Pals with privileges
No, no, no. I’m not talking friends with benefits, I’m talking pals with privileges; that handful of girl friends who have known you seemingly forever, who know where you stand, who know where you’ve stood, and who were usually standing right there with you regardless of whether you were standing on firm ground or in the soft and smelly. The ones who said ‘Don’t do it!’ then picked up the pieces and glued you back together when you crashed. The ones who shouted ‘Go for it!’ then waited at the finishing line to see you in.
These are the pals I call my 3 a.m. friends – the ones I could call in a genuine crisis and KNOW that they would come right over. The ones I’d shift heaven and earth for.
Friendships between women get a very mixed press. While much ado is made of classic mean girl fake friendships on the social scene and sensational catty competition in the workplace, there is relatively little column space devoted to the unsensational support and loyalty given by women to women all over the world on a daily basis. In short, while I wholeheartedly agree with the old surmise that women dress for women (because the average man hasn’t got a clue?), we don’t all wear Prada.
True friendships between women are a gift. Not the icing on the cake of life, but everyday bread and butter pudding based on wholesome basics. We get each other. We’ve all been daughters, and between us we’ve all been sisters, students, girl friends, partners, mothers, married, divorced, unemployed, employees, employers, hired, fired, bereaved and a whole host of other emotional messes. Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, once famously said something along the lines of ‘I’m a different mother to all of my children, because they themselves are all different’. I suspect genuine friendship works that way too. Every woman brings her own special personality and experiences to the table, something clicks and we respond accordingly.
My 3 a.m. lady friends certainly do. These ladies share huge common denominators such as decency, loyalty and a wicked sense of humour; they are all different in terms of personality, interests and background. They have entered my life through a variety of doors: college, social and professional. Over the years, we’ve seen one another complete our education, find jobs and meet partners. And remained close. The greatest gift on my 40th birthday was being asked to be Godmother to a newborn son. It’s the ultimate token of long-term trust.
And let’s face it; don’t most of our wildest happiest memories involve gal pals? Girls DO just wanna have fun. And as we watch our daughters mature into young women, we try to suppress that ding dong of alarm whenever a random teen conversation starts with ‘Mum, I’ve been thinking!’ because nine times out of ten their shot at thinking is limited to working out how to achieve what they want and less about taking into account the potential consequences. Because we know all too well how terribly wrong things can go and what a perfectly awesome ride we had on the way. And that 3 a.m. gal pals saved our asses. And would we do it all again? Absolutely! Ding dong.
Interestingly, our girls have also become firm friends. One theory is that friendships are based on shared values, and as our children are all being raised in roughly the same way they can easily relate to each other. I would like to believe that our daughters are watching the love and friendship between their mothers and inhaling a healthy attitude towards genuine friendships between women.
And this is what I hope they’ve learned.
To be a good friend, you have to be a nonjudgmental good listener. Give advice when requested, but then give honest advice. Does my bum look big in this? Hell, yeah. Let’s try something else. Does my bum look big in this? Nope, you look amazing!
But, and as equally importantly, you have to be a good sharer. Not intimate details of your sex life, partner’s shortcomings or other people’s secrets. No. I’m talking things you have the right to share; own fears, thoughts, health scares, successes and failures. Because if you don’t share, how can you possibly expect a friend to feel they can comfortably confide in you without any sense of vulnerability or, worse, shame. And THIS is what I really mean by pals with privileges:
The priceless privilege of giving and receiving a little love and vulnerability in a two-way female friendship based on loyalty and trust.
I wish all our daughters the gift of real pals… with privileges.