For the next ten weeks on thegloss.ie, we will celebrate female friendships with a series of stories and we’d like you to take part … Do you have a female friend who has kept you afloat this past year, or one you have missed and long to see when lockdown ends? …
Where would we be without our female friends? The friends who have supported us through lockdown, made us laugh, shared our sadness and our joy, been there for us at the toughest of times, in person or at a distance.
If ever there was a time for the consolations of female friendship, it’s now. Not so much a shoulder to cry on (although sometimes that too) as an arm to lean on, a hand to squeeze, a sympathetic ear. Such is the nature of this particularly fraught and endless phase of this pandemic that nothing is quite so out of reach.
But soon we can really enjoy our friends again … what will we do, what will we talk about?
For the next ten weeks on thegloss.ie, we will celebrate female friendships with a series of stories and we’d like you to take part … Do you have a female friend who has kept you afloat this past year, or one you have missed and long to see when lockdown ends?
Tell us why your friend is fabulous, what makes your friendship work and send us a photograph of you two together. Email [email protected] or share on Instagram, using the hashtag #MyGlossyFriend.
This week, Emily Hourican explains why, even after a year in abeyance, solid female friendship endures
So much of the emotional upheaval of lockdown has been almost abstract – trying to work out what I really miss from my life, as opposed to what I think I miss (being able hop on a flight to London, get up an impromptu rock-climbing session; things I never actually did). But bit by bit I have begun to understand the tangible ways in which my life is worse. I have always worked from home, so that isn’t any different; my mother lives close enough that I can still see her, even if that means conversations from the end of the driveway rather than sitting in the kitchen; and I long ago stopped having much of a social life so pubs and restaurants closing is hardly a body-blow. No, what I really miss, what I really feel that lack of, is female friendship.
Lockdown has meant dramatically shrinking our social circles, generally to an intimate group made up mostly of family. It has been a case of picking, choosing and prioritising. In my case, being able to meet my mother (outdoors, socially-distant, obvs) means I have had to be careful about not meeting any one else. And so, my friends have been pushed to some future ‘when I’m able’ time.
And I miss them.
I found myself thinking back over the other hard and horrible times in my life – bereavement, major illness, bouts of low mood, family troubles, the usual slings and arrows of a medium-sized life – and realising how much my friends meant to me at those times. How effectively they got me through, with an interplay of support, sympathy, practical advice, humour, food drops, long talk-throughs, and the occasional robust bit of ‘buck up, get on with it’ advice. Without them, the bad times would have been worse. And the good times would have been less good. Because friends aren’t just solace for the bad days, they are ballast for the good – making everything that is fun and happy sparkle all the more. And then suddenly, they were effectively gone.
I hate Zoom, and I don’t much like talking at length on the phone. I don’t have the habit of chatting remotely in the same way that I would over a night out or over an afternoon where matters to be discussed arise naturally, in the organic flow of conversation, so that we might move seamlessly from a good book or film, to concerns about a child, a job, a state of mind. I hadn’t fathomed the extent of it until it was taken away, put beyond reach.
The kind of relaxed interactions of a long day or night mean we can raise the small things that are on our minds. We compare notes, experiences, reflections, observations – about our lives, our health, our children, our parents. These aren’t ‘big’ things, dramatic happenings that need time booked, a text sent: ‘can you talk NOW?’. They are the little uneasinesses that ebb and flow but that need air and space to be explored, and that dissipate with the reassurance of someone else saying, ‘yes, my daughter did that too…’
Another thing I’ve learned is that things change fast. Very fast. Children grow and change a lot in six months, particularly when they are on the cusp of adolescence. So do we, particularly when on the cusp of mid-life. Things evolve, and require comparison, checking-in, air-time from the people we have learned to trust most to do these things: Girl friends.
Where I may once have believed that friendship was something nice, a bonus alongside the necessities of work and home life, I now know it is itself one of the fundamentals, the foundation stones of a good life.
Once upon a time (up to about five years ago actually), a group of women talking together was nearly always the subject of bad press. We were assumed to be gossiping, bitching, moaning; being trivial or unpleasant, nothing in between. In fact, a group of female friends talking together is one of the most creative things I know. We talk the world into being around us. We shape and frame our collective stories, make sense of our worlds, make bearable our pain, make better our circumstances. We share the truths of our lives, and in so doing enhance the lives of others, whether that is through news of a really great physiotherapist, a recipe for cake, or the admission that yes, we too have been feeling low of mood, strangely forgetful and unenthused, and here are our theories why.
Where I may once have believed that friendship was something nice, a bonus alongside the necessities of work and home life, I now know it is itself one of the fundamentals, the foundation stones of a good life. I miss my friends because they are, at the deepest level, vital to my wellbeing.
And so, I worry – a little – about how much these friendships will be affected by the pandemic. There are many friends who, due to distance and circumstance, I haven’t seen in a year. Will we, I wonder, have altered too much by the time we meet again? Will there have been widely divergent experiences of the pandemic – lost jobs, even lost lives – that will highlight inequalities and disrupt the easy flow of friendship? Will there simply be too much accumulated stuff to share, so that it’s easier to drift further rather than try to pick up where we left off?
As a teenager, friendship was fragile. A few months apart was too long; indeed, many didn’t survive the summer holidays, some foundered in a long weekend. In my 20s, it was fraught, squeezed between career acceleration and constant self-discovery. In those years, I lost friendships through neglect (mine and theirs) and intolerance (‘I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t think like me…’). In my 30s, it was life (by which I mostly mean children) that got in the way, far more than I am proud of. But all those decades of wear and sometimes tear have taught me faith; that friendships, like everything in our lives, wax and wane and wax again. They drop to a whisper, a background murmur, then explode into a roar again when we need them. They are mutable and flexible, they take the shape we need them to be. And because of that, because of our willingness for that to be so, they endure.
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