On Female Friendships And The Art Of Keeping Up

The story of my friends and I isn’t a particularly special one, but what began as a thrown together group of six good-for-all girls blossomed into one of the most powerful relationships I have ever known. Granted, we were not as much Sex and The City as we were Saturday night sins in the countryside (we all had weekend jobs together at Waitrose, for fucks sake) but we were together through everything.

Kirsty and Emily, I had grown up with. Literally from the first few days of nursery school, we’d gone from playground games and themed sleepovers to finishing Sixth Form together and marking that sixteen-year commitment with three wildflowers tattooed on each of our ribcages.

I met Grace as soon as I started secondary school, and whilst it took being lumped together on a random R.E seating plan, she soon became the type of person I couldn’t, and never wanted to get rid of. She was the one that taught me everything I needed to (but probably shouldn’t have) known, becoming infamous in the group for her, er, informative guides for our coming of age concerns.

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Illustration by Laura Callaghan

Chloe and Emma were friends made later, the kinds that make you wonder how you’d gone so long not knowing them beforehand. And in a turn of events, I will never not be grateful for and in awe of, these people I knew separately saw the best in each other, too. Our solid six was born from shared horoscopes, road trips in my tiny Toyota and bad decisions. We weren’t just close, we had weaved ourselves into one another’s lives, complete with the silly group name to prove it.

They loved me through my hardest times. Took me with a pinch of salt when I
poured onto them the hurt and pain that should’ve been for someone else, knowing that they just had to support me now and take the shit so that I could make it through, eventually. They let me make terrible mistakes (my indie phase is not one I’m proud of, though they love to remind me of it) but, to my amazement, still liked me enough to see me every single day. There seemed like there was nothing that could change what we had. So, when university scattered us across the country, we vowed nothing ever would.

How could anything come between the girls that cared more about trying to contain our belly laughter at the 2am group chat jokes than cat-fighting or perfectly co-ordinated #baes Insta posts? How could we ever knowingly distance ourselves from all of those morning-after-the-night-before’s all in my double bed, armed with anecdotes and Kirsty’s infectious laugh? On those mornings and every morning, we took on the world together. But when we each started to take on our own worlds, that’s when it started to feel like it was slipping away. Our group chat – the sacred place that had been home to our love – stopped pinging every eight seconds. Words went unsaid, faces went unseen. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to talk to them, but that I assumed that things would carry on the way they were. I forgot what it had taken to cultivate that friendship all those years before, taking it for granted that I needed to nurture what we had to keep it strong, to keep it growing. Because it wasn’t that we weren’t there for each other, it was just quieter, less frequent.

On-screen friendships rarely portray this grey area. The pocket that sits between the full-blown fallout and the eventual emotional reconciliation. There was no shouting or tearing up of photographs a la Mean Girls, just the gradual realisation that we weren’t as close as we once were. The only thing that happened was life, leaving us all trailing behind it, trying to catch up.

As FGRLS CLUB favourite Laura Jane Williams, in her eternal wisdom writes, “There’s nuance to female friendship. One million shades of “ride or die”. What I’m learning now is that sometimes those shades may not be as bright, or the paint might have chipped a little and need touching up. But we have to be ready, overalls on and paintbrush in hand, to do the work in order to fix it, and begin to repair something beautiful.

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