Monday, 9 February 2015

Sisterhood

How to start? I have been pondering this very question for a few days now. I'm sitting here, feeling vulnerable, grateful, emotional and uncertain. Uncertain about whether or not I really want to write all these thoughts down that are swirling through my head. But we all know that of course I will, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this right now. *takes deep breath*
Okay, here goes...

I have always been suspicious of female friendships.

It is my biggest insecurity in life.

(Or at least, it used to be. Let's get to that later.)

I have always been that girl that got along well with boys. Apparently I had a best friend, Daniel, when I was just a toddler, but I honestly don't remember. What I do remember is my best friend throughout grades 1-4, Frank. It was a weird mix of him teasing me, sometimes kicking me, me kicking him back, then him wrestling me down and kissing me when I was 7 or 8 years old.
But despite that, we were good buddies. We played with his race track cars, his dad would take us on little tours on his tractor, and Frank often walked with me to school. It was easy.

That's the thing about friendships with boys - they are easy. Uncomplicated. It's all fun and games, no drama.
While I did have girlfriends all my life, they did change periodically. I have never had that best friend that accompanies you throughout your life. Not for one second do I blame any of those girlfriends.
Here is the thing: I always found it extremely difficult to completely commit to a girlfriend. After a certain amount of time (usually a few years), I would find that the friendship was a lot of work. More work than fun, the unpleasantness outweighing the great stuff, and I would call it quits.

With boys, you can simply tell them if you don't want to hang out that day. They don't take it personally. With girls, I always found that it was much more complicated. What if they took it the wrong way? What if they thought something was wrong with them?
I find that girls tend to take things very personal. I know because I happen to be one myself.
So if given a choice, I usually chose guys to hang out with. Boyfriends and their guy friends.
Casual guy friends. (Even though that one can be tricky.)
Later husband and his friends+wives (where I usually get along better with the guys than the wives).

Throughout my life I've cried more over girls than boys. I have agonized over fights, felt deeply unhappy about thoughtless (or mean?) remarks, have puzzled over how I managed to offend my friend without meaning to.
The truth of the matter is: I'm not good at female friendships.

How do we learn about friendship? As kids we learn from our parents, teachers, stories. My parents have never been very social, and like to stick to themselves. They couldn't teach us much about friendship, because they didn't really have any close friends. Most of my life I didn't understand why, but now I think I do: They are both introverts (my dad extremely so) with jobs that require them to interact with people all day long, 6 days of the week. They used to work 11+ hours (sometimes more) every day, running their own business. In their precious little free time, they couldn't bare having to spend more time with people, but needed to recharge their empty batteries by spending time alone.

Not having friendship role models in my parents, I tried to learn about friendship from other sources.
Do you remember the Big Bang Theory episode where Shelton wants to learn how to make friends and goes to the children's section in a bookstore in search of books about friendship? I could so relate to that episode. Books were my number one source for everything: entertainment, escape, teaching. I devoured stories about best friends, trying to implement what I had read with varying degrees of success.

Often I had the feeling that there must be a manual somewhere that nobody told me about. A manual that teaches girls how to talk to each other (how to respond when your friends says she is fat - lie? don't lie?), if it is required to 'hate' the friend's enemies (even if you like them), if you really can never date an ex-boyfriend of hers (what if it happens years later? is there a statute of limitations? if there is, after how many years is it acceptable?). There have been quite a few times (and there will be more, I'm sure) where I said or did exactly the wrong thing, judging by the reactions and comments of others.
But what good is a friendship where you have to censor yourself? No good at all in my opinion.

There is lots of things that can be tough in a friendship: selfishness, passive-aggressiveness, competitiveness, pettiness, clinginess.
However, we all have some of these characteristics in us, so it's important to be understanding and forgiving.
The deal breaker for me is when I feel worse after having spent time with someone than I did before. Spending time with friends should make you happy and be a positive experience, and when the opposite starts to happen I think something is wrong.

When analyzing why I find hanging out with guys easier than girls, I came to a surprising conclusion: It doesn't really have much to do with them being male. It has more to do with the fact that I don't feel the need to tiptoe around them. I freely say whatever is on my mind, trusting that they won't be upset. Also, it's easier to keep a certain distance, to keep my personal space: we can be friends without having to see each other all the time and it's fine. It's enough.

The crux of the issue is: I'm afraid of too much closeness.

Strangely enough, it has never been an issue in my relationships, the two steady boyfriends I used to have and now my husband. But always with girlfriends.

Why?

I don't know. Maybe because I'm afraid I will feel smothered. That there will come a point where the closeness gets too much, and the only way to get breathing space is to end it altogether.

It has happened before.

But I know it doesn't have to be that way. I have a wonderful, funny, warm, big-hearted, beautiful friend who is none of these things.

She is easygoing.
Understanding.
Generous.
Supportive.
Smart.
Funny. (So funny!)
Brave.
Loyal.
She gives me all the space I need. And whether we meet after 2 days or 8 weeks, it's like we have never been apart. We simply pick up where we left of last time. It is easy, and wonderful, and drama-free.

She has been my friend for over 7 years, and we are still going strong. We always will!

This gives me so much courage.

Lately, there has also been so much support online. There are real friendships being formed, which is magical to me. You can get to know someone very intimately by reading their thoughts, learning about their fears and hopes. I communicate with my ladies on a regular basis, and it's perfect: It can be light hearted or serious, cheery or sad, but always supportive and understanding. And with all the space I seem to need so much.

Social media and the online world may have their pitfalls and drawbacks, but to me it's an overwhelmingly positive place. The community of strong women that exists there is something that I admire and aspire to deeply. Being on this journey towards becoming my best self has revealed something amazing to me: That there is a real sisterhood. That you can have friendships with other women that are positive and encouraging. That there doesn't need to be competitiveness and jealousies. It is quite an eye-opener.

Ever since I started to document my life in writing, I'm noticing little kindnesses so much more. There is so much goodness in the world.

It gives me hope, and faith, and the sense that anything is possible. Even becoming part of the sisterhood one day.

  



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8 comments

  1. Once again Miriam it is like you are writing my thoughts! I also really struggle with female friendships and it has always made me feel insecure like I was doing something wrong not to have this group of females I interacted with all the time.

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  2. I loved this post!
    I'm exactly the same but with the opposite sex. All my life I've been too afraid to talk to boys and my best friends were always girls.
    And it is really strange because I have two older brothers and we get along so well!

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  3. Such a great post! I have been in a very similar situation in my life as well. I have always got along with guys much better than girls. I never really gave it a lot of thought but you made some really great points here. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Dare I start the slew of, "Me too!!" comments? lol hanging out with guys has always been SO much easier for me, too. I've got two older brothers and my older sister is a tomboy, so I've always been very relaxed around guys. Yes, there are the occasional few that I'm uncomfortable around (wayyy to cute to friend-zone lol) but the ones that I have made over the years have proven to be so much better than some (not all) of my girl friends. I know exactly what you mean about being suspicious of them, but I also share the comfort in having a few close gal pals and a few awesome friends here in the blogosphere! (Just look in the mirror!)
    ~ Samantha

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  5. I swear we are cut from the same cloth. my parents had friends but I only remember them going out every once in a while. Or the two other couples would come over for cake and coffee. I had girlfriends until I was 15 and started dating. At which time they all ditched me because, as they admit now, they were jealous. So I always had male friends after that. I don't have that BFF that I can call when I am feeling down or to go shopping with. But that's ok with me. I do have 4 girls that I would call my girlfriends. They don't all know each other. We don't all hang out together. But when I do see them ( maybe 2 times a year) it's like old times.
    When I first started on social media, I was very guarded on what I said. I felt that people would not get my humor or I would say something to turn people off. Now? I am still a little guarded with new people but the ones I have gotten to know, I am very open with. I feel those connections have made me a better person.
    Great post Miriam! You are SO not alone in feeling this way!

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  6. I've always been better with girls than boys when it comes to friendship. Maybe because I had mostly girl cousins and sisters so I was more comfortable around them? That being said, I was very picky about the girls that I was friends with. I'd rather sit alone and read than hang out with mean girls. Blog friends have been a real blessing - it's so nice to find people who have the same or similar interests and be able to connect online.

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  7. What a honest and sweet post M! I've always looked for quality over quantity in friendships. I've been very lucky to have met some very genuine and sweet people in my journey. I guess you just have to find the qualities that you relate to (girl or guy). I always easy attract guys and get along with them, but my experience in the friendship arena usually never pans out and they always cross a line (at least in my younger years). Great post!

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  8. There is a fine line between being "just friends" with guys and it heading into dangerous "someone wants more" territory. All my guy friends are married, and I do keep a certain distance, so it's working really well. Ever since I have fully embraced the "quality over quantity"-rule I'm so much happier! It took me a long time to get there (but what else is new, I seem to be slow learner), but I finally got it!

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