Dear Girls, Friendship Is The Best

207084_1008679411176_9958_n.jpg

Dear Girls,

Someday you will get older than you imagined possible. You will begin to imagine the humanity and youth of your parents when they were your age and you thought they were way older. You will begin to look older. If you’re lucky, you won’t care.

Hold on to your friends. The ones you took bad pictures with. The ones you didn’t see for years. New friendships become harder and more rare as you get old. Old friendships, even just for a brief, reminding moment are the best.

But enough of this lofty shit. Have a Coke.

Fondly,

Erin and Christopher

 

Advertisements

“I’m Not Really Friends With Girls”

“I’m not really friends with girls.”

At a certain age, me and many of my girlfriends used to say this. Of course we were the biggest liars, since we were friends. Or at least I would have been crushed if they didn’t consider me their friend, too.

Woman-hating can be both reflexive and substantive for women. If you were the kind of girl I was, who wanted to leave home and read big books and achieve great things (in the embarrassing abstract, the way ambitious young people and sadly too many older people do) — well, it didn’t seem like conquering the mall and doing the feminine things would get me to greatness. Of course by 18 I had spent years working in malls for Limited Too, The Gap, and Abercrombie & Fitch. The main point is that in rejecting femininity and especially the camaraderie of other young women, I was a hypocrite, a self-loathing hypocrite.

Because I am feminine. I have always been feminine in my own way. I’ve just been taught to hate the feminine, to look at it condescendingly, and simultaneously use it as a yardstick for telling myself I’m not pretty enough or considerate enough or frankly, enough.

The way me and many of my more brainy girlfriends used to go to great lengths to declare we weren’t really friends with girls, because maybe it felt more substantive to be friends with the boys (which is bullshit, because masculinity can be just as shallow as femininity, and at times much more so) has parallels at different points in the lifecycle. We are taught to judge women who put effort into their appearance to halt the visible signs of aging just as we are taught to judge women who “let themselves go.” Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong is a thing, but so is Kirstie Alley in the tabloids. We are told to change the way we talk to be taken seriously. It goes on.

I am troubled by efforts to reject womanhood and in particular, women, as a way for women to set ourselves apart from the second-class expectations sexism drapes on our pretty little collarbones.

I don’t want to imagine how much my life would suck without the friendship of women. It is not the feminine that is flawed, but the rejection of it.

Spice Girls

Some Friendships Just End

My mom’s first piece of marriage advice is to always have girlfriends. But that can be easier said than done. Among the baffling realizations that come with age is that some friendships end. Not just due to circumstance —  fights, breakups, new jobs, new lovers, changing personalities, moving away — some friendships just end.

I have grieved dying friendships and felt guilty about not caring at all. I have quietly wondered what I did wrong. I have hurt like hell at a snub, and purposefully snubbed because I was mad. I have sworn it was over, sometimes for years, and come back over tears (sometimes the best decision ever). I have welcomed some back in a tepid, networking-type way. I have realized that some friendships end permanently, others for a time, and still others might begin anew between two independently transformed people.

I wonder if my workplace friendships provide a better model forward. You really learn who your friends are when you leave a job, and it can be surprising to realize who remains one month, one year, and five years later. Perhaps this extends to friendships, too — you really learn which friendships were built to last when they can end respectfully, and come back anew on one random, delightful day. Further, most times when you leave a job it’s understood that change is ahead. It’s understood that career transitions make space for new things in your life. Perhaps we should celebrate our platonic relationship transitions because they create space for new friends, more family time, or please God more sleep.

But it would be most radical, and perhaps transformative, to accept an end as it is — neither a judgement on the past, nor a moment to make dramatic statements about oneself or another in the future. You can be friends forever, or not.

 

The Unsung Heroes Of Mother’s Day: Friends

Please pardon me for publishing this about a week late. I am, after all, a new mom.

Friends don’t get enough recognition on Mother’s Day, and they really should. Before I became a mom, I associated Mother’s Day with family. Don’t forget to call mom! Get her some flowers. Say something nice to grandma. But the commercial aspects of Mother’s Day as a biological event only carry us so far.

After all, even before I became a mom, I was aware how painful this day can be for many. For those facing infertility, or loss of pregnancies, children, or parents. For those whose mothers and families have shunned them for their sexual orientation. For those left feeling unrecognized or unappreciated as step-parents, or caregivers, or birth parents. For those who have families that don’t look like the kind that get slapped on the back of a minivan with those little white stencil stickers.

I knew, before experiencing this first Mother’s Day as a mom, that it is friends who carry us through the hard parts of family. What I didn’t know is how much friends could and often would rise to support my journey as a new mom.

During these past 11 months, I have learned how incredibly isolating new motherhood can, at times, feel. There is this crying baby that won’t respond to anything and you haven’t slept or showered in several days and OMG! And then there are those first forays into parenting in front of others. Breastfeeding in public or taking a baby to a restaurant — these are often represented not as personal decisions but something that must be guided by what others think. Being honest can be intimated as a matter of (poor) etiquette: talking about your children is boring, posting pictures of your baby on social media is aggrandizing, discussing the details of birth is TMI. Some people stop giving a shit about you. Some people assume you’ve stopped giving a shit about your career. Sometimes people say judgmental things about your parenting decisions, and it feels like a rusty knife scraping the folds of your psyche.

But the overwhelming truth I have learned is this: Entering into motherhood, like other major life changes, reveals who your true friends are, and sometimes those answers are surprising. People who might have seemed more like casual acquaintances come out of the woodwork, offering support and handwritten cards in the mail. Colleagues and professional contacts who, without prompt, make proactive space to let you know your child is welcome at an after-hours gathering. It has been especially moving to me to see how some of my intentionally child-free feminist friends who really, really, and rightfully don’t like the assumption of a “mother” role for women have noiselessly made space to accommodate a new me, and my little one; and but also how loud-and-proud feminist mothers have welcomed me with open arms and helped me negotiate the complicated feelings that come with being newly beholden to a little one who needs you all the time. Blessed are those who acknowledge that it can take much more time for me to respond to and initiate calls, texts and emails, or make carefree plans to do “adult” things, and value me with patience for what I can give now.

Motherhood is something that we can’t do without support, and usually it’s family that gets the acknowledgement. It is friends, those who are mothers and non-mothers, who are the unsung heroes of Mother’s Day. I was delighted and surprised to learn on my first Mother’s Day as a mom that I would be flooded with love, support and well-wishes not just from family, but from friends. Thank you.