by Rachel Knott
Every International Women’s Day spawns conversations about female friendship. Or women’s friendships. (Not all women are female. Not all people assigned ‘female’ at birth are women.) Articles about the importance of surrounding yourself with women abound. The value of supporting other women. How ‘strong female friendships’ make the world go round.
I am a woman whose friendships are almost all with women. I realised recently that I no longer actively seek friendships with men. The friendships I value above all and most enthusiastically seek are with women, or women-aligned people.
As I’ve grown older, and my feminism has evolved with me, my faith in friendship with other women has never wavered. My friends, my tribe, are what keep me going, keep me laughing, and remind me of the great people in the world.
We are more than the ‘strong’ female friendships I see in articles online. Sometimes we are weak, we make mistakes, we cry and shout. Those moments in friendship are just as important to remember. No woman or her friends are without flaw. In a world that holds women to such ridiculous standards, this above all should be remembered.
“My friends, my tribe, are what keep me going, keep me laughing and remind me of the great people in the world.”
When I look back on my best moments with my tribe, I remember this:
- Our first time in a nightclub. Nervous laughter, icy shivers of excitement, as the bouncer reviewed your brand new IDs. Those first sips of over-sweet, over-priced alcohol. The air filled with the palpable feeling that we were all, finally, growing up.
- The power hours. Wordless stretches of time hunched over kitchen tables and library desks as essay deadlines or exams loomed. Preparations for job interviews. Practicing presentations. A pained glance to one another, followed by the ‘I don’t think I can do this’ moments, followed by pep talks and snack breaks.
- Ubiquitous summer music festivals. Muddy knees, sunburnt skin, unwashed hair, unwashed everything. Glitter in unspeakable places. Sprawled out across sleeping bags as the sun fills stuffy tents, ears still ringing from the night before, stars in your eyes from the flash of a disposable camera.
- Girls holidays, that never quite look like the ones on TV. Navigating foreign public transport, cheap beers, the inevitable American boys you meet on hostel-organised pub crawls. Taking endless photos doing the same poses in front of different landmarks. Contemplating never going home.
- The sad days. The hard days. The days where you almost cancelled plans to hang out but decided against it at the last minute. A knock at the door to drag you out of your duvet cave. Fistfuls of tissues, firm hugs, endless tea and biscuits. Marathoning your favourite films and maybe talking about it, eventually.
- Food. The glue of all social occasions. Catching the bus to buy Happy Meals in your free period, homemade feasts where the sauce never quite thickened enough, clinking glasses across long tables in noisy restaurants for someone’s birthday.
- Nights spent dancing. Necking drinks as the taxi turns up. Already planning what takeaway to get afterwards. Staying in the smoking area, even though you don’t smoke, because the conversation is better out there. Sticky floors and £1 shots. Screaming the words to each other at the tops of your voices, arms linked, until the lights come up.
- A love oracle. Meeting for coffee to talk about your latest crush. Analysing late night texts together but does this many kisses mean they love me or just want to be friends? Promising to live together if you both end up alone. Calling them in the middle of the night when your heart has been pulverised by someone careless and actually, not that cute.
- Laughing. No one is funnier than your friends. Ridiculous jokes that were only funny if you were there. The time so-and-so was sick out of a window, the time you took a wrong turn and ended up 50 miles from home, the time you got into an argument about something so pointless but you can all laugh about it now.
- Keeping in touch. Years pass and people begin to move away, leaving friend-shaped holes in your everyday life. Messages out of nowhere about something they thought you’d like. ‘Just a quick catch up’ calls that turn into 3-hour-long discussions about where the hell you’re both going in life. Organising the next trip to see each other as soon as the last has finished.
Rachel Knott is a southerner living up north. She is learning to enjoy writing again after enduring a degree in Creative Writing. She likes ’80s synth pop, tweeting about feminism, and making lists.