My Friendship Story and Struggles
I have a profile on Bumble BFF.
Is that something I should be hiding? An embarrassing secret I should be keeping to myself? We may have reached peak Tinder in the dating world, but is it still a shameful, cringe worthy fact to admit that you’re on an app… to find female friendship?
Surely you should already have that down right?
Surely any young woman worth anything has a little circle of girlfriends. Surely she wakes up groggy eyed and puffy faced, SLIP eye masks askew, to a slew of WhatsApp group messages full of belly laugh inducing GIFs and you’d only know if you were there one liners? Surely she sends photos of her failed attempts at healthy eating (oatmeal and vegan kale cheeseitsie things anyone?) and workouts to a group of tight knit girls who really want to see a dodgy picture of microwaved instant quinoa flakes? Surely she’s already booked for a Saturday afternoon brunch, because are you even a woman if you don’t brunch, at a regular spot, with a regular order and regular slew of cocktails, because… that’s what being a girlfriend is about.
It’s all those silly little inconsequential parts of your day that look like nothing on the outside but can mean everything on the inside.
You may dread that WhatsApp group chat and it’s incessant pinging but I crave it. One mans trash and all that.
Girlfriends are such an integral part of the narrative we grow up with, such a marker of belonging, such a sign that you’ve arrived in the world of the adult, that not having enough of them can feel like an irreparable and confusing defect.
What is wrong with you after all if you don’t have them?
Whats missing in you?
Its easy to feel all alone in the world if you’ve struggled with making girlfriends.
Trust me, I know.
Being single and struggling to find the right partner is one thing- there’s no end of chick lit novels and poorly plotted chick flicks out there to remind you that you’re not alone. And that it’s entirely his fault. The struggling to date spunky and cute singleton is a girl other women aspire to be.
But the girl with zero invites in her inbox and no ladies’ nights on the horizon? Not so much.
If you find yourself lacking in the friends department, if you can’t remember the last time you went to a girls coffee catch up on a bleary eyed Sunday morning or a bachelorette party that lasted a solid 48 hours- then you’re alone girlfriend. Because there is close to radio silence out there on the subject.
Its a shameful secret and no ones willing to step out of the closet on this one in a hurry.
But- I’ve struggled with female friendship for a long time now. Like a long time now.
There, I said it.
When I was a kid I coasted along just fine- I had my forever friends lined up by the time I entered high school, and we graduated together, a league unto ourselves, totally nonplussed about the opinions of anyone else. There may well have been lots of things missing in my life, lots of foibles I have yet to conquer, or lots I still had to struggle to achieve, but a three hour phone call after school was not one of them. That I had down pat. And more so. Girlfriends were something I seldom worried about in school- I was never at the center of an all out drama fest, I never broke up with my female friends, I never stole boyfriends or had a crush whipped out from under my nose.
All in all, it was pretty blissful.
I knew exactly who I was hanging out with at lunch break every single day, and exactly who I was sharing a car with to go to prom. Life was grand.
But once I left the safe confines of the same school I spent my entire life at- things changed pretty drastically.
And honestly? I’m still waiting for them to sort themselves out.
I’m lucky because the girls I forged alliances with in grade school, are the same girls I still chat to every day and meet up with whenever I’m home. These are friendships I know will last a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky to be able to say that with such certainty. But I can also count them on one hand.
And I met all but one of them under the age of 15.
I can hand on heart say, that I have four proper friends in the world today. And that can be a really hard thing to admit. For so long I’ve felt it’s a secret I have to gaurd closely, a fact I have to go to any length to avoid exposing.
(And mind, none of them are really friends with each other).
Whatever could be wrong with me?
And naturally, as one with a penchant for blogging does, if I’ve got a “shameful secret” it’s going to come out in the blog somewhere isn’t it?
Well here it is.
A close knit group of girlfriends is the ultimate dream for me- and its a dream that feels harder and harder to achieve each passing year.
Just to highlight exactly how desperate I can feel about the situation, given a low day, I recently considered having a baby just to give me an excuse to join a mommy baby group. A ready made group of girlfriends who you can isntantly relate to and who are too consumed with keeping a baby alive to be judgmental or picky?
Sounds perfect actually.
Obviously I did not proceed to bring a new life into this world just to get a coffee invite on a random Sunday morning, but the realization that such a thought would even cross my mind, was pretty sobering.
I’ve been squashing down the void left by not having the picture perfect female social life for so very long, that I’ve ignored just how much it’s actually affected, and continues to affect me. And by doing so, I’ve made things worse.
I know it’s always a little contentious to write about yourself, to describe yourself, so you don’t have to take my word for it- but just as a disclaimer, I’m known to be a really friendly, very talkative and welcoming person. Look at me sing my praises!
I don’t claim to be the most entertaining, or the one with the most interesting tidbits of conversation, or the life of the party, but I do know without a doubt that I am an honestly friendly person, sincere in my desire to connect and make friends. And I know I really and truly do make an effort to engage with people I meet.
And yet, year after year, I find these attempts lead nowhere. No new WhatsApp groups I so dream of being plagued by, no invites to girly weekends away or spring weddings, and no feeling of belonging to a group of like minded women, an ideal thats heavily touted in pop culture today as being a cornerstone of the modern female experience.
Nothing can be that simple though. No one can have plain old abysmal luck, with no input of their own? Or can they?
Am I doing something wrong? Why have I been unable to infiltrate the mysterious world of girl gangs, unable to bag the kind of invites and inclusion that other women seem to have de facto?
Is it something about me?
Is it something about them?
I’ve spent a good few years wondering about this and I feel like I am no closer to an answer.
But you have a husband, people say, so why does it matter if you have a girl gang or not?
And fair play to them, maybe lucking out in the partner department means I have to accept defeat somewhere else. You can’t have a wonderful husband and a ridiculous gaggle of girlfriends right? That’s would be a little unfair.
But a husband a girl gang does not make.
I’m convinced that a healthy marriage contains more than the two people involved in it- it also encompasses all the other people in your life, from your mom to your friends, to the people you bump into on a daily basis, like your friendly neighborhood barista, who keep a good marriage chugging along, and keep you from dumping all your daily frustrations and your ridiculous excitement over the royal baby (not guilty, no), on the head of your unsuspecting partner. 24 hours a day.
You need friends even if you’ve got your partner to come home to at night. You need enough friends even if your partner is more than enough. Even if your partner is amazingly more than enough.
“But you have a few wonderful and really close friends, that should be enough.”
I hear that all the time too. And I tell myself that all the time as well.
But those friends have their own lives. Shocker. They have their own schedules (no!), and their own other friends to see (what?!), and they don’t all live near me besides. When you have a few, very few, close friends, you can easily come to over rely on them, which isn’t always the healthiest. I mean I don’t think they want to wake up to 30 Whataspp messages, each a mini novella unto itself, do they?
You need to surround yourself with a generous, healthy, and robust circle of humans, to keep yourself happy, balanced, and chugging along without becoming a stalker friend with the uncanny ability to know exactly where each of your said friends is at any given time (I blame you Instagram Stories).
So you need friends. I need friends.
So what’s up then?
Over the years, I’ve tried and failed to slot myself into various groups of girls.
I’ve offered my help, I’ve shown up on time, I’ve reached out with emoji filled messages, I’ve commented on Instagram pictures and brought gifts along to any occasion I could. I’ve been attentive, I’ve asked them about themselves (the number one dating tip, is it not?), I’ve smiled- a lot.
And what’s thats invariably left me feeling, when those invites didn’t come, when the messages peter out, is that I was somehow not good enough, not cool enough (do people still say that, please tell me people still say that?), to be given a space in their lives.
That could be the furthest thing from the truth.
It could be. I’m well aware, after being convinced by my husband and my mom time and time again, that if these girls don’t want me in their lives, it may well be about them and not about me.
Most cliche advice ever? But potentially true.
It’s one thing to get passed over after a date, but when girls (repeatedly) don’t seem to want you around, don’t return the same level of investment into your budding relationship that you do, your sense of worth and self confidence takes a peculiar kind of hit that is often ignored in pop culture. Sure maybe he didn’t want to make you his forever wifey, but she doesn’t even want to spend two hours with me. Neither does she. Or she. It’s only two hours here or there guys!
It can get pretty grim pretty fast.
And I am not sure I am okay with that anymore.
I need to remind myself, as those close to me do, that when a girl doesn’t call you back, ignores a text, doesn’t follow up and schedule a gabby chatty catch up- it’s not because you or I are not good enough, not interesting enough, not enough enough in every way- sometimes it’s about her, and not about you.
Sometimes she doesn’t have time for new friends.
Sometimes she is terrible at staying in touch.
Sometimes she’s busy with work.
Sometimes it’s worse than that. Sometimes she wants a friend who makes her feel better about herself, and sometimes that friend needs to be someone smaller, someone more accommodating, someone less themselves, because maybe she isn’t quite comfortable with herself yet, and so your presence is unwelcome, even if its extended in the kindest way possible.
Sometimes she’s just lazy.
It’s like dating really, except you don’t make as much effort with your hair and it’s alright if you’ve got a run in your tights.
We pick our friends for a myriad of weird and wonderful reasons. And we also don’t pick our friends for reasons completely unto ourselves.
And so it’s time to accept that if you haven’t been picked, it’s not because you’re not worthy of being picked- it’s because you just haven’t met the right girls yet.
So what am I getting at? Why am I writing this?
Lately things have been getting ever harder in the friendship zone, which has pushed me to really, finally deal with this.
I haven’t spent more than 21 days in a single city at a single time in the last nine months. For some people this might be nothing, for others, like myself, it’s felt like a major upheaval of every thing familiar. And hey that’s okay- life has stages, life has seasons, and my current first year of marriage has included a lot of moving around, a lot of being the wife that follows. And I am okay with that.
What I am not so okay with is the weird social anxiety that’s exploded out of nowhere during this time.
Suddenly, I can’t seem to manage a social outing (and a lot of those come with being the wife of a guy running a company) with extreme stress in the day or two leading up to the event, and a few hours of real dread before leaving the house. Dread? Over dinner? Over a coffee? Surely not.
I know this feeling has a name. Social anxiety. What?
I literally cannot believe I’m experiencing social anxiety. Me? The one who loves to talk to and connect with people? Me, the one who makes fifteen minute friends on the metro? Of all places? Me? Me, the one whose here typing away about how desperately she wants a clique of forever BFF’s in her face literally 24/7?
Something doesn’t add up.
Is this the unfortunate effect of years or attempting to win over and failing to secure, the kind of girlfriend group I’ve been pining for? Or is something else at play? Are the women my new life is exposing me to making me anxious? Are they just so different from me culturally (and often much older) that I know we’ll have no common ground, nothing to gossip about, no chance of bagging that brunch invite?
I want to believe it’s the latter, but I think it’s the former.
I think years of feeling ‘ghosted’ (can I use that term here? I’m going to use that term here), has led to an underlying feeling that no girl wants to be friends with me.
And I am very well sick of feeling that way.
No one is going to rid me of this anxiety but myself. No one is going to make me feel more worthy of female companionship than myself. No one is going to get in there and shake my 10 year old self up and say, it’s not you, it’s her, go on and be your overly friendly little self and don’t stop, even when you’ve graduated and no one messages you back! Keep going!
From now on I will try to make friends in the way I did when I was an unsuspecting child- relentlessly, unapologetically, and more often than not.
Some girls will text me back. Some girls will fall of the side of the earth. I may bag an invite an all out crazy off your head bachelorette weekend that I don’t have the stamina for, or I may find myself in front of Netflix with my husband answering emails, on another Saturday night. Sometimes one of my four friends will have time fo me and sometimes they won’t and I’ll have to make that time all my own.
Some friends will stick, most will not.
Either way, it’ll be fine. And either way, I’ll be fine.