I’ve been persevering with the second season of In The Club – that BBC drama based around six women who meet at an antenatal class – out of what I think is some sense of forced loyalty to shows written by women, about women. Now that the characters have all had their babies, that’s what the show has become about; well, that and how parenthood has affected their relationships with their menfolks.
Which is all well and good – which is, even, accurate, in my limited experience of canvassing new mothers – but forgive me if those are the stories I’m less interested in. I put it to you that there is no shortage at the moment of “realistic” portrayals of romantic relationships. Hell, my current favourite show, You’re The Worst, prides itself on being one and Netflix in particular is hoachin’ wae them. As for “realistic” portrayals of parenthood? That one’s been a sitcom staple for as long as I have been alive. What there is, I think, is a genuine lack of realistic portrayals of female friendship: not your Broad City-esque stoner escapades or your Lena Dunham backstabbing, but the honest, undramatic stories of women who are just … there for each other. It’s why, despite my lack of interest in motherhood, I got behind In The Club so enthusiastically before, and it’s why I’m so disappointed to see it seemingly go down the inevitable path.
You see, most of the most important relationships in my life are with women – from the extremely close relationships I have with my mother and sister, to the friendships that I have been privileged enough to sustain over the years. Fiction encourages us to see romantic relationships as the ultimate goal, and it’s so easy in our youth to get caught up in that myth and neglect friendship in pursuit of life partnership, career, family. But I’ll let you into a little secret: the friendships you make it into your 30s with will be just as fulfilling as any of those things. Not least because of how therapeutic it is to have somebody who’ll listen when you need to talk about your life partner, career, family…
I was thinking about this last weekend, since I was spending it in Edinburgh with two of my oldest and most cherished friends. At the start of this year The Blonde (LiveJournal), Bobby (Diaryland) and I – sorry, it’s just that you can generally tell how long I’ve been friends with a person based on the blogging platform I met them on – decided that, in 2016, we were going to consciously make time for each other. We all live in different towns and cities now. We all have husbands and mortgages, The Blonde and I have demanding jobs and Bobby has an even more demanding son. So what we do is commit to a particular day on which we descend on The Blonde’s home (it’s the biggest – plus, if friendship is about recognising and encouraging each other’s strengths then dear god let me tell you that woman is a magnificent hostess) to eat, drink and giggle, and almost certainly go to bed early.
On Saturday there we got dressed up and went for an incredible steak dinner – dressed up in that I practically had to be carried from the taxi on my teetery Irregular Choice heels – but were back at The Blonde’s cuddled up on the couch with cups of tea in our pyjamas by 9pm. By some wonderful coincidence, Bridesmaids was on. It was one of the best nights I’d had in a long time.
And here’s the thing (of which, Lord knows, I’m as guilty as anyone): in our busy lives, not only do we so rarely take the time to do nothing for ourselves, but we’re even worse about taking the time to do nothing with our friends. We, the generation that used to plan our lives about coming home and talking shite with the people we’d just spent all day with on MSN all night. The Blonde shared this brilliant article the other day about the importance of one on one time with friends, and while I don’t necessarily agree that the best conversations are the ones you have individually I do agree that there’s very little you can’t make sense of when you’re discussing it face to face with the ladies who have had you back through most of adulthood. Most of the women I’m closest to find long conversations on the phone as awkward as I do, making those long evenings drawing up life plans over gin and juice and reminiscing about the nights out we definitely can’t tell Harry about when he’s older even more vital.
I have one final point, and it might seem counterintuitive given all of the above: it’s about social media and online communication as a means of keeping in touch. With my best friends scattered at all ends of the country – to say nothing of the ones in the US – and my sister in Dubai we’d be lost without Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage over which to chat at ninety miles an hour. I’m fairly sure that the cultural conversation has now moved beyond the point where emoji and Snapchat are destroying (y)our children’s ability to properly converse with each other but for the avoidance of doubt: I am thoroughly team #catpictures.
By virtue of living in the same city, Jehane and I are relatively good at making time for telly and takeaway when things are quiet enough (there’s a whole other essay about what a privilege it is to be asked to be bridesmaid for somebody who you genuinely became friends with as an adult, but who you can’t imagine your life without – but most of the details are not mine to share and I always end up crying at the end). Next step: appointment viewing with the longer-distance lovelies without which I’d be an absolute wreck of a human. Ladies: thank you for always having my back, and I promise to always have yours.