I work in a restaurant that has very good food and very good wine. Because of this, a large majority of the people that I serve are women. They are all different. Most are very nice and some are awful, some have four carat diamond rings and spouses that work ninety hours a week so that their wives can drink during the day and some wear sweatpants with writing across their bums and some have kids and some don’t and some are in their sixties and some are young and speak almost entirely in hashtags and tweets and make me feel like I am in MY sixties.
As varied as these women are, they all have one thing in common.
They travel in groups.
Sometimes they appear in groups of two, but very often they come in clusters of four or six or nine, or, very occasionally and most appallingly, in groups of fifteen or twenty one.
These women eat food and drink wine and laugh and protest loudly and indignantly that they DO NOT WANT DESSERT and while they are doing all of these things they do something else at the same time.
And talk and talk and talk.
They stay long after their one shared appetizer is gone, and well past the consumption of their requisite glass and a half of wine because no they don’t want another one they have to drive and get up in the morning but they are going to stay a little longer anyways and what kind of herbal tea do you have and can you make me a non-fat latte actually never mind I’ll just have more water. No ice this time.
These women are friends. Maybe co-workers, maybe neighbours, maybe relatives, but friends nonetheless. And they intrigue me.
We all know that girl who always rolls her eyes at “typical” female behaviour and shrugs off not being invited to a baby shower/wedding/girls night/bachelorette party/paint social/ by saying “I’ve never really liked other women that much….I prefer to hang out with guys. SO much easier there’s no drama and I love how men are just SO laid back and don’t judge you and you can just like BE YOURSELF with them and yeah I don’t really WANT anymore friends I totally have my mom and this cousin I saw in 1997 so I’m good. Really”.
I am THAT GIRL.
And those excuses? They’re all bullshit.
If female friendship were a body of water, it would be a murky, dark, confusing, and very loud pond. There is so much involved in being a woman who interacts with other women. Nuances and grey areas and jealousies and insecurities and anger and sadness and the constant flow of feelings, both spoken and silent. When it works, when it is at its very best, female friendship is pretty awesome. It lifts you up, and makes you feel included, like you’re a part of a good club that takes care of it’s members and gives you fun perks like free movie admission or hotel discounts.
When it doesn’t work, it’s like Costco. Sensory overload, too much stuff everywhere, and a level of exclusiveness that really feels like elitism.
I have belonged to both of these clubs. I have had Costco friendships, the kind where I take on too much, and try to be someone I am not and can’t figure out why I am there, buying 8 litre containers of peanut butter and large quantities of meat that need to be carved before they are cooked and consumed and I don’t even like meat that much. I’m just there because I feel like I am supposed to be. And it’s making me feel bad about myself. But it’s what women do they make friends and they stick it out and they LOVE each other. So I will do it.
I have also had the privilege of belonging to the good club. Good friends, some gone now because I didn’t see them for what they were at the time (sick of my nonsense) and some still around. Do I always treat them the way I should, as a card-holding co-member of this excellent, rewarding, totally worth-it group? Probably not. I can be an asshole sometimes. But I do recognize something now, something I didn’t in my twenties (always drunk no time for self-awareness) or even in my very early thirties (always drunk and also stuck in self-pity-hole) – that good friends, the real ones, the ones who let you be you and express and even flaunt your unhealthy character traits and understated but possibly concerning narcissism, are sometimes women. The I Like Guys Better Because Women Are Awful Excuse is a separator, a wall that divides us from each other in a growing social climate that already pits women against each other way too often. I’ve come to realize that it’s not other women that are the problem in the never ending issues that I have when it comes to connecting with other human beings. The problem is me – my insecurities, my jealousy, my fear of not belonging. And that’s ok, just like it’s ok, awesome even, that many (MANY) women have countless female friends who all come into my place of work and ask me for things that I frankly don’t understand but will happily (that’s a lie) do anyways because I love my job (that’s not a lie).
I don’t want to travel in large gaggles of women, ever. For one thing, I’m too impatient to sit down for the apparent amount of time it takes to have these meetings, and for another, I don’t know that many women. I DO want to sit down with the few friends I have made and managed to keep, some younger than me, some older, some male and some female, and eat food and have drinks and laugh and shake our heads at our mistakes and those of the people we know. I want to watch over these friendships, because they are precious and I have let other ones die from neglect, but I don’t want to tend to them too much, because I have learned the hard way that if you water a plant a lot it also dies and then you have a soggy plant and I am way too lazy to repot it or replace it so now it’s just rotting in my living room slowly growing mold.
So if you are reading this and you are my friend (very likely since I doubt anyone BUT my friends are reading this), thank you. For seeing me through my self-inflicted tough times, and for letting me whine a lot and talk about myself constantly and for knowing I am annoying and repetitive and a terrible judge of character with a quick temper and no patience and a bad tendency to dislike people on sight, while at the same time knowing I love you and would do anything for you. Unless it involves making actual plans or committing to going somewhere on a certain date at a pre-set time. Then you are on your own.