The Trouble With (Girl) Love

Last weekend I did something stupid. One of my oldest and closest friends, who also happens to be going through a very tough time right now, came to visit. And all I did was chatter about relationships and weddings – about other friends who are on the verge of engagement or recently asked me to be part of their bridal party, and ideas for my own (no, still not engaged, yes, still very much a girly girl). Until my brave, dear friend called me on it. Part of me was waiting to see how much she wanted to talk, but there was another part of me that was just flat-out not thinking. And while I immediately apologized and my friend and I talked it all out, along with promises to better communicate, she was right. Somehow I’d temporarily turned into one of those girls I absolutely hate, the one who is so self-absorbed that she doesn’t think to look out for her friend who is truly hurting.

I don’t make friends with girls easily, probably because I never hesitate to say what is on my mind. I also don’t make friends with girls easily (and who knows, maybe this is true of boys too) because I hate pettiness. And talking behind people’s backs. I value nonjudgmental friendships where you enjoy each other’s company, have meaningful conversations, and count on each other’s support. And I don’t mean support as in stupid rules like not hooking up with your friends unrequited crush (guilty). I mean support as in being there when shit goes down, no matter what kind. Hence my disappointment with myself last weekend.

Girls, especially when in large groups, can be giant frickin’ bitches. I’m not trying to be misogynistic, just straight-up. I went to an all-girls college, and some genius administrator had the even more genius idea to place the entire freshman class in the same dormitory. Nothing good can come from putting five-hundred, mostly insecure, eighteen-year-old girls in the same building. One girl on my floor actually tried to poison her roommate. With laxatives. My youngest sister, who lives in a co-ed dorm, joined a sorority this fall and has been struggling with the mostly stereotypical girl-on-girl dynamics ever since.

But the main reason I don’t make friends with girls easily – and this is extremely personal and idiosyncratic – is that I have an unstable relationship with my mother. It’s always been impossible to predict when she’ll support me and when she’ll criticize me. So it’s not just that I don’t trust girls easily, it’s that I don’t trust myself. Cause I’ve played out many of the same dynamics with my friends as I have with my mother. (In therapy, they call that transference.) Sometimes, if a friend doesn’t call me back right away, I freak out and think they’re rejecting me. Even when I know they have a million things going on and you need to give people twenty-fours hours anyway. It’s completely irrational. And just as I hate feeling like I’m at fault for any of the flaws in my relationship with my mother, I hate feeling like I’m at fault for any possible flaws in my friendships. Which can lead to relentless apologizing bordering on stalking. Or being nice to someone when they don’t really deserve it.

I know I’m late to the Bridesmaids game, but one of the reasons I loved the movie as much as I did, is that it captured all the fucked dynamics of female friendship that also tie girls together so tightly. It wasn’t just about weddings – although granted weddings generate the most high-pressure tests for female friendships. It was about how and why girls love each other. There’s a quote in a Judy Blume book, Summer Sisters, where the protagonist reflects on the titular tangled, reciprocally hurtful, friendship. She talks about her friend not being someone you move on from, but someone you forgive. I do my best to take this as my motto (minus the hurting). And I have complete faith that, whenever the time comes, my old friend whom I could not love more, and whom I’m honored to have in my life, will stand beside me. Because without her – cheesiness alert – I could not be who I’ve become so far.

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