An Ode to Female Friendship.
BY jovita manickam
A couple of years ago I started a book club with my high-school friends. The idea was partly born out of Shauna Niequist’s ingenious idea of a dinner club, and partly out of my deep-seated need to force people to read books with me. My friends, obliging women that they are, agreed to the idea of a combined dinner-book club and in January 2017, Books and Bites was born.
Every month, the same scene would unfold: each of us would get to the host’s house with varying degrees of punctuality, set the table, eat, and spend approximately five minutes discussing the book we picked out, then lapse into hours-long conversation about everything but the book.
It’s not that we didn’t pick good books – we did. Maya Angelou, Nora Ephron and Neil Gaiman all provided us with enough food for thought to feast on and have leftovers. But though I was interested in the wisdom and wit these authors offered us, I was even more interested in Maddy’s thoughts on the social policies of our current government and Lillie’s hot take on the Gilmore Girls reboot. I mentally hoarded conversation topics through the month just so I could bring them out over our carb-filled dinners.
For me, book club is a case study proving something I have long known to be true: I have the greatest friends in the world.
My friends are smart and talented and have great taste in TV shows. They are empathetic listeners, witty conversationalists and deadpan-humour experts. They know how to make me laugh until I can’t breathe, and they aren’t afraid to call me out when I’m wrong.
They sharpen me in ways I didn’t know I needed.
Here’s the thing, though – these friendships didn’t fall into place overnight. They took years of memorizing dietary requirements and remembering siblings’ names and looking up who The Smiths are when your friend mentions she loves them.
Friendships – like almost everything worth having – require work.
Below, I’ve shared a few simple thoughts on how to do the hard and beautiful work of making and maintaining friendships:
Put yourself out there
As much as I cringe at all the clichéd expressions of this sentiment, I have to endorse it as sound advice. Talk to that girl with the cool binder who sits in front of you in class. Invite that woman from your church welcoming team out to coffee. Sitting at home and wishing friends into existence only works if you’re Aladdin. For the rest of us, friend-making really is (to borrow another cliché) a case of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Don’t sweat the friendships that don’t work out
Hear me when I say this: not everyone is going to be your best friend. As much as our approval-loving little hearts might not want that to be true, it is. And that’s okay. Sometimes friendships don’t click from the beginning, and sometimes friendships that once appeared to be full of promise slowly fade into nothing. Let them all go. The right women will come into your life at exactly the right time and when they do? It’ll be pure magic.
My best friend, Rebekah, and I met during a church camp in our first year of uni, at a point where both of us were sick of floating in small-talk-filled shallow waters and wanted to venture out into the deep. We started meeting up for coffee every week and opened up about what was really going on during our weeks. It’s no stretch to say it changed our lives. If you want to have deep friendships, you’re going to have to open up. Test the waters, by all means, but once a person has earned your trust, show them your flaws, and tell them about your buried desires. You’ll never want to go back to the shallows.
I think great friendships happen when you make a decision to show up for each other in real and tangible ways. Don’t just text, or even call – wherever possible, show up. If your friend has had a terrible week, show up with some junk food and a silly movie. If they need help assembling a new bookcase, show up with a screwdriver. Show up to celebrate and show up through the heartache. Show up in the valleys and peaks and all of the ordinary days in between. One day you’ll both look back and marvel at a life that you were both truly present in – together.
Here’s something that I know to be true: my friends are at the centre of some of the most profound love stories I will ever get to be a part of.
Friendship is not a step down from romantic love, or a placeholder for it. It is its own complicated beast in which you will fight with and for each other. It has its own inside jokes and lines that you will figure out how not to cross together. It is a gift.
Take it and steward it well.