Tuesday, February 17, 2015

hey, girl

There is seriously nothing better than the all-encompassing thrill that comes with true kindred spirit friendship. It's da bomb. It seeps into the cracks of your insecurities and blossoms in the shadows of your true self. You suddenly unwind and get weird and laugh a lot and share too much. There's a level of comfort and rest that exists in that place that is precious and rare. It's a place of peace and girl power. Friendship between women can be one of the most delightful, inspiring, freeing, encouraging, and empowering things on the planet.

But it can also be one of the most depressing things, and I really wish I knew why. Girls can be just plain cruel to each other. You know what I'm talking about, too. I think everyone does. It's a known image - the catty, selfish, b*tchy group of girlfriends that manipulate and degrade each other in a vicious cycle of "friendship". It's the Mean Girls syndrome. We're drawn to it somehow, maybe because our claws are naturally sharp and easily tempted to evil deeds. It's an absolute mystery to me though, especially when genuine love and friendship can completely change your life for the better, forever. 

Now, granted, this isn't entirely exclusive to women - I've seen my husband and other guy friends used and abused by their friends as well, they just go about it differently. I think my husband was often blind to it, because they were just "being guys" and messing around. He was definitely affected by it, but he had always accepted it as the norm. It wasn't until we gained really solid, edifying friends that we were able to take a deep breath and say, see? This is what this is supposed to be like. 

I have no problem with sarcasm - it's actually one of my favorite languages. I think the problem comes when that's all there is. I remember being really confused when I was entering junior high and high school during the trend of best friends calling each other slut and ho-bag and other lovely nicknames. I just didn't get it.

I couldn't bring myself to connect to that type of closeness, because it didn't seem real. Even after high school, when those monikers typically died away, I felt incredibly alone in my desire for kind, loving friends. People I could actually like. (Crazy, right?). I saw a great emptiness in the friendships I knew and eventually began to accept that a friendship like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry's just didn't exist. Hang it up with the other fairy-tales. 

Luckily, I was proven wrong. It took some time, but I feel incredibly fortunate to now have friendships that I cherish and am proud to invest in. Friendship is hard work and there are always ways to be more attentive, more forgiving, more understanding and more intentional. It's worth it because the relationships in your life change you daily. The ones you choose to nurture throughout the course of your life are especially momentous.

Friendship shouldn't be so competitive. Why do we so easily bristle and poke and one-up and belittle? It's this ugly gut reaction when a friend has good news to find some way to redirect the praise and excitement to ourselves, or to ruin their good news by belittling it somehow. We're always fighting the urge to make it about us, to turn inward instead of pour ourselves outward. That immediate WAIT NO MY LIFE IS BETTER is a really stupid inclination to have. Where is the genuine joy when someone experiences something great in their lives? There is so little gratitude and congratulations among friends. Words of affirmation should be insanely rampant, I think. It should be out of control, even. 

Of course, personalities vary and some people are simply less comfortable with endearments, and less likely to communicate vulnerable emotions. Some struggle with affection - I'm actually one of those people. I do not generally enjoy hugs. But there has to be something, right? It's hard to be friends with someone when you honestly don't know whether or not they even like you half the time. By nature, sarcasm is an erosion tool - it can and will begin to chip away at you. You can't live exclusively in that zone forever, it's exhausting! There needs to be a balance, and above all a foundation of love and trust. If the core of the relationship is flippancy and casual meanness, the friendship will die. It probably should die. 

My dream friendship is this. Being unafraid to share a true flaw, because you know they'll help work you through it and point you to better things. Being able to vent and cry and whine while they just listen - and then they'll tell you lovingly that they're on your side even when you're crazy. Trusting them with secrets and memories because they'll never use them to embarrass you. Making big decisions and having incredible news that you can't wait to share with them, because they will be over the moon for you, always. Feeling comfortable with honesty and familiar with thoughtfulness. Knowing that they see you, appreciate you, understand you, love you. 

I think women are fantastic. I'm a little bit biased, but I think we're cool. But I also think we can be really, really scary and mean. We have a lot of power over each other, which is the best and worst thing about us. Let's use that power for good, superwomen. We don't need to travel in packs, doing our best to destroy others to heighten our own weird status of lady royalty. It's an evil cycle I'd love to see end. Everyone is self-conscious, and everyone should have friends. Real ones. I want to be one of those to the women in my life. A genuine source of happiness and light and laughter. Someone my friends are proud to know and love. Not because I'm worthy of it or particularly special, but because I see them, appreciate them, understand them, and love them. That's all it really takes.

Let's hear it for peace and girl power.

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