In praise of the womanfriend

[For my gin-soaked hocuspocusfocusgroup. I owe a huge part of my sanity and happiness to you.]

I’ve been told so often by people, the media and pop culture, that life-long friendships are forged in high school and college.

I’m 32 now. I’ve been thinking: “Well, I guess that ship has sailed.”

My childhood friendships all had an early expiration date. I was too strange, too different a child and too uncool a teenager to find my tribe. I often thought I’d found it. But even among the oddballs I turned out to be just a tad too odd. Few could handle my brash personality in the first place. And the qualities I valued most in friendships, loyalty and empathy, turned out to be more than even the best of them were willing to give.

All my life, I longed to belong. But whenever I thought I had found my tribe, something turned out to be missing. My various interests, hobbies and views on life simply didn’t mesh well with just one group. And sometimes, people simply turned out to be spineless fuckers.

I found a great partner in crime in my spouse, something I’m grateful for every single day. But she didn’t come with an entourage either. It was always me and her against the world, which is great! And I have a very few very good friends whom I’d trust with my innermost secrets and with my life.

But I had honestly given up on ever finding someplace I truly fit. A small group of people who’d form a net to catch me when I find myself falling. I was supposed to find those people long ago and I had failed. I have no girlfriends. Better get used to it.

Alas, I had been given faulty information! Instead of the girls of my childhood and teenage years, it was to be the women* of my early 30s who I would forge those meaningful bonds with.

As a tomboyish kid, I was often friends with boys. Friendships with girls never really worked out for me, and I made assumptions based on that. What I couldn’t have known back then is that friendships among girls are not the same as friendships among women*. While the former always made me feel like an outsider, it’s the latter who have given me the support and love I was always searching for. With women*, I have experienced none of the cattiness, games and manipulation that I’ve experienced in my friendships with girls.

Shockingly, I found my safety net, my group of women* in an online community. This is something people often scoff at. Yes, I might call them my “internet friends”, but in many ways they are more real to me than the people I interact with in meatspace. Because they accept me for who I am, even if I sometimes have an incredibly hard time believing and trusting that. What if they find out who you really are? whispers the voice at the back of my skull sometimes, then they’ll surely ditch you.

But I decide to trust. Because there is the empathy I had been missing, at long last. There’s the unconditional support, and full acceptance of each other as we are.

We might not be reading the same books, but we are not phased by someone reading 3,000 pages in a weekend. We might not like the same food, but we agree that it needs to be fucking enjoyed. It doesn’t necessarily matter what it is that makes each of us happy, all that matters is that we are supporting each other in living our #bestlife. We might not see everything the same way, but we’re supporting each other through perceived mistakes just the same as through our successes.

This wonderful group of people has given me support, advice and helped me navigate the intricacies of moving to another country. They’re people who laugh about my jokes and appreciate my sometimes hard-to-stomach directness. We support each other, we vent, we listen, we rejoice, we’re each other’s focus groups, cheerleaders and accountability partners. We let the others speak and we apologise when we fail to listen. We often share a love of gin and food, which is always a good basis for friendship.

The common thread is that none of these potty-mouthed or civilised, shy or brash, queer or straight, snarky or earnest women* take shit from anyone. And that’s what I love them for most. And soon, I’ll be moving to their wonderful island, putting me closer to what I have come to see as my coven.

Of course, I can’t truly know that these friendships will really turn out to be life-long, but my hope is that these people will stay in my life for as long as possible, for as long as they are happy to. That I get to see them grow and change and life their best lives.

This may be high hopes but I think feminists might mate for life.

This is the story of my personal real-life experience within a small group of people. The ones I’m most in touch with on a daily basis are all female-identifying. It is further the story of my own experience with friendships among female-identifying people. I am fully aware that trans erasure exists and is a huge problem and were I to write a fictional story you can bet your ass I’d include people of colour, people with disabilities (I’m sticking to people first language for now) and people anywhere on the gender spectrum (as I always do in my fiction writing). However, I really am speaking only about women* because they happen to be the actual, real-life very small group of people I am talking about here.