only a few blocks from each other and could both use the company.
So, I did. For self-preservation and my sanity above all – I called. We started to get to know each other by going for walks around the neighborhood with our babes. Soon we would find ourselves at one house or another, folding laundry, doing dishes, and talking. And somehow, almost effortlessly really, our lives just synced up and our friendship was just… there – almost as if it had always been there. It’s been over five years and we’re more like family than friends. We joke and call ourselves sister-wives, and have already worked out arrangements for our time share baby, due any day now. (okay, *she’s* having the baby, but I will love on that little muffin like it’s my own). Our kids are more than best friends…they’re siblings. We share something indescribable that seems to encompass more than just friendship.
Since then, I’ve branched out, bringing more womenfolk into my friendship fold, and I almost kick myself over what I might have missed.
After all this time, I wonder why I had been so cautious when it came to female friendships. I do think I drank a little bit of the media-influenced Kool-Aid that paints female friendships are competitive, back-stabbing, rocky relationships. I might not have thought these things out loud, but perhaps, deep down, I absorbed those thoughts and allowed them to influence my choices of friends throughout the years.
I still love all my dude-friends, no question there, but I’ve also come to appreciate the unique nature of having more lady friends in my life in the last few years. And okay, maybe there’s a smidge more drama, but there’s also a lot more excitement, energy, compassion, and sisterhood, and I’m eternally grateful that I finally got over myself to experience it.