I went to an all-girl Catholic convent school during my formative years and boy, oh (lack of) boy, was it an education.
It is fair to say that all girls together can be a bit bonkers – funny bonkers and bitchy bonkers.
You wise up quick. Friendships in that environment can be transient – it only takes a misunderstanding over a smelly ice cream-shaped rubber, or having the “wrong” type of plastic bag (think Tammy Girl not Tesco) to go from Best Friends Forever to Person Unknown.
One day you can be flying high because perfect Pete spoke to you at the bus stop, and then you are the class loser because you didn’t quite grasp the concept that teenage sweat can’t be masked by spraying Impulse all over yesterday’s shirt – a mistake you only make once.
Girls together can be brutal and pack-mentality means that if one person takes umbrage with you, a domino affect can quickly sweep through the class that at times can leave you standing literally alone.
Surviving an all-female setting can either make or break you (and then make you again). Jessie J had it right when she said: “thank you for the pain, as you made me raise my game”. And by game, I think you garner a tougher stance on bullshit and there is just certain “stuff” you refuse to let ground you down.
Since school there have been many more new friends – some that have lasted, some that haven’t. The thing about friendships post-school is that they have to be strong enough to survive that inevitable drop down the relationship ranking when a partner and then children come into the picture.
A mutual fizzling out is fine. But when it is a one-sided thing that has come out of the blue, it can leave you reeling. And uncertain about yourself. This is because often friendships are fundamentally essential to our sense of who we are.
When they fail for no apparent reason you can feel like that school girl all over again – the one that everyone laughed for having a coat from Ethel Austin. It makes you question your ability to make friends and actually be a friend. The affect on our emotional wellbeing should not be under estimated. What did I do? Am I not cool enough? Does anyone like me?
I had it a few years back when a “friend” was being a dickhead to me. The meaner she was, the nicer I became. I kept on trying. It was like I just couldn’t accept she didn’t want to be friends with me. My husband intervened in the end and said what are you doing? You are worth more than this. She doesn’t like you. Get over it.
So I did and I haven’t looked back.
You just can’t win them all. Not everyone will want to be your mate. I think the convent school girl me got this concept more. She never expected everyone she came across to become her soulmate.
Also things can fizzle out for a billion reasons including:
- A natural drift – busy lives mean that you have less time for the friends you hardly see.
- The communication gap – you might be a bit lazy at staying in touch (who moi?), whereas your mate likes daily chats and texts. Often when expectations are not being met they can lead to suppressed anger.
- Cancelling gripes – a degree of rescheduling is inevitable when you have kids and a job to juggle. But too many times can be a game-changer for some people. They simply give up.
- The unknown slight – you might not have liked her last Facebook status (as you didn’t see it), or not included her on that night out another friend organised. These things can unintentionally accumulate.
- Not being there – she might have had a “big thing” that you didn’t realise was such a “big thing” until it was too late.
- Because people can change. Including you.
You can fight for it to a degree, but sometimes you have no choice but to suck it up and move on.
It is crazy that often we spend more time fretting over the friendships that flounder then we do focusing on all the ones that have flourished. Whether that is just the one buddy or ten.
Funnily enough, some of my greatest and loveliest friendships still seem to be those from school days – maybe because there are just so many different strands of shared experience holding us together. Severing the sheer number of these strands would take something quite serious.
Their company is as comfy as well-worn slippers. They know you inside and out and care not a jot if you brought three bras from Ethel Austin before it died (God rest its soul).
I mean how many friends does a girl really need? We should only surround ourselves with people that make us feel happy, not crappy. Because life is too short to keep second guessing someone. People need to have your back when the chips are down and vice versa.
I think Joey Tribbiani summed it up best when he said: “I stepped up! She’s my friend and she needed help. And if I have to, I’d pee on any one of you.”
Maybe that should always be the benchmark to set all our friendships by.
I love all those on my pee list.
And by the way, for the record, you are cool enough. You always were.