In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, this week’s column will be entirely devoted to my love of women, and of men who love women. What a beautiful day of the year!
I had the privilege this weekend of seeing my oldest pals in the world for a much-needed catch up. We drank wine, we ate food, we howled and cackled with raucous laughter that disturbed everyone within a huge radius, and – most importantly – we entered the circle of trust.
This is something that I feel is unique to close groups of female friends, primarily small groups and definitely women who have been friends for many thousands of years, in wikka terms. It’s a bond that cannot be made lightly, over club nights and study cigarette breaks, or casual college banter. This comes from an in-depth knowledge and first-hand experience of formative years.
We’ve known each other since we were 12 which, while it isn’t quite the womb, is still earlier than most of my fully formed memories so it counts for a lot.
We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, through fake boyfriends (you know, the first-kiss you had “on vacation” with your parents “in France” and his name was “Billy” and he was “in a band” and you were “so in love”) and through the very real boyfriends, through fights with mothers and sisters and friends.
The support has been great, like a bra, but without having to be replaced every six months. The conversation has been thrilling, the laughs side-splitting and the tears gut-wrenching.
But the best part of all this nonsense is this circle of trust. Like a shield, it comes down over us and insulates us, guards us and keeps us safe from the outside world. Or, more accurately, keeps the outside world safe from us.
The basic idea of the circle is that, once inside, you are allowed to say anything that you like and it will remain inside the circle.
This is not one of those Friday nights where you take a bunch of incriminating photographs of Shelly on the loo and promise not to post them on Facebook but keep them on your phone and use them for months and months as blackmail ammo. This is not one of those secrets that you swore you wouldn’t tell, but telling Mark, Jane and Sarah DEFINITELY doesn’t count.
This is sacred.
More often than not, it is benign comments that – while unheard – remain inoffensive and silly, and are generally drenched so heavily in gin and hyperbole that their extraction from reality renders them entirely useless anyway. But it is not the content that is important.
You could bang on about the weird dream where you fell in love with your cousin, or the time where you fantasized about killing your boss for several hours too long, or the time where you ran out of tissues so you used a sock.
This is a place where it is not what you are saying that counts, but the fact that you can say it at all. This is your audience. You are a comedian, a dramatist, a storyteller extraordinaire.
Here, people will understand and laugh and cry (where appropriate) and then move right on, not dwelling on your creepy dreams or extra-curricular activities. This is your safety deposit box of nonsense where you can lock up all your nasty and throw away the key.
There is something that comes with the longevity of old friends and bloodlines that trumps the newness of friendships you forge in your later years. There’s something holy about witnessing people grow from buck-toothed, dungaree-wearing, lanky lemmings to the graceful, superhero women that we are today.
In college, you’re as ready for the world as an 18-22 year old girl can be. You’ve kinda got your brain on track and you semi-know what you’re about.
You’ve got your best face forward and a game plan and you’re smart. In fact, you think you’re very, very smart.
Needless to say, you are wrong until exactly four years later, and not from what you learned in books, but from what you learned during those crucial years. While birth to 18 is fairy crucial, 18-22 is weird, wonderful and incredibly messy.
There are deep, sticky bonds that come from these years, and there are circles of trust to be had. But they are larger, wider and fuller, like a thick web full of screaming flies.
You can throw your secrets in here, no problem, but do not be surprised if they come back to haunt you – or worse – quote you.
“Remember when you said at that party how much you HATE Mary and her stupid face??? Oh, hey Mary.” *dying inside*
However, these webs, as fickle as they may be, are surprisingly buoyant. It has to be said that my college women are dense with wild personalities and are tough as nails. They have hard edges, hard humour and a hard-ass dress sense, but they can offer the softest, silkiest safety net at the best and worst of times.
I’ve never argued with my childhood women as aggressively and scarily as I have with my college ones. It seems that getting to know people when you think you already know yourself opens windows and doors that are more tentatively approached when you know that person’s inner child.
The love is the same – it’s steadfast and (mostly) unconditional, and the bottom line of female friendship still stands. We will always be there for each other, no matter what. It’s just my female relationships from later life are a little more Cathy and Heathcliff whereas those from the early years are more Tigger and Piglet.
These circles of trust that women weave come from our maternal lines of secrets, harbored senses of superiority and hidden wishes to squash the inferior sex. Now, as feminism hurdles forwards as best it can, these tentacles continue to unfurl from our mother-daughter birth-bonds into the YaYa Sisterhoods throughout our lives.
I won’t delve into the mommy love again seeing as it wasn’t too long ago that you trawled through a thousand words of that, but I do believe it is the strength of that uniquely female love that permeates our friendships.
We share ideas, we share emotions, we share cramps – and we have got to be there for each other. If there is anything in this life that kills my little soul, it is women turning on other women.
We share a unique, inescapable bond that should be cherished, nurtured and explored. Let all the circles of trust link together.
Sisters are indeed doing it for themselves, but it’s also very nice to do it together.