I was trying to think about entertainment for this post, and it’s worth noting that in an I-Tunes library full of all different kinds of music (I am sort of a musical schizophrenic) there are a gazillion songs about love (seriously, a gazillion, I counted) and really only this one great one about friendship.
This is an unbelievable song, but it’s a rarity. Friendships are felt most deeply when we’re young, and then they fade. For lots of women, female friends are merely stand-ins until the more important, real, romantic relationship shows up. You cry with your girls, live together, and support each other. Until you can find a boy, and then you just fit those other people in.
I have to stress that culture was not always set up this way. Before the turn of the century, women spent many hours together in the home. It was still true that one did not marry for love, but married whomever their family chose. Marriage was a household partnership, and women turned to one another for emotional support. There has been a lot of recent speculation about whether or not these relationships were romantic, ie if women were sexual together (of course defining romance as linked to sexual penetration is incredibly masculine and also too modern, but I digress), but we will never be able to know the full truth of those relationships. It is safe to say, however, that these were the primary relationships, other than mother/child, that women cultivated.
Then, modernity hit. Women were suddenly out and about, in public, and getting a man became about more than who your family was. It was suddenly about how you looked (note the emergence of deodorant, toothpaste, etc. as necessary personal products), what you did, and how you conversed. In this new cut throat road to marriage, other women became the enemy. The competition. And this is not an outdated way of thinking. I have been left behind for boys, and I’ve had boys stolen out from under me (not easy to admit so publicly, but my heart was broken so bad my pride can’t even hide it.) Even if you don’t see other women as competition, I think it is easy to put your girlfriends on the back burner for a dude. Especially if he is sweet, or buys you dinner, or the sex is great, or all of the above or whatever. Because our culture makes us feel like without the romantic relationship, we are lacking. Missing something. Incomplete. There is a hierarchy of relationships, and we learn that part of being a grown up is losing friends and finding ‘the one.’ *Heteronormative*
I want to go on record as saying that with the exception of orgasms, my friends provide me with everything I require to get by. They support my nonsense, console me, make me laugh, get too drunk with me, eat my cooking, visit me at work, grocery shop with me, meet me uptown/downtown, see bad movies with me, watch SVU marathons on my futon, tell me I look pretty, go to yoga with me, pick up the phone at 2am, encourage me to be smart and succeed, and encourage me to take a break and have fun. It is super important to me that friendship is a ‘mutual leaning’, like in Forrest Gump when Forrest and Bubba lean back to back so they don’t have to sleep in the mud. Sure, sometimes one person is a little heavier, but over time it evens out. My grandmother once told me, when I was confiding that I was missing a friend because she was spending so much time away with her boyfriend, that ‘that’s what happens as you grow up, the girls all leave to be with their men.’ I balked. ‘Maybe that was true when you were young,’ I said, ‘but it doesn’t have to be that way.’ And I still believe that. But I do see and feel it happening around me. Just remember, bros before hoes. Your romantic relationship can’t replace your friends, any more than your friends can fulfill that romantic part of life we need. If you push your friends away, or even if you keep them at arms length, you lose a variety of perspective and a depth of support that no single relationship ever accomplishes. And if the day comes when you lose what you once valued over all others, the realization that you abandoned the very people who would have been there to catch you is going to be breathtaking. The love you feel for friends isn’t less pure or important as the love you feel in a romance. Don’t take your friends for granted, they aren’t a stand in or a consolation prize. They were the ones who told you you were lovable, over and over, until you believed it.
Here is another good one, although on a more bromance vibe. Love Julie Taymor