People often have the same response when I tell them where I went to high school: “Oh, you went to an all-girls school?” I’m sorry, but I have no idea what that means or assumes about me. To others, they may be thinking of the movie “Mean Girls” (which is now a musical by the way! I can’t wait). To me, it means two things: 1) that I received a wonderful, rigorous secondary school education without the distraction of the opposite sex, and 2) that I made incredibly strong, life-long friendships with those girls.
I have always relied on my core friend group from high school (MKM you know who you are!) and in college, the number of girlfriends and close confidants continued to grow. At my co-ed college, I also made some very close guy friends, and I’m so grateful for those relationships because I didn’t have guy friends at my all-girls high school. But there is something special about watching “Sweet Home Alabama” or “The Bachelorette” with your BFFs, donning facemasks, and drinking Sangria. In late-night conversations on a sleepover or around the firepit, when you shed some tears and laugh so hard your abs (or one ab) hurt, you learn so much not only about your girlfriends but also about yourself. These are the women that are with you through thick and thin, and it’s the best feeling to find those friends.
Before I delve into finding new friends, I want to note that it always takes work to keep the ones you have. Staying in touch with old friends does take work but it is so worth it. So how do you do it? Make time for girls’ nights or dinner dates, take breaks from seeing your roommates or significant other to make time for friends who need you, and write notes / send surprise gifts to friends living far away. These do involve sacrificing your time and also balancing the different relationships in your life, but these also make you a better friend and make your heart feel fuller.
With post-graduate life, living in a new city, far away from your college friends, and in an apartment by yourself, you may find you have to start from scratch. Finding new girlfriends is made easier when you have nice co-workers, join a young adults’ church group, or give in and use Bumble BFF. In this case, it’s important to remember what constitutes a healthy relationship with a friend and what you look for in your friendships (and NOT to befriend girls like the character in HBO’s “Girls” because they are the worst our generation has to offer). I just finished reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay (10/10 recommend), which is a compilation of award-winning essays by this New York Times bestselling author. One of her chapters (and essays) is called “How to Be Friends with Another Woman,” and below are some snippets of some of my favorite advice from Gay:
- “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be toxic or competitive. This myth is like heels ad purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.
- This is not to say women aren’t toxic or competitive sometimes but rather to say that these are not defining characteristics of female friendship, especially as you get older.
- If you find that you are feeling toxic or competitive toward the women who are supposed to be your closest friends, look at why and figure out how to fix it and/or find someone who can help you fix it.
- If you are the kind of woman who says “I’m mostly friends with guys” and act like you’re proud of that, like that makes you close to being a man or something and less of a woman as if being a woman is a bad thing, see the above bullet. It’s okay if most of your friends are guys, but if you champion this as a commentary on the nature of female friendships, well, soul-search a little.
- If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women, consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s just you.
- I used to be this kind of woman. I’m sorry to judge.
- Sometimes, your friends will date people you cannot stand. You can either be honest about your feelings or you can lie. These are good reasons for both. Sometimes you will be the person dating someone your friends cannot stand. If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things. My go-to explanation is “I am dating a jerk because I’m lazy.” You are welcome to borrow it.
- Want nothing but the best for your friends because when your friends are happy and successful, it’s probably going to be easier for you to be happy.
- If you’re having a rough go of it and a friend is having the best year ever and you need to think some dark thoughts about that, do it alone, with your therapist, or in your diary so that when you actually see your friend, you can avoid the myth discussed in the first bullet.
- If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do it too.
- Don’t tear other women down, because even if they’re not your friends, they are women and this is just as important. This is not to say you cannot criticize other women, but understand the difference between criticizing constructively and tearing down cruelly.
- Tell your friends the hard truths they need to hear. They might get upset about it, but it’s probably for their own good. Once, my best friend told me to get my love life together and demanded an action plan, and it was irritating but also useful.
- Don’t be totally rude about truth telling, and consider how much truth is actually needed to get the job done. Finesse goes a long way.
- These conversations are more fun when preceded by an emphatic “GIRL.”
- Don’t let your friends buy ugly outfits or accessories you don’t want to look at when you hang out. This is just common sense.
- When something is wrong and you need to talk to your friends and they ask you how you are, don’t say “Fine.” They know you’re lying and it irritates them and a lot of time is wasted with the back-and-forth of “Are you sure” and “Yes?” and “Really?” and “I AM FINE.” Tell your lady friends the truth so you can talk it out and either sulk companionably or move on to other topics.
- If four people are dining, split the check evenly four ways. We are adult now. We don’t need to add up what each person had anymore. If you’re high rolling, just treat everyone and rotate who treats. If you’re still in the broke stage, do what you have to do.
- My mother’s favorite quote is “Qui se ressemble s’assemble.” Whenever she didn’t approve of who I was spending time with, she’d say this ominously. It means, essentially, you are whom you surround yourself with.“
Again, the above are direct excerpts from “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. Check out on Amazon or Goodreads today! And choose your new friends wisely, cherish your old friends, and be the friend to others you’d like others to be to you.
© Rissponsible Living, 2017