I kind of hate rom-coms because they always seem to portray these groups of adult women who grab drinks after work or go out for Sunday brunch every week. And we’re supposed to believe they’ve known each other since middle school or high school. Do people really stay friends with their high school girl-gang? I mean, I’m still friends with maybe half a dozen of my closest high school girlfriends, but we don’t get together as a group to hang out except maybe once every few years. I see each of them individually two, maybe three times a year. But the women and their friendships on Sex and the City, Girls, and even Friends have always seemed out of touch and unobtainable to me.
When do we stop having female friends? I am incredibly fortunate that I adore the women I work with, but it wasn’t always that way. Before I started my current job I constantly felt alone and isolated. I went months without having a drink or a cup of coffee with another female companion. Some of it is certainly is due to distance and time. People leave their hometowns, move in with significant others, and start families. You start to go to your partner with your anxieties and triumphs instead of calling up your childhood best friend. You create new inside jokes and memories with just one person instead of a wide group.
But is this healthy? I know it wasn’t for me. I had no one to turn to as my relationship became a problem. Who could I call when my fiancé and his best friend knocked back 3 bottles of whiskey in one night? Who could I turn to when I found my husband drunk at home before he was supposed to go in for work? Who could give me guidance when he kept drinking even though he was facing jail time? The thought of calling up one of my “best friends” terrified me. I wouldn’t know where to start. It had been so long since I confided in them or went to them for advice that calling them out of the blue and pouring out my troubles seemed ridiculous. I thought it was safer to keep it to myself when, in reality, I was only hurting myself.
Since divorcing my ex, I vowed I would be better about communicating with the women in my life. But it’s scary to open yourself up. What if they criticize my choices? What if they don’t like the person I’m dating? What if they say something I don’t want to hear? I have made tiny steps towards being more open (including writing this blog) but it’s a slow start.
Recently my cousin, who is about ten years older, was visiting from out of state (which was really awesome because I have seen her maybe 4 times in the past 15 years). After a day of hanging out with parents, aunts, and uncles at a family picnic, I finally went out for drinks with just her and my sister. We’d barely ordered our drinks when she opened the flood gates, telling us all about how her marriage had been falling apart, she started seeking sex from outside her marriage, and was finally working on things with her husband. I was stunned; not so much that she had done all this, but that she felt comfortable telling her younger cousins who she hadn’t seen in years. How could she be so brave? How could she be so open?
I expressed my shock to my sister a few days later: “I can’t believe she just told us everything! I have such a hard even telling you and you’re my older sister who I see all the time. I really envy her courage. She must have a great relationship with her girlfriends.”
“Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s felt just as alone as you did with no one to turn to. Maybe this was finally her chance to tell someone she trusts.”
… My sister is good at putting things in perspective. I supposed it's possible that I’m not the only woman who slowly closed herself off from her girlfriends. Perhaps we all do it. Maybe we need to make an effort to be there for each other so every woman knows she’s not alone.
I’m going to keep trying to be better, even when it’s uncomfortable. Maybe it takes me being brave to give another woman the courage to leave a bad situation. If I can get the strength to learn to rely on others, maybe it will be contagious. At least it’s a start in the right direction.