One of the biggest reasons Mean Girls was such a ridiculous success was that it was so gosh-darned real. I mean, watching it, as a college girl, when it came out, all I could do was marvel at the fact that someone had captured the relationship wars between young women so very, very well. Fact is, it’s pretty sad that a movie about emotional warfare on other women rang so true. But it did. And that brings me to a topic that’s been on my mind for a few months now: female friendships. In our culture, friendships between women are just expected to be negative; cat fights, jealousy, haters, boyfriend-stealers, backstabbers. Just the coining of the term “frenemy” in the last few years says a lot about the expectations women have of friendships with each other.
But if you’re a woman, you already know this. I am completely confident that you know all of this, that you yourselves have said at one point or another, “God, I hate girls,” that you have had a deep heart-to-heart with one good girlfriend of yours and said, “I’m not like that,” and really meant it. I understand. But I also, perhaps in the ripening of my old age, am beginning to disagree.
For the first time in my life, I’ve been reflecting on the friendships that I have. I’m blaming it on hormones, idle mind time, and the nostalgia of summer. But I’m also blaming it on what I’ve seen in my life in the last few months. It’s easy to say “women suck” when all you are surrounded by are toxic women who time after time succeed in disappointing you with their behavior, say mean things to you under the pretense of “speaking their mind,” put you second or third or last or not at all ; it’s a lot harder to have that attitude when you see women surrounding each other, helping each other, holding each other up, cheering each other on.
And that’s what I’ve been seeing an awful freaking lot of.
Throughout the past few years, I’ve seen it in a variety of places: in my Master’s program at Wilkes, where not a catty bone was to be found among the ladies I broke bread with; in the group of girls that I grew close to in college, and in their friends, most of whom were athletes and balanced female relationships 24/7; in the neighbors I’ve gotten to know in my apartment complex since moving in almost a year ago. I’ve seen it, I just haven’t stopped to appreciate it. And so that’s what I’m urging you to do.
These are five of the many ways that I think healthy friendships with women are amazing:
Great Girls will be your biggest fans. No more giving time or mind power or energy to women who seem like they want to bring you down. Don’t waste time thinking about how they’re haters or jealous or bitches. Don’t even think about them at all. Instead, look around and appreciate the girls who cross their fingers for you before interviews, speeches, and doctor’s appointments, call to tell you you’ll be awesome at whatever it is you’re up to, screech into the phone when you tell them good news about yourself, and want to immediately celebrate your successes, big or small, directly related to them or not related to them at all.
Great Girls will surround you with a cocoon of help. All kinds of help. Buttloads of help. Doesn’t matter what kind of help you’re in need of, they will find a way to do it, quickly and efficiently. They won’t make excuses or try to get out of it, and they won’t pretend like they never got your call or text. They’ll be there. They’ll hear what you need. And they’ll do it.
Recently, a Great Girl friend of mine had a bit of a medical emergency. Within minutes of finding out, another Great Girl friend was already networking with me and many others, planning food and shifts and visits and babysitters. It was like the Underground Railroad of Great Girls – each one had a planned stop, a responsibility, a task, and she was focused, up for it, ready to integrate so that everything went as smooth and wonderful as it could. Great Girls will help you, plain and simple, and they won’t be imposed upon, think you’re taking advantage of them, or even think about it at all. They’ll just happily do it, like some kind of crazy, nice, caring autopilot mode they switch into. Isn’t that awesome?
Great Girls will be generous. This goes along with number 2, but I think it deserves its own number because generosity happens in so many different ways. One Great Girl friend of mine, upon finding out that my Eggo was preggo, systematically lent me every single item from her maternity wardrobe from small to large, both casual and business. No questions asked. Just huge, wonderfully organized Rubbermaid containers of super cute, size-sorted clothing that I could use for nine months. If you’ve ever looked at the price tag on a pair of moderately cute maternity jeans and wanted to unbake your growing baby just so you didn’t break the bank, you’ll understand how amazingly generous this is.
I’ve had Great Girl friends generously give up their time to help me proofread and edit manuscripts despite it being their own extremely busy wedding month; pack up a newborn baby and seventy pounds of equipment to visit me when I couldn’t leave the house for weeks and wanted to tear my hair out; drive five hours in one day and give up a weekend on vacation with her husband to bring brownie bites to my party because ‘she wouldn’t miss it for the world'; show up at 11:00pm with herbal remedies and juice because I was convinced I was going to die from a UTI (to be fair, that was my Great Sister, but I still think she counts). And most recently, I had a Great Girl friend pick me up a watermelon when she was at the store. Just because I’m obsessed and she knows it, and she got an extra one thinking of me. Generous.
One note on this one: if you noticed, generous doesn’t have to equal money or expensive BFF matching heart necklaces. It just equals thinking of someone else over yourself for a few minutes and acting on it. Pretty simple really.
Great Girls will professionally address meltdowns. You know that feeling of having the Worst. Day. Ever., where you can feel at any moment that your chest is going to squeeze itself closed and you’re going to burst into tears? And then the moment you make it into the safety of the elevator/the car/your front entryway, you do burst into tears? Meltdown. For some of us, they only happen very rarely. For others (no names mentioned – *I look around uncomfortably*), they happen more frequently. Great Girls won’t give you a pat and say, “You’ll be okay,” which, really, is a perfectly acceptable reaction to meltdowns. No. They will respond to your email or phone call with an in-depth analysis of why you’re so sad, and then they will listen to you sob and snort snot and freak out and explain why you cannot get yourself out of this mess, and then they will carefully list all the reasons that you will, indeed, be okay. Then they’ll list the exact reasons again, patiently, and tell you to call if you meltdown again. And they mean it.
Great Girls will be positive. This is a biggie. It’s taken me a very long time, it feels like, to realize the difference between toxic people and positive people. It seems like it should be a very simple, but in Girl World, it’s not always clear cut. Toxic people bring you down when you interact with them, whether by making you view other people more negatively, by changing your attitude for the worst, or by simply making you feel less good then you did before talking to them. Positive people don’t have to have sunshine and rainbows coming out of their bajingos; they just need to bring you up more than they bring you down. That’s all.
So. This is an extra mushy post, but look around you. Do you have Great Girls in your life? More importantly, are you one to your friends? I promise – it makes a whole lotta difference in the perpetuation of female friendship stereotypes when you actually, truly believe that the women in your life are wonderful, trustworthy, awesome people.